Chapter 29
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Lights used as aids to navigation may emanate from lighthouses, light vessels, buoys or beacons. Lights on lighthouses and shore beacons may show a different colour light in adjacent sectors in order to indicate danger areas or a safe channel. Some important lighthouses may also show different light characteristics in adjacent sectors.  Where arcs of visibility are given on the chart, the bearings are true from seaward, measured clockwise from 000o to 360o.

   On the chart a full description of all lights is given in abbreviated form in the following order:-

    a.  Name or number of light (if any).

    b.  Characteristics or appearance of the light.

    c.  Colour or colours of the light.

    d. Time taken to complete one complete cycle of the light pattern of illumination.

    e. The height of the light source above mean sea level in metres / feet (in the Baltic).

    f. On lighthouses and shore beacons, the visible range of the light in clear weather.

    g. Any other details such as fog signal, signal station, radio beacon, etc.

   The principle characteristics are:-

Class of Light





A continuous steady light




Lit period shorter than the eclipsed period



Group Flashing

Two or more flashes followed by longer eclipsed period

eg Fl3


Quick Flashing

Continuous flashing at to 60 times a minute



Very Quick Flashing

100 or 120 flashes a minute



Ultra Quick Flashing

More than 160 flashes a minute



Interrupted Quick Flashing

Quick flashing periods followed by eclipsed periods



Group Flashing

Two or more eclipsed periods followed by longer lit periods

eg Q(2)



Long lit period followed by short eclipsed period



Group Occulting

Two or more eclipsed periods followed by longer lit period

eg Occ(3)



Lit and eclipsed periods of equal duration




Alternate colours shown at equal and regular intervals

eg Al WR


Fixed and Flashing

Fixed lights showing regular flashes of greater brilliance

F Fl


Morse Code

Continuous flashing of one or more letters in the Morse Code

eg Mo(K)

The colours of lights are abbreviated and shown as follows:-

  White  W (may be omitted)

  Red  R

  Green  G

  Yellow  Y

  Blue  Bu

  Violet  Vi

  The time period of a light, is the time taken to complete one whole cycle of the characteristics of the light, that is from the start of one cycle to the start of the next.  This is shown on the chart in seconds, abbreviated to 's'.

  The theoretical range of visibility of a light, is given in sea miles, either as a single figure, or two figures where different colours of varying visibility are used.  They are shown thus:-

  Single Range  eg 20M

  Two Ranges  eg 16/12M

  Three or more Ranges  eg 20-16M

  Other details such as fog horn or radio beacon will be added in abbreviated form at the end of all other information concerning the light.  From this information a full description of any lighthouse is shown as:-

  Fl(3) WRG 20s 15m 18-12M

  This would indicate that it is a group flashing three light with white, red and green sectors, the light period is twenty seconds, the elevation is 15 metres, and the range of the three different colours is from eighteen to twelve sea miles.

Admiralty List of Lights

  Names, descriptions, locations in Latitude and Longitude and characteristics of individual lights can be found in the Admiralty List of Lights.  The list is particularly useful for confirming the identification of a light structure in daylight. It also contains tables of distances of visibility.


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