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Old 16-06-2024, 12:19   #1
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Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

Hi all

I currently have a tricolour light atop my mast and deck level light (port/startboard/Stern/steaming). I only use my tricolour while sailing. when steaming I only use the deck level lights.

I'd like to delete the deck level port, starboard and stren lights and just use my tricolour with the steaming light as needed.

Would this still cover me for my nav light obligations?

Thanks
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Old 16-06-2024, 12:50   #2
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

No.


Think about what it looks like.
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Old 16-06-2024, 12:56   #3
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

No. A Tricolor is only allowed when under sail alone. As soon as you start the motor you can't use it and must switch to separate side and stern lights plus the steaming light.
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Old 16-06-2024, 13:05   #4
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

The steaming light is technically called the masthead light in Colregs. It needs to be above all other lights, so you cannot use the steaming light and the tricolor at the same time.

The Tricolor is an *option* for sailboats. But, if you are going to motor at night, you must additionally have the normal port/starboard/stern lights to use when the masthead (steaming) light is on.
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Old 16-06-2024, 13:07   #5
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

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Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
No. A Tricolor is only allowed when under sail alone. As soon as you start the motor you can't use it and must switch to separate side and stern lights plus the steaming light.
Slight correction: you are not a powered vessel until you engage the propeller; running the engine not in gear (as in charging batteries) does not alter your status as a sailing vessel.

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Old 16-06-2024, 13:29   #6
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

How about removing the tri colour light instead. In close quarters with other vessels no one looks up, so easy missed. Also much easier to replace a bulb in a bow mounted light that climbing to the masthead. Perhaps just leave the anchor light on top of the mast and the steaming light.

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Old 16-06-2024, 13:49   #7
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

Thanks for the reply’s that explained the regulations better.

Removing the deck lights was the easiest fix for my spinnaker snagging them sometimes. I guess I get to move them instead…. Just another boat project.
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Old 16-06-2024, 13:53   #8
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

Would smoother or lower profile port/starboard fixtures be an option?
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Old 16-06-2024, 14:19   #9
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

In a conversation with a harbor pilot who worked a port crowded with sailboats, he explained the difference from his perspective.

Offshore, from the deck of a large ship, he is looking down at the water. A tricolor is easier to see because it is above the waves, and doesn't get lost in between. Inside the harbor, where the water is calmer, he finds the deck level lights easier to see because from his vantage point they are seen agains the dark water, and less likely to be lost in city lights.

Of course the BEST lights for a sailboat would be the deck lights combined with the red over green lights at the top of the mast. This was never popular with smaller sailboats because you needed 4 or 5 bulbs, and on a boat with limited electrical capacity that was an issue. But with modern LEDs this setup really should be making a comeback...
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Old 16-06-2024, 14:36   #10
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

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Originally Posted by SailingHarmonie View Post
In a conversation with a harbor pilot who worked a port crowded with sailboats, he explained the difference from his perspective.

Offshore, from the deck of a large ship, he is looking down at the water. A tricolor is easier to see because it is above the waves, and doesn't get lost in between. Inside the harbor, where the water is calmer, he finds the deck level lights easier to see because from his vantage point they are seen agains the dark water, and less likely to be lost in city lights.

.
That's interesting. Some while back a commercial captain spoke (here I think) that tricolors were more difficult to judge their distance off. Different opinions I guess.

But to me one of the main advantages to the tricolor originally was the lower electrical drain of one bulb as opposed to three. But with LEDs that advantage, I assume, disappears. Since the many LEDs are arranged in a 360* circle, you would have the same total number of LEDs in either one fixture, or three fixtures.

So it should be the same drain either way.

At least that is how it seems to me.
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Old 16-06-2024, 14:40   #11
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

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Originally Posted by SailingHarmonie View Post
But with modern LEDs this setup really should be making a comeback...
We were chased by a cruise ship one night. Seemed to be a disco on the stern plus all the deck and cabin lights on. Couldn't make out any of the nav lights and only knew which way he was travelling due to the speed and course.

I would agree with the pilot. For us with eye height at 2-3m above sea level, we find deck level lights easier to see against the water rather than mast lights which blend in with shore lights, particularly near a large town or city.
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Old 16-06-2024, 17:13   #12
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough

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Originally Posted by SailingHarmonie View Post

Of course the BEST lights for a sailboat would be the deck lights combined with the red over green lights at the top of the mast. This was never popular with smaller sailboats because you needed 4 or 5 bulbs, and on a boat with limited electrical capacity that was an issue. But with modern LEDs this setup really should be making a comeback...
Funny you say this, I was scolded by the coast guard for running nav lights and tricolour because it "was confusing because I looked like 2 boats”…. He was a bit of a dipsh*t but I have since never run both together.

For offshore I trust that big ships will see my AIS or my radar hit before my lights, to be honest I just treat them like they can’t see me at all so I give them a wide berth.
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Old 17-06-2024, 09:51   #13
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough

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Originally Posted by Makr0 View Post
Funny you say this, I was scolded by the coast guard for running nav lights and tricolour because it "was confusing because I looked like 2 boats”…. He was a bit of a dipsh*t but I have since never run both together.

For offshore I trust that big ships will see my AIS or my radar hit before my lights, to be honest I just treat them like they can’t see me at all so I give them a wide berth.
Note that red over green is not a tricolor. You can't run a tricolor and port/starboard lights. But you can run a red over green and the port/starboard lights.

Red over green isn't a navigation light, you are signaling that you are a sailboat.
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Old 21-06-2024, 06:38   #14
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

I never use the mast head lights. The bow and stern are far more visible.

The masthead anchor light is used but I suspect a lower anchor light would be more effective.
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Old 21-06-2024, 07:13   #15
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Re: Nav light obligations? is Mast head tri-colour (and a steaming light) enough?

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Slight correction: you are not a powered vessel until you engage the propeller; running the engine not in gear (as in charging batteries) does not alter your status as a sailing vessel.

Jim
This is one of the situations that is often discussed. Unfortunately, there is no clearcut answer (meaning court decisions) on whether a sailing vessel with its engine running but not engaged has become a power-driven vessel. Looking to one of the accepted treatises on the COLREGS (Farwells Rules of the Road 2020 edition, p 56), the conclusion of the author is that while the rules themselves are unclear one should look to the relative maneuverability of the vessels (the underlying reason a S/V is given some priority) and thus if the engine is running even though not engaged the power-driven vessel definition should apply. Personally, if my engine is running I considered myself a power-driven vessel regardless of the prop turning or not. It's the more conservative approach.
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