Navigation Lighting for Kayaks!

If you are planning to take your yak out on the water after sunset there are a number of  important safety requirements that you need to consider but the primary one is being seen by other boaters! You need to provide some navigational lighting that lets other boaters know your location and course. The exact requirements may vary in your state but in waters regulated by the USCG, a vessel under oars must at a minimum have on board a hand held light. Personally, I would recommend a stern light that is pole mounted in  the back of the kayak.

As far as using red/green bow lights. That question is a little more involved for the kayaker. First of all, once in the yak you probably can’t reach a bow light to turn it off and on as needed. Second, there can be an issue with the mount height on a kayak. The USCG states an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 112.5 degrees for the side lights and the bow of a kayak is pretty low. Another issue with a low mounted side light is when there is a chop on the water. At a distance a very low mounted bow light may appear to flash off and on which gives confusing signals to other boaters. However, a kayaker probably should not be on the water at night in choppy conditions anyway. In my opinion, night time kayak fishing should be reserved for calm, glassy conditions. You’ll find calm conditions way more enjoyable and easier to fish.

The bow lights can be an added safety feature if installed and used correctly but are not mandatory, at least under USCG rules.

If you are looking for some navigation lights for your kayak, take a look at the  “ATTWOOD Marine LED BOW & STERN LIGHT COMBO – 14180-7” This is an Amazon link with more photo’s and additional information. Amazon was actually less expensive than Walmart!

Product Review: Attwood “Portable LED Navigation Light Kit”

Attwood Navigation Light Kit

Attwood LED Navigation Light Kit 1

This vessel navigational light kit comes with both an all-around white stern light and a red/green bow light. Each light is very compact only measuring approximately 1.25″ in dia. x 3.5″L.. Both lights are operated via a rubber on/off push button.

The lights are very compact and easily mounted and removed or even transferred to another boat. The kit comes with “C” clamps that attach the light to your boat . Power to run the lights is provided via (3) AAA batteries housed internally within each light with and O-ring seal. Since the lights are LED they require very little power.

The read all-around light comes with a (3) piece mast pole for visibility but you should verify the height requirement for mounting. In the “Florida Boating Handbook” is states that the stern light must be 3.3″ above the stern lights. USCG is a bit more complicated. It states the following: RULE 21: (e)     “All-round light” means a light showing an unbroken light over an arc of the horizon of 360 degrees.

Navigation Light Requirements:

The following are the USCG requirements for navigational lighting for a vessel under oars.


(a)     A sailing vessel underway shall exhibit:

    1. sidelights;
    2. a sternlight.

(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.

(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.


    1. 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.
    2. 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.


I purchased the Attwood Kit and have used it without any  issues but I am considering fabricating my own stern light that will be screwed into my pvc trunk rack. Since I video all my fishing adventures I have some video issues to consider. The light height of the kit light messes up my video and shows a glare from the stern light being to far ahead of the video camera.

As soon as I come up with my solution I will post it and link it to this one.

Stay safe out there,

Larry S.

2 Responses to Navigation Lighting for Kayaks!

  • Brice Stanislaw says:

    Appreciate your article a lot. I kayak and fish in my row boat a lot at night and have not been sure what to do for lighting. How would one attach these lights to a smooth flat kayak? as it has clamps?

    • larry says:

      Hey Brice,
      typically in a kayak you would something in the back you can attach to like a bucket, small cooler, etc. If no you have to fabricate something. I ended up building a pvc rack on the back of my yak and left a spot to screw in a vertical riser to hold my light. I need to get some pics of it posted up sometime.
      thanks, Larry S.

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