Handbook of the Nautical Rules of the Road by Llana & Wisneskey

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Rule 25 -- Sailing Vessels Underway and Vessels Under Oars


The International and Inland versions of this Rule are identical but for one Inland provision exempting small vessels from having to carry a day shape. The navigation light rules for sailing vessels have one basic lighting configuration (sidelights and sternlight) and several optional configurations.


INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(a) A sailing vessel underway shall exhibit:

(i) sidelights;

(ii) a sternlight.

(a) A sailing vessel underway shall exhibit:

(i) sidelights; and

(ii) a sternlight.

 

Paragraph (a) presents the fundamental requirement for sidelights and sternlight. Remember that the definition of sidelights for vessels less than 20 meters long allows them to be either separate or combined in a single fixture. The combined sidelights reduce power consumption, as they use one lamp instead of two.


INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(b) In a sailing vessel of less than 20 meters in length the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule may be combined in one lantern carried at or near the top of the mast where it can best be seen.

(b) In a sailing vessel of less than 20 meters in length the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule may be combined in one lantern carried at or near the top of the mast where it can best be seen.

 

Paragraph (b) carries this power savings even further for sailing vessels under 20 meters by allowing sidelights and sternlight to be combined into a single fixture and carried at the masthead. This combined navigation light is often called a "tricolor" light. It cannot be used, however, while an auxiliary engine propels the boat, so a sailing vessel equipped with an engine must be fitted with regular sidelight and sternlight even if a "tricolor" light is used when under sail alone. The "tricolor" light may not be used when the regular sidelights are on. Display one or the other but not both.


INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(c) A sailing vessel underway may, in addition to the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule, exhibit at or near the top of the mast, where they can best be seen, two all-round lights in a vertical line, the upper being red and the lower green, but these lights shall not be exhibited in conjunction with the combined lantern permitted by paragraph (b) of this Rule.

(c) A sailing vessel underway may, in addition to the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule, exhibit at or near the top of the mast, where they can best be seen, two all-round lights in a vertical line, the upper being red and the lower green, but these lights shall not be exhibited in conjunction with the combined lantern permitted by paragraph (b) of this Rule.

 

Paragraph (c) presents an optional display that is much less popular that the "tricolor" light but that can be employed on sailing vessels over (as well as under) twenty meters. The all-round red over all-round green light are to be used with the regular sidelights and sternlight. Annex I requires that the red and green lights be mounted vertically two meters apart for vessels over 20 meters and one meter apart for smaller vessels. This arrangement makes it difficult not to obstruct the arc of visibility of the lower green all-round light, so this option will probably rarely be seen.


INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(d)(i) A sailing vessel of less than 7 meters in length shall, if practicable, exhibit the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) or (b) of this Rule, but if she does not, she shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.

(ii) A vessel under oars may exhibit the lights prescribed in this Rule for sailing vessels, but if she does not, she shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.

(d)(i) A sailing vessel of less than 7 meters in length shall, if practicable, exhibit the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) or (b) of this Rule, but if she does not, she shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.

(ii) A vessel under oars may exhibit the lights prescribed in this Rule for sailing vessels, but if she does not, she shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.

 

Paragraph (d) deals with small sailboats and rowboats. You can expect to see either sidelights and sternlight or a flashlight when approaching these vessels at night. Sailboats under seven meters are to display sidelights and sternlight "if practicable." If the boat has a motor equipped with a battery, then it is probably practicable, not to mention wise, to display sidelights and sternlight.


INTERNATIONAL

INLAND

(e) A vessel proceeding under sail when also being propelled by machinery shall exhibit forward where it can best be seen a conical shape, apex downwards.

(e) A vessel proceeding under sail when also being propelled by machinery shall exhibit forward where it can best be seen a conical shape, apex downwards. A vessel of less than 12 meters in length is not required to exhibit this shape, but may do so.

 

The final paragraph requires that a conical shape (point down) be displayed on a sailing vessel propelled by both sail and machinery. The conical shape indicates to other vessels that the "sailing" vessel is a power-driven vessel for purposes of the navigation rules. The Inland Rule version says that sailing vessels less than twelve meters long do not have to display this shape when motorsailing. Annex I to both sets of Rules permits vessels less than twenty meters long to display shapes smaller than full size.

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