Rob Squire, Head-Over-Heels, #96
Those old running lights are pretty wimpy for visibility. If you really like the look, put them in, but don't connect them. Running lights at the masthead are only legal for sailing. If you are motoring, you must use a deck level light system, however you can use an all around white at the mast head for a combination stern/steaming light.
This goes back a ways, but I was motoring across the bay about midnight and thought I saw a nav light nearby. Lost in the backdrop of the city was a sailboat with lights of the same vintage as the Triton light. It was nearly not visible in the abundant light of the bay area.
At that time I was running Aqua Signal series 25 lights. They are better than the stock Triton light, but I felt a little small even though they were placed on the pulpits. Another aspect of the series 25 light was that bulb replacement required a small screwdriver and the removal of two small screws to pull the covers. No doubt about my ability to drop those in the water!!!!
I upgraded to series 40 lights with 25 watt bulbs for motoring and a 10 watt tricolor for sailing. These lights are very visible and the bulbs are easy to change.
A.J. Matthews, Ay Mon, #605
As a former Coast Guard Investigating Officer for Marine Casualties, I must state that any departure from the rules will spell trouble should you become involved in a collision or other incident while underway. When you install or maintain your lights, make sure they meet the specifications as outlined in COMDTINST M16672.2E (Navigation Rules). That said, if the lights are original equipment at the time of manufacture, then they are considered to be in compliance on an un-inspected vessel.
I do agree with having a back-up plan for lighting. I personally have a Aquameter Tri-color/Anchor light at the top of my mast. I like burning one bulb as opposed to three (power consumption) and I have installed a three-position switch in the stock panel to make my choice.
For additional back-up, I carry a set of those D-cell battery navigation lights. Even if I have a total power failure, I can rig these lights even with a roll of 100 MPH Tape (Duct tape) and keep going. For my anchor light, I use a Guest 6-volt lantern with a daylight switch. Talk about idiot proof! The only negative is that by hanging it in the rigging it obscures a portion of the light that is in font of or behind the mast. That said, this area is very small and nearly un-noticeable from a distance of 100-yards or greater.
As a Chief Boatswain's Mate, the one thing that drives me nuts when I am underway is looking at improperly configured lights. Many of the Skippers at my club even try of justify their use of their anchor lights to illuminate their Windex at night. Now if that vessel were to collide with another properly configured vessel during a race, guess who is going to loose the protest and get the repair bill?
I am reading backwards today....A bit of clarification concerning lights:
A Steaming Light is a Masthead Light. In other words, the Masthead is the Front of the mast as opposed to the Top of the mast. I know, it can be confusing (see Rule 21). The arc of light is 225 degrees (112.5 degrees on either side of the centerline.
The stern light produces an arc of 135 degrees. If you do the math, 135 + 225 = 360. See?
Bow lights are really Side lights. You can only put them on the Bow for vessels less than 20 meters. Their arc of visibility are 112.5 degrees for each color (i wonder where I saw that before).
For our boats, our Masthead/Steaming lights must be visible from a distance of at least 2-miles, while our side lights must be visible from a distance of 1-mile. The Aquasignal Tricolor light (which is an optional light) beats all of that, especially if you go to the 40-Series.