Upgrade your lighting
USCG cautions against some new types of lights
With the latest technical advances in recreational boat lights, boaters have more choices than ever when upgrading their boat lighting. However, the U.S. Coast Guard wants boaters to know that some new lights could increase their chances of a collision. Some lights sold for navigation purposes don’t meet regulations, and other aesthetic lighting products such as LED ropes and underwater lights may violate the light provisions of the nautical rules of the road.
The BoatUS Foundation has some tips when you’re shopping for or installing boat lights:
Navigation lights must be approved. Some manufacturers are selling navigation lights that don’t meet regulations. These lights are typically cheaper but do not provide the proper color quality, brightness or cut-off angles that boaters rely on to avoid collision. So how do you know you are buying a good nav light? Look for
- USCG approval
- The rated visibility of the light in nautical miles
- Meets ABYC A-16
- “Tested by [laboratory name]”
- Manufacturer and model number
Don’t let your boat lights confuse other boaters. The USCG reports that some boaters have hazardously installed unapproved red and green LED strip lighting on the bow, which hampers other boaters’ efforts to avoid collision. Also avoid displaying any light that could be confused with another navigation light or another vessel. And remember, flashing blue lights are reserved for law enforcement; at a distance, wave action combined with the steady rocking of below-the-waterline high-intensity blue lights can give the appearance of a police vessel.
Don’t install lights that prevent the operator from maintaining a good lookout. When running between sunset and sunrise, it’s critical that those behind the wheel maintain their night vision, so the goal is to keep light out of the operator’s eyes. Glare from existing nav lights may be a problem, or reflections from aesthetic lighting such as LED rope lights wrapped around a helm station can hinder eyesight.