Boat Lights and Signal Lights 

Boat Light Port StarboardBoat Light Port Starboard

Boat lights are essential for preventing collisions and because the design of this kind of lighting is unique, they are often used in home decorating. Here’s a brief history of the origins of ship lighting and the different types you can find.

In the very early days, ships carried oil or kerosene fueled lanterns. They were not required to have specific types of lighting when they were at anchor. As a result, many ships were sunk accidentally. The only ship sunk by one of the ironclads in the American Civil War happened by accident when it rammed a ship that was floating at anchor without any lighting.

U.S. Steam Signal Lights

US Steam Signal Lights UnderwayUS Steam Signal Lights Underway

The U.S. began requiring steamboats to carry signal lights when they would be running between dusk and dawn in the early 1800s. The color or type of lights that were to be used was not specified however. The lack of specifications created almost more confusion than the regulations solved.

The red and green sidelights, along with the white masthead light came about as a steamship regulation introduced in the United Kingdom in 1848. The U.S. introduced similar regulations and the next year expanded them to apply to all sailing vessels.

The first international maritime laws created to prevent collisions on the high seas went into effect in 1897. One of the new laws concerning boat lights that went into effect at this time was that steamships must have a second masthead light. A fixed stern light for all power-driven ships was recommended in 1948, nearly 50 years later. The current requirements were implemented in 1972.

One of the reasons that regulations were needed had to do with pirates. While it was understood that pirates would not necessarily follow the requirements, it was hoped that ships not following the accepted recommendations could be easily spotted and avoided. That might not have always been true, but the regulations did help.

Antique Boat Lights and Collectible Lights

Antique Copper Masthead Oil LampAntique Copper Masthead Oil Lamp

Antique nautical lights are collectible items. They usually have a green lens on one side and a red lens on the other if they were meant to be used on the side of the ship. Even antique dealers sometimes disagree about whether or not a light came from a ship or another kind of vehicle because there was no agreement about how the lights should be constructed or about the type of fuel that should be used.

They  were typically made of brass. The replicas that are used for decorating today are also made of that kind of metal. People with beach houses that they rent out during much of the year started using the replicas because their originals would get stolen. Insurance companies stopped covering the antiques.

Lighting In Coastal Homes

Antique Copper Table Oil Lamp 5Antique Copper Table Oil Lamp 5" - Set of 4

In coastal homes, there are some regulations concerning the kind of lighting that can be used on the exterior of the home. If the lighting is too similar to the boat lights used for a ship at anchor, the lighting could cause a vessel to run aground. This was actually a trick used by pirates to lure large ships close enough to shore to become stuck on the reef where they could easily be boarded.

You can find a variety of boat lights online, whether you are looking for something to use on your ship or to use for decorating your home. Using the internet is the easy way to shop.

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