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Old 17-10-2015, 20:54   #1
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Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

"Adventures" always seem to occur in clusters. God knows why.

It all started in Portsmouth, where a friend met me. We had planned to spend the night there, and then go sailing. But the weather was so lovely, it seemed like a shame to stay in port. So we slipped and left and sailed off.

When I went to drop the anchor, the windlass didn't work. It's a relay I have been fiddling with and must have hooked up wrong. But I didn't want us to miss our sundowners fiddling with it, so I decided to just throw out the Fortress kedge. Calm weather, a benign shore -- why not? And at the same time test its ability to reset in a tide change. As usual, the Fortress set instantly and easily held a full power reverse pull. I put up an anchor ball and switched on the anchor light.

So we had our sundowners watching an excellent sunset, had dinner, watched a movie (Argo), and went to bed about 22:00. I set anchor alarms as usual and set the IPlod with INavX next to my bed.

About 02:00, the tide changed and the anchor alarm went off. I couldn't tell whether the anchor was holding -- we had gone around in a loop -- never seen that before. Odd combination of tide and wind? I jumped out of my bunk and got dressed. But it seemed to be ok so I tried to go back to sleep -- but in my clothes. As I was drifting off, I heard an engine, and loud music very close and getting closer. I checked for an AIS target -- nothing. I thought about firing up the radar. Then I heard shouting. So I ran up on deck -- fishing boat. His gear is tangled in my anchor line. Great. "I couldn't see your anchor light way up there!" He said.

This is particularly nice since I don't have a working windlass at the moment. So I untied the bitter end of the anchor rode from its padeye in the anchor locker and led it back to one of my big electric sheet winches. Pulled it up with difficulty -- the fishing boat is now also hanging from it, and the tide is running about 2 knots. But the big sheet winch manages it, and there are the fisherman's lines.

I'm trying to figure out what to do with them, when the fisherman says -- just cut your anchor line. It's tangled in my gear, and I'll bring it back to you. Bullocks! That will be the last I ever see of that anchor, and besides that, we will be unanchored in a 2 knot tide and can't start the engine because of all the ropes in the water. So instead I use the trick I learned when I got tangled in that electrical cable in Finland last summer -- got a line around the fisherman's lines, and lifted them. Then, I put a rolling hitch on my own anchor line, outboard of the fisherman's lines. Made it off. Freed the bitter end of my anchor line, and led it through and free of the fisherman's lines. Then released his lines. Et voila!

But it was not to be so simple. A second big ugly steel fishing boat has come to see what the trouble is. He is hovering nearby. He gets distracted (or something), doesn't realize he's in gear, and T-bones me with his razor-sharp, steel bow, with a huge crash. F***!

I run below to check for water ingress -- nothing. Thank you Moody for your Kevlar skin!

The fisherman has no insurance. I feel for him, because he was only trying to help. He proposes to wait a week, and report the incident as if it happened a week from now. He'll take out insurance in the meantime. He lets me know that he can't pay for it himself.

Between participating in insurance fraud and paying for it myself, I will take the honest way and pay for it myself, so I decline this option. But an inspection reveals -- to my great surprise -- that the hull does not seem to be damaged at all. His raked bow apparently met not with the hull, but with my teak rail, and smashed it. But a piece of teak rail is not going to be tens of thousands. I looked at the hull from the inside -- not a mark. He hit me right at one of my massive through-bolted and fully tabbed bulkheads, which seems to have absorbed the impact.

I called my insurance company and reported the accident -- just in case a crack in the hull -- God forbid -- or something like that is found later. Made a detailed log entry. Will meet the fisherman tomorrow to look over the damage.


Lessons learned:

1. Never, ever again, will I rely on a mast-top anchor light. I usually leave on some lights which I have which illuminate the salon hull ports -- why, oh why, did I not do that this time?? I am back in my bunk, and I have my steaming light lit up besides the hull port lights. I would have left my deck light on, but it shines right in the forecabin where my friend is sleeping.

Now have to think of something better than the steaming light for next time.


2. Always wear a knife and know your bloody knots. All that rope in the water, rushing tide, two fishing boats -- I was lucky it didn't turn out worse. I was lucky my knots didn't fail me, and that I did have my knife on my person. This could have been much, much worse.


3. Have good insurance. Shirt happens, not always your fault, and what if the guy destroys your boat and can't pay for it?


4. Just because a mariner is a professional, doesn't mean he has good seamanship.
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Old 17-10-2015, 21:25   #2
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

Glad the boats fine.

I always use a anchor light mounted on the back stay a few feet above the boom. It's really bright, lights up the back 1/2 of the boat easily and was cheap to make at $25. I personally verified that's it's visible from 2 miles away, and mast only blocks about 4 degrees of the front sector, so easily meets colregs. If I had a large boat like yours, I'd mount another on the bow at the rail.

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Old 17-10-2015, 21:25   #3
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

Sh!t happens.
In high traffic areas I usually show 2-3 anchor lights in addition to the mast head light. Small LED lights hangin in the cockpit and the rigging shows good.
Then again, nothing helps if idiots are out boatin at night
As far as the guy ramming you not having insurance. His choice.
Take him and his boat to court, totally his responsibility.
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Old 17-10-2015, 21:38   #4
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

I hang a lantern from my boom which illuminates my cockpit when at anchor. I know it should be hung from the forestay. When at sea I hang it from my backstay. Running lights are nearly invisible but that lantern illuminates my cockpit and the mainsail.
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Old 17-10-2015, 21:55   #5
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

Masthead anchor lights are a curse, particularly here in Australia where we have a dry climate and lots of remote anchorages where light pollution is low. I have had numerous near misses over the years coming into anchorages in the dark and mistaking masthead anchor lights for just another star.
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Old 17-10-2015, 22:09   #6
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

DH, sorry to hear of your "adventure". Being damaged by uninsured folks who whack you at anchor is no fun... as I know from experience!

I've noticed over the past couple of years here in the SW Pacific, more and more cruisers (not weekenders) use two anchor lights, one masthead, one lower down somewhere.

In our case, I have a "Bedazzled" tower led in the masthead light (thanks again for the tip to use them... good stuff) that is brighter than the 20 W g-4 halogen it replaced, and also has a light sensor built in for automatic operation. Lower down we simply hang a Bebi "Owl" led fixture (also with auto off/on) from a lazy jack. It plugs into a 12 volt outlet at the companionway. Both of these lights exceed regs for brightness; neither are "certified". I don't worry much about that factor... bright is bright! A permanent installation would be easier, but except on the stern arch, nowhere useful, and I feel that position is too far aft... and wouldn't light up the cockpit and boom area as well.

IMO, this sort of setup is better than leaving cabin lights on, etc, for it is far easier to see from a useful distance. none the less, nothing will trump idiocy on the part of other skippers.

Hope that some sort of acceptable solution is reached for your situation.

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Old 18-10-2015, 00:53   #7
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

Doesn't sound like a fun day on the water...

If I was 'King of the World as We Know It' I would ban masthead anchor lights on yachts.


Lets have a looksee here

'Rule 30
....
(a) A vessel at anchor shall exhibit where it can best be seen:

(i) in the fore part, an all-round white light or one ball;

(ii) at or near the stern and at a lower level that the light prescribed in paragraph (i), an all-round white light.

(b) A vessel of less than 50 metres in length may exhibit an all-round white light ******where it can best be seen***** instead of the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule.

A light at the top of a yacht's mast is not 'where it can best be seen'....

(c) A vessel at anchor may, and a vessel of 100 metres and more in length shall, also use the available working or equivalent lights to illuminate her decks.

That came in when 'big' ships started to appear in the 60's and lesser mortals would try and steam between the frd and aft anchor lights with a less than desirable outcome....

I don't have, never have had, and never will have an anchor light at the top of my mast.

Depends where I am and traffic density ( normally zero) but I start with one hanging off the boom and work my way up to two plus my mast mounted for'deck light...
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Old 18-10-2015, 00:53   #8
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

Dockhead, I got a lot from reading your post. From my limited experience, I reckon there was a lot for me to learn from how you handled the situation. At the moral/philosophical level I totally agree with your handling of the whole insurance dilemma.

With regards to the anchor light, I had never given the matter a thought till we bought the current boat and the vendor handed me a glass jar with a globe and electrical lead during the handover visit, and explained how he would hang it from the boom when at anchor for the power boaters. It was a good idea, and I used it for a while.

But I didn't think it was adequate, particularly on the nights when we anchor out with 50 or more small boats to watch the fireworks on Australia Day or New Year's Eve. The first time we did this, it struck me, as 90% of the anchored boats upped anchor and set off, that it was midnight and most of them had just spent the last 15 minutes staring at fireworks. Clearly their night vision was going to be crap, and my neat little globe in a jar was worth diddly squat.

The answer for me came in the form of some strips of LED lights that I picked up at the local electronics store. When at anchor I run a rope of these around the deckhouse. The current draw is about 1.1 amps, and the result is a boat that jumps out at eye level, even against the floodlights at the local shipping terminal. I still use the mast top anchor light when anchored out to remain legal, but I really think it is invisible at night against the lights of the town behind me.

One unexpected bonus is that when I wake in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, absolutely certain that the anchor has dragged because I have read too many CF posts on the matter, I have a lovely evenly lit deck from which I can peer out and check my landmarks.

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Old 18-10-2015, 01:08   #9
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

An LED string was my next thought...

My #1 'remote anchorage dark as the inside of a cow with no shore lights' anchor light is a Davis thingumee...

My #2 is an AquaSignal all round white thing...
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Old 18-10-2015, 01:48   #10
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

I've read this stuff before. IMO he was not looking, incompetent, and unfit to be in command.
From only about a boat length away, a human looking horizontally with a height of eye of say 2m can clearly see a decent anchor light on the masthead, WITHOUT looking up.
"thought it was a star" is an excuse for not looking where they are going.
No light will help preserve you from idiots.
An additional lower light MAY help, so by all means feel free to ad one, but i reckon he would have hit you anyway :-(
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Old 18-10-2015, 02:13   #11
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

Quote:
Originally Posted by El Pinguino View Post
Doesn't sound like a fun day on the water...

If I was 'King of the World as We Know It' I would ban masthead anchor lights on yachts.


Lets have a looksee here

'Rule 30
....
(a) A vessel at anchor shall exhibit where it can best be seen:

(i) in the fore part, an all-round white light or one ball;

(ii) at or near the stern and at a lower level that the light prescribed in paragraph (i), an all-round white light.

(b) A vessel of less than 50 metres in length may exhibit an all-round white light ******where it can best be seen***** instead of the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule.

A light at the top of a yacht's mast is not 'where it can best be seen'....

(c) A vessel at anchor may, and a vessel of 100 metres and more in length shall, also use the available working or equivalent lights to illuminate her decks.

That came in when 'big' ships started to appear in the 60's and lesser mortals would try and steam between the frd and aft anchor lights with a less than desirable outcome....

I don't have, never have had, and never will have an anchor light at the top of my mast.

Depends where I am and traffic density ( normally zero) but I start with one hanging off the boom and work my way up to two plus my mast mounted for'deck light...
+10000^10000

I've been saying exactly this for years. Masthead anchor lights and tricolors are two of the most dangerous things you can use on a yacht.

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Old 18-10-2015, 04:09   #12
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

Quote:
Originally Posted by El Pinguino View Post

My #1 'remote anchorage dark as the inside of a cow with no shore lights...

I dream of such anchorages! Alas, my #1 anchorage is a bustling little spot, somewhere between the breakwater, the shipping channel, the container port and the leading lights. But it feels like home.


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Old 18-10-2015, 04:33   #13
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

I just take a loop of line, & run it around the headstay/furled jib, & attach it to the light. Then use a spare halyard or topping lift, to get it 3-5m off of the deck.
A downhaul is optional.

PS: It might be wise, to have a surveyor with some advanced equipment, check the integrity of the hull & bulkhead materials in that area. Especially the tabbing, & the cores/core bonds, if the hull' not solid glass. As there can at times, be significant damage, which isn't readliy visible to the eye.
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Old 18-10-2015, 04:40   #14
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowpetrel View Post
+10000^10000

I've been saying exactly this for years. Masthead anchor lights and tricolors are two of the most dangerous things you can use on a yacht.

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Don't agree on the tricolors as when offshore its usually the only lights you can see.
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Old 18-10-2015, 04:54   #15
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Re: Don't Rely on Mast-Top Anchor Lights -- Bitter Experience

I've had a couple of scares with tricolors at sea, viewing them from a ships bridge. You can see them, but the depth perception is all wrong. Often from a ship they look like a distant weak light on the horizon. That's deep sea, inshore with background lights the things are potentially lethal IMHO.
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