Anchor light survey
The last few days I have been having a bit of fun on our Facebook page by conducting a few little surveys. I mentioned the one yesterday about tools. The most recent two have related to anchor lights. I first asked “when at anchor (or on a mooring ball) do you illuminate a proper anchor light each night, either at the masthead or in the fore-triangle?” As you might imagine, most people responded in the affirmative with many stating that they also leave additional solar lights on around the deck. That’s good news. A few points came up though.
- A few people mentioned that they do not turn their anchor lights on when in a “marked anchorage.” This, I fear, is a mistake made by some, confusing a normal anchorage with what the COLREGS refer to as a “special anchorage.” Yes, it’s true, COLREGS say that you are not required to run an anchor light in such a spot (source) but these “special anchorages” are not all that common. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve never been in one. The little anchor symbol on a nautical chart does not represent such a place. Now, all that said, even if you were in such a place, why wouldn’t you turn on your anchor light anyway? Just do it!
- Some people said that while they do run their anchor light when anchored, they do not when on a mooring. How could it possibly make a difference whether your boat was held fast to an anchor that you brought with you or to one that someone had left in the seabed some time before? It doesn’t! Turn your light on!
- One person mentioned a strobe light. Unless you want to be the most hated person in the anchorage, do not turn on a strobe light! Seriously, don’t do this!
- Solar lights around the deck do not take the place of a proper bright anchor light. According to the COLREGS, an anchor light (all around white light) must be visible from a distance of 5 miles. If you’re concerned about power draw, as most boaters are, replace the incandescent bulb in your old anchor light with one of the new bright LED bulbs. We just did that and in addition to it being super bright, it also draws about 1/10th of the power that the old bulb did.
- There are some who say that a bright light in the foretriangle of the boat is more easily seen from the water than the masthead light. I can’t disagree with that. We actually have a secondary proper LED anchor light that is portable and when in areas with a high amount of traffic, I rig it in the foretriangle.
Anchored Vessels and Vessels Aground
(a) A vessel at anchor shall exhibit where it can best be seen:
(i) in the fore part, an all-round white light or one ball;
(ii) at or near the stern and at a lower level than the light prescribed in subparagraph (i), an all-round white light.
(b) A vessel of less than 50 meters in length may exhibit an all-round white light where it can best be seen instead of the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule.
(c) A vessel at anchor may, and a vessel of 100 meters and more in length shall, also use the available working or equivalent lights to illuminate her decks.
(d) A vessel aground shall exhibit the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) or (b) of this Rule and in addition, where they can best be seen;
(i) two all-round red lights in a vertical line;
(ii) three balls in a vertical line.
(e) A vessel of less than 7 meters in length, when at anchor not in or near a narrow channel, fairway or where other vessels normally navigate, shall not be required to exhibit the shape prescribed in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this Rule.
(f) A vessel of less than 12 meters in length, when aground, shall not be required to exhibit the lights or shapes prescribed in subparagraphs (d)(i) and (ii) of this Rule. Source
The second related survey asked a similar question “when at anchor (or on a mooring ball) do you rig the appropriate day shape on your boat?”
Our anchor ball rigged between the spinnaker halyard and a cleat on the bow.
Not surprisingly to me, most people said no, they do not. I say not surprisingly because I can look around the anchorage and do a quick survey on this. Typically not more than 10% of the boats we come in contact with rig an anchor ball. We do though, and here’s why… I don’t trust insurance companies. Perhaps I’m wrong but my thought is that if someone were to broadside us in the middle of the day, our insurance company could turn around and deny a claim based upon the fact that we were not following the COLREGS which do state that you must rig a single black ball in the foretriangle when at anchor. Is this likely to happen? No, but neither is it a lot of work for me to put the ball up. In fact, I, like most sailors, tend to run the unused halyards out away from the mast when at anchor so that they don’t bang on the mast. When I do this, instead of connecting our spinnaker halyard directly to the boat, I connect it to the anchor ball and attach that to the boat. No biggie.