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Author Topic:   18 Outrage, What lights are required?
derf posted 11-14-2005 06:45 PM ET (US)   Profile for derf   Send Email to derf  
I know the green/red and a rear white light are needed. But, what part does the masthead light play? It seems like all my other small boats just had red/green/stern white. Educate me.
LHG posted 11-14-2005 06:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for LHG    
It is an "International" format navigation light system. You are accustomed to "Inland Rules" systems.

Go to and follow the link to Coast Guard and Navigation lighting.

derf posted 11-14-2005 07:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for derf  Send Email to derf     
OK, from what I can tell, I can run the masthead light or just an all-around stern light with the red/green lights.
jimh posted 11-14-2005 09:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The rules governing display of navigation lights are published by the federal government. It really is a good idea to have a copy of them. You can purchase them from the U.S. Coast Guard:

See: COMDTINST M16672.2C

This 214 pages booklet contains the navigation rules.

Because these rules are published by the federal government, I don't see the need to repeat them here, the 214 pages of text notwithstanding. I often see people trying to interpret the rules for others, but I find a thorough reading of the actual rules themselves will explain everything you need to know. In matter of federal regulation, it is best to go right to the source for advice. I would not rely on the advice of others to determine compliance.

Regarding the electrical lamps you are using on your boat to comply, if you have questions about how to connect them, I'd be glad to help.

jimh posted 11-14-2005 09:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Rule 23 paragraphs (a) and (c) cover the topic of required lights for power-driven vessels.

In the current rules the distinction between using an all-around white versus a stern light and masthead light is not related to inland rules versus international rules. It is related to the size of the vessel. I have not made a serious study of the history of these rules, but it appears that the current rules have been in place for about 25-years. Prior to that I do not know if there was a distinction between international and inland rules in this regard.

Chuck Tribolet posted 11-14-2005 11:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
This is a rare occasion. Larry is wrong.

As jimh points out, it's NOT inland vs. international.
Small boats can do either one, BUT a masthead light is required
in either case. It can be all round, or forward and to the
sides, but then a stern light is required.


derf posted 11-15-2005 10:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for derf  Send Email to derf     
I was hoping for a simple explanation. Best I can tell, from reading much regulation blah-blah, boats under 12M can run red/green and stern white all around. It sounds like I can have a masthead and stern lights, which would make the cockpit darker and possibly better, but that would be optional.
I was also wondering if a <12M boat is equipped with masthead and stern lights, are you required to run them both?

I just want someone to break it down for me.

You must have...........or..........
You can have.............

Tom W Clark posted 11-15-2005 10:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

If you have a 275 degree masthead light and a 135 degree stern light you must have them both on when running. At anchor the masthead light must become a 360 degree light and the stern light is off.

I think you'll be happier with a single all around white light in the stern. Read my comments here:

If you build your own, you might want to read this:

These has been almost endless discussion of this before. There was one very good thread recently about whether the red and green lights could be combined or not. I do not recall there was a consensus of what the rules state.

Part of why this gets brought up again and again is that 214 pages of federal law is more than most can digest. This is why we have these excellent discussion forums.

LHG posted 11-15-2005 03:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for LHG    
I don't see where I am wrong about navigation lighting.

I have an 18 Outrage, and it came with International Nav lights acording to BW. It has separate red/green bow lights, and it has the console mtd masthead light and stern light pole (which is not all around).

I never said that all 18' boats HAD to have International lighting. BW just chose to offer this upgrade.

I also have had a 16' and a 21' Whaler with "Inland Rules" lighting. They have a combination red/green bow light, and a tall all around stern light.

What am I mising here

jimh posted 11-15-2005 05:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Missing: a difference between inland and international rules that differentiates between the all-around white and the masthead/sternlight combination.
Chuck Tribolet posted 11-15-2005 05:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
I just checked in the ColRegs:

International Rules: Rule 23(a)
Inland Rules: Rule 23(a)

International Rules: Rule 23(c)(i)
Inland Rules: Rule 23(c)

Both types of lights are allowed under both sets of rules
for vessels less than 12 meters long.

It's NOT International vs Inland.


Robob2003 posted 11-15-2005 05:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for Robob2003  Send Email to Robob2003     

I think I did that correctly.

Bob on Tampa Bay

Robob2003 posted 11-15-2005 05:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for Robob2003  Send Email to Robob2003


jimh posted 11-15-2005 05:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
There are not 214 pages of rules about display of navigation lights for power-driven vessels of less than 12 meters. There are just a couple of paragraphs. If a mariner cannot read a couple of paragraphs and comprehend the required lights, he can also look at the pictures. Each rule is illustrated with dozens of color illustrations.

I do not see much value in trying to re-publish these rules in a discussion forum. There already are many websites that try to do this; the Coast Guard probably has a few. But none of these things are authorative. The authorative source are the federal regulations. Even the Coast Guard publication is probably a secondary reference in a legal sense.

Anyone who is actually interested in this topic ought to buy the publication I mentioned above; it is not expensive. It gives you all the rules related to navigation, including the required lights.

LHG posted 11-15-2005 05:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for LHG    
OK guys - I'll admit I'm a little slow here. So if either convention can have either type of white lighting, what makes the distinction?

Why is my 18 Outrage considered to have "International"? Why wouldn't some consider it to be "Inland"?

Why are the older Whalers considered to have "Inland" when this configuration could mean "International"?

Is it the SEPARATE BOW LIGHT that makes the distinction, and not the stern/masthead lights at all, since either system seems to go there?

Chuck Tribolet posted 11-15-2005 07:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Nope, separate and combined sidelights (red/green) are allowed
under both the International and Inland rules. Rule 21 (b) in
both cases.

Interestingly, an off-center masthead light is only allowed
under International Rules, and only when there are combined
sidelights. Rule 23 (c)(iii).

BTW, the Colregs are available for download as a PDF file
somewhere (I think it was a CG site). And they are available
in a rather confusing interspersed HTML form from


Chuck Tribolet posted 11-15-2005 07:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Here we go:

This is one that's worth downloading and keeping.


LHG posted 11-15-2005 08:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for LHG    
Then did BW misrepresent the fact that 18 Outrage came with International nav lighting? Could it just have well been called "Inland"? It appears there is no difference at all in the two conventions below 12 meters (all Whalers)?

I am totally confused.

jimh posted 11-15-2005 08:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Larry--It could be that prior to c.1980 there was a distinction between what lights were required for power-driven vessels less than 12 meters under the international rules versus the U.S. rules or some version inland of the U.S. rules. I do not know if there was, but it might have been the case, and thus it might have given rise to a description of the stern light and masthead light combination as being an "international" rule. You would have to conduct some sort of search for old archives of the regulations to find out if this occurred. I really do not know.

It seems that a great deal of coordination among maritime nations occurred around 1972, and this might mark an epoch where there were differences that were resolved by changes in the rules.

But in either case, 1972 or 1980, it has been 25 to 33 years since there was a big change in the navigation rules which might have included a distinction between the use of an all-around white light versus a mast head and stern light combination.

This discussion seems totally of place here in SMALL BOAT ELECTRICAL. It seems to have nothing to do with electricals.

If the original query is seeking to learn the rules, I have objections to that, too. As I previously stated, the rules are published by the federal government and are available in print for a very modest price, as well as being available for free on-line at government websites. And in addition to all of that there are other secondary government websites like the Coast Guard where the rules are published online. And finally there are dozens of other boating websites that think they serve their visitors by publishing the rules as a tertiary reference.

However, I do not think that CONTINUOUSWAVE serves its purpose by publishing the rules or by publishing individual's interpretations of the rules. The rules about navigations lights are, as I have said before, contained in just a few paragraphs. The total volume of text of those paragraphs is much less than the text of this discussion. The sentences in those rules are very simple ones. Not a great deal of reading comprehension is required to understand them. Because of this, I do not see a great purpose in trying to publish the rules here or in trying to explain what people think the rules say. The rules say what they say quite succinctly. People who want to become knowledgeable about the rules need only to obtain a copy and read them. I do not feel the mission of the website it to recite the rules to people who do not have a copy of them.

The only real basis for this discussion which I think would be appropriate to discuss might be along the lines of an inquiry as to why the Boston Whaler company equipped their OUTRAGE 18 with a masthead light and a stern light instead of an all-around white light. I don't know the answer to this. Here is my guess:

The use of a masthead light and a stern light on an OUTRAGE 18 in lieu of the white all-around light is possibly related to the design of the boat to be used in fishing. Having a tall pole at the transom to carry a white all-around light would make fishing awkward. A lower stern light on the transom enhances the fishing characteristics of the vessel. Because Boston Whaler was always more interested in high functionality and a higher cost did not deter them, they may have chosen to employ the more complex arrangement of fulfilling the navigation light requirement by using a masthead light and a stern light instead of a white all-around light.

To derf: If you are hoping for simple sentences you will find them in the rules. They are clearly written and not particularly hard to understand. Get a copy and spend an evening reading them. I think you will be well informed as a result.

Chuck Tribolet posted 11-15-2005 11:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Larry: It's MARKETING. Accuracy and precision are not expected.


Tom W Clark posted 11-16-2005 07:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

Would you provide a URI to the "...just a couple of paragraphs." that explain the required lights? Thanks.

Chuck Tribolet posted 11-16-2005 07:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet

It's a bit more than a couple of paragraphs, but the stuff
that doesn't apply is pretty obvious: Hovercraft, vessels over
50 meters. And ignore anything that starts "Vessels on the
Great Lakes MAY, ...".


LHG posted 11-16-2005 08:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for LHG    
I am still confused. One last question Jim and I'll disappear!

you said: "they may have chosen to employ the more complex arrangement of fulfilling the navigation light requirement by using a masthead light and a stern light instead of a white all-around light."

Yes, for this generation of Outrages, they chose the most expensive optios of separate bow lights and separate white lights.

In both 1986 and 1989 when my Outrages were sold new and including at no extra cost lighting billed as "International Navigation lights", am I correct in that:

They could have used either white lighting system, with either bow lighting system, and then given whichever system they went with, either name, resulting in eight possible name/configuration options?

1. Combo bow light and all around light, called "Inland"
2. Same as above, called "International"

3. Combo Bow light and center masthead lighting, called "Inland"
4. Same as above, called "International"

5. Separate bow lights, and all around light, called "Inland"
6. Same as above, called "International"

7. Separate bow lights, and center masthead lighting, called "Inland"
8. Same as above, called "International" (this is the option that was chosen)


I never knew that #1, 3 & 5 could be called "International", and I never knew that #2, 4 & 6 could be called "Inland". So no matter which confuuration you have on your 13' - 27' Whaler, you satisfy both Inland and International rules, assuming your stern pole is high enough, and can call it whichever you wish.

Only the government could come up with this one.

Tom W Clark posted 11-16-2005 09:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
No Chuck, Jim said it was just a couple paragraphs. If we read it, it will be clear, he suggests. The funny thing is, here we are still discussing it.


No Whaler didn't choose the more expensive arrangement, they chose the only arrangement of lights that would allow separate port and starboard bow navigation lights AND a stern light that is not on the center line of the vessel.

jimh posted 11-16-2005 09:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Tom--instead of a URI I will just quote the sentence that applies:


(c) A power-driven vessel of less than 12 meters in length may, in lieu of the lights described in paragraph (a) of this Rule, exhibit an all-around white light and side lights."

That is one sentence.

Rule 23 (a) is also one sentences, albeit a little longer. It contains 77 words and several dependent clauses. I am not going to quote that sentence here, as it is against my policy to go around re-publishing the rules. Each of these sentences is also accompanied by a color illustration.

If you will note above I refer to the published version in book form, and you can find these two sentences on pages 45 and 49, along with the color illustrations.

Again, I want to state that the website does not exist for the comfort and pleasure of people who don't have a copy of the rules and want CONTINUOUSWAVE to provide them with a copy. People who want to read the rules can find copies of them available from the Coast Guard.

jimh posted 11-16-2005 09:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Most Boston Whaler boats are less than 12-meters, and in that case there is no difference in the required lights for inland versus international for power-drive vessels less than 12-meters underway. Period.

I don't know how Boston Whaler came up with their description. You'd have to locate the guy who wrote the brochure and see what he had in mind. I can say it again, but it might be related to a change in the rules that took place some time ago. I don't see any indication that there has been a recent change in the rules.

In the rules there is no refernce to a "combo bow light". Certain vessels are required to show "sidelights." The rules provide a definition of what constitutes a sidelight (and all the other lights), and this definition allows for the sidelights to be combined into a single lantern on vessels of less than 20 meters in length and carried at the bow.

In general the rules provide flexibility in compliance, and particularly so with smaller vessels where there are many exemptions and shortcuts permitted. This seems appropriate. I do not see the notion that because there are many combinations of lights which will satisfy the requirements that this a bad thing. Rather, it is a good thing. I get the feeling that the rules were drafted so as to allow, as much as possible, backward compatibility. This permitted owners of vessels to remain in compliance without having to refit all of their navigations lights.

Also, there is an extensive technical annex in the rules with describes the requirements the lights must meet in terms of intensity of the light and its chromaticity. This makes good reading on those nights where you cannot get to sleep.

Tom would like this thread to be an illustration of how the rules for required navigation light rules are difficult to understand. I don't agree. I think this thread is an illustration of how bad information can be provided when people invent or attribute certain elements or features to federal regulations for navigation lights which do not actually exist in the regulations. This is why I very strongly prefer only to cite the actual regulations and not individual people's interpretation or recollection of what they say.

This thread began with the request of the originator to "educate me." I simply take the position that the only way I recommend to become educated about the rules for navigation lights is to read them. In general I find the rules are written in a straightforward manner and are not hard to understand.

Now, on the matter of some of the other provisions of the navigation rules such as STEERING AND SAILING RULES, these are subject to more interpretation and often result in litigation. Many lawsuits have been litigated to determine liability under the STEERING AND SAILING RULES where vessels have collided.

But my initial advice still stands: get a copy of the rules and read them. Don't depend on someone else to tell you what they say.

jimh posted 11-17-2005 12:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Chuck--Thanks for the hyperlink. That is precisely the booklet I have in print, although a slightly newer edition. My old copy has an $8.50 price tag on it.
Buckda posted 11-23-2005 11:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
Derf -

Simple explanation:
Use your red/green nav side marker lights, the forward half of your masthead and your stern light when underway.

When anchored, use the masthead, both front and rear half illuminated.

Whaler used this more complex system for a reason.

As stated above, it allowed them to technically allow for a stern light set to the side and not on centerline.

It also fell in step with Whaler's heritage as "yachty" boats - the small ones as tenders to larger vessels, and the larger ones as "day boats" for those wealthy yacht owners. People now, who are buying the boats used don't fit into that original target demographic, may not feel this "resonation" as deeply as the original target buyer. The company was clearly targeting a small, wealthy boating population for many years, as well as a smaller market for heavy duty and "serious" boaters (fishermen, commercial, etc). These individuals were not just fairweather boaters, but were were well versed in rules and regulations, and this touch resonated with the high-quality and historic heritage image that Whaler had always been tapping into with their marketing.

Boat builders don't seem to care as much about this congruence in their marketing today, but you will notice that very good companies still take care of these small details to provide their target market with a ownership experience that resonates with them.


To be legal, you can run with the masthead fully illuminated and eliminate the stern light. You'll go blind and destroy your night vision, but it can be done legally.

Otherwise, go with the configuration listed above.

You may also make other mods based on the rules and regulations. If you add a T-Top or Arch, for instance, you can move the masthead to the top of that structure and eliminate the need for the stern light.


Backlash posted 11-25-2005 09:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for Backlash  Send Email to Backlash     

I think Dave (Buckda) pretty well summed up what is required in navigation lights.

Twelve years ago when I had the radar arch installed on my 21' Walkaround I wanted to eliminate the goofy fold up mast head light on the windshield as well as the troublesome stern light. I read and reread the USCG Inland and International rules 'til I was blue in the face. I finally decided I was in compliance with both rules by using a single 360° white light on the arch although several friends thought this was not in compliance.

Regardless of what configuration you use (single all-around or mast head/stern light) the most important consideration is that the lights actually work. Always keep spare bulbs on hand.


chopbuster posted 11-25-2005 11:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for chopbuster  Send Email to chopbuster     
A most amusing thread of data, considering that most were typing (talking) and few were hearing (listening) nor comprehending.


jimh posted 11-29-2005 12:30 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Simplest explanation: operate your vessel so that when required it shows the proper lights. See Rules for what is required.

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