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Steve

Steaming Lights

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I’ve lost a bit of faith in masthead tri colour after a very far ken close call with two old gents at 5.00 in the morning coming into Whangarei harbour masthead A sail up . They were in a rayglass with Bimini top on coming at us about 10 knots from port 90 degrees no nav lights and both of them glued to the fish finder . We heard them before we saw them and started yelling when we saw them about 30 metres out . They didn’t see us until last 10 metres and came within 5 metres of T boning , if we had deck level navs I reckon they would’ve seen us earlier .

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If you have a decent masthead light, you can see it from one boat length away without looking up. However, if no-one is looking.....

They had a narrow field of vision by the time they looked up so I reckon they couldn’t see the mast head lights because of the Bimini/canvas canopy that went almost to the windscreen

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They would have to be within 1-2 boat lengths of you for that to be potentially an issue. People often say this is an issue, but when you work out the angles, they have to be MUCH closer than most realize.

 

If a seated person is about twice the object's (the anchor light) height away from its base, the viewing angle is about 25 degrees. This is the normal field of vision for color, without raising your eyes. Also, if the bimini or hardtop is 500mm above the eye height, and one m forward, same thing - you can see it without looking up. 

 

Anyone who gets within 2 boat lengths of a boat displaying a decent anchor light, even at the masthead, is simply not looking. IMO.

 

Figures are approximate.

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Masthead anchor lights are great but on dark nights can easily be mistaken for stars or for houses in the background. I always hang a little LED lantern in the cockpit as well.

Cheap insurance.

 

Mast head port light can also be mistaken for a car or taillight on the land, hence why lowers are a nice alternative thing to use instead when there’s a lot of background light pollution and clutter.

 

Also, I think AJ is sailing on the Great Lakes. Not sure if they have the same lighting rules.

 

At the end of the day, it’s best to show the right lights, but it’s better to be seen. I’d rather show the wrong lights if it made the difference between some idiot seeing me or me having the right lights and that idiot T-Bonning me and causing damage or injury.

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The lights are the same everywhere. The International Colregs.  The only difference is buoyage, IALA area A or B. Lights are the same.

 

I do agree that background clutter can make things more difficult. But I've NEVER mistaken a masthead light for a star, and I think that's an urban legend. If you are worried, have an anchor light in the for triangle, thats the old fashioned way, and is still in the colregs. You can use deck lights as well if you are worried, but you CANNOT use other nav lights. Use the correct ones, and good quality, and you will be seen. Deck lights that light the superstructure are permitted.

 

I do know of several vessels that have been hit, and one run over, while brightly lit, deck lights and all. 

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Last year when I was offshore our masthead tricolour failed so I used our deck nav lights at night and on the few occasions we had boats nearby in a 2-3 m sea I felt that we were definitely less visible ( we still had AIS) - it was one f the first things I fixed on return.

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I look on the water for danger, seldom look up, Anchor lights, steaming and even stern light are useles to me. Red port and green SB light on the bow is all that I look for. The new LED ones are superb compared to the old bulb ones.

The whole issue here is that you DON'T NEED TO LOOK UP, unless you are within 2 boat lengths of the other vessel. You can see all the nav lights, including masthead, while looking horizontally - its within you field of vision.

 

The whole point of colreg lights is to enable a vessel to be seen. 

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