The options available to add running lights to a kayak involve several factors including what type of lighting, effective colors and positioning about the kayak. There are also critical navigational requirements that affect the use and placement of lighting on watercraft.
The official status of navigation lights as they pertain to kayaks is documented in U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rule 25, Navigational Lights, which in part says: “…a sailing vessel, or one under oars, of less than 7 meters in length shall if practical exhibit red and green sidelights, and a stern light visible from at least one mile away. However …, she can have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent collision.”
Simply put, kayaks don’t require running lights. However, a light (either fix or hand-held) is key to paddling safety during night/low-light outings.
A white light mounted on the aft deck of a kayak should be visible 360º and positioned, nor so bright, so as to affect the visibility of the paddler. There is strict protocol on the position of standard green/starboard - red/port running lights in relation to any white/full view bow or stern light. Their placement will indicate directional maneuvering and intent to other crafts and infers that the craft in view knows the Rules of the Road as well.
Other “light” factors to consider:
- Blue or red flashing lights are restricted to use by law enforcement vessels only;
- Red or white strobe lights are emergency only;
- Each paddler/passenger should have a flashlight/headlamp;
- Use full-view deck light if at anchor.
Another useful aid for being seen at night are reflective strips on your boat deck, paddle blades and PFD. Be Safe; Have Fun!