Control of a vessel's navigation lights is often accomplished by a single switch with multiple positions. On small boats there generally are only three positions: OFF, ANCHOR, and UNDERWAY. Electrical schematic diagrams are presented to show the usual wiring for control of the lamps which will produce the proper display of navigation lighting.
Control of the NAVIGATION LIGHTS on most boats using sidelights and an all-round white lighting scheme is typically accomplished with a single switch, usually a marine-grade three-position push-pull switch. The positions are OFF (pushed in all the way), ANCHOR (pulled out to first stop), or UNDERWAY (pulled out all the way). The ALL-ROUND WHITE light is shown in both ON positions; the SIDELIGHTS are shown only in the second ON position. On smaller boats the SIDELIGHTS are often combined into a single lamp and carried on the bow instead of two separate lamps as shown.
Some BOSTON WHALER boat with a center console employ a more complex scheme for their NAVIGATION LIGHTS using a dual-bulb masthead lamp where each lamp illuminated a different sector, separate sidelights, and a sternlight. These are also often controlled with a single switch, again a marine-grade three-position pull-push switch. The positions are OFF (pushed in all the way), ANCHOR (pulled out to first stop), or UNDERWAY (pulled out all the way). The dual-bulb lamp fixture which is normally located at the center console serves a dual purpose as both a MASHEAD LIGHT when underway (only forward-facing sector is illuminated) and as an ANCHOR LIGHT when at anchor (both forward-facing and stern-facing sectors illuminated). The SIDELIGHTS and STERNLIGHT are only illuminated when underway.
Note that the Boston Whaler installation of navigation lamps makes use of a specialized lamp that serves a dual purpose: it can be a masthead light when only the forward sector is illuminated; and, it can be an anchor light when both forward and aft sectors are illuminated. This special lamp could be replaced by two separate lamps, one a masthead light and the other an anchor light. If that is done, the simplest control wiring would be to use two switches, one to control the running light and a second to control the anchor light, or a single switch with two ON positions like the COLE-HERSEE M-531.
A specialized COLE-HERSEE switch (Model M-532) is often used to control the display of navigation lights on small recreational boats when the dual-purpose lamp is used for both masthead and anchor lighting.
Details of the COLE-HERSEE M-532 switch are shown in their special switch catalogue. On the catalogue page the switch is described as a three circuit switch. From the nomenclature used on the catalogue page I infer the following:
I can summarize the switch as follows:
There is no guarantee that the color of the insulation on the wiring associated with the navigation lamps on a particular boat will match the colors I show in my diagram above. Rather than just relying on the wire insulation color to establish what lamp circuits are fed by a particular wire, perform this procedure to identify the function of each wire in the navigation lamp circuits:
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Last modified: Saturday, 05-May-2012 17:54:16 EDT
Author: James W. Hebert
This article first appeared June 07, 2006.