Lights for rowing boats

On page 48 of The Tideway Code 2009 you will find….

Vessels under Oars (From Permanent Notices to Mariners (2005) P13 – Lights to be Displayed by Vessels Under Oars and Coaching Boats)  

Persons in charge of vessels navigating under oars are reminded that compliance with Rule 25 of the ColRegs is mandatory on the Tidal Thames. Therefore rowing vessels and canoes should, as a minimum, have at hand a torch or lantern capable of exhibiting a white light in sufficient time to prevent collision. In practice, in areas where such vessels may be numerous, vessels under oars can only comply with the above requirement by displaying a continuous white light visible over an arc of 360º (an all-round white light). In certain vessels two lights, one forward and one aft, may be required to ensure visibility throughout 360º.

From the Tideway Code

This means that all rowing boats should have a white light affixed to the boat by a secure permanent bracket or similar fixing in front of bow and behind the cox,  visible from a minimum distance of 800m. It is recommended that lights designed specifically for rowing boats are used. A(n) (additional) flashing white light may be used on the bow of the boat to indicate direction of travel, following the PLA change to this policy agreed with the Region in 2010. See bolow.  It is strongly recommended that a spare light with means of attachment is carried at all times. Note: A torch with a directed beam is not suitable. It is required to be a light that is visible throughout the whole of at least 180º for the requisite distance. 

The part in red has been superseded,  in 2010, by  this PLA Guidance note which has been approved and endorsed by the Region:


Flashing lights are more noticeable than fixed lights, especially in areas with pools of ambient light such as central London.  As such their use is recommended, but with the following provisos:

• Upstream of Putney Bridge only the bow light should flash, allowing other river users to easily tell in which direction the vessel is travelling

• Flashing lights can seriously impair night vision so if travelling in a group they must be above or below eye level

Tip:  Many fixed LED lights can be converted to flashing by turning the battery over or by buying a different battery type rather than replacing the whole light.

and specifically for all members of TRC who row (not just steers but all members), this is in the Basic Safety Awareness

Lights for rowing boats
• White lights at both ends, visible
through at least 180°.
• Must be attached to the boat, with a
proper bracket, and not to the crew.
• Must carry a spare and a means of
fixing it to the boat.
• Must be Safety Committee approved
lights (not the tadpole style) from

Boat Lights

• Wear light or reflective clothing.

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