Sunday, December 14, 2014

Some sound thinking from John Vigor.

I have often wondered about the usefulness of a mast head light for the very reasons John expounds on so well..

Best place for an anchor light

ALMOST EVERY CRUISING SAILBOAT I see has an anchor light perched on top of the mast. What a silly place for an anchor light. What’s wrong with sailboat designers and builders? Have they never crept into a crowded anchorage late at night and nearly run into some yacht whose anchor light is hidden among the stars high overhead, instead of down low at eye level where you can see it?

There is nothing in the rules that says an anchor light must be the highest thing on a yacht. Rule 30 (b) of the international navigation rules says a vessel of less than 50 meters in length may exhibit an all-round white light “where it can best be seen.”

It used to be the fashion in the last century to run an anchor light about one-third of the way up the forestay, and often that light was a kerosene lantern (which is still legal, incidentally). But for some reason boat designers took it upon themselves to place a electric anchor lights atop the mast, about as far away from the battery as it’s possible to get. That meant extra-heavy copper cables running back and forth, cables that slapped against the interior of an aluminum mast at night when you were trying to sleep.  The cables were heavier because it was necessary to avoid the voltage drop occasioned by the long electrical circuit.

My anchor lights have always been suspended over the aft cockpit, slung beneath the boom. This is a more sensible height for the light — right where the eyes of a helmsman approaching at night would be focused. Some of the light splashes over the cockpit coamings and the adjacent cabin top, too, which is useful and also enables you to check on the anchor light from down below.

I don’t know of any official statistics that prove a low anchor light prevents more collisions that an anchor light set on top of the mast, but I can offer the circumstantial evidence that I have anchored in scores of busy places and never been hit. You may say that’s obviously because there’s someone up there looking out for me; but I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that. I don’t think I’ve been good enough to deserve special favors from above.

With thanks to John Vigor a man who knows his own mind!

Saturday, December 13, 2014