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Safe Boating at Night

Even though navigation lights are essential for safe boating at night or in poor visibility, boating safety officers across the country regularly come across boats either with defective lights or lights incorrectly aligned.

One common mistake is misaligning side lights. These red and green lights are manufactured to show over a horizontal arc of 112.5 degrees, from straight ahead to aft of the beam. If the red and green lights cross over when viewed from the bow, other vessels will think you are heading in a different direction to your actual course.


Getting those angles right depends on installing the light so that it's parallel to the boat's centreline. That sounds simple enough, but there aren't a lot of flat surfaces on boat, so often an angled mounting bracket or a wedge will be needed.

Sidelights come in a variety of styles to cater for different mounting locations. If you get it wrong and mount a cabin side fitting flat on the deck, you'll be aiming the light at the stars. Your night vision can also be affected if the white 'streaming' light is mounted where it can shine into the driver's eyes.

Please contact your local marine safety agency for details on the international rules for showing navigation lights (COLREGS).

Be Bright - be safe at night - a brochure on navigation lights by Roads and Maritime Services NSW Maritime