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Thoughts on masthead strobe light?

Conachair

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Joined
24 Jan 2004
Messages
5,164
Location
London
At last a forum for single handers! Mast head strobe lights for ocean crossings? Worth fitting one? I know technically they are illegal and before I was of the opinion that they may actually attract vessels to you rather than the reverse but i was chatting with a container ships captain in a bar recently (also a single hander) and he said that schedules are so tight if he sees anything like that he might radio to see what´s going on but would generally steer clear, not enough time to hang about for a look. What do you think?

Cheers

padz - Conachair
http://www.yotblog.com/conachair/
 

FAITIRA

New member
Joined
22 Jan 2007
Messages
1,548
Location
France
I think his lack of responce to sighting a strobe would be unforgivable!
As to strobes on yachts, I am anti the idea as I once spent a long night in poor weather, going off my course in Biscay chasing a blxxxy strobe that turned out at dawn, not to be a liferaft but a yacht. Stick to the col regs.
 
Joined
20 Jul 2001
Messages
205
Location
Southampton, UK
Hi Paddy

This came up at the recent Petit Bateau conference. Strobes are very effective, and would certainly draw attention to a half-alseep watch keeper on his nice, snug bridge. It may even tempt him to reach out and touch a button to change course to avoid it!

But...they're banned under the race rules (but good Jester doesn't have any) as the (IRC?) committee felt that they could be confused with north cardinal buoys when near the shore. You could end up with a tanker using you as a turning mark!

Personally, I think they are a good idea when deep sea. I have had several 'situations of concern' in my travels, and carry a large torch in the cockpit which I use to light up the sail. For Jester, I'm also adding a yellow (or orange) panel to the top of the sail, and covering the masthead with reflective material. (This follows another single hander who flies an orange headsail, and has had several commercial vessels comment on how easy he was to see in poor conditions.)

It's always fascinating going onto a ships bridge - although these visits have been curtailed now due to terrorist threats.

I learned:

On high speed cats (Condor Vitesse) there are two lookouts on each wing, with binoculars, at all times when underway. (It cruises at 40+ knots) This is despite the craft having two radars working on two different wave lengths.

Boats vanish into wave clutter very easily, especially to the elevated radar on large ferries. Motorboats are especially vulnerable to this. The ferries tend to pick up light aircraft very easily, but in anything over a force 5, yachts virtually dissappear.

Fast ferries like yachts to hold their course unless a collision situation is obvious. I saw this happen for real. The ferry had plotted the yacht (also spotted by eye) and computed its nearest point of approach. Everything was fine until the yacht panicked, and then changed course, which threw all the sums out and could have created a problem.

My philosophy is to assume I'm invisible - especially at night - and trust no-one! We've had a discussion on radar detectors already on this forum, but I intend to take a closer look at them too.

All the best
 

Pye_End

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Joined
5 Feb 2006
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4,375
Location
N Kent Coast
On a slightly different note, and one I have raised before, do you know of any comments (particularly by ships) regarding the use of tan sails to improve visibility during the day?
 

purplerobbie

Active member
Joined
20 Jan 2007
Messages
1,437
Location
ked Away
[ QUOTE ]
At last a forum for single handers! Mast head strobe lights for ocean crossings? Worth fitting one? I know technically they are illegal and before I was of the opinion that they may actually attract vessels to you rather than the reverse but i was chatting with a container ships captain in a bar recently (also a single hander) and he said that schedules are so tight if he sees anything like that he might radio to see what´s going on but would generally steer clear, not enough time to hang about for a look. What do you think?

Cheers

padz - Conachair


[/ QUOTE ]

I was told that you cant tell the distance of a strobe at night?
Any thoughts?
Rob
 
G

Guest

Guest
[ QUOTE ]
Mast head strobe lights for ocean crossings? Worth fitting one? I know technically they are illegal


[/ QUOTE ]

Who says ?

"COLREGS (36) Signals to Attract Attention" reads: " If necessary to attract the attention of another vessel any vessel may make light or sound signals that cannot be mistaken for any signal authorized elsewhere in these Rules [.....]
Any light to attract the attention of another vessel shall be such that it cannot be mistaken for any aid to navigation. For the purpose of this Rule the use of high intensity intermittant or revolving lights, such as strobe lights, shall be avoided. "

"Avoided" ain't the same as prohibited, or illegal.

Sure - in order to comply with the spirit of COLREGS, it would be wise to only use such a strobe off-soundings - but I seem to remember Ellen McArthur flying a powerful masthead strobe as she closed Ushant at the end of her round-the-world jolly, and not one word of complaint was voiced then ....

There is a perfectly legal alternative, but you'd have to make it yourself: if you rob the electronics from a caravan fluorescent tube, and use that 12v module to drive a folded fluorescent tube robbed from a mains 'energy-saver' light bulb, you've effectively created an all-round masthead bright-white, which can be seen at a far greater distance than tungsten-wire bulbs. Some skippers have reported that such masthead lights can even be seen before a yacht is picked up on radar. Expect such a lamp to draw about 0.5A.

Colin
 
G

Guest

Guest
Just discovered that you can buy ready-made 12v compact fluorescent lamps:
http://www.unlimited-power.co.uk/low-voltage-lights-12v-dc-CFL.html

Price - around a tenner + VAT and post. Cheaper in the States (of course).

In case anyone needs further convincing: output for Incandescent lamps is around 10-12 Lumens/Watt,
Tungsten-halogen around 17-19 Lumens/Watt, whereas
Compact fluorescents are rated at 50-80 Lumens/Watt.

Colin
 
Joined
20 Jul 2001
Messages
205
Location
Southampton, UK
Hi Pye-end.

Nope - no feedback on tan sails as easier to spot (yet) but have some contacts to ask.

Incidentally, the diving fraternity will tell you that flourescent yellow - rather than orange - is the most visible colour to use for a daylight marker.

Also, so I'm not tempted to shut down lights to save power when I appear to have the ocean to myself at night, I'm going to fit low-consumption LEDs on a big, mother-of-all masthead tricolours.
 

roly_voya

New member
Joined
5 Feb 2004
Messages
1,050
Location
Pembrokeshire Wales
There was a recent article (either YM or PBO) decribing how a skipper adjusted their course on spotting a cardinal bouy that put then too far east only to get nearly run down by a large cat using a masthead strobe. Not only did this nearly lead to a collision it could have put the boat on the banks (their initial course was right and the change stood them into danger). I know the idea is to use them deep sea away from other nav aids but clearly someone didn't follow this rule

Moral - be very very carful, using strobes could cause loss of life as well as saving you from a collision and incidentaly if it did, because you a in breach of col regs, you could also find yourself up on manslaughter charges
 
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