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first sailed january 2008
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been night sailing some, and I plan to do more. Why don't sailboats have a headlight? Like a super powerful led light? Like something like this?

http://www.lightandmotion.com/the-perfect-light/on-water/night-sailing

It's supposed to be about as powerful as a motorcycle headlight, it's USB rechargeable and you could take it in your dinghy?

This thread probably should be in gear.
 

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Over Hill Sailing Club
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Some boats did have headlights: Pacemaker comes to mind. You can still get the hull inset housings. I had to replace one in a friend's boat a couple of years ago.
 

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Master Mariner
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Some boats do have "headlights" but they are docking lights, and best used only for that.
If you would go on deck one night and shine a "super powerful led light" at the water off your bow, watch it for a few seconds and then look around you, I think it will quickly become apparent why boats do not have headlights. Unlike cars on a road, boats can come at you from any angle, not just ahead, behind or at intersections, never mind the need to see navigation marks, etc..
 

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Back in the 1960s and 70s, there loads of powerboats with headlights. They worked great. I know of a dozen charter fishing captains that have them and would not leave the dock without them. Contrary to popular belief, they actually do act just like car headlights, and they're far superior to a spot light because they were mounted below the bow and did not reflect on any portion of the boat - just the objects in front of the boat. They were wonderful for navigating in tight quarters with lots of unlit buoys and day markers, as well as locations where there are lots of anchored boats that choose not to turn on their anchor lights because it runs the battery down.

Many of the powerboats that had them were high-speed boats that zipped along at speeds in excess of 40 knots. When I had my store, I custom installed them on some Chaparral, Donzi, Pro-Line, Boston Whaler, Mako and Starcraft boats. Back then, a pair ran about $400, one for each side of the bow. And you had to cut a hole in the bow to insert the light fixture into. They would sure make life a lot easier when navigating through a maze of crab and lobster pot markers at night in New England and Chesapeake Bay. I wish I would have had them on my boat the night I nearly slammed into a massive stake net more than a mile off Tilghman Island. I can still hear my wife screaming "we're gonna die."

Gary :cool:
 

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first sailed january 2008
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Some boats do have "headlights" but they are docking lights, and best used only for that.
If you would go on deck one night and shine a "super powerful led light" at the water off your bow, watch it for a few seconds and then look around you, I think it will quickly become apparent why boats do not have headlights. Unlike cars on a road, boats can come at you from any angle, not just ahead, behind or at intersections, never mind the need to see navigation marks, etc..
I'm not thinking of it to watch for boats coming at me from different directions, but only to illuminate the area in front of me, or since the example I posted is a handheld flashlight, if you were entering an anchorage or rocky area, you could detach it and hold it to look around. Or flash it around to look for those navigation markers. My trickiest time sailing at night was in the rain. Night vision or no, it was hard to see a big rock until I was closer than I wanted to be. Had I a light, I could have illuminated the rock.

I agree not to shine it in the water and hope for good night vision afterwards, and it would only be used in certain circumstances, not like vehicles these days with daytime running lights, or you automatically turn it on whenever sailing at night, but only when needed. And not shone down at the water, but more straight and up. This flashlight I saw online also has different heads you can put on, like spot, wide angle, night, or red.
 

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NOB

What would you use them for?

Night sailing is fun and peaceful largely because of the lack of light.

I have several of the lower powered personal headlamps for working hands free. Started using them in the 70's for winter camping/climbing They're great. For the boat I have a red lens that flips down to help prevent night blindness.

It sounds like what you're talking about is much brighter, more like a searchlight. I have those too, (handheld) but avoid using them around other boaters. Typically, they get used to help locate an unlit can, nun or a day mark on a black night.

For me it's usually in the same spot on the Miles River route into St Michael's. Md. It gets very black back in there and there are a few unlit marks.

I wouldn't want something that bright on my head on the boat.
Certainly not in any vessel traffic as you're always looking around. That's a sure way to get shot at...lol Like the last man on a match in a foxhole

Most of the time I find that there's enough light on a clear night to locate most unlit Atons If you know where to look, especially if there's a moon out.
Lobster buoys and crab pots show up pretty well too.
 

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Master Mariner
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Back in the 1960s and 70s, there loads of powerboats with headlights. They worked great. I know of a dozen charter fishing captains that have them and would not leave the dock without them. Contrary to popular belief, they actually do act just like car headlights, and they're far superior to a spot light because they were mounted below the bow and did not reflect on any portion of the boat - just the objects in front of the boat. They were wonderful for navigating in tight quarters with lots of unlit buoys and day markers, as well as locations where there are lots of anchored boats that choose not to turn on their anchor lights because it runs the battery down.

Many of the powerboats that had them were high-speed boats that zipped along at speeds in excess of 40 knots. When I had my store, I custom installed them on some Chaparral, Donzi, Pro-Line, Boston Whaler, Mako and Starcraft boats. Back then, a pair ran about $400, one for each side of the bow. And you had to cut a hole in the bow to insert the light fixture into. They would sure make life a lot easier when navigating through a maze of crab and lobster pot markers at night in New England and Chesapeake Bay. I wish I would have had them on my boat the night I nearly slammed into a massive stake net more than a mile off Tilghman Island. I can still hear my wife screaming "we're gonna die."

Gary :cool:
Do you honestly think any pair of headlights would be of any value at 40 knots? They would have to be incredibly far reaching lights. Even holding a big Q-Bean light, I'm not comfortable going even 10 in my dink, with 25 knots available, and that darned thing leaves me totally blind outside it's light, no matter how much I shield it. On no sport fish boat I've run, that had docking lights, could they be used safely as operating lights, at anything more than idle, maybe 5 knots. When others are operating with their docking lights as headlights, they totally blind everybody else on the water and are extremely dangerous, often overpowering and obscuring their running own lights.
 

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So, I clearly mis-read headlight for headlamp. Many boats, mostly power, have search lights mounted, many remote controlled but they're not kept on while underway.

Basically, they're not approved navigation lights.
 

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Mechsmith
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I set one up but the fog off the water made it worse than none at all. That was on the Calusahatchee River wanting to see daymarks into channel. Maybe a different color or polarizing would help but white light was worse than usless.
 

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The searchlights are usually mounted on top of cabins and T-tops, but unfortunately, search lights tend to illuminate the entire boat unless they're shielded, which most are not. These lights are not meant to replace navigational lights and not advertised as such.

Are they as effective as a car headlight, yep, and you see about the same distance. So does this mean you would be afraid to drive your car more than 10 MPH with your headlights turned on because they didn't illuminate things well enough in front of you? The low beams of a standard automotive light illuminate to a distance of about 60 feet on average, while the high beams nearly double that distance. So traveling at 40 knots in a boat is no different than driving the same speed in your car at night. So if your boat, or car is moving at 46 MPH at night, and you have your high beams on, and something unexpected shows up 120 feet away, at that speed, do you think you can respond quickly enough to either turn the boat or stop it? I would hope so.

Gary :cool:
 

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See: radar. ;)

Better would be either 'starlight vision' or infrared. Away from traffic/civilization, go [starlight/ambient light/night] vision, goggles or scope. In a location where starlights would be swamped, go to infrared.

Not cheap, but better than blinding yourself & everyone around.

Maritime Thermal Night Vision | FLIR Thermal Vision

#include{std-disclaimer}
 

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The low beams of a standard automotive light illuminate to a distance of about 60 feet on average, while the high beams nearly double that distance.
I think Minne's right, Gary. You might want to check those figures.

One way to think about this is that 60mph is 88fps. With only a 60 foot lit pathway you would cover it in about three-quarters of a second. My experience is that I have around 200 feet on low beam and about 300 on high beam.

Bright lights kill night vision which can kill you at sea. You can't see dim features in unlit areas.

A question I have is...if you run with bright lights topside (even if they don't make your navigation lights hard to see) and you have an incident, couldn't a case be made that your lookout(s) were ineffective due to the lights...making a ruling against you in court more likely?
 

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Taking it day by day
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The searchlights are usually mounted on top of cabins and T-tops, but unfortunately, search lights tend to illuminate the entire boat unless they're shielded, which most are not. These lights are not meant to replace navigational lights and not advertised as such.

Are they as effective as a car headlight, yep, and you see about the same distance. So does this mean you would be afraid to drive your car more than 10 MPH with your headlights turned on because they didn't illuminate things well enough in front of you? The low beams of a standard automotive light illuminate to a distance of about 60 feet on average, while the high beams nearly double that distance. So traveling at 40 knots in a boat is no different than driving the same speed in your car at night. So if your boat, or car is moving at 46 MPH at night, and you have your high beams on, and something unexpected shows up 120 feet away, at that speed, do you think you can respond quickly enough to either turn the boat or stop it? I would hope so.

Gary :cool:
I'm sorry, but they are not nearly as effective as the headlights on a car. On a road there are certain things which you expect to see, and everything is illuminated on a ribbon of pavement. On the water, it takes much longer to identify what you are seeing and then react properly, never mind looking around and refocusing on the light ahead afterwards.
If you travel at 40 knots in onshore waters at night, you should NOT expect to arrive at your destination safely, headlights or not. And, in case you haven't noticed, boats do not normally have brakes, so unlike a vehicle ashore, slowing down is not quite as easily or swiftly accomplished.
I sincerely believe nothing is better than a good set of eyes at night on a boat with a prudent mariner operating the vessel.
 

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And that was my closest experience with death. You can't see a black steer on the highway at night even with high beams. How much harder is it to see a sand bar or rock ledge?
Nothing says stink pot more than headlights on a boat. Their use is surely distressful to other sailors and creates problems for the user that makes him unsafe.
If you are in a narrow channel picking you way from unlit navaid to unlit navaid, I sure hope you are jot doing 40 kts, even 5 or 10, but just maintaining steerage while using a low powered spot/flash lite to pick up the next mark.
If you are in open water, you really need your night vision for 360 degree watch keeping for others navlights.
John
 

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My bad on the range, should have said meters - not feet. There is a huge difference. I have been aboard several large boats with headlights installed -they were great.

As for stopping distance, anyone with powerboat experience knows how fast they come to a stop when the throttle is pulled back to neutral. The boat squats and stops. Granted, there are no street lights on Chesapeake bay, but there are not many on I-95 either.

Gary
 

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My bad on the range, should have said meters - not feet. There is a huge difference. I have been aboard several large boats with headlights installed -they were great.

As for stopping distance, anyone with powerboat experience knows how fast they come to a stop when the throttle is pulled back to neutral. The boat squats and stops. Granted, there are no street lights on Chesapeake bay, but there are not many on I-95 either.

Gary
Fine Gary. You go for it buddy. Anyone below on your motor boat when you pull the throttles into neutral from 40 knots, will certainly thank you from their hospital bed, but hell, you've won this discussion. You go on speeding down the waterways with your headlights blazing and I'll do my best to stay out of your well lit way, just in case. It seems a prudent mariner you are not.
 
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