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Old 06-05-2013, 23:35   #1
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Confused about navigation lights

As I mentioned in a separate post, I'm purchasing a Searunner trimaran that doesn't have any navigation lights. Since I'm starting from scratch, I've been researching the requirements for sailboat navigation lights and the "helpful images" provided by the websites are a little confusing with regard to the difference between running powered and running with sails. I'd like to combine as much of the lighting as possible to save money and amp usage. Would I be able to get away with the following for both sailing and motoring?:

1) Tri-color/Anchor light combo on top of mast (has a switch to select tri-color or anchor light)
2) Masthead light

The pictures for sailboats under power seems to specifically require deck mounted lights, and if I have to go with deck mounted lights anyway for powering, I'd rather know before I go shopping for lights. If I have to use deck mounted, do I have to place the anchor light all the way at the top of the mast? I'd hate to have to climb the mast just for a single light.

Thanks in advance!

Dave
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Old 07-05-2013, 00:55   #2
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

The light requirements for sailboat under sail can be different from sailboat under power

If you want the typical minimum lights you basically need:
1.An anchor light - white, masthead, 360 degree all around visible
2. A steaming light - white, approx 2/3 of way up mast, visible from ahead from 300 degrees through 60 degrees
3. A starboard navigation light - green, typically on or near bow, visible from 0 degrees through 120 degrees.
4. A port navigation light - red, typically on or near bow, visible from 240 degrees to 0 degrees
5. A stern light - white, typically on or near stern, visible from 120 degrees through 240 degrees

Those are the 5 main lights required (N.B. the red and green lights are sometimes combines into a single unit)

In addition to those 5, some people choose to ALSO carry a masthead tricolor light

When you are under sail, i.e. not using your motor, you can display a masthead tricolor light instead of lights 3, 4 & 5 mentioned above, but only under sail, so when you motor you aren't allowed to use a masthead tricolor, you have to use the bow (green, red) and stern (white).
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Old 07-05-2013, 01:00   #3
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

The definitive "Rule Book" is the COLREGS. You can get a copy at the link below
http://www.collisionregs.com/MSN1781.pdf
Free download. Worth having
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Old 07-05-2013, 01:01   #4
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

When motoring you can't use the tricolor. You *must* have a white steaming light (on the mast), red and green sidelights, and a white stern light.

You don't need a tricolor, but if you will be doing any offshore sailing I really recommend it for the better visibility. Once you have a tricolor, you might as well include the anchor (masthead) light in the package.

But, you still need the deck-level running lights (sidelights), stern light, and steaming light, when under power.
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Old 07-05-2013, 02:21   #5
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

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Originally Posted by Paul Elliott View Post
When motoring you can't use the tricolor. You *must* have a white steaming light (on the mast), red and green sidelights, and a white stern light.

You don't need a tricolor, but if you will be doing any offshore sailing I really recommend it for the better visibility. Once you have a tricolor, you might as well include the anchor (masthead) light in the package.

But, you still need the deck-level running lights (sidelights), stern light, and steaming light, when under power.
Besides all this, you also must have an anchor light, if you anchor out outside of specific designated anchorages where a light is not required. But Paul is not wrong -- the anchor light is easy to arrange without any permanent installation. You can hoist it in the rigging. Permanent anchor light and tricolor are going to be the hardest nav lights, by far, to install as you have to pull cable up the mast to the masthead, quite hard when the mast is up.

Sidelights are easy -- can be a combined unit mounted at the bow.

Good luck.
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Old 07-05-2013, 02:28   #6
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

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Originally Posted by Paul Elliott View Post
When motoring you can't use the tricolor. You *must* have a white steaming light (on the mast), red and green sidelights, and a white stern light......................But, you still need the deck-level running lights (sidelights), stern light, and steaming light, when under power.

Actually this is not totally correct

Rule 23 d. 1.
A power-driven vessel of less than 12 metres in length may in lieu of the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule exhibit an all-round white light and sidelights;

Annex I provides the detailed specifications for fitting lights. There is no requirement for deck level running lights. The only mention is>
(g) The sidelights of a power-driven vessel shall be placed at a height above the hull not greater than three-quarters of that of the forward masthead light. They shall not be so low as to be interfered with by deck lights.
(h) The sidelights, if in a combined lantern and carried on a power-driven vessel of less than 20 metres in length, shall be placed not less than 1 metre below the masthead light.


My Privilege 37 is less than 12m. It has a light system that switches on the anchor light as a combined steaming and stern light when the navigation lights are selected - the nav lights being a combined port/stbd half way up the mast. Thus meeting the requirements of Rule 23 and Annex I.
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Old 07-05-2013, 06:29   #7
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

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You don't need a tricolor, but if you will be doing any offshore sailing I really recommend it for the better visibility.
Actualy tri-colours, which are rare in some countries( like france) were brought in as a energy saving device. In fact many ships crew will point out that they dont see them as they dont look up.

I think in these days of energy efficient light , proper Sailing lights red over green near , but not at the top of the mast usually duplicated on each sideto give the appearance of an all round light. Now these are "visible"
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Old 07-05-2013, 07:25   #8
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

The big advantage of red over green is, unlike the tricolour, they can be left on together with the lower navigation lights (when sailing)
I have never seen an ordinary crusing yacht with this combination, but if building a new boat, or doing an extensive refit it is an option worth considering in these days of low consumption LEDs.

The only slight limitation is the minimium spacing between the two lights is reasonably high. Two half lights are commonly fitted for each colour, but there is still some practical difficulty with the green light being obscured by the sail
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Old 07-05-2013, 08:08   #9
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

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Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
The big advantage of red over green is, unlike the tricolour, they can be left on together with the lower navigation lights (when sailing)
I have never seen an ordinary crusing yacht with this combination, but if building a new boat, or doing an extensive refit it is an option worth considering in these days of low consumption LEDs.
Ive seen several typically on larger yachts, very clear at sea compared to the useless tricolour .

I remember being in france buy a boat and I wanted a masthead tri-colour, in quick local french the manager outlined to his boss, That it was something the funny ros-bifs used.

dave
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Old 07-05-2013, 08:20   #10
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
Actualy tri-colours, which are rare in some countries( like france) were brought in as a energy saving device. In fact many ships crew will point out that they dont see them as they dont look up.

I think in these days of energy efficient light , proper Sailing lights red over green near , but not at the top of the mast usually duplicated on each sideto give the appearance of an all round light. Now these are "visible"
We've had this discussion before, and Dave may very well be right (he has the big-ship experience, and I don't). But in my personal experience, from the deck of my sailboat, when the swells are anything but flat I've found it easier to see a distant sailboat's distant tricolor than to see their deck-level running lights.

Once we are closer than a half-mile, the deck-level lights are as good or better.

When we are in the bay or harbor, I switch off the tricolor and use the deck-level lights, for exactly the reason that Dave mentions.
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Old 07-05-2013, 08:28   #11
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

I agree that a tricolor is much more visible at a distance offshore compared to deck-level lights, but Dave is advocating the red over green at the masthead in addition to the deck-level lights. The problem with deck-level lights is they help to ruin the crews' night vision, in addition to being hard to see offshore. On a sailboat you often get the deck-level lights reflecting off of the sails, which can be very distracting to the crew.
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:00   #12
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

I had the same desire as the OP - to minimize the number of lights (3) and amps.

I have an all around light at the stern about 10 feet above deck.
I have a red light and a green light on the pilot house top.
No other lights are fitted.

When motoring, I use all three lights on.
When sailing, I use all three lights on and a "clip on" shield that blocks the forward portion of the all around light.
When at anchor, I use the all around light.

I do not have a steaming light and therefore not set up for motor sailing at night.

I am sure that someone will find an error or two in my interpretation/application of the rules.

Steve
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:08   #13
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

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Originally Posted by Talbot View Post
My Privilege 37 is less than 12m. It has a light system that switches on the anchor light as a combined steaming and stern light when the navigation lights are selected - the nav lights being a combined port/stbd half way up the mast. Thus meeting the requirements of Rule 23 and Annex I.
Our family's little 23 foot Jeanneau has this arrangement too. Saved us having to install a steaming light.
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:18   #14
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

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Originally Posted by Kettlewell View Post
I agree that a tricolor is much more visible at a distance offshore compared to deck-level lights, but Dave is advocating the red over green at the masthead in addition to the deck-level lights. The problem with deck-level lights is they help to ruin the crews' night vision, in addition to being hard to see offshore. On a sailboat you often get the deck-level lights reflecting off of the sails, which can be very distracting to the crew.
No my main problem is the use of a single bulb in a combined lantern atthe top of teh mast. Its a peculiar UK, and somewhat US thing. It was done for energy economy nothing else.

Good separate bright deck level lights are better then a weak little thingy at the top of the mast. secondly in harbour approaches or where there are other boats often power boats , people dont look up.

Dave
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Old 07-05-2013, 09:25   #15
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Re: Confused about navigation lights

There are four advantages of a tri-color nav light. First, you're only burning one bulb rather than three. Second, it doesn't mess with your night vision the way deck level lights do. Third, in large swells deck lights may disappear in the troughs while a masthead light will remain visible. Fourth, the tri-color will never be obscured by sails.

As was pointed out previously, however, they only make sense offshore, and can only be used under sail.
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