Navigation lights lenses and practices


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Dick
Dick
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Hi all,
It is commissioning time here and as I walk around the marina; one item pops out at me: how inadequate many navigation side and stern lights are. Many were adequate at purchase, but their lenses are now so crazed as to be mostly opaque. I would probably guess that 10 years is about the swap time for plastic lenses: sooner if in the tropics and later if always north. (And don’t forget your often-out-of-sight tricolor lens: I remove the tricolor for the winter for this reason mast up or mast removed.)
Other lights in the marina were so small as to be largely inadequate at purchase. (I say inadequate because I do not think that following most governmental regs ensures you of adequate nighttime visibility: legal does not mean adequate). Not only are many way too small, but they are located low on the hull where they are guaranteed occasional powerful water blasts and are largely invisible when heeled over.
Now, some might say they never run at night, but I would contend that a cruising boat should always be ready to run safely at night. In addition to running a safe seaworthy boat, there is the fact that: were there a collision, one of the first things to be looked at will be the adequacy of your lighting. A lens heavily crazed will not pass muster. Some will run (even motoring) with their tricolor on as well as their deck level navigation lights with the reason that they want to ensure being seen. This is a clear violation of colregs and sends a confusing and incomprehensible message to all other vessels in the vicinity. My answer is simple: do a better job of lighting your vessel in accordance with colregs. Another clear and confusing habit are those boats, often race sailboats, who sail with their anchor light on so they can see their windex.
I say this with some emphasis as we bump (not literally thank goodness, at least not yet) into poorly lit (ie do not see till way too close) or illegally lit boats at least once a year: each time it causes unnecessary anxiety. (And most are sailboats.)
I believe most quality manufacturers sell lens separately and swapping is a good opportunity to check the wiring for water intrusion and swapping the bulb for new putting the old (but good) in a spares box.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

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