Do-It-Yourself: Seeing Neon Blue

A deck-level blue light increases visibility at anchor.

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China-made blue light with a 12-volt plug

There are simply too many white lights in and around a municipal anchorage. A required white anchor light must have 360-degree visibility. But a white light at the tip of a mast can get lost in the stars or a background of city lights, making it a poor marker for a sailboat 60 feet below. Also, a light in the sky is not in the normal plane of view of other small vessels maneuvering in an anchorage. An additional white light on a stern arch is a better marker, but it also can become camouflaged by city lights onshore and will be obscured, by a small degree, by the mast. But Inland and International Rules state in part no other lights shall be exhibited, except such lights as cannot be mistaken for the lights specified in the Rules, which makes the growing use of LED flashing blue or white lights and non-flashing red, green, and pink lights illegal to use as anchor or on-deck lights. Such lights are easily confused for lighted buoys, channel markers, lighthouses, or police boats.

An anchored boatowner who takes his safety and sleep seriously may consider adding a fluorescent, non-flashing blue light just above deck level, perhaps suspending it from the boom or in the foretriangle.

Many versions are sold, but the one we use is the ubiquitous, China-made plastic tube of neon with a 12-volt cigarette lighter plug at the end. These draw 0.2 amps and can be purchased at automotive stores for around $10. There are a variety of lengths to choose from, but a 10-inch tube is plenty bright. The radiance may not light up an anchored sailboat like a cruise ship, but it certainly makes a sailboat a distinctive mark in a congested anchorage.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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