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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 03-29-2011
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Running light configuration

This might be one of those stupid, questions that everybody knows, but I'm going to ask.
Do most sailboats under 65' when under sail at night utilize a masthead white running light? My review of the regulations indicates that no such light is required , but I just always understood that a white masthead running light was commonly used in that situation.
I ask because I'm thinking of installing a masthead tricolor/anchor light, in which event I will lose my current simple white masthead running light(in my current masthead I also have a anchor light)...so if I make the change, I will lose my white masthead running light, then when your under sail offshore at night are you running both deck running lights AND your masthead red/green/stern at the same time, or just your masthead? I'd like to hear what some experienced offshore,or coastal sailors are using under sail at night.
Thanks in advance for some input, criticism, ridicule, jokes, laughter, etc.
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Old 03-29-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stiffwind View Post
...
Do most sailboats under 65' when under sail at night utilize a masthead white running light? ...
No.

At least, your question and info are very ambiguous. The "masthead" white light is a forward facing white light, located a fraction of the way up the mast (not at the top of the mast). It is not used while sailing, only while motoring. It is commonly called a "steaming light".

If you have an all-around white light at the top of your mast, it is the anchor light. Used when stationary and anchored in a non-designated anchorage.

You would never use an all around white light in conjunction with your standard running lights, whether they are in a tri-color at the top of the mast or mounted at the bows and stern at deck level. You can use the "masthead" (i.e. forward facing "steaming light") in conjunction with your deck-level running lights, when you are motoring at night.

Also, you must choose between your deck-level running lights, and your tri-color when sailing at night. You cannot run both simultaneously (legally).
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Old 03-29-2011
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Before anyone chimes in to point out some of the loopholes, I will clarify that when I said:

"You would never use an all around white light in conjunction with your standard running lights, "

I was referring to stiffwind specifically, based on the size of the boat in his avatar photo.

Below a certain size, there are different exceptions (Colregs and Inland) that permit an all-around white light to be used with sidelights while motoring under certain circumstances. However, to the best of my knowledge none of them permit the use of the all-around light in conjunction with the white stern light, i.e. it must be used in lieu of it.

Stiffwind, if you are trying to achieve maximum visibility while under sail at night, your best bet is to skip the top-of-the-mast tri-color light. Instead, install an all-around "red-over-green" at the top of the mast. This configuration can be used simultaneously with your deck-level running lights, so that you don't have to choose one or the other.
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Old 03-29-2011
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"Red over green, means a sailing machine"

Damnit John, I just had my mast down for a month and didn't think to install the red over green! I only added an anchor light.

Ah well, maybe next year.
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Old 03-29-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BubbleheadMd View Post
"Red over green, means a sailing machine"

Damnit John, I just had my mast down for a month and didn't think to install the red over green! I only added an anchor light.

Ah well, maybe next year.
BH -- Don't worry about it. It's pretty rare to see red-over-green running lights. I don't know of any builders that offered this option, so it's almost always a retrofit or custom job, and surprisingly not many sailors are aware of it either.

I certainly don't have them. For the sailing my family does here on the Chesapeake, the deck-level lights are adequate. If we were planning some extended cruising with off-shore legs, I'd definitely look into it.

The tricky part of this configuration, is achieving adequate height distance between the red and green, while not obscuring them from certain angles.

One possible solution is to put an all-around red on a short post at the top of the mast, and to then mount the green several feet below the top. The green (actually two 180+ degree arc lights on either side of the mast) would be mounted just above the height of the mainsail head when it is set at the first reef. Since many sailors will put in a reef for night sailing anyway, this allows the red-over-green light configuration to be seen from 360 degrees.

A few years back, I did see a very nice red-over-green light installation on a beautiful, +/-60' aluminum "yacht" moored in Annapolis. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me -- it would have made a very instructive photo. Their installation appeared to be the way I described above.
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Old 03-29-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRPollard View Post
Instead, install an all-around "red-over-green" at the top of the mast. This configuration can be used simultaneously with your deck-level running lights, so that you don't have to choose one or the other.
To clarify: 'red over green' cannot be used by themselves, but MUST be used in conjunction with standard side and stern lights. Rule 25(C)
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Old 03-29-2011
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Originally Posted by ottos View Post
To clarify: 'red over green' cannot be used by themselves, but MUST be used in conjunction with standard side and stern lights. Rule 25(C)
.
ottos,

Very good point. Yes, I see there was some ambiguity in my statement. But I think there is in yours as well.

To further clarify, when red-over-green running lights are used, they MUST be used in conjunction with the standard side and stern lights. However, it is NOT mandatory that they be used when the standard running lights are in use.

In other words, a sailor might choose to ONLY use the standard running lights, even when the vessel is also equipped with red-over-green. But if the red-over-green lights are to be used, they must be used in conjunction with the standard running lights.

And that is why some folks haven't liked red-over-green as compared to the tri-color. They feel it draws too much power to run deck lights and mast lights simultaneously. But with the advent of low wattage bulbs, I think that argument is largely moot now.
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Old 03-29-2011
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Agreed - thanks.
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Old 03-29-2011
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FYI
some time ago masthead light fixtures were sold with a strobe as well as an anchor and running lights. This was stopped as the strobe was considered to be confusing to other boats and also not addressed by COLREGS. The use of this would be say you've asked for assistance and the assist vessel wants to sort you out from other boats at night so you flash your masthead light. On the open ocean sailing at night some singlehanded sailors assert that its beter to have a strobe blinking which may be seen by ships than not.
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Old 03-29-2011
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You learn something new every day .. John, I'd never heard that red over green business for a sailing boat. Interesting.

We use a tricolour for offshore sailing at night, tricolour as in red/green/stern, not all round white.

Inshore or when steaming deck height red/green/stern under sail, plus steaming when under motor.

Of course not deck and masthead at the same time .

I figure at sea masthead has to be more visible particularly in areas with a lot of swell as is typical of the NSW coast but the masthead can get lost in the clutter if sailing/steaming in harbour.

ps - many production boats are still sold with only masthead tricolour and you'd be surprised as to how many sailors think this is legal. I know I did until a year or so back.
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