QI have noticed that narrowboats depicted in your magazine sometimes have navigation lights and sometimes not but they never seem to have the complete and correct set of four. The red and green (port and starboard) lights visible through an arc of 112.5 degrees are clear to see but I have searched in vain for the single white light at the bow (visible through an arc of 225 degrees) and the single white light at the stern (visible through an arc of 135 degrees). Are there any regulations governing navigation lights on canals or are the aforementioned port and starboard lights just for show?
ATONY REPLIES: Are there are no requirements for navigation lights on canals. The situation on most rivers is rather different IF you are going to be navigating at night or riding at anchor. The regulations are explained at https://www.waterways.org.uk/boating/ navigating_your_boat/vhf/navigation_lights There are plenty more websites. Over and above that there are minimum height dimensions that are not so easy to meet on a narrowboat and would be impossible on canals. The navigation lights you see on many narrowboats are little more than ornamental because they are too small, not bright enough and in the wrong position form the length of boat.
For narrowboats up to about 64 ft (20m) suitable lights are available from several sources specialising in lumpy water boats. For longer boats you would need to use a supplier who deals with commercial craft.
Be aware that even though a given light may be listed as suitable for boats up to 20 metres it does not mean that its position will be within the regulations. The bow light would be referred to as a mast head light while the stern light is known as just that. If you can not find a suitable white lamp, but I think you will be able to, you may have to mount a white light in a “box” to only show white through the required arc.
You can often see similar one sided things for navigation lights fitted to sailing boat shrouds or to lights mounted on the cabin roof of commercial/ passenger craft.