This is a two part issue. Most yachts have VERY poor nav lights. And, the casual boater usually does not have a lot of time under trying circumstances to be able to practice the differentiation of the lights.
You have found out some circumstances that are difficult to decipher. The easy solution is to make absolutely certain your lights are bright enough to be seen CLEARLY at least 2 miles. (3 to 5 miles for the white lights.) And you would be surprised how much you can actually SEE using binoculars at night.
If you are lit brightly, at least you halve the equation TO be seen, so that others can decipher you.
I wish all the existing nav lights would be required to be replaced with the new LED lights
. They are awesome. At a minimum, disassembling, cleaning
and freshening up lens would help too. How many boats run old, crazed, hazy lens in their lights. Take a look at yours at night from a distance. Surprise!!!