Top Menu

South of the litigious United States, navigation lights on dinghies become much less common. Although areas with established cruising communities may suggest that they are used, it is still unlikely that one will be pulled over by an officious Coast Guard officer for failing to do so. With that said, there are very good reasons for using lights while running in the dinghy at night. Many of the locals zip around in their boats at high speed and at night, they do so without a single light on board. A high speed collision with a boat like this, or even between two inflatable dinghies, would really put a damper on an evening. And believe it or not, we have heard that each season at least one person around here gets seriously injured in an accident just such as this. For this reason, we knew that we needed a good light.

While back in Florida we jury rigged a light for next to no money, doing our best to keep the Coast Guard at bay. The idea was OK and it was even featured on the Small Boat Projects website as a way of avoiding the “marine tax.” Sadly, it ultimately broke and we stopped using it, running instead with just a hand-held flashlight. I’m a little bit embarrassed to say that we finally broke down and forked over some real cash for an actual marine light. This one is so cool though, it’s hard not to be impressed. Red, green and white LEDs shine very brightly from the unit which runs on 3 AAA batteries. The cool feature is that the light attaches to the engine by four very strong magnets (you first bolt the base onto the engine cowling by drilling a small hole in it). We have a little lanyard attached to the light just in case the magnets fail but they are so strong, I can’t see it happening. Why this is a good feature is that the light can be removed and thrown in your pocket when leaving the boat at the dinghy dock, thwarting any would-be “tiefs.”

I should point out though that even with our super-duper light illuminating our dinghy, we almost had a head on collision the other evening with a fast-moving, non-lit dink. I don’t know what that guy was thinking! It was only my fast reactions that kept us from plowing straight into the other boat. So, even if you are are well lit, keep a good watch while out on the water. In the dark things can come on you very quickly.



  1. That’s cool! How visible is it, if it’s mounted low on the engine and there’s a possibility of dinghy passenger bodies blocking it from oncoming traffic?

    • That is true of course, that bodies could at times block it. The only way around that is to have an elevated light on a pole. We have seen those once or twice but they are very rare on little dinghies.

      • I looked at these lights a while back and had one on order but it was backordered for months and I cancelled the order. I believe the manufacturer has an option to mount one on a hat or shoulder. good for kayakers.

        • It comes with a strap that allows you to mount the magnetic base in a variety of ways. A hat could definitely be one option I guess. We opted to bolt the base on so that it was more permanent. Also note, it comes in 360 degrees white or the red/green/white that we purchased.

  2. Sorry to hear about the near miss. That is a very cool set up. Can you give me the name of the make and model or a link? Thanks!

  3. The dinghy, of course, needs to be well lit. But when the helmsman is also well lit, it hardly matters.

  4. I know I wouldn’t want to run into a couple of martial-arts fighting Canadians on the water ! So thank you for making yourselves a little more visible 🙂

  5. Totally agree your points. The best solution I have seen so far is a masthead all-round white led light, on a small flat base, mounted on a telescopic pole (camera tripod leg) that was put into the rowlock on the dinghy.

    It gave a good all round light, thats all you need on a dinghy. It was small and collapsible so it was lifted off when going ashore. The pole was quite flexible and wobbled a bit, that didn’t matter. It was above head level so it was very visible but with it’s little base it did not blind the people in the dinghy. Cheap too!

    Next time you have to make your own, I recommend this!


  6. andy & sonja cru-zinacatamaran - Reply

    On the light subject, i have got some head torches & a red one that will clip in the back strap of a head torch, the red ones are used on Mountain bikes, so if i am alone in the dingy / kayak at night i have them both on the same head gear front & back, that way if i fall out i am still seen 🙂

    • Good idea. I guess you would be “well lit” then. 🙂

      Something to consider… as you know, stern lights are white and port nav lights are red. Although you would be seen, perhaps a fast moving boat might be confused as to your direction of travel if the red light was worn at the back.

  7. Hey Mike, as I’m sure you’re aware from your 5 buck mod discussions, if Barney Fife stops you you are no longer in compliance with Intl rules since you don’t have an all around white light. I have the white “flashlight on a stick” that served me well in Intl waters, but here in Puerto Rico I need to have sidelights too. It appears that the puck you have operates in different modes – like with only red/green on? That way I could operate both and meet the regs. I’m thinking I need to be in compliance as there are (almost) as many law enforcement boats on the water as recreational boaters.

    P.S. Happy Anniversary! I almost didn’t recognize that clean cut guy!

    • Hi Chris

      I think we had a discussion about the regs for dinghy lights on here at some point before. I may be wrong but I thought there was something in the regs about boats with less than xxx HP (perhaps 9.9?) only needing a 360 white light. Or perhaps it was a speed thing, as in, if your dinghy can go xxx MPH, you needed to have red/green/white. The light we purchased is selectable so it can go just red, just green, red/green, just white (stern only) or all three. I think with this we should be covered if Barney comes looking for us. 🙂

      • Here you go mike and you were right with less than 7 kts.

        Bill Kelleher

        RULE 23:

        (a) A power-driven vessel underway shall exhibit (picture):

        1. a masthead light forward;
        2. a second masthead light abaft of and higher than the forward one; except that a vessel of less than 50 meters in length shall not be obliged to exhibit such a light but may do so;
        3. sidelights: and
        4. a sternlight.

        (b) An air-cushion vessel when operating in nondisplacement mode shall, in addition to the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule, exhibit an all-round flashing yellow light, where it can best be seen. [Inld]

        (c) A WIG craft only when taking off, landing and in flight near the surface shall, in addition to the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule, exhibit a high intensity all-round flashing red light. [Intl]


        1. A power-driven vessel of less than 12 meters in length may in lieu of the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule exhibit an all-round white light and sidelights.
        2. a power-driven vessel of less than 7 meters in length whose maximum speed does not exceed 7 knots may in lieu of the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule exhibit an all-round white light and shall, if practicable, also exhibit sidelights. [Intl]
        3. the masthead light or all-round white light on a power-driven vessel of less than 12 meters in length may be displaced from the fore and aft centerline of the vessel if centerline fitting is not practicable, provided the sidelights are combined in one lantern which shall be carried on the fore and aft centerline of the vessel or located as nearly as practicable in the same fore and aft line as the masthead light or the all-round white light. [Intl]

Leave a Reply

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

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.