Boat Navigation at Night: Head-on Approach

If you meet a vessel and see a green, red and white light, you are approaching another power-driven vessel head-on. In this situation neither vessel has the right-of-way. Both operators must take early and substantial action to steer well clear of the other vessel. Both operators should reduce their speed and steer to starboard.

Boat Navigation at Night

If you meet a vessel and see a green and red light but no masthead (white) light, then you are approaching a sail-driven vessel. You are the give-way craft and must yield right-of-way to the sailing vessel.

 

Port (left) Approach

If a green and a white light are visible, then another craft is approaching you from the port (left) side. In this situation, you are the stand-on craft and should maintain your speed and course. The other craft should take early and substantial action to steer well clear of your craft.

 

Starboard (right) Approach

If a red and a white light are visible, then another craft is approaching you from the starboard (right) side. In this situation you are the give-way craft and must yield right-of-way. You should take early and substantial action to steer well clear of the other craft. Reduce your speed, change direction and pass at a safe distance behind the other boat.

Safe Boating Tip
A simple way to decipher powerboat navigation lights is to remember: If you see a GREEN LIGHT you can ‘GO’: another boat is approaching from your port side.

If you see a RED LIGHT you should ‘STOP’: another boat is approaching from your starboard side.

 

What Does a White Light Indicate?

If you see a white light on its own it indicates that you DO NOT have the right-of-way. The white light will be identifying one of the following three things:

1) You are approaching another craft from behind

If only a white light is visible, you may be approaching another craft from behind. You are the give-way-craft and must take early and substantial action to steer well clear by altering your course and passing at a safe distance on the starboard (right) or port (left) side.

2) You are approaching a non-powered craft

If you are approaching a non-powered craft, you are the give-way craft and must yield the right of way. You should take early and substantial action to stay well clear and pass at a safe speed and distance.

Remember that if you’re operating a non-powered craft at night, you are required have ready for use an electric torch, flashlight or lighted lantern showing a white light (this rule applies if the boat cannot be equipped with standard navigation lights).

3) You are approaching an anchored craft at night

If you are approaching an anchored craft, the anchored craft will be exhibiting an all-round white light to indicate to other boaters that their craft is at anchor.

Remember: anchored boats should never display their green and red sidelights as these lights will indicate to other boaters that your craft is underway.