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aka $tingy Sailor
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Starting this week, I'll be posting 5 or 6 articles on my blog that feature electrical projects that I've done to Summer Dance. I'll give a Reader's Digest version here and if you want to see more, you can head over to The $tingy Sailor.

This week's post is about LED conversion complete with before and after pictures of each light. I swapped out the incandescent bulbs in my navigation lights that, together with replacement LED cabin lights, reduced my potential electrical consumption by 86%.



The result is more light with less power and better reliability. It's all good and the cost was very reasonable.



Stay tuned for more LED awesomeness next week!
 

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I don't want to burst your bubble but NONE or very few of the replacements bulbs are legal in navigation lights as the COMPLETE unit has to be summited to a testing lab
 

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Don't call me a "senior"!
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I don't want to burst your bubble but NONE or very few of the replacements bulbs are legal in navigation lights as the COMPLETE unit has to be summited to a testing lab
That may be true for new construction, but not for replacement equipment. Replacement "bulbs" are legal as long as they meet or exceed the specifications in the COLREGS and Inland rules. See COLREGS Annex I and 33 CFR 84 Annex I (Inland rules).
 

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That may be true for new construction, but not for replacement equipment. Replacement "bulbs" are legal as long as they meet or exceed the specifications in the COLREGS and Inland rules. See COLREGS Annex I and 33 CFR 84 Annex I (Inland rules).

And how would you know they meet the specifications?
 

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aka $tingy Sailor
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My bubble is fully intact, Tom. 33 CFR Part 183, Subpart M (nav light certification) applies to dealers, distributors, and manufacturers of boats after 2002, not boat owners. I'm far more worried about the lawyer in the powerboat taking out someone in my family or myself than I am of that lawyer in a courtroom.
 

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aka $tingy Sailor
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hey, guys. Let's not let this thread disintegrate into yet another endless debate about LED lights, eh? That horse was beat to death long ago. Caveat emptor, okay?
 

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Don't call me a "senior"!
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And how would you know they meet the specifications?
How would you know any incandescent replacement bulb meets them? If a bulb burns out do you have to get the replacement bulb and fixture "approved"? Nope. Do you even have to put the same brand of bulb in the fixture (if you can find that particular brand)? Nope. You just slap any ol' incandescent bulb in there and assume it's OK. Fact is the new bulb may, or may not, have the same spectral qualities as the old bulb; which by the time it failed may, or may not, have had spectral qualities similar to those it originally had.

Look at the COLREGS. The color ranges are pretty broad. Basically, if it looks red, it's red enough. Ditto for green, white, and yellow. You can download a CIE chromaticity diagram from any of a number of web pages and plot out the ranges yourself, then compare them to what your lights look like. Many digital cameras also come with the software to plot out the spectral peaks (but you'll have to convert these to the CIE ranges specified in the COLREGS; not that difficult, just one added step). It ain't rocket science.

Usually the problem is with putting a "cool white" LED in some green lenses, as this looks pretty blue-green. If your lights have colored lenses, using "warm white" LEDs usually solves this problem (the "extra" yellow in the output of the "warm white" makes the light look greener after it goes through the lens). Or, you can put green LEDs in the green fixtures, red LEDs in the red fixtures, and white LEDs in the white fixtures (this is the solution I used).
 

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I'll admit to having installed LED replacement bulbs in my nav fixtures, though not for the lower drain but for longer life - even though I rarely sailed at night, the original bulbs with their long vertical filaments were extremely susceptible to vibration. At $15-18 each (!) I went through over a hundred bucks of bulbs in only a few "lit hours". Years later, the LEDs don't mind the shaking.
That said, those long, thin vertical filaments are a key part of the original fixture design: with a metal baffle they produce a sharp cut-off so the red/green transition is well defined. The much fatter LED bulbs (most any brand) result in a "softer" cut-off giving much more overlap between colours. There is a significant angle through which one can see both red/green which isn't right.

I am puzzled the theLunaSEA LED tricolour I saw recently - nicely built, compact, seemingly well-designed, but with significant red/green overlap, at least close up. The vendor (who in other respects seemed quite kmowledgeable) claimed it wasn't a problem.

One day I will replace my nav fixtures with "real" Hella LED fixtures, but I figure having non-conforming lights that work is better than any other kind which don't.



Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

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My bubble is fully intact, Tom. 33 CFR Part 183, Subpart M (nav light certification) applies to dealers, distributors, and manufacturers of boats after 2002, not boat owners. I'm far more worried about the lawyer in the powerboat taking out someone in my family or myself than I am of that lawyer in a courtroom.
Yes, boat builders must use USCG / ABYC 16 "certified" navigation lights however the COLREGS require/mandate that your lights must meet the same exact specifications. In the end there is no difference in how your lights must perform vs. a boat builder.

How will one know that a home made navigational light will meet the horizontal sectors, vertical sectors, color and distance specifications? If you are willing to take on that risk, this is fine, I just point it out because folks only tend to think the COLREGS is only about distance and that is simply not the case at all. It is also not the case that only boat builders are required to install lights that conform with the COLREGS.

There is a part in Rule 20 of the COLREGS that states nav lights SHALL COMPLY with Annex I of the CFR / Code of Federal Regulations, and many folks miss this critical section.

This is what it means, by US Federal Law and the COLREGS to be considered a "navigation light"....

From 33 CFR 84:

Colors

� 84.13 Color specification of lights
(a) The chromaticity of all navigation lights shall conform to the following standards, which lie within the boundaries of the area of the diagram specified for each color by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE), in the "Colors of Light Signals", which is incorporated by reference. It is Publication CIE No. 2.2. (TC-1.6), 1975, and is available from the Illumination Engineering Society, 345 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017. It is also available for inspection at the Office of the Federal Register, Room 8401, 1100 L Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20408. This incorporation by reference was approved by the Director of the Federal Register.
(b) The boundaries of the area for each color are given by indicating the corner coordinates, which are as follows:
(1) White:
x 0.525 0.525 0.452 0.310 0.310 0.443
y 0.382 0.440 0.440 0.348 0.283 0.382
(2) Green:
x 0.028 0.009 0.300 0.203
y 0.385 0.723 0.511 0.356
(3) Red:
x 0.680 0.660 0.735 0.721
y 0.320 0.320 0.265 0.259
(4) Yellow:
x 0.612 0.618 0.575 0.575
y 0.382 0.382 0.425 0.406

Intensity

� 84.15 Intensity of lights
(a) The minimum luminous intensity of lights shall be calculated by using the formula:
l = 3.43 x 106 x T x D2 x K-D
where:
I is luminous intensity in candelas under service conditions, T is threshold factor 2 x 10-7 lux, D is range of visibility (luminous range) of the light in nautical miles, K is atmospheric transmissivity. For prescribed lights the value of K shall be 0.8, corresponding to a meteorological visibility of approximately 13 nautical miles.
(b) A selection of figures derived from the formula is given in Table 84.15(b).
Table 84.15(b)
Range of visibility (luminous Minimum
range) of light in nautical luminous intensity of light
miles in candelas tor K = 0.8
D I
1 0.9
2 4.3
3 12
4 27
5 52
6 94

Horizontal Sectors

� 84.17 Horizontal sectors
(a)
(1) In the forward direction, sidelights as fitted on the vessel shall show the minimum required intensities. The intensities shall decrease to reach practical cut-off between 1 and 3 degrees outside the prescribed sectors.
(2) For sternlights and masthead lights and at 22.5 degrees abaft the beam for sidelights, the minimum required intensities shall be maintained over the arc of the horizon up to 5 degrees within the limits of the sectors prescribed in Rule 21. From 5 degrees within the prescribed sectors the intensity may decrease by 50 percent up to the prescribed limits; it shall decrease steadily to reach practical cutoff at not more than 5 degrees outside the prescribed sectors. (b) All-round lights shall be so located as not to be obscured by masts, topmasts or structures within angular sectors of more than 6 degrees, except anchor lights prescribed in Rule 30, which need not be placed at an impracticable height above the hull, and the all-round white light described in Rule 23(d), which may not be obscured at all. (c) If it is impracticable to comply with paragraph (b) of this section by exhibiting only one all-round light, two all-round lights shall be used suitably positioned or screened to appear, as far as practicable, as one light at a minimum distance of one nautical mile.

NOTE to paragraph (c): Two unscreened all-round lights that are 1.28 meters apart or less will appear as one light to the naked eye at a distance of one nautical mile.


Vertical Sectors

� 84.19 Vertical sectors
(a) The vertical sectors of electric lights as fitted, with the exception of lights on sailing vessels underway and on unmanned barges, shall ensure that:
(1) At least the required minimum intensity is maintained at all angles from 5 degrees above to 5 degrees below the horizontal;
(2) At least 60 percent of the required minimum intensity is maintained from 7.5 degrees above to 7.5 degrees below the horizontal.
(b) In the case of sailing vessels underway the vertical sectors of electric lights as fitted shall ensure that:
(1) At least the required minimum intensity is maintained at all angles from 5 degrees above to 5 degrees below the horizontal;
(2) At least 50 percent of the required minimum intensity is maintained from 25 degrees above to 25 degrees below the horizontal.
(c) In the case of unmanned barges the minimum required intensity of electric lights as fitted shall be maintained on the horizontal.
(d) In the case of lights other than electric lights these specifications shall be met as closely as possible.


This is what USCG / ABYC A-16 navigation lights are tested to and all nav lights "shall comply" with regardless of certification..


To see where in the COLREGS lights are defined and what those requirements are you need to look no further than Rule 20:

USCG Nav Center said:
Rule 20 - Application

(a) Rules in this part shall be complied with in all weathers.

(b) The Rules concerning lights shall be complied with from sunset to sunrise, and during such times no other lights shall be exhibited, except such lights which cannot be mistaken for the lights specified in these Rules or do not impair their visibility or distinctive character, or interfere with the keeping of a proper look-out.

(c) The lights prescribed by these Rules shall, if carried, also be exhibited from sunrise to sunset in restricted visibility and may be exhibited in all other circumstances when it is deemed necessary.

(d) The Rules concerning shapes shall be complied with by day.

(e) The lights and shapes specified in these Rules shall comply with the provisions of Annex I [to these Regulations | of these Rules].

Annex I takes you straight to the CFR definitions of a nav light as posted above... "shall comply with the provisions of Annex I" is not worded lightly. This means every boaters nav lights shall comply with the CFR specs above.. "Shall comply" is not a gray area for boat builders only....

There are plenty of certified NAV lights on the market that meet the COLREGS standards but only two or three tested and certified for use in an already existing fixture.

The only after market bulb that is certified, and has the testing certs to back it up, for use in existing fixtures, are made by Dr. LED but only for use in certain Aqua Signal Series 40 fixtures. They have certifications for bow red, bow green and all-round and now Aquasignal 25 anchor...

However the red/green FAILED to meet the specs & pass certifications for a sailboat so the only certified aftermarket bulb is the PolarStar 40 anchor light when used in an Aquasignal Series 40 All Round or the new Series 25 anchor light when used in an Aquasignal series 25 housing..

Even Dr. LED can't pass certifications for a sail boat, after specifically designing his lights to pass a certification, how can a DIY be sure..????

Remember, there is no requirement I know of that says you as a private boat owner must install "certified" lights.

However, it is the law that your lights "shall comply" with Rule 20 / 33CFR 84 for distance, horizontal sectors, color and vertical sectors. How do you know they will, without any testing?

The easiest way to know your lights comply is to simply purchase USCG / ABYC A-16 certified navigation lights. Prices have come way down in recent months...

The fixture with a bulb is what is certified. Dr. LED sent in multiple LED's in Aquasignal fixtures and still FAILED to get certifications for sailboats on anything but their All Round. This is a professional company specifically designing their LED's for navigational purposes yet they got just two approvals that meets the COLREGS for a sail boat, both anchor lights..

Dr. LED's red/green bow lights pass for POWER vessels but NOT for sail and this is because they failed either the horizontal or vertical sectors due to LED's not having the same performance characteristics as an incandescent.. The Aquasignal 40, with their incandescent bulb, passes for both sail and power. The Dr. LED only passes for power.

As I mentioned above distance is only one small aspect of meeting the federal nav light requirements. People often confuse this.

LED's do not have the same cut off angles or horizontal or vertical sector performance that an incandescent bulb has thus when installed in a fixture not specifically designed for an LED they quite often fail to meet certification, especially for sailboats...

IMANNA Labs, that is who does most of the testing, also accounts for bulb degradation in LED's and incandescent. Many of the LED fixtures they have been sent fail the burn in test because LED bulbs also lose lumen output over time and when poorly current regulated this is even more prevalent. They have tested some LED's that were at 50% output after just one week of use. This is simply sloppy design work. Many others fail color, horizontal, vertical or even distance. LED's also constantly degrade and lose lumen output where incandescent drops initially then remain relatively flat. IMANNA accounts for this in LED approvals.

Companies are rather unscrupulous. One LED nav light IMANNA tested, that failed, wound up on the market anyway.... The company simply did not care. There are in fact lots of lights out there sold as navigation lights, not just LED, that fail to meet COLREGS standards. Misleading and unscrupulous? IMHO, yes!

It is NOT easy to meet COLREGS standards with LED and it takes good engineering. Dr. LED has failed with numerous purpose built LED's to gain certification in existing fixtures.

IMANNA fails LED nav lights on a monthly basis and I have had long conversations with them about the process and all aspects of this testing... Companies like Hella, Aquasignal, Marine Beam, LopoLight, OGM and many others have built good LED lights and succeeded in getting them USCG certified. They have also come way down in price. Jeff Field of Marine Beam even went further than IMANNA Labs and pushed his through IMO and other test platforms.

There are MANY "navigation" lights out there that carry no certification, both incandescent and LED, and you'd not catch me dead using any of them.

Why? Because I am one who has been through an on-water night time death that involved lengthy forensics testimony on navigation lights. A drunk boater ran over one of my best friends fathers, at night, and killed him. This was all before LED. I would not risk being on the water without knowing my navigation lights met the COLREGS requirements. But that's just me.. Others choose to do differently. I take navigation lights seriously because it is the law and I have been in the "it won't happen to me crowd" and then it did happen....

IMHO any discussion on home made nav lights should always include all the the details, in fair balance, so people can make educated decisions.

I climbed a mast last summer due to a deck light being out. The owners steaming light, an LED festoon, was facing BACKWARDS!!!!!!!! This can't physically happen with an incandescent. Owner insisted it was installed facing forward so it must have vibrated backwards.

One of the most famous non-certified widely used products is the Davis Mega Light. NO CERTIFICATION and most owners of these lights have no clue they don't.. Misleading? You bet....

Hamilton Marine feels so strongly about not being involved in the liability chain they have this sign hanging right next to the LED lights where you can't miss it:





And this is the back of a package of an IMTRA LED bulb.



It seems no one wants to accept the potential liability for installing aftermarket LED's, not even the people making them or the people selling them. That says a lot to me....

All that said, any light that is used is better than no light at all.....
 

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Hey, guys. Let's not let this thread disintegrate into yet another endless debate about LED lights, eh? That horse was beat to death long ago. Caveat emptor, okay?
The horse is NOT beat to death as members on this sight have been in court and 100% of accidents at night focus on lighting liability

Even the ones when intoxicated operators drive into stationary barges
 

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I used replacement LED "bulbs" on my old boat, but on the new one I just went with replacement fixtures. The prices on replacement fixtures are getting so low that it doesn't make sense to add the additional mechanical interface between the bulb and fixture, especially at hard to reach locations like the anchor light. The full replacement fixtures that are completely potted will always be more watertight.

I'm using a mix of Aquasignal 33 and Hella fixtures, but there are a lot of good options out there. The Aquasignal 33 bi-color light is $65, the DrLED bicolor bulb for an old Aquasignal 25 fixture is $45. For an extra $20 you get a whole new sealed unit.
 

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aka $tingy Sailor
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Alright, if we have to go there, let's go all the way...

I'm sure Hamilton Marine posted that placard to cover their own liability since they are one of the retailers and their lawyers insisted on it. Apparently they make enough profit from the sales of them to keep them on their shelves. That gives them deeper pockets to go after than Billy Bob the boater.

Let's take it out of the lab and the red tape and put it in the real water, from potential legal risk to actual legal risk. There are mountains of regulations that have no practical effect on people's lives.

Tell us about the closed court cases in which a recreational boater was the victim of a night accident, operated uncertified LED nav lights in good faith, but was found to be negligent, and the faulty boater was ruled to be innocent because of them.

Of course, we'll never know how many potential accidents were averted because LED lights were functional and/or brighter under particular circumstances when incandescent bulbs would have failed or underperformed. Therefore, any personal risk analysis of one type against another is speculation at best. Clearly, this is an industry that needs to catch up with the technology just like the automotive industry that gave up on incandescents years ago.
 

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Clearly, this is an industry that needs to catch up with the technology just like the automotive industry that gave up on incandescents years ago.
The industry has caught up, and been caught up for many years, I have been using factory made LED's for navigation now for close to 9 years. I bought my first SCAD Sensibulb back in 2000 or 2001 for interior use. I have been a huge proponent of LED's on boats and still am.

The industry offers piles known legal LED navigation lights that meet the COLREGS and comply with the law. You still need to install them so they can meet the law but at least you know the lights meet COLRGES if installed as directed. The COLREGS are world wide not just the US...

Also it is not just about yourself. Your cut off angles dictate to others your point of sail, heading direction etc. and the colors also dictate what you are doing. Others will be looking for these to make decisions on.

My only real point is that you posted this on-line, in an expert like fashion, but made zero mention of the applicable laws that deal with navigation lights. Is that entirely fair to your readers? Don't you think they would at least like to know what the actual rules/laws are that involve navigation lights?

You gave out info on-line that could be potentially dangerous if someones home made lights in fact don't comply and they cause a collision. That could cause someone to not be in compliance with the COLREGS and they may not even know they were not..

Some of us are just trying to fill in the rest of the story so readers her can at least make a more educated decision as to convert existing fixtures, many still will, or to buy new LED nav lights.

Lets forget lawsuits, it is none of my business if you get sued, and I doubt you will, but that's your personal choice.

Is it fair for you to advise this to others in a public format, with no cautions about potential legal issues, when they may not even be legal navigation lights? Why not include the actual COLREGS rules in your write up? Perhaps just a link? You can then describe why you disagree with the COLREGS or why you feel your lights will meet the COLREGS etc...

I wish the focus was on performance, proper cut off angles / vertical and horizontal, distance and color and not just about how much less power one uses.. Power consumption is a huge factor but so is having navigation lights that have the proper specifications.

Can you tell us for a fact, and your readers, that your home made nav lights meet the COLREGS / law as defined? This so that other boats will know exactly what you or your readers who also converted are doing at night??

I have seen some pretty inconsiderate use of navigation lights due to the home made nature of them, wrong colors, wrong cut offs and lights that were not even able to work at all because the emitters were blasting at the back of the housing not the lens. It is not just LED's I detest the non-compliant Davis "Mega Lights" because depth perception at night and especially in a fog or heavy mist is thrown WAY off compared to legal all round lights.

If you are comfortable with your decision, that is fine, but to put no caveats in there about what compliance with the COLREGS means is not what some of us would deem as being totally up front in a article dealing with navigation lights.. The article BTW is quite good I would just personally like to see more balance with the actual laws that pertain to nav lights..

This is not me or others, it is the LAW that says your navigation lights must meet the standards. Do they? I can't say, and nor can anyone without proper testing.

I fully admit this hits close to home for me because of a night time boating death but the law is still the law. Some of us do consider navigation lights a critical tool for navigation & I know some don't and feel the laws are unreasonable or don't apply to them..
 

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aka $tingy Sailor
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The examples cited don't center on the use of LEDs and had much more dangerous factors.

Let's let this thread end here, then. My pride's not on the line and I would never want someone to put themselves at risk based on my words. Again, caveat emptor.
 

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Can ANYONE cite a case where LEDs were found to be a contributing cause (as in a legal finding was made) of an accident? Until that happens please get off your high horse and quit making it sound as if LED arrays are categorically illegal as replacement "bulbs". They are not. They never have been. Enough already.
 

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Can ANYONE cite a case where LEDs were found to be a contributing cause (as in a legal finding was made) of an accident? Until that happens please get off your high horse and quit making it sound as if LED arrays are categorically illegal as replacement "bulbs". They are not. They never have been. Enough already.
No one has said they are categorically illegal. They would only be an illegal nav light if they don't meet the requirements of the COLREGS, which is difficult to know without testing it to see if it conforms..

I don't know why every one always wants a case cited when the law is already telling you your lights "shall" comply.. The simple fact is that we as boaters are required, by law, to use navigation lights that are in compliance with rule 20 / Annex I... Pretty simple really. If I knew for a fact an aftermarket bulb complied I would use it without issue. I only know this of the Dr. LED bulbs.

As I said very early on, any light that gets used is better than no light at all...!!

I will say it again I think Stingy Sailors article is great, I read the whole thing! I do feel it should at least include a link to the relevant COLREGS & perhaps Annex I & then let the readers decide which way they want to go. Not a big edit just a couple of links that's all. I suspect many will still opt for replacements but at least they will be well educated on their decision to do so...
 

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aka $tingy Sailor
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Okay, I'm going to attempt to resurrect this thread for its original purpose of sharing ideas for useful electrical upgrades.

I'll get the ball rolling again (hopefully) with my INTERIOR LED strip lighting project.



It features not only waterproof, flexible LED strips in the cabin perimeter but two lighting zones independently dimmable with a single remote control.



As a bonus, I also installed short strips in my lazarettes.



Fun to install and fun to use. Check it out.
 

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aka $tingy Sailor
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Hmmm...ball's not rolling much. Maybe this will help.

The next project that I want to share with you guys is installing a Raymarine ST1000+ Tiller Pilot. This one is more complicated than installing lights since it requires accurate mechanical mounting. Those of you who have done this project already know what I mean.



So what I describe in the article is some of the finer points of installing one using a Catalina 22 as an example, like:

  • Mounting measurements for coaming top installation
  • Additional Raymarine mounting parts to purchase
  • Cable socket mounting considerations
  • Wiring for an optional GPS connection. Anybody here gotten theirs to work with a Garmin handheld using NMEA 0183?
  • Practical expectations for using an autohelm

I use the Tiller Pilot a lot and it's really increased our cruising enjoyment. If you're thinking about getting one of these, this article will give you a good look at what you're in for.
 

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Hey Maine, tonight I'm the lawyer for the powerboat. I say your boat was 34 years old and you hadn't changed the light bulb or cleaned the contacts in the USCG Approved Fixture for over ten years, so even though it was USCG Approved my client didn't see it because it was deficient, and anyway, your batteries were low and your ground wire was corroded so the light was too dim to meet COLREGS even if the fixture was approved.

Now what so you do?

It doesn't make any difference if your fixture was approved, the light can still be insufficient to meet COLREGS for many reasons, and any good attorney, or an evil one, will quickly hold that against you anyway.

So let's stuff the regulatory terrorism where it belongs, let the iPhone owners who are scared to change their batteries or tires worry about it. If you're sailing a boat and you have any awareness of COLREGS, what you want to do is turn on the lights, swim out three miles, and see if you can see the lights. Seen 'em? Good, you're in compliance. Can't see 'em? OK, screw the approval, you've got a problem and you're not in compliance.

Really. That's why COLREGS is written that way.

iPhone owners can hire a professional surveyor to perform the same procedure for them.(G)
 
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