In many areas of the world, the majority of cruiser's dinghies are not lit at night at all. Many of us have used LED headlamps or torches as a substitute (yes, i know this does not meet the rules), and this is better than running dark. The neat little tricolour unit (which we now have) is a huge improvement over that practice, even if it too fails to meet the COLREGS.
In practical terms, the missing "steaming light" does not impact safe operation of the dinghy
. It only (in theory) indicates to other vessels that you are a sailing craft when you are in fact not. The other vessel can determine your relative course and speed just as well as if you had the additional light, and can thus avoid a collision
. He may have an additional burden placed on his decisions by the sail vs power situation, but it is not likely to even enter the equation... again, in a practical sense, not a legal
The authorities would doubtless prefer that all of us had fully compliant dinghies. I suspect that most of them would be quite happy if we all had the little tricolour lamps... not perfectly compliant, but functional and far better than the status quo. There are doubtless those who would swoop down on such a dinghy
, ticket book in hand. Fortunately, in our experience, most of those types go home at night!
I suppose that the above could be viewed as seditious thinking, advocating disobeying the COLREGS. If such thoughts offend you, ignore them and make sure that your dinghy meets all the rules. I think we will use the tricolour and see how it goes.