Required nav lights for a small sailboat?

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by DennisRB, Mar 28, 2011.

  1. DennisRB
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    DennisRB Senior Member

    I want to set my fathers 8m trailer sailer up for night travel. It currently has no lights. I have looked up the COLREGs and it says that under power a sail boat needs the same lights as a power boat.


    So if my interpretation is correct I can use an anchor light at the top of the mast as an "all round white light" in combination with the "side lights" which I assume are the red and green. Is this correct? Would this apply for when motoring only? If I start sailing will my "all round white light" still be suitable or will I need to switch it off and turn on a "stern light"?
     
  2. TeddyDiver
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    TeddyDiver Gollywobbler

    Simplest to have (for sailing and motoring) red/green sidelights and a sternlight.
    So if my interpretation is correct I can use an anchor light at the top of the mast as an "all round white light" in combination with the "side lights" which I assume are the red and green. Is this correct?Yes Would this apply for when motoring only?Yes If I start sailing will my "all round white light" still be suitableNo or will I need to switch it off and turn on a "stern light"?Yes
     
  3. CutOnce

    CutOnce Previous Member

    Each jurisdiction may have different requirements. I would consult the government authorities of all destinations to get determinations. Common sense also should apply - and lighting should not be minimal to meet regulations - but done as required to make your boat and your intentions clear to traffic under way. No matter what minor expense extra, making sure others on the water have a chance to avoid collision is worthwhile. It isn't your boat that is the problem, it is every other boat out there.

    Always remember that much commercial traffic does not have to follow normal rules of the road. Sydney harbor ferries have claimed many boats and some lives - legally.

    The other thing to consider is that just about every marine light out there is subject to failure, wiring degradation, corrosion and poor maintenance. I'd be willing to bet a quick stroll up and down the docks at any marina will disclose non-working lighting when tested. Schedule function tests as part of your pre-departure checklists to be done EVERY time you plan an outing. Spares need to be on hand. Manual lights for sail illumination are a must have. Checklists work.

    --
    CutOnce
     
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  4. Brian@BNE
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    Brian@BNE Senior Member

    Dennis
    My understanding is that you'll need side lights when sailing unless your masthead is tri colour. Its pretty obvious why - you see a light at night and you want to know its heading relative to your own. That's why tri-colour (or side lights) are a must! Ditto for people who see you lights.
     
  5. BATAAN
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    BATAAN Senior Member

    A big ship's Mate told me how he HATES tricolors on sailboats. From the bridge all you see is one wildly swinging light, red, green or white. There is no way to judge what you are looking at or how far away it is. I have one and use it sometimes to save electricity but in traffic I switch to running lights and stern light under sail, and masthead light and running lights under power.
     
  6. Brian@BNE
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    Brian@BNE Senior Member

    Fair enough, I'd have running lights as well. But even a wildly swinging tricolour is giving you more information than an all round white (anchor) light. And it will only appear to be wildly swinging if its darn close!
     
  7. BATAAN
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    BATAAN Senior Member

    The Officer described an incident in which he was on the bridge in dark, rainy weather when a "light of questionable color" appeared, now white, now a little red, now a little green, seemingly small and far away. Nothing appeared on radar. On instinct he threw the helm over and rang "all stop", bringing an angry Captain in his pajamas storming onto the bridge, wanting to know why the f**k he had just cost the company the $1000 in extra fuel costs stopping the ship. Together they looked out as a small sailboat, corkscrewing wildly in the seas, passed down the side about 50 yards off. The masthead tricolor was very confusing in this instance.
     
  8. BATAAN
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    BATAAN Senior Member

    Some singlehanders in the past have used only a single bright white light, on the theory that all ship handlers are taught to avoid a white light, as it's either a stern light or a house ashore!
     
  9. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    DennisRB,

    I believe your interpretation to be correct. You do have to loose the steaming light (forward white, 225 degree) when under sail, no engine though and replace it with a stern light (white 135 degrees).

    -Tom
     
  10. CutOnce

    CutOnce Previous Member

    Both or your recent posts point out light confusion - and where I am located on inland waters it is a serious problem.

    Places like the Thousand Islands section of the St. Lawrence Seaway can easily have hundreds of boats on the water - adding head, tail and brake lights of cars on shore with multi-colored decorative lights on cottages perched on boat-sized islands (yes, there are hundreds of them). It is plain scary to be on the water at dusk. I always plan on being off the water two hours before dark when there. Just to make it fun, there are 40-50 knot RIBs carrying smuggled hand guns and untaxed cigarettes into Canada from New York State by native American folks (just making a living!) that travel without lights at speed.

    The best defense is making your own boat easy to see with extended green/red reflection surfaces around nav lights, avoiding "combo" light fixtures and keeping a light on the main sail just to stand out if you suspect traffic nearby. If you can't see them, at least make sure they can see you.

    --
    CutOnce
     
  11. BATAAN
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    BATAAN Senior Member

    I try to keep from laughing when walking the marina docks and seeing what some manufacturers call 'running lights'. These little gleaming chrome peanuts would be better on a Christmas tree and even then you'd hardly see them across the room. I'm a fan of big, ugly, legal, properly screened (on big ships this means flat black to avoid confusing reflections) BRIGHT running lights, plus two powerful flashlights in the cockpit. In heavy traffic some people turn on their spreader lights, causing night blindness but ensuring others see them.
     
  12. DennisRB
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    DennisRB Senior Member

    Thanks for all the replies. I will be running an all round anchor light on top of the mast in any case for anchoring. Plus obviously side lights. My concern was if I needed a stern light in addition to the anchor light, which according to the COLREGs I quoted, could be used as an "all round white light" along with the "side lights"for motoring.

    However it appears that as soon as I switch my motor off I will need to shut the "all round white, AKA anchor light" off and run a stern light.

    I was trying to avoid fitting the stern light as it could be hard to install with transom hung rudder, outboard etc. Plus be low to the water line and not be very visible. I also wonder why it would matter as it would seem to be perfectly legal to run the "all round white light" plus "side lights" as long as my motor is running even if I am sailing?

    To to rephrase the question, am I likely to be fined if I run it this way when sailing as well as motoring? Will it be unsafer? If so why (given its fine to motor like this and the speeds will be the same)?

    I am not a fan of tri colour masthead lights either. Even here on Moreton bay I am often confused by these lights on other yachts. They are very hard to distinguish. If I was setting up a yacht I would run a tri colour masthead light ONLY to be used when passage making on the open ocean in areas of low traffic. The idea being that it will be seen from much further away since its high up, and to conserve power. When running in coastal areas of dense traffic I would only run the side lights and white light.
     
  13. BATAAN
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    BATAAN Senior Member

    You will be unsafer because you will not be recognized as a sailboat, but be treated as a motor vessel with the ability to maneuver regardless of the wind.
    A sailboat doesn't automatically get right-of-way just because the sails are hoisted, she has to be 'under sail', which means engine not assisting.
    With sails up, other skippers must look at your lights to know if your engine is in gear or not, so they know how to treat you in right-of-way situations.
    This is the reason for the difference in light configurations, not just regulatory fussiness out to fine you.
    Not being recognized as under sail, because you show the lights for power, you will not be granted a sailboat's right-of-way when you need it and..... CRUNCH!
    Also you will not be able to make insurance claim or get damages in court, but will have to pay the other parties, because you were at fault by being in violation of the law.
    Makes sense to lawyers, but a masthead light is much more visible.....
    A masthead strobe, used briefly and with discretion, can really help others notice your legal sailing lights. Also the old huge flashlight on the sail helps.
    Stern light should be as high and bright as possible. I once came very close to running down a small sail boat in the middle of the Sea of Cortez due to his low, dim stern light. Would have seen a masthead light much better, but that would be illegal.
     
  14. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    In other words: You'll loose your right of way status while under sail (no motor) at night as you will be displaying power vessel navigation lights. No harm done so long as you play by the power boat rules.

    -Tom
     

  15. DennisRB
    Joined: Sep 2004
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    DennisRB Senior Member

    Thanks guys. I hear what you are saying regarding the correct lights designating I am under sail to others.

    That was my concern also. Sometimes its safer to break safety laws. Maybe I can mount it on a pole that I can swivel around 180deg. It can become a cockpit light under anchor.

    Seems in Moreton Bay most of the small powerboats out for fishing etc at night only run side lights. More often than not there is no white light.
     
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