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Author Topic:   Navigation Lights and Trolling Motor
Steve M posted 12-04-2005 09:09 AM ET (US)   Profile for Steve M   Send Email to Steve M  
Since buying my 2003 220 Dauntless, I have not been shy about coming to this site for advice. I am thinking about changing my red/green navigation light setup to make it safer and more visible, and I would appreciate some opinions and comments. I have been thinking about this for a while, but what happened yesterday has pushed me closer to action.

Yesterday, the high temperature for the DFW area was around 88 degrees, so it was nice day to go boating. Neither that this was a record for that date, nor that as I write this morning, it is 37 deg F out, would be surprising to you if you lived in this area and were aware of how dry it has been this year. (Unfortunately, the lake levels are significantly low as well) I was out fishing on a local lake at about 6:30 at night, and was repositioning to another area at about 10 MPH. It was dark, moonless, and I had the factory navigation lights operational. A boat cut across my bow from the port side at high speed, far too close for my comfort, and I essentially had to turn into him, so that we passed starboard to starboard. I saw his navigation lights quite clearly, and I new I had to react. I am not so sure he saw my lights clearly, and here is why:

My boat came with a factory installed sun top, and the fishing package. I note this because these options effected what style of navigation lights were installed/equipped with the boat. The sun top option resulted in a foldable, removable, 86" stern light / all around light pole that for the most part I am pleased with. The fishing package resulted in a short (~ 1 foot) removable red green light pole, which mounts in a socket located in the center of the bow. As an extra feature, it has a push button on the top of it that turns on and off a small white light that shines downward onto the front deck area. (Unfortunately there appears to only be power for this light when the navigation lights are on). The idea is that the light is removable, and can avoid being in your way if your fishing from the bow. Similarly, it is on some sort of pole, ostensibly to allow it to peak above the trolling motor. I have a white riptide trolling motor mounted on the left side of the bow. When the trolling motor is in the stowed position, a fair amount of white motor is sitting to the left of and slightly below the port navigation light. This is a very good reflector. Consequently the motor is awash in a fair amount of red light. The worse view is looking at the starboard side from afar, where the green light is visible, but surrounded by the red backwash from the trolling motor.

I think these are my options: The first option is easy, but to me is less elegant. Get a longer light navigation light pole. Either get an extension for the existing one, or buy a new longer one (if available), or rework the existing one with a new pole and wiring (make my own). This would raise the light above the trolling motor, in theory enough to eliminate reflections.

The second option, which is currently my preferred choice, is to retrofit my boat with one of the other factory light options that were available. Believe it or not, Whaler had three options of navigation lights available for the 220 dauntless, depending upon which options you had installed. There was the pole version that came with the fishing package. Secondly, there was the standard light option that essentially was a single light mounted in the same location that the socket for the pole light is located. And then there was the third option, which is the one that intrigues me. If you had gotten anchor roller option, the navigation lights were split into two, and mounted just forward of the two bow cleats. A good reference, for the location is on the “harness layout” drawing located on the website. I am thinking of retrofitting my boat with these two lights. In this configuration my trolling motor would be located completely inboard of both lights, eliminating reflection. My trolling motor (nay, I would venture all trolling motors) does not come near this area. It is so close to the cleat, that I am sure it is not anymore of a tripping hazard than stepping into the cleat area would be. From my experience with putting in a stereo, I believe the wiring was run, and is sitting in the general area waiting to be fished out, but I would have to check into this further. In my opinion, this should be the fishing package navigation light option.

So what do you think? Note, stowing the trolling motor elsewhere, not fishing at night, selling my boat to you, etc., are not the kinds of suggestions I am looking for….

bsmotril posted 12-04-2005 03:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for bsmotril  Send Email to bsmotril     
I've seen some nice Perko sidelights that are two separate lights. A good mounting location I see on a lot of similary equipped saltwater bay boats is on either side of the console, just below the windshield at the front corners. Simplifies wiring too, since everything is inside the console.
Buckda posted 12-05-2005 05:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
Steve -

I am preferential to the split/side light option that you detail above, however, I don't think I'm convinced that your recent unfortunate close encounter of the marine kind had to do with your visibility as much as it probably had to do with operator error on the other boat.

That said, the current setup you have sounds rather "mickey mouse" to me, and it's unfortunate that it appears on a Whaler. In my experience, "plug and play" lighting options nearly universally have had connection corrosion problems and resulted in trouble getting the bulb to illuminate, etc. over time.

Please also excuse me a little, since this topic is one of my frustrations with current and past lighting options on nearly all small craft. I believe it has something to do with the thought at the executive levels that not many small craft operators run their boats at night, but for a few times a year. For the most part, they may be right...but for fishermen, they should know better. These guys run early, before light, and late, after sunset to get to and from the fish.

The permanently mounted sidelamp option will be a great improvement over the current "plug and play" arrangement you currently have from a functionality perspective....however, moving lamps aft on a boat give the appearance, when in complete darkness, that the craft is smaller than it actually is. (in the case you detail above, it may have led him to cut even closer to your boat than he already did).

There is really no excuse for how close he came, since your cockpit was probably also bathed in light from the 360 degree stern lamp, and you should have been very visible.

That said, there were times this summer when I illuminated my aft-facing spreader lights on the arch to telegraph without any room for interpretation my location to oncoming boat traffic that appeared to be infringing on my nighttime "safety halo." This is pretty effective, but it ruins your night vision. In a pinch and to avoid a collision, it's worth it.


Steve M posted 12-10-2005 05:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for Steve M  Send Email to Steve M     
Thanks for the feedback. Putting the lights on the console is an interesting approach I had not considered.

After talking to Boston Whaler and doing some research on the internet, I have had a change in heart about my preferred approach. Initially I was leaning towards the sidelights, but I found a longer replacement pole light that looks on paper to be a good solution. One drawback with the sidelights is that "legally" the centerline of the boat would then have to be established by the all-around light at the stern. That is why on the anchor roller option Boston Whaler went to a "bent" all round light pole that is mounted in the center of the stern. They had to bend it around the sun top since it had to be mounted farther foward in front of the motor well. Also, you would have to be certain that the trolling motor did not block any light going forward on the port side. For those of you who are interested, the installation of the sidelights is doable The wire for the side lights is available under the rub rail insert, and it would be a matter of drilling in from the side and down from the top.

While I agree with Dave about the impracticality of the plug in lights in a marine environment, I fortunately/unfortunately boat mainly in fresh water, with the boat stowed on a trailer. Thus, I am willing to continue to put up with that drawback. On the Perko website I found a new 17+"version of the 1421 light that is similar to the 1211 12" light that comes with the boat. The 1421 series appears to be an upgrade of the 1211 for larger boats, and I assume it produces a brighter light (something I also consider a plus). There doesn't appear to be a 17" version of the 1211 at this time. It took awhile to find an internet site that offered the 17" version of the 1421 (most sites sell only the 12") for sale, but I finally found one for $36. It appears to be a direct plug in replacement for the 3-pin socket, and retains the little auxillary light. I will let you know how it turns out after I receive it and put it to some use.

Sheila posted 12-11-2005 10:15 AM ET (US)     Profile for Sheila  Send Email to Sheila     
Have you considered simply covering your trolling motor with something dark and nonreflective?

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