Q: Do I need to have navigation lights on my duck boat when I head out before the sun is up? Do I need to have the anchor light on when stationary before sunrise like other boats?
A: First, let’s cover what statute says about what lights need to be displayed and when. Minnesota Statute 86B.511 says that a watercraft using the waters of this state, when underway or in use between sunset and sunrise, must carry and display the lights prescribed by the commissioner for the watercraft.
To determine what lights are “prescribed by the commissioner” one needs to refer to administrative rule 6110.1200 subpart 7. In summary, this rule says all motorized watercraft must display red and green navigation lights on the bow and an all-around white light on the aft while underway. It also requires that only the all-around white light remain on while at anchor. Section D of the same rule requires that non-motorized watercraft must have aboard at least one flashlight or lantern capable of showing a white light from a distance of at least 2 miles.
Now, this statute and rule both say all watercraft must display lights as prescribed. MN statute 86B.005 subdivision 18 defines a watercraft as any contrivance used or designed for navigation on water except: a waterfowl boat during the waterfowl hunting season, a rice boat during the harvest season, or a seaplane.
Since by statutory definition a waterfowl boat during the waterfowl season is not a watercraft, the light requirements set in 86B.511 would not apply. If the boat is being used for anything aside from waterfowl hunting, even if it is waterfowl season the light requirements as well as registration requirements would apply. Despite this statutory language, we encourage people to use common sense and use their navigation lights even when they aren’t required anywhere there may be other boats out especially while underway.
Another safety reminder; waterfowl boats are not exempt from the same PFD requirements as any other vessel. There must be a wearable PFD for each person on board, as well as a type IV (throwable) PFD if the boat is 16 ft or longer.
Jake Willis is a Minnesota State Conservation Officer covering the Brookston station. Send your questions to email@example.com.