How to Rig a Small Boat With Running Lights


All boats must display three running lights in darkness and fog to alert maritime traffic of the location and orientation of that boat: A green light on the right side, a red light on the left side and a white light on the stern. Power boats and boats at anchor must also display a white mast light above the running lights. Most boats, except the smallest, are built with the lights installed as part of the electrical system. Additional running lights can be powered by a marine battery but the fastest and cheapest way to rig a small boat is to clamp battery-powered running lights to the sides, stern and mast of your boat.

Things You'll Need

  • Portable marine navigation lights
  • Portable mast light (optional)
  • Six -- eight D batteries.
  • Buy a set of portable marine navigation lights. The lights are available from outdoors and marine stores for about $50 a set. Mast lights cost less than $20 at the same stores and are usually identical to stern lights.

  • Install two D batteries in each light following the directions that came with your lights. The installation is identical to installing batteries in a flashlight.

  • Attach the green light to the right or starboard side of your boat by slipping the U-shaped mount over your right gunwale and tightening the thumb screw. Attach the red light to your port gunwale and attach the white light to the stern of your boat using the same technique. Some lights attach with suction cups.

  • Orient the lights so the lenses face forward and are approximately parallel to your gunwales. Check the lights to ensure that all three running lights are visible in the dark.

  • Attach a second, portable, white navigation light to your mast as an anchor/mast light using the same technique you used to attach the other navigation lights to your gunwales and stern.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your dinghy is constructed of HDPE, you won't need to drill pilot holes for mounting marker lights.
  • It will help to drill 1/32-inch pilot holes to fasten wire clip screws on aluminum and fiberglass boat. Use a drop of cyanoacrylic glue on mounting screws to keep them from loosening from vibrations.

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  • Photo Credit Art Wolfe/Photodisc/Getty Images
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