SailNet Community banner

1 - 20 of 66 Posts

·
Master Mariner
Joined
·
8,679 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,363 Posts
It would bother me too. However, how many boaters out there have no idea what the lights mean anyway.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MarkofSeaLife

·
Master Mariner
Joined
·
8,679 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
532 Posts
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?
 

·
Master Mariner
Joined
·
8,679 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,088 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,181 Posts
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.

Mark
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,706 Posts
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
 

·
Master Mariner
Joined
·
8,679 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
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 know 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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,181 Posts
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.
Yes, we risk our lives by having legal navigation lights and AIS. What other choice do we have?

I fail to understand the basis of your argument that a commercial ship not broadcasting and monitoring AIS is more likely than a watch stander not seeing a navigation light 3' off the water on a small boat in large seas. As for "real life", a commercial ship will be put out of business by doing what you suggest.

I can tell you for sure that our AIS has been far more useful to other boats than our navigation lights.

Your experiences not withstanding.

As for computing CPA and sticking with your eyes, you related a story where you failed to do just that professionally, but blamed it on a masthead light instead of deck-level lights.

Wouldn't have happened with AIS.

Mark
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
532 Posts
..... I ran back out to the bridge wing and saw the yacht slide by my hull about 15 feet away!.....
Wow, reading this I am absolutely chilled to the bone !

thanks for your perspective on this. I've never been on the bridge of a large commercial ship and had no idea what we look like to them. I always assumed "bright light, taller the better". The notion of a disembodied light waving back and forth puts things in perspective. And your point that deck level lights are seen in the reflection on the sails, hull and spray makes sense, and I had never considered it.

that said, I'm not sure which set of nav lights I'll choose next time out, but you have given me a lot to think about.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,363 Posts
I have to admit, while I agree with the premise of the OP, I think deck lighting is very old fashioned and fairly ineffective technology. It does require electricity, after all, so it isn't like it's a natural solution. When studying for my Captain license, I found it arcane to have to memorize the light patterns. Ridiculous really.

Personally, any good light on a ship at night is appreciated, so I can tell they are there, if I had no other solution. I get annoyed at folks not following the rules, because I worry there are others they don't know or don't care about too. Admittedly, however, we all make unwitting mistakes too.

However, a modern digital radar can identify lobster pots in the water, so there is no reason to think it can't identify a recreational sailboat. That wasn't always the case. Add AIS, and I'm a supporter of making it mandatory for night ops, anything offshore, or in a shipping channel, and this problem is solved.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MarkofSeaLife

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,181 Posts
However, a modern digital radar can identify lobster pots in the water, so there is no reason to think it can't identify a recreational sailboat. That wasn't always the case.
Yes, modern radars are a step above the older ones, but still a technology which most don't know how to use well. Couple that with many current radars don't do ARPA well, and that a small sailboat in only medium sized waves does not present much of a target return - lends radar less likely to be reliable compared to AIS or even running lights.

FWIW, we have an excellent radar system that does ARPA extremely well, and we know how to use it to full advantage. We consider our radar a vital piece of navigation equipment. However, I would rather count on the other boats having AIS and eyeballs than a having good radar and operating knowledge of it.

Mark
 

·
Master Mariner
Joined
·
8,679 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
I have to admit, while I agree with the premise of the OP, I think deck lighting is very old fashioned and fairly ineffective technology. It does require electricity, after all, so it isn't like it's a natural solution. When studying for my Captain license, I found it arcane to have to memorize the light patterns. Ridiculous really.

Personally, any good light on a ship at night is appreciated, so I can tell they are there, if I had no other solution. I get annoyed at folks not following the rules, because I worry there are others they don't know or don't care about too. Admittedly, however, we all make unwitting mistakes too.

However, a modern digital radar can identify lobster pots in the water, so there is no reason to think it can't identify a recreational sailboat. That wasn't always the case. Add AIS, and I'm a supporter of making it mandatory for night ops, anything offshore, or in a shipping channel, and this problem is solved.
I see dozens of vessels a week down here that I would bet the farm on, that don't have AIS. From the 40 odd foot longliners who are almost all improperly lit to the 70-90 foot ex-shrimpers carrying cargo between the islands and even larger cargo vessels that are certainly not IMO compliant, expecting them to have a modern bit of gear like AIS is foolhardy, IMO.
Just a few years ago I watched a ferry leaving Bequia for St Vincent one evening and saw a huge fireball rise 20 feet out of the aft car deck. The ferry, an old European car ferry somewhere around 100 feet, carrying something like 70 people, went completely dark but managed to turn around and anchor in the outer harbor. Not one light, no backup batteries on the bridge for the VHF radio nor a backup generator on the upper decks as is common commercial shipping today.
Anyway, with a fire aft, the passengers and crew had to disembark from the 20+ high foredeck on a rope (can you imagine all those big West Indian women sliding down a rope to an inflatable below?) as they hadn't even a ladder for this eventuality. Or lifeboats and the rescue was carried out by yachties in their inflatables.
So, as I said above, everyone has a choice, to either rely on the other guy doing the legal, correct or even sensible thing or take responsibility for their own safety and expecting nothing intelligent from the other vessels around them.
How quickly we forget incidents like the Costa Concordia and believe that just because it's a big fancy, expensive vessel, it is manned by halfway intelligent human beings?
 
  • Like
Reactions: SanderO

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,387 Posts
You can bring a horse to water but you can't make her think.

Though the water is regulated... it's also seen as a environment of *personal freedom* that the old wild west. Most know and follow the rules and sensible behavior. Too many don't and size is not the determinant as the Costa Concordia or the Exxon Valdez demonstrate.

An intelligent sailor or boater or mariner knows where to find the information these days... all now accessible from a smart phone they carry 24/7.

There dumb and willful ignorance and a fair amount who can't afford what they need and punt.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,181 Posts
I understand the argument that not every boat is manned by watchful and knowledgeable people, and I agree with that. However, it undercuts the argument that masthead lights are ineffective, as well as the argument that simultaneous operation of masthead and deck lights is stupid.

It argues for lighting your boat up like a christmas tree with every light on board. And playing loud music. Colregs be damned.

(Maybe Disney agrees with me?)

I'm still looking for a well-reasoned argument against masthead lights, and not a series of tangentially-related anecdotes that do not involve masthead lights. Particularly anecdotes that describe unreasonably stupid or careless people or reasonably unlikely events.

My first priority is to avoid these type of navigation situations. For this I rely on my running lights (masthead under sail) and my AIS transponder to broadcast the most information about me the farthest I can, as well as my AIS, eyeballs, and radar to provide me as much information as possible.

I trust my information input over my output, and take proaction myself. I consider my actual running lights to be the weakest link, and the deck lights weaker than the masthead.

Mark
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,387 Posts
I understand the argument that not every boat is manned by watchful and knowledgeable people, and I agree with that. However, it undercuts the argument that masthead lights are ineffective, as well as the argument that simultaneous operation of masthead and deck lights is stupid.

It argues for lighting your boat up like a christmas tree with every light on board. And playing loud music. Colregs be damned.

(Maybe Disney agrees with me?)

I'm still looking for a well-reasoned argument against masthead lights, and not a series of tangentially-related anecdotes that do not involve masthead lights. Particularly anecdotes that describe unreasonably stupid or careless people or reasonably unlikely events.

My first priority is to avoid these type of navigation situations. For this I rely on my running lights (masthead under sail) and my AIS transponder to broadcast the most information about me the farthest I can, as well as my AIS, eyeballs, and radar to provide me as much information as possible.

I trust my information input over my output, and take proaction myself. I consider my actual running lights to be the weakest link, and the deck lights weaker than the masthead.

Mark
A masthead light is the STEAMING LIGHT.... ON a sailboat it is not at the top of the mast... above halfway to 2/3 up from the deck. The lights at the TOP of the mast would be an anchor light or a tricolor. If you are motoring the masthead light is to be lit.

What is the rule for for port and starboard lights for motoring? Can you use the tri color and the masthead?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,181 Posts
OK, sorry. I meant tricolor mounted on the top of the mast. It is an under sail only light.

When motoring, it is the deck mounted nav lights and the white light halfway up the mast, which you are referring to as the masthead light, while I always think of it the steaming light (on our boat, I have the deck mounted nav lights and the masthead light on the same circuit labeled "steaming lights").

The tricolor is not used for motoring, although I am often guilty of forgetting to turn it off when turning on the steaming lights as I drop sails just outside an anchorage to enter at night.

This bit of understandable forgetfulness at a period of much activity transitioning between sail and power, resulting in a boat coming into an anchorage with both its tricolor and deck mounted nav lights on, is why I ignore complaints about it from others already at anchor.

Mark
 
1 - 20 of 66 Posts
Top