Hyvässä slöörissä · sailing dinghy cruising

Navigation lights

Deciding position of the navigation lights is a multifaceted matter. Here are some common options analyzed.

Powerful torch. For a boat shorter than seven meters COLREGS sets a minimum requirement of having a torch (flashlight) to prevent collisions (rule 25 d i). However, noticing approaching traffic requires the crew to be alert. It can be challenging to sail single-handed when using a torch. In CEVNI waters this option alone isn’t legal.

360° white light pole in cockpit. The simplest and the most affordable fixed light solution is to install a light pole into the cockpit. That’s not a perfect option because finding a proper place is difficult, as the mainsail sheet travel within a large area around the stern. Ensuring an unobstructed all-around sector isn’t that easy either. Also, a white isn’t ideal because it doesn’t indicate your direction and in cockpit disturbs your night vision. In CEVNI waters this option isn’t legal either.

225° red/green at bow and 135° white at stern. This configuration allows you to sail, row and to be towed in COLREGS waters. For motoring and anchoring you should have a portable 360° white light. Offshore visibility of lights on the deck isn’t as good as that of mathead lights. Attaching lights to the hull affects to the look of the boat, and because of reflections deck lights can adversely affect your night vision.

360° all-around white light at masthead. Human eye also recognises white light better than green or red when viewed from faraway, making this option a very visible one when offshore, although sailing in dark offshore in a sailing dinghy is something that should be avoided. A light at masthead can be seen far when sailing offshore but in a busy harbour not everybody is able to see it well, especially if the mast head light gets blends in the city lights in the background. The lugsail and yard may obstruct the light but reefing would help that. On the other hand, COLREGS allows obstruction of up to 6° for all-around lights. Obstruction also means that the peak area of the sail and the yard reflect slightly the light. On the other hand, a white light doesn’t tell anything about your direction. COLREGS rules permit this option for sailing vessels less than seven meters long (Rule 25 d i). In CEVNI waters a separate torch is also needed in the cockpot, to warn approaching vessels when needed (3.13 5).

Tricolor and anchor light at mathead. This option is similar to the previous one, except that visibility is weaker for the reason mentioned above. The rule about 6° obstruction is for all-around lights, and it may be a matter of interpretation whether tricolor is counted as such. An advantage of tricolor compared to the all-around white light is that the other boaters can derive your direction. Naturally, a mast head light doesn’t require installations on decks but there have to be wiring inside the mast and connectors between the mast and the hull.

As we want to avoid situations when you would sail a sailing dinghy offshore in the dark the option about hull-installed 225°C red/green and 135°C white is the most reasonable one. On the other hand, to achive best detectability to ships at sea a proper radar reflector and especially an AIS transponder are the most dependable gear nowadays. Their range is multiple compared to navigation lights.

As Merisirri follows the keep it simple principle the navigation lights are simple portable Navisafe LED lights on deck level. They are AAA battery operated and mounted with Railblaza base. The related details are below. The first column has Navisafe’s model number, and the values in Duration column are estimates.

Model Placement Colors and sector Range Duration
355 cuddy roof red & green 225° 2 M 24 h
055 stern white 135° 2 M 32 h

Navisafe tricolor light is introduced in the following video.

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