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Old 02-06-2020, 10:38   #1
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Question Tri-color wiring in mast

Hi!
I am planning to replace the broken anchor light with Tri-color+Anchor combo.
And now I need to run 3 wire instead of two. Is that existing practice to use the metallic mast by its self as ground wire on small fiberglass boat (24ft)?
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Old 02-06-2020, 10:43   #2
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

There are a few combination tri-color/anchor light that use only two wires instead of three. I would use one of these rather than use the mast as a conductor. Here is an example:
https://store.marinebeam.com/smart-l...be-n3-tri-cmb/
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Old 02-06-2020, 11:02   #3
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

It is a really, really bad idea to deliberately (or accidently, for that matter!) connect your DC power system to your mast. It can create stray currents and the resulting corrosion problems all over the boat. You boat is NOT a car. Do not use the metal bits of the boat as a negative return route to the battery.
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Old 02-06-2020, 12:24   #4
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

Quote:
Originally Posted by dougweibel View Post
There are a few combination tri-color/anchor light that use only two wires instead of three. I would use one of these rather than use the mast as a conductor. Here is an example:
https://store.marinebeam.com/smart-l...be-n3-tri-cmb/
That light uses s photo sensor

I’ve used photo sensors in the past on large yachts

Seagull poop is an issue

Be alert
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Old 02-06-2020, 12:28   #5
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

No, do not use the mast as a conductor.

Using a mast (aluminum) with stainless rigging attached, wet with salt water and adding electrical current is a recipe for accelerated corrosion.
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Old 02-06-2020, 13:50   #6
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

Quote:
Originally Posted by slug View Post
That light uses s photo sensor

I’ve used photo sensors in the past on large yachts

Seagull poop is an issue

Be alert
Seems like a benign failure mode. Seagull poops on light. Photosensor thinks it is dark all the time so keeps light on in the day. A couple extra amp-hours burned. You don't have to rely on the sensor, you can just turn the light off in daylight. I don't see a significant issue.
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Old 02-06-2020, 13:52   #7
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

Texasvlad,
You most probably do not need a 3-conductor wire!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Texasvlad View Post
Hi!
I am planning to replace the broken anchor light with Tri-color+Anchor combo.
And now I need to run 3 wire instead of two. Is that existing practice to use the metallic mast by its self as ground wire on small fiberglass boat (24ft)?
1) Two things that are important:

a) In most cases, you do not need to have a 3 conductor wire, to use a masthead LED Tri-Color / Anchor light combo...most well designed LED Tri/Anchor Combos allow you to simply use "polarity reversing", to switch between Anchor Light (all-around white), and Tri-Color Nav Light (Red/Green/White)....

b) A good quality masthead LED Tri-Color / Anchor Combo will not have a cheap power supply / voltage regulator, but a good quality one that shouldn't radiate RFI / Radio Noise....and in general, cheap LED Tri's / Anchor combos usually have cheap power supplies and tend to cause significant RFI....and since these are generally installed within inches of your VHF antenna, and since your masthead VHF antenna is vital to safety communications, it makes no sense to go cheap here!



2) What I, and others, have done....
I've installed a good quality masthead LED Tri-Color / Anchor combo (an Orca Green Marine unit....which is now part of Weems and Plath)....and installed a simple DPDT toggle switch (cost me about $2) on my Nav Station breaker panel, which simply reverse the polarity on the 2-conductor wire running thru my bilge and then up the mast, to the masthead....
Here is what I recommend (fyi, they're not cheap):

https://orcagreenmarine.com/

https://orcagreenmarine.com/recreati...-led-lighting/


See photos of my masthead (showing the OGM LED Tri-Color/Anchor combo)....and Nav Station breaker panel (the "Tri / Anchor" switch is immediately to the right of the breaker panel amp meter...between the panel amp meter and the rows of breakers)....













3) My additional recommendations....if you can find a light fixture that doesn't have the gimmicks, that's great, 'cuz it's best to forget the gimmicky crap, like photo-sensors and "flashing / strobe" functions....they will complicate things, and usually would require a 3-conductor wire anyway...


I hope this helps.

fair winds

John
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Old 02-06-2020, 14:23   #8
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

Quote:
Originally Posted by slug View Post
That light uses s photo sensor

I’ve used photo sensors in the past on large yachts

Seagull poop is an issue

Be alert
I think this is an imaginary problem in general. In the 15 years or so that we've had such a tri-color, we've never had a problem, and for that matter, never had poop on any part of the tri-color. Other places, sure, but if ya think about it, should a gull perch on the light fixture, an awkward perch, it's bum isn't over the light, but stuck out beyond it.

At any rate, the auto sensor switch has been totally reliable and for us, very useful. Never need to worry about finding the boat in a dark anchorage when we stay out longer than expected.

Jim
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Old 02-06-2020, 14:30   #9
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

Quote:
Originally Posted by dougweibel View Post
Seems like a benign failure mode. Seagull poops on light. Photosensor thinks it is dark all the time so keeps light on in the day. A couple extra amp-hours burned. You don't have to rely on the sensor, you can just turn the light off in daylight. I don't see a significant issue.
Just means that you must climb the mast every few weeks to clean a sensor that you don’t need to begin with

Avoid gimmicks
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Old 02-06-2020, 15:04   #10
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

Thank you for all answers. I have not realized initially that there so many ways to deal with 3 -wire issue. And no reasons to use mast as ground wire. And reserve polarity is brilliant idea. I think even if the tri-color light doesnt support it - it could be easy implemented with diodes.
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Old 02-06-2020, 15:11   #11
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

I'm going to defer to Jim here...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
At any rate, the auto sensor switch has been totally reliable and for us, very useful. Never need to worry about finding the boat in a dark anchorage when we stay out longer than expected.

Jim
If he's not had an issue with the photo-sensor, no any RFI from it, then no worries here...

Just that I don't have the photo-sensor option...and while I've never needed it, I do see where it could be handy.

Fair winds.

John
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Old 02-06-2020, 16:38   #12
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

Quote:
Originally Posted by slug View Post
Just means that you must climb the mast every few weeks to clean a sensor that you don’t need to begin with

Avoid gimmicks
Umm, Slug, that's simply not our experience, not even close: We have NEVER had to do this, not once, and there are plenty of gulls, shags, cormorants, sea eagles, ospreys, albatross, swans, ducks, plovers and even willy wagtails and other sources of bird poop in our sailing grounds.

As to needing the sensor, yep, you can get along without it, just like you can get along without a GPS, echo sounder, radar, AIS and countless other gimmicks that many of us have. But why would you, especially when it is inexpensive, effective, non-polluting, and useful?

Jim



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Old 02-06-2020, 16:42   #13
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

Quote:
Originally Posted by dougweibel View Post
There are a few combination tri-color/anchor light that use only two wires instead of three. I would use one of these rather than use the mast as a conductor. Here is an example:
https://store.marinebeam.com/smart-l...be-n3-tri-cmb/
Strongly recommend this, it's a great bit of kit. Just two wires, no funny business with switches or diodes.
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Old 03-06-2020, 06:32   #14
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

I'm concerned about something here...

I don't want this to come off as "alarmist", nor do I believe that the USCG is the end-all / be-all of rules and regs (and I'm aware that many of you are not US-flagged, etc.)...but, I would like to point out a few things that concern me, regarding the "Marinebeam" product, versus USCG approved Nav Lights...{actually any Nav Lights with microprocessors in them and/or that haven't been RFI-tested, versus those without microprocessors and that have been tested to verify they do not cause RFI (Radio Frequency Interference)}....

And, allow you to make up your minds...


[Please remember, when it comes to RFI, it's about levels and distances....and with masthead nav lights, the distance to your VHF antenna is just inches / a few centimeters!! So, even small amounts of RFI can be devastating...


I've been advocating using only USCG-Approved Nav Lights for more than 20 years...and especially been voicing my concern over VHF RFI issues from masthead LED lights, for about 15+ years now....(usually to those whose eyes just roll, when I start to mention RFI...but, I'm going to try again here)



Fyi, COSPAS-SARSAT (the folks that run the EPIRB monitoring system worldwide), have engineering groups working on issues with increased terrestrial radio noise reducing their "Earth-to-Space" link budgets significantly (as do, Iridium, INMARSAT, etc) ...these are most pronounced (15db - 20db worse on 406mhz in Asia) in Asia....with even a ~ 10db worsening in Europe (on 406mhz)....


COSPAS-SARSAT have traced all of this directly to the plethora of fraudulently-tested/certified, or even never tested, (mostly made-in-China) electronic crap (anything cheap with a microprocessor in it, is suspect) and cheap switch-mode-power-supplies (wall-warts, solar controllers, chargers, inverters, etc.)....and other VHF/UHF users (such as US Gov't / NATO, etc. have also needed to adjust their performance standards / redesign their systems...)and we all know that HF RFI has been an issue for years as well, but few outside of ham radio operators have been shouting about it!)
Fact is it's a political issue, not an engineering one....it's easily solved by engineering / testing / certification....BUT..
But, that requires political strength and cooperation (severely lacking these days, international and domestically), as well as weighing "economics" versus "value of human life", in both corporate boardrooms AND legislatures worldwide...(guess which side is winning here?)


As for the USCG concerns, please have a look here:

https://www.dco.uscg.mil/Portals/9/D...-16-091109-630

Less than 2 years ago, the USCG saw this RFI problem effecting so many boats to such an extent, they've issued a Marine Safety Alert! ]



a) First off, I'm not keen on any "microprocessor" being out where it is susceptible to EMP / Lightning discharges (from close lightning strikes), where this is a failure waiting to happen...in addition to an actual failure, think of RFI issues of critical systems such as navigation light-caused VHF RFI (especially those near VHF antennas, where lightning-caused issues can cause increases in RFI, even if the original product had little)....the marinebeam product touts that they have a "smart microprocessor" built-in....

OGM, etc. do not...



b) I'm not keen on using LED, or any lights, that aren't USCG approved...(yes, marinebeam says their lights meet/exceed Colreg #72, but as far as I can tell they've never been tested....nor have they been tested/approved by USCG)....

OGM, etc. have been tested and USCG approved...



c) In addition to the "microprocessor" (which can itself be a source of significant RFI), marinebeam makes no mention of their RFI emissions / radiation, especially from their power supply / voltage regulator...

OGM, etc. do mention their low / no radiated RFI...





d) And, FYI, not a big deal, but what about a switch is gimmicky?
A simple toggle switch (DPDT = Double-Pole-Double-Throw = is just a 2-conductor / 2-circuit switch...which is the second most common type of basic electrical switch on the planet) isn't "gimmicky" at all...it's just a manual switch, no "electronics" at all, it's just a switch...

No biggie here, just saying a switch isn't a gimmick...




So, while I know times are tough....and with Covid19 effecting most everyone's budget these days, I understand the desire to save some money....but with some folks spending > $1000 on new smart phones (which I think is ridiculous!), I think spending an addition $100 (~ $200 vs. ~ $100) for an important safety system, isn't all that much to consider??



~~~~~


FYI, ironically, just this very minute, as I'm composing this in a client's office....they're using UHF GMRS radios to coordinate various staff for an outdoor video production / sporting event....and low-n'-behold, one of the company's VP's just put his handheld radio down on the desk where his iPad is, and the damn thing's squelch opened up with lots of noise!! No BS!! Right now, this just happened!!


He's charging his iPad and it's the friggin' cheap (made-in-China / fraudulently certification-tested) iPad charger that's causing this RFI!!

Unplugging the iPad charger from the wall outlet ---- the interference (RFI) disappears.....plugging it back in, and the interference returns ----- leaving the iPad charger plugged-in and charging, we move the radio 3 feet away (on the other side of the desk) and the squelch closes and noise disappears....BUT.....

But, the RFI is still there...it's still causing a reduction in operational range of his radio (he doesn't care, 'cuz he only has to hear a guy 1/4 to 1/2 mile away)....
And, this is the point, I need to stress....

Even if the RFI is low enough that you can "squelch it out", please understand that this means you are reducing your reception range / capability!!

~~~~~~~



Now, I have no personal knowledge of how much / how little RFI is produced by marinebeam masthead LED lights, but I doubt it is less than OGM's (which in my case produces none!)...

So, please read what I wrote here, follow the links, and do some research, and make up your own mind, whether saving $100 here on these critical parts (your VHF communications AND your Nav Lights) is worth it?


Fair winds.

John
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Old 03-06-2020, 06:55   #15
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Re: Tri-color wiring in mast

Quote:
Originally Posted by Texasvlad View Post
Hi!

I am planning to replace the broken anchor light with Tri-color+Anchor combo.

And now I need to run 3 wire instead of two. Is that existing practice to use the metallic mast by its self as ground wire on small fiberglass boat (24ft)?


No, do not use the mast as a return.

The situation is not like automobiles.
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