Where to Mount Nav Lights

Hello All - I am redoing nav light on Calypso, having previously had Aqua Signal 25 Series lights, stern light on the gallows, port/sb lights on sideboards lashed to the shrouds (nothing as nice as Rod’s). This time around, I am debating doing just a masthead tricolor. The purists among you will cite nav rules saying this is verbotten when under power… My punch list:

  1. lights must be visible - i.e. i don’t want the genoa obscuring the leward light when healed.

  2. lights must not snag sheets - i’ve had bad experiences mounting lights on the the fwd dog house

  3. lights must not get waterlogged - i’m not keen on mounting them on the bulwarks or hull at the bow

which leads me to my current favor - single masthead fixture. The upside is that it meets my criteria and only requires a single wiring run. the downside is that its not fully compliant when under power and is yet another external run of wire on my wood stick (vhf being the other).

any recommendation? words of wisdom?

many thanks,

Mine is mounted on the end of the bowsprit pulpit, and I have no experience with this set up in real life, but it is definitely out of the way of sheets and fully vizible :wink: However, the long wire run under the sprit and the potential for dunking could be a problem.


For the tricolor, I would use an Aqua Signal 40 fitted with a Dr LED tricolor bulb. The combination light fixture and bulb is CG approved.


When we purchased IDUNA she was fitted with a Tricolor light, steaming light and anchor light. She had no running lights (side lights) nor a stern light. IDUNA was cruised for about 6 years with this arrangement by the second owners. The third owner did not change the lighting and he owned her for 7 years, nor did the forth owner. I tend to over think “stuff,” hence she is fitted with all the appropriate lighting.

I believe the only time lighting becomes a legal issue is if another boat collides with you.

If you fit Calypso with side lights, the anchor light may serve as your 360 degree white light as is the case with most powerboats.



Oh I would add that I despise “sailors” who don’t know the rules regarding lights or don’t follow them. At night beating to weather in a storm there is nothing worse than having to give someone the right of way because of the lights they are dipslaying, only to pass astern of them and hear their engine running.

In my opinion it would be foolish to not have proper running lights. My opinion is strong in this issue. The lights are there for a reason, not decoration.


I, too, agree that boats should show the correct lights. It’s the only method we have to discern what others are doing at night!

You may want to consider some of the new, inexpensive LED lighting options. Aqua Signal makes lights for <$45 each that are fully sealed in epoxy and completely waterproof. In addition, they are very low in profile and could very likely be mounted on your coach sides. The lights on my W32 are on the end of my bowsprit. If you have to buy new light housings and all, it makes more sense to use a purpose-made LED unit rather than buying and converting an incandescent fixture.

Aaron N.

I think we need all the help we can get when it comes to being seen at night by other vessels (most of which are a LOT bigger than we are!). That means that a masthead tricolor is much more effective than deck-mounted lights in seas of 3’ or more. Our motoring lights are Perkos mounted on the forehatch sides (by SLM), and I use them if other boats are near and the water is flat. I’m always amazed that they haven’t corroded away after 28 yrs and a lot of spray, but they still work. The sideboards on the shrouds is a better position that the forehatch side (and up on the bow pulpit is probably the driest place of all).

Go for the masthead tricolor, and keep the Aqua Signal series 20s on the side boards, for motoring! The Dr LED bulbs that replace the vertical filament series 40 bulbs sound great, and I plan to convert one of these days.

Oh , I need that info from Aaron , and Rod , too !

Sorry that I am at fault, but my need is particular, and I don’t plan to change !

On Calliste I have an Aqua Signal 40 series bi-color mounted on the bow pulpit, then an Aqua Signal all around stern light on the boom gallows.

Also I have a mast head tri color, strobe, and anchor light combo, way up there, but have modified the strobe a bit, because of necessity !

There is reason for my madness , it works for me, that is my bottom line !

First I reasoned that my normal mast head tri color was recognisable at least 2 miles, that to save night time navigation 12V power, I had to rely on this light !

I had trouble using this mast head tri-color, it seemed to me, that the inter-island small supply ships were using my tri-color to home in on, and targeted my lights as a nav bouy to their destination, because we were obviously going to that same destination, in the same direction.

I hatched a plan, (Hope, this doesn’t get me busted ) , I knew that my strobe was vissable for 10 miles, my nav lights only vissable for 2 miles , my thinking was like aircraft nav lights, are now “Strobe Lit” , so why couldn’t I do the same ?

I wraped a green and red lense around my strobe clear lense, and left the aft white lense open, Pls let me jump to the result ,

As L&L would say, “It worked A Treat”, when I saw a ship inbound and plotted it inbound, I would turn on my 10 mile vissable tri-color strobe light, then actively watch the inbound ships on my radar, turn away and give me room, like they thought me a fishing vessel with nets to protect.

As a single hander, I needed all the help and safety, that I could get, as I didn’t want to run into anybody, and I didn’t want to get run over, either.

Turning on this strobe tri-color is only used for collision avoidance, on my boat, but it also reduces collision potential, from overactive pilots, hoping for a peek, at an unknown vessel, while at sea, in low vissability conditions.

I have discovered that it takes two vessels not on watch, to have a collision at sea, do you have a different story ?



Ben wrote, “Oh I would add that I despise ‘sailors’ who don’t know the rules regarding lights or don’t follow them. At night beating to weather in a storm there is nothing worse than having to give someone the right of way because of the lights they are displaying, only to pass astern of them and hear their engine running.”

I agree with Ben. When I wrote,“I believe the only time lighting becomes a legal issue is if another boat collides with you.” I implied it’s OK to not display proper lighting. This was not my intent.

When I was working as a deckhand on a 240 ft four-decked commercial vessel, we delivered Max I to Baltimore from Perth Amboy, NJ. The coastline along the Atlantic Seaboard is busy with shipping, fishing vessels, as well as pleasure craft. We were running at 11 kt with our 6 mile radar and 12 mile radar ON. It was a dark night with an overcast sky. There was a radar target to starboard but running without lights and for a period of time on a converging course with our vessel. I saw the silhouette of its mast once against the loom of the coastal lights. Besides this boat, there were other boats, barges and ships in the area. This “ghost” boat diverted more of the starboard lookout’s time until it was astern of us. There was a certain amount of anxiety on the bridge until this target was astern of us. The 1st mates description of the “ghost” boat’s captain will not be quoted.

Ben has a 1st mate’s ticket and has sailed the waters along the Eastern Seaboard on training/school schooners. He has seen his share of boats and vessel not following the COLREGs. I have deep respect for Ben’s knowledge of the sea and must agree with him that proper lighting is paramount to the safety of the souls aboard your vessel and other vessels.

If you are interested, I will build you two lantern boards fitted with Orca Green port and starboard LED running lights in exchange for your SABB bilge pump. My choice of wood is quarter sawed Douglas fir. The lanterns boards will be painted as follows: Petitt sandtone on the side facing the decks and red on the lantern side for port and green for starboard. If you prefer, I can paint the lantern side flat black. Unless you have an immediate need, I can delivery these late July of this year.

Fair Winds,


Hello All,

well this thread certainly solicited some emotional responses. My intention is to achieve the safest and most practical solution. I don’t intend to run without lights (eek!); and I give way to commercial traffic even if I do technically have right of way. I’m a big believer in the law of gross tonnage :wink: and believe I’m more often than not likely to go unseen no matter what light configuration I’m showing. So, I believe:

  1. when sailing: tricolor is the safest option

  2. when motoring: I’m not convinced discrete lights are truly safer that masthead tricolor. I think the masthead light is less likely to be obscured (either by something on the boat or by wave - we are a low lying hull after all). Yet for close-in situations between pleasure boats, the discrete lights are at eye-level, whereas the masthead tricolor might get missed - particularly if the encounter occurs where there are shoreline lights etc.

  3. when motorsailing: tricolor is the safest option. A healed sailboat flying a gib can too easily obscure its leward light (if mounted aft of the gib). And I’m a good sport - I give way when motorsailing…

My boat does not have a bow pulpit… so mounting a bicolor on the tip of the bowsprit is not in the cards.

I’m not swayed so far - I’m favoring Rod’s Aqua Signal 40 clear lense with a tricolor LED mounted in it. That buys me a reliable light (no single filament) and a small gauge line needed to run up the mast to feed it. I’m liking this solution.