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post #1 of 66 Old 03-06-2019 Thread Starter
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Masthead tricolors

Last evening we were sitting in the cockpit around sunset and three boats came in running both their deck mounted navigation lights and their masthead tricolor nav lights.
Never mind that I doubt that this is legal by anyone's regulations, but all three were so far out of alignment that we could see both the red and green on one side quite clearly and in one case the green on deck and white stern light aloft.
This is becoming so common down here that it would be laughable were it not for the fact that there are lives at stake! If you have a tricolor, definitely check it frequently to be certain it is properly configured and don't ever run both, if you have them, at the same time.
I still maintain that the masthead tricolor is a very dangerous idea at any time, but if it is so far out of alignment as these were, they are probably more dangerous than running without any lights. At least then you wouldn't be relying on something that another vessel can mistake your direction by and you would be watching out extra carefully as you know you are improperly lit.
If you absolutely feel the need to have running lights aloft, then at least go with the verticle red/green combination when under sail. There is no mistaking this for anything else and still gives other vessels some idea of your distance away, which a single red/green or white discombobulated light swinging wildly about in the sky does not.
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post #2 of 66 Old 03-06-2019
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Re: Masthead tricolors

It would bother me too. However, how many boaters out there have no idea what the lights mean anyway.
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post #3 of 66 Old 03-06-2019 Thread Starter
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Re: Masthead tricolors

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Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
It would bother me too. However, how many boaters out there have no idea what the lights mean anyway.
I believe that there are plenty of freighters, cruise ships, commercial fishermen out here who definitely know what the lights mean and most are moving at a considerably greater speed than a sailboat.
The last thing I'd want to do is confuse a tired watchstander on a 600 foot plus ship moving at something like 18 knots.

"Any idiot can make a boat go; it takes a sailor to stop one." Spike Africa aboard the schooner Wanderer in Sausalito, Ca. 1964.
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” ― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

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Re: Masthead tricolors

AIS transponder. Problem solved.

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post #5 of 66 Old 03-06-2019
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Re: Masthead tricolors

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Originally Posted by capta View Post
I still maintain that the masthead tricolor is a very dangerous idea at any time.
Capta can you explain why? I usually choose masthead tricolor over the deck level lights for visibility.

FWIW I do check the alignment. And my lighting control panel actually prevents the use of both deck level and tricolor at that same time (selector switch, you get one or the other). But aside from those issues is there another reason the masthead tricolor is a bad choice?
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post #6 of 66 Old 03-06-2019 Thread Starter
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Re: Masthead tricolors

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Originally Posted by bristol299bob View Post
Capta can you explain why? I usually choose masthead tricolor over the deck level lights for visibility.
Real life experience;
Piloting my freighter south through the Anegada Passage on a fairly blustery night (what's new about that?) I was on the bridge, wide awake and taking my watch seriously, not sitting in my helm chair relaxing.
I saw a running light (don't remember if it was red or green) ahead so I walked out onto the bridge wing to look carefully at the disembodied light waving about ahead. Not being able to determine it's distance away, I headed over to the radar to check it out but never made it to the radar, as this light slid by the bridge wing before I got anywhere near the radar. I ran back out to the bridge wing and saw the yacht slide by my hull about 15 feet away!
A masthead tricolor is only a colored light waving madly about somewhere ahead.
Deck mounted running lights shine on the sea, the sails and the spray which gives the observer some idea of the distance away the vessel might be. Add to that the stern light shining on the wake and an observer at 50 to 80 feet off the water even has some idea of how long the vessel is.
Again, a disembodied light wildly waving about gives an observer on a ship none of the information the deck mounted lights can.
In several other instances in harbors, I have been surprised to come across a completely unlit sailboat in my path, only to realize sometime later (after cursing the other captain for being unlit), that he had a masthead tricolor that was completely obscured by my bimini.
As mentioned above perhaps AIS could help with this situation (mine was pre-AIS by many years), if it is functioning on both vessels and if someone is monitoring it.
Personally, I'll not trust my life to an electronic device that may not be installed aboard the other vessel, can be shut off because the operator gets tired of hearing the alarm go off incessantly, or for any other reason. Remember the two navy ship collisions recently?
Ever since that night, I have been vehemently opposed to masthead tricolors, though the vertical red/green sailing lights are an acceptable alternative if one feels their deck mounted running lights aren't sufficient in themselves.
Way too many sailors forget that the majority of the vessels they may encounter are not looking at them from the same vantage point (6 feet or so above sea level) that they are, on their sailboat.

"Any idiot can make a boat go; it takes a sailor to stop one." Spike Africa aboard the schooner Wanderer in Sausalito, Ca. 1964.
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” ― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

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post #7 of 66 Old 03-06-2019
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Re: Masthead tricolors

How do tricolors and deck level nav lights get wacked out of alignment? Mine are screwed into place and have no "adjustments". I personally like my tricolor. In a seaway, my deck mounts have an effective range of only about fifty feet. Whereas I could spot tricolors a couple miles away. I spot merchant ships from miles away and call them up on the VHF to let them know what direction they should look to see me.

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Re: Masthead tricolors

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Originally Posted by capta View Post
As mentioned above perhaps AIS could help with this situation (mine was pre-AIS by many years), if it is functioning on both vessels and if someone is monitoring it.
Personally, I'll not trust my life to an electronic device that may not be installed aboard the other vessel, can be shut off because the operator gets tired of hearing the alarm go off incessantly, or for any other reason.
If it is a commercial ship, then it has AIS, and has to monitor it, and cannot shut it off. Pretty much the entire merchant fleet relies on AIS for safety, and it is mandatory in several countries that all boats have AIS. AIS is relied on world-wide for ship crossing situations more than navigation lights now.

There is something disconcerting about a watch keeper on a freighter not seeing a masthead light until it was only a few hundred feet away, and not picking up the boat on radar at further range.

For those of us not on freighters - rather at sea-level - masthead lights are seen much further away than deck-mounted lights. I can't count the times I haven't been able to see deck lights in medium seas on small boats.

Like George, I'm having a difficult time understanding how nav lights get out of alignment. I can see them being originally installed out of alignment, but not getting randomly whacked out.

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post #9 of 66 Old 03-06-2019
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There are a lot of boats w/o lites..running and anchored.
Ive seen barges ganged together planted in route fairways..zippo lighting.
I think its the locals...doing what the locals have been doing for many years.
Ill also agree thats it can be difficult to get a read on distance and direct for some.
Ill add the fored3ck lite when going into an anchorage at dark...wishing for a
spotlite
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post #10 of 66 Old 03-06-2019 Thread Starter
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Re: Masthead tricolors

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
If it is a commercial ship, then it has AIS, and has to monitor it, and cannot shut it off. Pretty much the entire merchant fleet relies on AIS for safety, and it is mandatory in several countries that all boats have AIS. AIS is relied on world-wide for ship crossing situations more than navigation lights now.

There is something disconcerting about a watch keeper on a freighter not seeing a masthead light until it was only a few hundred feet away, and not picking up the boat on radar at further range.

For those of us not on freighters - rather at sea-level - masthead lights are seen much further away than deck-mounted lights. I can't count the times I haven't been able to see deck lights in medium seas on small boats.

Like George, I'm having a difficult time understanding how nav lights get out of alignment. I can see them being originally installed out of alignment, but not getting randomly whacked out.

Mark
Yeah, yeah, it's mandatory for lots of stuff that doesn't happen in the real world. Anchor lights instead of garden solar lights, or strobe lights, unlit barges/tugs improperly lit, and on and on.
How so many of these things get out of whack, I have no idea, I just see it on a fairly regular basis.
And quite frankly, I can compute CPA w/o any help from some electronic aid and I couldn't care less about communicating with commercial traffic at sea or even interisland. I don't trust you or anybody else to do what's expected, mandatory or even sensible on the water or on the roads. I'll stick with my eyes and what I [B]know[B] works just fine for me, which is taking responsibility for my own actions and regulating the space around my boat, car or whatever I'm responsible for operating.
But, if you've never stood a night watch on the bridge of a ship, you have absolutely no idea of what they can see, and how what you present actually looks to them. If they are even awake, a scenario I can assure you is not all that uncommon offshore.
If you care to risk your life and the lives of any others you might have aboard your vessel to someone else complying with what's mandatory or even expected, then that certainly is your choice.

"Any idiot can make a boat go; it takes a sailor to stop one." Spike Africa aboard the schooner Wanderer in Sausalito, Ca. 1964.
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” ― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

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