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  • #3769
    PotteM
    Member

    Greetings all,

    Does anyone have thoughts on the use of mast head lights when at sea/ anchor after dark. I often sail long passages but find myself restricted by daylight, any ideas or advice on the best products and way to rig and power a mast head light would be most appreciated.

    Regards.

    #7119
    Bob Harland
    Participant

    We have done a few night passages, with mixed success as far as lights go;

    The first setup I tried I had custom made by the engineering dept at my work. It consisted of a 10mm id stainless tube and a bracket mounting 2 bicycle led front lights. This was then pulled up the mast on the burgee halyard. So as the sunset we had a ceremonial lowering of the burgee and raising of the lights.
    The main weight aloft was from the 4 AA batteries, which I thought was quite acceptable. And it does avoid drilling holes and any permanent fixings on the mast.
    This worked ok, and there was plenty of battery life for a night. However the light from the leds was a bit limited. This was about 15 yrs ago, and I think modern led lights would be a lot brighter.
    We used this on our first night passage which was on the Isle of Wight Rally/cruise/(race). That was something of a baptism of fire; Crossing Freshwater Bay as the night gloom engulfed us, we just managed to round the corner before the tide would have sent us back to St Catherines. Passing the Needles in almost pitch dark, we then hurtled at some speed on a dead run into the overfalls. A little later we narrowly avoided a large Admiralty mooring buoy. The wind was probably no more than F4/5, but with full sail we found it very difficult steering a straight course, (no compass light). After a while we bumped (literally) into Calshot having passed rather closer to Lymington than we should have done.

    The second setup was similar but with a conventional torch that gave an all round light. Powered by 4 AA batteries it gave a much better light and for the same weight. I tested it out on the drive at home and it worked a treat…..
    However, as a test that proved inadequate. As we left Southwold harbour at Midnight a few days later bound for Den Helder the light gave up. That was a bit of an inconvenience as the trip took 32hrs with a second night crossing the North Sea without a proper light.
    I later found the problem was that the clips holding the batteries were not secure enough so as the mast swung to and fro the electrical connections on the batteries failed and out went the light.
    The other boat that was sailing with us had a more robust setup. A fixed conventional light at the masthead, a cable running inside the mast to a small car battery in the boat. They were still able to see us due to our bright compass light! And we of course had no trouble seeing them.

    You don’t mention compass lights, but I think they are just as important. We now use a Silva 70UNE, but before that had a terrific Suunto 95 with a bright red led powered by a 9 volt battery.

    #7120
    PotteM
    Member

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks very much for your response, sounds like a fixed masthead, cable and battery is the best option. Your comments on the compass are much appreciated.

    I love the run from the Needles down through the Solent, especially in those conditions, I’ve yet to attempt it in the dark! Maybe next season when I’ve had chance to complete my set up. Possibly aided by GPS!

    Thanks for the sound advice,
    Mark.

    #7130
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I had an allround light fitted to the top of my mast,powered by a leisure battery strapped to the floor boards with a lit silva compass fitted below the goose neck.As I had had the electrics fitted I added a bilge pump as well, the pump was on one switch and the compass and light on another( the switches are isolater type, with a key. The system worked well for odd night passages around the coast and when Dave Maynard and I sailed to Den Helder. The light was a “Pepper Pot” type. Hope this helps.
    Simon

    #7135
    Bob Harland
    Participant

    Simon, with all Dave Maynard’s electronics in the boat I’m surprised you did not need a generator!
    Although a battery in the boat gives you a decent power source it’s yet another piece of gear in the boat.

    Just wondering if you checked for any compass deviation?
    How close was the battery to the compass?

    There’s a nice story in one of Pat Dollard’s logs coming back across the channel. After a long downwind sail, when they closed the coast they found themselves several miles off course. The culprit was found to be a steel stove stowed in the different position that had given a few degrees of deviation of the compass.

    #7137
    W10143
    Member

    Bob

    That is Sooo unfair!

    All my electronics are now self sustaining and together weigh about as much as your boom crutch!

    On topic however, Force4 Chandlery have in their Summer catalogue a battery powered LED all round light which may bear further investigation; although it’s not yet made their website.

    David

    #7138
    Bob Harland
    Participant
    #7140
    W10143
    Member

    Bob

    This plastimo navilight all round white LED one looks interesting;

    I’m sure it’s the same one – same price as well!!

    David

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