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Author Topic:   Navigation Lamp Wiring
JohnKaloper posted 07-23-2012 02:43 PM ET (US)   Profile for JohnKaloper   Send Email to JohnKaloper  
I can't seem to get [the three-position switch that controls the navigation lamps] wired correctly. I have a 1994 Outrage 24 wired from the factory with a three-position NAV-OFF-ANCHOR switch. I have confirmed the switch is wired correctly. The problem I have is the original mast on the center console was gone when I got the boat. When I tried to wire a standard two-wire lamp all navigation lights were on in both positions. I have purchased a Hella three-wire lamp. Black wire is ground, white is aft and gray is forward. Per the USCG Regs, should this show 360 degree in both ANCHOR and NAV position? If so, how would it be wired?

Thanks for the help, John

wally910 posted 07-23-2012 04:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for wally910  Send Email to wally910     
The following answer assumes that the light affixed to your t top is the only white navigation light on your boat, and that the only other navigation lights equipped are your side lights.

Your boat should be set up utilizing what the Coast Guard refers to as an all round white light. It must be visible 360 degrees from a distance of 2 miles both underway and at anchor. The applicable rule is Nav Rule 23, found here:

The applicable words are "A power-driven vessel of less than 12 meters in length may in lieu of the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule exhibit an all-round white light and sidelights."

As for the switch, a good diagram can be found here.

If my assumption of your lighting setup is correct, I would ditch the three-wire lamp and go back to a two-wire lamp for the all round white light.

I don't really understand how you could have had the switch wired correctly if both the side lights and all round white light were illuminated in the anchor position of the switch. I may be misunderstanding what you are trying to communicate when you say "I have confirmed the switch is wired correctly."

JohnKaloper posted 07-23-2012 05:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for JohnKaloper  Send Email to JohnKaloper     
Thanks for the reply. I have confirmed the switch is wired correctly by using a test light. In the NAV switch position the blue wire with black tracer is hot and in the ANCHOR position the grey wire with white tracer is hot. I may need to go back to the two wire but it seems to me when I did that last time, all nav lights came on in both positions. Is this possible? When switched to anchor position is it possible to get hot back through all the nav lights and not just the white all-round light? Thanks
wally910 posted 07-23-2012 05:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for wally910  Send Email to wally910     
What [lamps are powered by] the blue wire with black tracer and gray wire with white tracer?

wally910 posted 07-23-2012 05:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for wally910  Send Email to wally910     
As to your question about the possibility of having power to both in both positions, it is possible if you are using an incorrect switch or the switch is wired incorrectly, but not otherwise.
JohnKaloper posted 07-24-2012 12:41 AM ET (US)     Profile for JohnKaloper  Send Email to JohnKaloper     
The blue wire is off the the NAV position of the switch and the gray is off the ANCHOR position. I'll go ahead and wire things up again and see what happens.

Thanks again

jimh posted 07-24-2012 08:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
If your boat has a three-position switch marked ANCHOR-OFF-NAV, it probably works as follows:

OFF--no current to any circuit branch
NAV--current to the circuit branch that feeds the running lights
ANCHOR--current to the anchor light

Since you describe only two wires for lighting loads as being connected to the switch, we assume the switch is a standard two-pole switch ON-OFF-ON. One pole is probably wired as to the sidelights, and this branch is powered only in the NAV position. The second pole is probably wired to a white all-round lamp, and this branch is jumpered at the switch so it is powered in both the NAV and ANCHOR position. This implies the boat has been set up with a simplified lighting scheme in which there are only two lamps: a combined sidelight lamp at the bow, and a white all-round lamp mounted one-meter higher and usually at the stern.

Based on your narrative, I do not think your boat us using the more complicated lighting scheme which consists of two sidelights, a masthead light, a stern light, and an anchor light. In such a scheme we often see that the lamp for the masthead light is combined with the lamp for the anchor light into a single fixture with two bulbs. The masthead lamp produced light that shows only in the forward facing sector, and the anchor lamp produces light in the aft facing sector of this special fixture. When only the forward sector is illuminated the lamp is a masthead light; when both sectors are illuminated the lamp is an anchor light. Such a lamp arrangement requires a specialized three-pole switch to control its operation. There would be three wires for lighting loads connected to such a switch: one for the sidelights and stern light, one for the masthead light, and one for the aft-facing segment of the dual-lamp fixture for the anchor light mode.

jimh posted 07-24-2012 08:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
It is very hard to describe electrical wiring in a narrative. Please make a sketch of the wiring and give us a link to the sketch so we can see what you are talking about. Or, take a photograph of the switch wiring.

Does your 1994 Boston Whaler OUTRAGE 24 have a sternlight?

JohnKaloper posted 07-24-2012 11:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for JohnKaloper  Send Email to JohnKaloper     

Yes, I do have a sternlight. My apologies, I may have lead you astray not mentioning that earlier. I do have the more complicated wiring scheme which consists of two sidelights, a masthead light, and a stern light. The issue I'm having is getting the masthead light to light 360 degree; meaning for and aft sectors of the lamp while in the anchor psoition. I'm confident the switch is wired correctly. I understand how to wire the masthead so that the forward facing sector lights in Nav position. What I am unclear on is how to wire the masthead so both forward and aft sectors light in Anchor position. Again, the masthead has three wires, forward lamp, aft lamp and ground wire. Can it be as easy as splicing the for and aft wires togther and attaching to the anchor position? Thanks

jimh posted 07-24-2012 12:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
To handle the more complex lighting arrangement, the controlling switch has to have three circuits to power. The circuits are:

--the sidelights and sternlight wired in parallel; call this circuit A

--the masthead forward light; call this circuit B

--the masthead aft light; call this circuit C

The three circuits have to be fed by three wires from the switch. The switch has to be arranged so that it operates as follows:

OFF = no current to any circuit

NAV = current to circuit A and B

ANCHOR = current to circuit B and C

I suggest you check with Boston Whaler customer service and inquire if they have a wiring diagram available for you.

Also, when you say "sternlight" I hope you mean an actual sternlight, that is, a light that shows only over a 135-degree arc from the stern.

Tom W Clark posted 07-24-2012 12:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
John -- You have the wrong switch. What you have now is a three position OFF - ON1 - ON 1&2

What you need is a three position OFF - ON 1/OFF 2 - OFF 1/ON 2. The Grey wire is wired to both the 1 & 2 terminals on the switch.

But may I ask, why do you want your navigation lights set up like this? With a T-top you could put a 360 degree light up there and get rid of the mastehad light AND the stern light and have less glare and simplified wired to boot.

Tom W Clark posted 07-24-2012 04:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
John -- I misspoke. The switch should have four terminals on the back to connect wires to. One terminal obviously is for the power source.

The remaining three terminals supply power to various lights that compose your navigation light system.

One terminal will be powered only when the switch is in position #1

Another terminal will be powered only when the switch is in position #2

The third terminal will be powered regardless of whether the switch is in position #1 or position #2.

The aft facing portion of the Masthead light will be connected to the terminal powered by position #1.

The bow lights and the 135 degree stern light will be connected to the terminal powered by position #2

The forward facing part of the masthead light will connected to the terminal that is powered in either switch position.

jimh posted 07-24-2012 10:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Tom says precisely the same thing I did, but uses all new terms to describe the circuit. This is a good example of how a narrative description of an electrical circuit can be difficult to understand. If I sketch the circuit--which I did in my REFERENCE article that shows the wiring in detail--and if Tom sketched his circuit, we would draw the same wiring.
JohnKaloper posted 07-25-2012 12:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for JohnKaloper  Send Email to JohnKaloper     
Jim and Tom,

Thanks for all the help. I spent a little time tonight working on the lights and seem to be on the right track. Thanks again, John

jimh posted 07-25-2012 09:06 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Typically the switch that can control the more complex lighting arrangement is not an off-the-shelf item. You could make such a switch yourself if you bought a triple-pole OFF-ON-ON switch, and then wired each pole as necessary to one of the three circuits. However, it is my understanding that a few specialty switches are made up that provide just the arrangement needed for this switch action without really being a triple pole generic OFF-ON-ON switch. The COLE-HERSEE M-532 is one such specialty switch.

To further complicate matters, sometimes the switch contains an illumination circuit for an internal lamp or LED. This can also cause confusion about the wiring.

A good idea when taking any electrical circuit apart for repairs is to make a detailed sketch of the wiring, or to take a digital image of the wiring. In this way when the time comes to reassemble the components you can be guided by the sketch or image. While in simple circuits one can often rely on memory or can deduce the wiring anew when installing a new component, having detailed notes and sketches is a good alternative plan.

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