Best Nautical/Marine LED Boat Navigation (Running) Lights

Posted by Author David Lee

How To Choose The Right Navigation Lights For Your Boat, Kayak or Yacht

Navigation Lights Functions

We're going to talk about navigation lights or running lights. Navigation lights serve two main functions on a powerboat or a sailboat. The obvious one is that they make your boat more visible when you're operating at night, so you don't have collisions. But the other thing which is very important is that they show who has the right-of-way when two boats approach each other. That's why, for example, that sailboats under sail show different lights than power boats do when they're operating at night.

Red-Green-White Colors Rule

The basic rule here is that a sailboat has to have two side lights and a stern light and if you add up all the angles of those three lights they equal 360 degrees so they shine in all directions around the vessel. The two side lights are a red one on the port side and a green one on the starboard side and a white light shining aft. Now the reason for the three colors is that so boats approaching from any angle know what their angle is relative to the boat they're approaching. So if you see a red light it's a good indication that you don't have the right of way to cross in front of the other vessel. Red you're dead as they say an aircraft, the same thing is true in sailboats and power boats when they're crossing.

Why power boats have different lights than sailboats?

Power boats are required to have a forward-facing white light in addition to the aft facing light. They have this additional light called a mast head light to indicate that they are power boats and therefore they have to give way to a sailboat. So you can tell when to power boats are crossing, a sailboat in a powerboat or two sailboats, you get you can figure out what the other vessel is. So there are some minor differences here. For example you can combine the stern light and the masthead light into a single all-round light, if your powerboat is 26 feet or under. So that's why you get a lot of boats that will have some sort of a pole light. This will shine in 360 degrees, it's mad a very high for two reasons one is to get it so that it's visible and higher than the sidelights and the other is so that it doesn't put glare in the drivers eyes as the drivers maneuvering the boat. And this can be used up to about a twenty six up to a twenty six foot boat. Over twenty six feet and the forward-facing masthead light and the aft facing stern light have to be separated. The other rule is that boats up to roughly 40 feet can combine the starboard and port lights into a single fixture, called a bicolor light. So this has a lens on one side for the green one side for the red and so it shines in the right angles in the right directions but it's combined into a single fixture. Now an advantage is you have fewer holes to drill in your boat and the other thing is you only have one lamp operating so it reduces your power consumption. So this will work up to about a forty foot boat and you the reason I'm using terms like about is because some of the measurements are metric, like twelve meters and others are expressed in feet so it gets a little confusing so if you remember forty feet you'll be about right. Now something else happens when you get up to forty feet. And that is that the brightness of the lights increases meaning that larger boats have to have brighter and frequently larger lights than smaller boats. This means that your side lights have greater visibility range your forward-facing masthead light has greater range and your stern light has greater range. So you'll find that even though we're showing some of these smaller fixtures, these may be only legal up to about forty feet at which point you'll have to use a larger fixture if you have a larger sail boat or power boat.

Combining Tricolor Masthead Light with Strobe Light or All-Round Light

Another option that sailors might want to consider is to combine a tricolor masthead light with either a strobe light or an all-round light. The all-round light works as an anchor light at night and it will allow you to have your anchor light placed as high as possible on the boat. One quick note sailboats can't use this light configuration when they're under power. When they're under power they're considered our boats even if the sales are up and therefore they need to use deck mounted lights and a in a forward-facing masthead light and stern light.

LED Boat Lights

One of the recent advances in navigation lights is the use of LEDs instead of using incandescent lamps. LEDs or light emitting diodes as you know are these very bright, very low current consumption lights and they're more like transistors or diodes than they are like a traditional Edison-style lamp. So here's just a quick example of how they operate. These upper two lights are LED then we have a couple of incandescent lamps down below. So you can see that they're very bright, you know, they have equivalent brightness to the incandescent lamps. But the advantage is that they draw very little current. Where one of these might draw 10 watts the LED light may only draw 1 watt. And the other thing is that the LED light has a very long life span. Probably for as long as you're going to own your boat where with incandescent lamps they tend to burn out after a while. So if you want the ultimate in reliability and low current consumption, LED lamps may be the right choice for you. The disadvantage of course is that they are slightly more expensive, they're roughly twice as expensive per fixture as the incandescent versions. The owners can replace his original lights with some of these new LED lights. These are really nice, they fit compactly and they in this particular installation they don't shadow they're not shadowed by the sails and they don't tend to glare because they're hidden behind the stainless steel panel. This is how a lot of sail boats meet the requirement for getting both of their side lights into one fixture. And yet it puts the light out where it doesn't cast any glow on the rest of the boat so there's no night blindness. On this 46 footer you can see that it's got a bicolor light that's of the series 40 style. The series 40 is for 40 to 65 foot boats or boats that are from 12 meters to 20 meters long. And it's designed to have extra brightness so it can be seen over a longer range. This is a common mistake that we see on a lot of boats. This boat was has the lights installed so that they're actually candid into the center and unfortunately it allows you to see the port light and the starboard light at the same time over quite a wide range.

How to Mount Navigation or Running Lights Correctly

To be mounted correctly this light ought to be facing directly fore and aft on a piece of stainless steel or a side of the hall or something that's aligned with the center of the axis of the boat. It was pretty common many many years ago to have lights that were actually built into the whole structure of the boat. And so what the Builder would do would be to put a piece of plexiglass over a hole in the hull put a lamp behind it and make it all secure. Well it works reasonably well but the challenge is that frequently the angular cutoff wasn't accurate and again the angular cutoff of the light determines if you have the right of way or the other guy has the right of way. The other problem was that the lights are so low that on a low freeboard boat like this, they have a very low height devine, so it's difficult for vessels that are you know more than say a quarter or half a mile away to actually see the light. A better solution would be to take about like this repair the hole where the hole was and to put either a bicolor light on the pulpit or to put a tricolor light on the mast. Now this is a really interesting variation this is a tiny little bicolor light on this more 24 but when you look at the lenses they look clear. And so you sort of think well that's kind of stupid there should be red and green. Well the lenses are clear because the LEDs actually put out green light and red light. So there's no transmission loss by shining it through a colored lens. So this is a really effective light and an effective place to put the light. You may not be actually installing new navigation lights on your boat, you may be replacing one that's become damaged, and the type of light that becomes damaged the most are these pole lights because they're sticking up in the air and it's easy for somebody to grab onto it when they're getting on board your boat and they break off your light.

The Most Universal Boat Stern Light

Companies come up with some nice changes to the replacement market. This is like the most universal stern light you can get. So what does it do. The first thing is that they give you two lenses. One lens allows light to be shone down into the cockpit of the boat which is actually kind of handy unless it provides glare for the driver, and if the driver gets distracted by this it's not good. So it has a second lens which you can just swap, which cuts off the light so that it doesn't shine downward. The second thing is that pole lights are frequently on an aft facing surface that slopes, like on a boat that has quite a bit of reverse shear. So in this case you can adjust the base of the light to tilt the light so it's level with the water surface. The reason you want to do this is that you do want that light to shine in 360 degrees around and if it's tilted you may have some areas that don't get light and other areas that get their full share. So it's adjustable. The third thing is that it actually comes with two different nuts on the bottom of it because there are two different types of fixtures - one which screws in place and one which sort of has a quick camming action. So it comes with both of these nuts you push in these little buttons or unscrew the screws at the bottom, pull off the one that you don't need, put it back on screw in the screws and now you've got a light that will fit your fixture perfectly. So really a nice combination of features.

LED All-Round Light for Small Power Boats

Another variation on the all-round light that small power boats are required to have is to use something like LED all-round light. So it has three LEDs one here one on the far side and one facing forward and together they all blend in to make a uniform circle of light. What's nice about this one not only is it an LED so it saves on current consumption in the last a long time but you can loosen it and fold it down. So when you're trailering the boat or you're storing the boat or maybe even putting a cover over the top of the boat, you can get the light out of the way so that it doesn't get in harm's way. Another feature you might look for in your replacement all-round lights is that many of them are available again with an LED on the top. As we said the LED reduces your power consumption and it gives you an intensely white light that lasts virtually forever. This is a nice replacement light. It also has this pivoting base on it so that you can tilt it to any angle. This one's relatively short only about two feet long and one of the things that you've got to remember is when you have a all round light or a masthead light it has to be at least one meter or roughly forty inches above your side lights, your forward port and starboard light. So the height of this shaft is determined to a large degree by where this mounts in your boat and the height of your side lights. If your side lights are down lower you might be able to use a shorter one but if your high lights are high on the bow you may have to use one of these six-foot poles.

Battery-Operated Red-Green Navigation Lights for Inflatables or for Rigid Dinghies

Many of us have inflatable boats or hard or rigid dinghies that we take along when we're going on on the mother ship on the larger boat and it's really a good idea to show navigation lights when you're operating them at night. Especially in an anchorage where you may have a lot of boat kind of going in different directions. Aqua Signal company makes a couple of battery-operated lights that are designed for either inflatables or for rigid dinghies. These are legal on boats up to 23 feet that operate at less than 7 knots, kind of 7 meters 7 knots. So you can't zip around the harbor legally showing these. So this is a bicolor light you can see it has the green and red lenses on it it would normally be mounted like this so green is actually on the correct side and they also make a corresponding stern light that you can stick on your outboard motor so that that will give you the 360 degrees of white light. If you're really power-conscious but you have a perfectly good fixture at your masthead, let's say for a tricolor masthead light, you want to drop your power consumption down you might consider some of these replacement LED lamps that replace the normal incandescent lamps. On a masthead tricolor light, a normal incandescent lamp burns 25 watts or 2 amps at 12 volts. This LED replacement, LEDs about 1/10 that much and they have a very very pure white light so that your tricolor light is still legal. So these come in a variety of configurations to fit a variety of original equipment lamps so make sure you buy the right one, but they're very high quality. And again, because it's an LED it lasts a long time and uses less electricity.

How to Add an LED Navigation Light to the Bow of Your Boat

Do any boating at night or in poor visibility, you've really got to have good navigation lights. My boat is somewhat old, and we've got cracked and crazed lenses on this, and this light really isn't up to snuff, so we're going to replace it. Things have moved on a bit since this light was fitted. I'm going to fit a modern LED light. If you look inside, you can see there's an LED array. There's no bulb to blow. It's almost a fit and forget item. Some people might think that you can just replace the existing bulb in this light with an LED light, but that you can't do because it's unlikely to comply with the U.S. Coast Guard regulations. A navigation light has to have 2-mile visibility. Just replacing the bulb isn't going to work. You've really got to replace the whole fitting. So before I actually start doing any electrical work, I'm going to make sure that the battery is switched off. I've previously turned that off, so now I can go ahead and remove the old light. So, I've removed the old light, I've cut the cables. Here's the new light. I'm just going to connect it up now. I've made one connection for the negative. I'm going to make up the positive connection now. So, with the two connections made, now what I'm going to do is feed them back down below the deck and then mount the lamp in position. Place the new light on the boat. I've drilled the holes for the screws, and now I'm going to put in the first screw. The first screw goes through the center of the light so that I can screw that down onto the boat, and then we can make sure the light is directly fore and aft so that we're not showing the wrong sectors. I've lined it up and I'm just putting in the final screw now. I want it to be tight but not too tight. We don't want to crack the casing. And then with that, we can snap the cover on. So there you have it. The project took me about half an hour, I got rid of the old junky light, replaced it with a new LED light. I never have to worry about replacing the bulbs ever again. Looks good, looks classy.

Running Lights Brands

The market is dominated by some manufacturers such as: Perko, Attwood, Thalassa, LeaningTech, Obcursco, Innovative Lighting, SeaSense, Shangyuan, Osinmax, LED Store.

Nautical Red-Green Stern Navigation Lights for Kayak or Boat [Shangyuan]

These boat navigation lights are easy to install and provide the best lighting when using them. The strip has a durable and waterproof material, and the lights are very bright. This model is waterproof, shock-proof, and dust-proof. They come with a free screw set and foam tape bases, so you can easily attach them to your boat without having to worry about the wires getting tangled or damaged. The light is also energy-saving because it doesn’t use as much power when compared to other options on the market. It lasts over 50,000 hours thanks to its compact design that makes it easy to install in less than an hour.

White Anchor All-Round Navigation Lights for Fishing Boat, Yacht, Pontoon Boat [Osinmax]

This boat navigation light is a highly functional boat light that is great if you’re looking for a simple and easy way to view the current situation. This boat navigation light is waterproof and has a high-density foam silicone rubber sealing ring that prevents short circuits from causing damage. It’s easy to install, so you don’t have to worry about it getting stuck in the water. The LED beads are brighter than halogen lights, which means they can be used for longer periods of time without replacing them every few months.

White LED Marine Deck Navigation Boat Light [LED Store]

This model comes with a large LCD display, which shows you the current location. It is also equipped with a red light that illuminates for six seconds after a signal. These LED lights are designed to handle a wider range of input voltages than other lights on the market, so whether you’re running a 12 or 24-volt system on your boat, these lights will fit your setup. They draw only 1 watt of power, which is great for cutting out unnecessary power drains. The folding base makes it easy to store them and they can be used as an all-around white light on power-driven boats up to 39.4 feet (12 meters), or anchor light on boats up to 165 feet (50 meters).

LED Bow Boat Navigation Lights (Marine Boat Navigation Lamp) for Pontoon, Skeeter, Power Boat [Obcursco]

This model is designed to be used on skiffs, pontoon boats, and powerboats. These lights are made of ABS material with sealed led units that resist water intrusion and a 100% waterproof design. The light is bright enough to be seen by the coast guard, ferries, or oncoming vessels without worry. They have a wide range of applications, including bow, stern, or running lights.

Clamp-On Portable Marine Boat Navigation Light Kit [Attwood]

A versatile device that fits a number of different boat types. The Attwood boat light kit includes a red/green LED boat light, white led stern light, quick-release mounts, pole, hardware c-clamp mounting, and shatter-proof polycarbonate lens over 150 hours of run time on three AA batteries (included separately). It’s designed to be easy to add or remove electronics from the shock-proof housing. This means you don’t have to worry about your electronics being damaged during use. is a source where the post Boat/Kayak Navigation (Running) Lights appeared first.

Comments to Review

  1. I simply replaced my old stern light with LED round transom light by Attwood. This light is so much brighter and much whiter BUT it attracts a lot more bugs. Works great. Clean flush design. Worth the money.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *