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The Importance of Boat Lighting While at Anchor

April 25, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 181

As important as it is for boaters to maintain safety at all times while underway, many often make the mistake of assuming that when the actual trip us over and the boat has reached its destination and is anchored, the level of safety required is reduced. This is a mistaken assumption however, because although a vessel may no longer be underway, nearby boat traffic still remains as much a hazard while anchored as during travel. Particularly at night when visibility is greatly reduced or even nonexistent, the danger of collision is still very much present even while anchored in what may seem a safe location well removed from the normal lanes of traffic. While most boaters understand that the need for navigation lights during nighttime cruising is based mostly in making your vessel visible to other boaters to avoid collision for example, even though you may be anchored, other boaters still need to be able to easily identify your vessel as they continue to be underway.

Rules of navigation do not require an anchored vessel to display running lights. However, they do require that some sort of all around light be displayed. In fact, since the vessel will be at rest on open water, the premise behind this light is to mark the vessel so other watercraft and identify it as being at anchor.

Regardless of whether your vessel is a motorboat or sailboat, The International Regulations for the Prevention of Collision at Sea "COLREGS" detail the lights and markings that are required for a vessel while at anchor and apply to all vessels at sea. While these rules do not distinguish between motorized or wind powered vessels and apply equally, they do differentiate vessels by size categories. These categories are, vessels under 7 meters, vessels from 7 meters to under 50 meters, vessels from 50 meters to under 100 meters, and vessels over 100 meters.

Boats that are smaller than seven meters (21 feet) aren't required to have any special navigation lighting or anchor lighting while anchored as long as they are not within the normal lanes of traffic or where other vessels are normally anchored. While anchored within the normal anchorage of other vessels or near normal lanes of traffic however, these craft must display the same lighting as vessels that are less than 50 meters in length. Boats this size normally represent small dinghies, fishing boats, inflatable craft and the like that usually are not taken into open water or around areas where larger boats frequently travel.

Boats 7 meters to 50 meters while anchored are required to display an all around light where it will most easily visible for the greatest distance. These anchor or masthead lights are usually located at the highest point of the vessel for the greatest long range visibility. When positioning an anchor or masthead light, it needs to be visible for 360 degrees. Additionally, care must be taken to make sure that other items such as radar or rigging do not obstruct any of the field of visibility. These lights are required to be solid white in color and in most cases visible for at least three nautical miles.

For vessels that are over 50 meters in length but less than 100 meters things are a little different. These vessels, while anchored, need to display a white all around light near the bow and another all around light near the stern. Also, the stern all around light needs to be lower than the bow light, and both need to be visible over a 360 degree range. With the stern light lower than the bow light, other vessels with be able to identify the vessels orientation relative to themselves. As with other all around lights, they cannot be obstructed by other objects over any point of their visibility range.

Very large vessels, which make up mostly commercial vessels have greater requirements for anchor illumination. For vessels over 100 meters long, while anchored they must display a white all around light at the bow and stern as well as working, navigation or other lights that will illuminate the decks of the ship as well. Because of their greater size and height, a higher degree of illumination is necessary as two simple all around lights on such a large vessel are easier to misidentify as stars or other shore lights on the horizon.

Some other considerations for making your boat safer while at anchor include not only making sure you have a white all around light visible, but that you ONLY have the lights burning that are required. While some may think that turning on their red and green navigation lights as well as their anchor light may make their vessel more easily visible, this can cause confusion for other skippers as they may mistakenly think your vessel is under way when it is not. Additionally, strobing and flashing anchor lights are not in conformance with regulations for anchor lighting, and in most instances are only for emergency applications for signaling or signifying distress.

Many boaters avoid leaving an anchor light on for prolonged periods of anchorage simple because of power concerns. This used to be a valid problem as an anchor light bright enough to be visible even under poor conditions often is capable of draining a significant amount of a boats power reserves. However, newer LED boat lights offer the ability to produce strong 360 degree illumination while consuming far less power. In fact, most LEDs suitable for masthead or anchor lighting on boats between 7 and 50 meters in length will require less than 2 amps of power, making them quite capable of being operated an entire night without severely depleting electrical stores.

Regardless of your vessels size, any time you are away from the dock and at anchor, you must take into account that even though you may not be in actual lanes of travel, the chance of collision still exists. International regulations require some form of anchor lighting for any vessel over 7 meters in length, and as well as complying with regulations, running a masthead or anchor light helps to not only ensure your own safety, but that of others on the waters around your anchored craft as well.

For information on LED boat lights please visit MagnaLight.com

Source: EzineArticles
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