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Old 13-06-2010, 12:12   #1
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Strobe Lights

Good evening.

Please tell me about masthead strobe lights.

Here in South Africa few boats if any are fitted with masthead strobe lights. The seem popular with American boats.

I am planning to take my 9 meter trimaran trans Atlantic and if I look at sites such as that for the Singlehanded Trans Pac, I see that strobes lights are mentioned a lot. Do the guys use it to conserve battery power or to make themselves more vissible?

What is the idea behind it, what do you use? Do you turn off your other lights when you turn on the strobe and rather be vissible than legal?
Do they come in LED's?
Where do you mount them? What happens to your masthead tricolour?

My understanding has always been that strobes are contrary to COLREGS.

Thanks in advance,

Banjo.
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Old 13-06-2010, 12:20   #2
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We are parked next to a guy with a bright red flashing strobe half way up his mast.

I think the twit thinks its an anchor light.

Everyone coming in thinks its a port marker. (USA read that in reverse)


Damn ding-a-ling.


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Old 13-06-2010, 12:39   #3
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The strobe lights, presumably LED, have an issue with the Authorities that they don't provide a wide band of colour (or white) which is required by regs to ensure the bulb and colour filter are true colour. There is some progress being made, I believe one manufacturers product is now accepted by the american authorities, GordMay will have all the details.
However - Night Collision in the wide oceans are best avoided electronically. AIS or some sender that alerts an AIS will give some protection from commercial shipping where there is a proper watch being kept. Otherwise a flashing white LED at the masthead gives the most effective visual signal but does need to be backed up, even turned off, in favour of the correct navigational lighting for collision avoidance. If you are not prepared to keep a proper watch yourself than you will need to provide power for a radar with range alert, or AIS system to rouse you when vessels are closer than you want them to be. Solar power day time, diesel or wind power night time. Perhaps the best option is to sleep in the day and maintain a visual watch at night if you really want to use the cheaper solar panels to provide the protection of radar/AIS watch during sunlit hours.
You will also need to be prepared to maintain a watch at fifteen minute intervals for sixteen out of the twenty four hours in friendly seas. It's hard work single handing safely!
Look at taking a crew man with you. Food, board and a return air ticket in exchange for free adventure! There'll be some takers if your boat is sound. Consider also where you rest position will be when on watch. A sheltered (from every wind direction) and comfy upright seat makes a great difference in wet and windy weather and should allow for both to be on deck together in bad or difficult situations. Good to see you thinking ahead.
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Old 13-06-2010, 13:05   #4
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Originally Posted by Eleven View Post
The strobe lights, presumably LED, have an issue with the Authorities that they don't provide a wide band of colour (or white) which is required by regs to ensure the bulb and colour filter are true colour. There is some progress being made, I believe one manufacturers product is now accepted by the american authorities, GordMay will have all the details...
I believe that Banjo is (more or less) right.

The only COLREGS reference to Strobe Lights, with which I’m familiar, is:

COLREGS Rule 36

"Signals to Attract Attention

If necessary to attract the attention of another vessel, any vessel may make light or sound signals that cannot be mistaken for any signal authorized elsewhere in these Rules, or may direct the beam of her searchlight in the direction of the danger, in such a way as not to embarrass any vessel Any light to attract the attention of another vessel shall be such that it cannot be mistaken for any aid to navigation. For the purpose of this Rule the use of high intensity intermittent or revolving lights, such as strobe lights, shall be avoided.
"

I don't believe purity of colour was the objection to strobes. I have no futher details.
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Old 13-06-2010, 15:25   #5
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I've seen them used as anchor lights but know of no flag state that allows them to be used for navigation lights.
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Old 13-06-2010, 15:28   #6
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That's pretty straight forward, Gord. In open waters at night I think it's a case of catching the eye of any one on deck or the bridge because these modern vessels move so fast. Once the skipper is in charge of our vessel then the LED should go off and the normal tri-mast head go on. The point is to attract the attention of the oncoming vessel. Lights on the sails have a similar effect, and I've expressed before that careful choice of sail colours can help big ships spot us little ones as we meander on our way.
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Old 13-06-2010, 16:11   #7
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My understanding was a strobe was only to be used in an emergency situation
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Old 13-06-2010, 16:18   #8
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SaltMonkey....exactly.

Strobes are intended to be used for emergencies such as a water activated strobe on lifejackets, the strobes on throwable devices, the strobes on an EPIRB or the strobes on a life rafts.

Using a strobe for non-emergency purposes is an abuse of strobe lights. Its analogous to the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Would you like to be the one sitting in a life raft at night evaded by a ship because they thought you were another sailboat with a strobe on their mast?

Would you like to be on a sailboat at night with a strobe causing a ship to alter course towards you because they think you may be a liferaft or a person overboard?

Those are two really good reasons not to use a strobe unless its an emergency.

If you need to attract attention then light up your sail with a really bright flashlight or turn on a spreader light. That's legal and safe and will let others know that you are a vessel under sail....unlike a strobe which leaves no positive indication that you are a vessel under sail.
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Old 13-06-2010, 17:01   #9
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Some anchor light manufacturers are now making the strobe light as an option. So you can have your mast-head tri-color, a 360* white anchor or a 360* white strobe.

The point of the strobe is either for "emergency" signaling or for easy identification of your boat in a crowded anchorage. You might imagine a scenario where someone (SAR, drunken buddy, dinner guests, etc) are trying to find you and you say, "I'm the one with the strobe firing NOW!".

MarkJ, the guy with the red strobe must have spent a former life as a buoy, it's just karma.

Fair Winds,
Mike
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Old 13-06-2010, 17:07   #10
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.......or just put up a short string of LED Christmas lights to distinguish yourself.
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Old 13-06-2010, 23:14   #11
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A white strobe will get you noticed by a ship, but the ship will change course and approach as he will think its an emergency stobe on a life rafte etc.

The will be a tad angry when he sees its a yacht playing games...
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Old 14-06-2010, 00:36   #12
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Don't put a strobe on your boat - It'll just confuse.

As Gord pointed out, Colregs say to avoid their use for attracting attention.

Neither is it a distress signal (under Colregs - Annex IV)

So.... what purpose does it serve??

I see a strobe, I think "ahh, fishing net"

MarkJ sees a strobe and thinks "ah, liferaft"

MarkJ heads towards you, I give you a wide berth....do you really want to be second guessing what the other guy will do after you activate your strobe?

I quite like it when other vessels maintain course & speed - a strobe is likely to change all that
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Old 14-06-2010, 01:23   #13
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Our tricolor has a built-in strobe which we have not used in 2 1/2years and 10,000 miles. If we want to be seen we put a powerful light on the sails, which does get seen.

Anyone that uses one in an anchorage is going to be very unpopular..it's like living next to a lighthouse!
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Old 14-06-2010, 04:21   #14
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If we want to be seen we put a powerful light on the sails, which does get seen.
Thats what we use... and if he still doesn't notice a quick zap at the bridge will rev the cabin boy right up!

By the way, when dealing with ships we often think the Captain is on the bridge.... Ho ho, young friends, the Grave Yard shift is probably run by some teen who is far too scared to wake the Mate, let alone the Captain!


We now give way to ships as a matter of course


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Old 14-06-2010, 06:02   #15
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My understanding was a strobe was only to be used in an emergency situation
Strobe on a vessel is only legal when operating on Inland waters in the U.S.

Inland rule 37, distress signals, is the same as International with this additional section.

Rule 37 - Inland only
A high intensity white light flashing at regular intervals from 50 to 70 times per minute.

John
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