Extra led lighting….legal or not?

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Douglasdzaster

Well-known member
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Sep 19, 2020
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Location
Smithville,Texas
LOCATION
Smithville, Texas
While trying to finish my rebuild I’m rewiring everything with good marine grade stuff. While I’m at it a switch panel and fuse block. I’m wanting to run wires for some extra lights. I’ve purchased green led strip to go under the top of the gunnels inside the boat to see while night fishing and would like to put a small light bar on the bow that while underway I can switch on occasionally to keep my bearings at night.The green strips inside the boat are for anchored and drifting about 1 mph with no gas motor being used.
I’m reading a lot of different opinions that none of the above are legal. I’ve spent time on TPW website and what I found was no extra light that could interfere with seeing the navigation lights. I see boats all the time with this setup but I realize that doesn’t make it legal and I would be THAT GUY that gets boarded and after going through all the safety stuff I have still get to sign a piece of paper for lighting.
Does anyone run these leds or have knowledge to share? I sure would appreciate it. I stopped pulling wire today until I decide what I can have. The gree led strip is going to be lighting up the inside but in an open 16’ jon boat I bet I’ll be putting off a big green glow. :LOL:
 
I can't imagine what you describe is illegal. Of course, no one enjoys losing their night vision because of some guy's spotlights. Just use common sense. You could always confirm with Texas Parks & Wildlife or whatever state agency handles small craft reg's.
 
FWIW I always refer to the COLREGS lighting abstract whenever there is a 'lighting' concern, where 'Colregs' = International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (1972), hence the simple term by combing Regs and Collision. See abstract attached.

Remember 1st, that the intent here is (1) to be seen, (2) readily identify the size of your vessel and (3) for one to instantly ascertain your speed, bearing, and heading. That's where the "prevent collisions" part comes into it.

Where you could have an issue is where your lighting scheme made someone else thinking you were bigger or smaller than what you are, or are on another course than what you truly are, or speed is different, yada yada, or where you conflict with the required lighting, essentially confusing another vessel because you deviated from the mandated/minimum light requirements.

I do run a similar setup in my 21' deep-V offshore frp hull. I have a forward looking - targeted beam - LED that will light up the area directly ahead of me for about 100-yards, more if say a buoy has reflective markings. I also run red in/around the gunnel cockpit lights, so I can see and yet retain my night vision. I have never had an issue and fishing for toona, I get stopped for safety checks all the time ... but then again, they ain't out there at '0 dark 30' like I am, LOL!

Now I will say that COLREGS, being International ... are out of scope for State or local jurisdictions or law enforcement agencies, but I can't envision anyone giving you a hassle. Just make darn sure your lighting doesn't mess up the minimum required Nav/Safety lighting.
 

Attachments

  • ColRegs Navigation Lights.pdf
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While trying to finish my rebuild I’m rewiring everything with good marine grade stuff. While I’m at it a switch panel and fuse block. I’m wanting to run wires for some extra lights. I’ve purchased green led strip to go under the top of the gunnels inside the boat to see while night fishing and would like to put a small light bar on the bow that while underway I can switch on occasionally to keep my bearings at night.The green strips inside the boat are for anchored and drifting about 1 mph with no gas motor being used.
I’m reading a lot of different opinions that none of the above are legal. I’ve spent time on TPW website and what I found was no extra light that could interfere with seeing the navigation lights. I see boats all the time with this setup but I realize that doesn’t make it legal and I would be THAT GUY that gets boarded and after going through all the safety stuff I have still get to sign a piece of paper for lighting.
Does anyone run these leds or have knowledge to share? I sure would appreciate it. I stopped pulling wire today until I decide what I can have. The gree led strip is going to be lighting up the inside but in an open 16’ jon boat I bet I’ll be putting off a big green glow. :LOL:
care to share pics of them mounted? I'm looking at options for lights on my jon and would love more examples.
 
In my state of Ohio, the boating course states the lights on your boat are under federal scrutiny. According to the coast gard instructor, the red/ green light on the front and all around white on the stern shall not in any way be infringed upin by any other lighting. In other words you cant have any orher lights on while underway!! Forward flood or spot lights can only be turned on for a quick view of what is ahead as long as " it doesn't interfere" with any oncomming craft. They can be used for docking but not while underway. Interior lights can be used while at anchor as long as they do not interfere with the anchor light. The catchy part is, if your extra lights interfere with any other crafts ability to navigate, you can be held responsible for any and all damages. Just like the wake your boats makes, your extra lights can also make you liable for any damages incured by others. So....if other boats are in your area while you are underway on any public waterway, dont use anything other than the coast gard approved lighting.
Just completed a boating course along with my grandkids so they could get there operators license. Extra lights on board was a hot topic with all the fancy lights availiable nowadays....
 
Be careful with installing blue, green or red lighting. I saw a guy get busted because his blue lighting caused a strobe effect as the boat rocked.

Having exterior LED lighting while moored shouldn't be a problem, unless you have a strobing situation like the one I mentioned above. Turn then off when running.

On my personal boats, I use offset amber colored floor lighting inside. They are easy on the eyes and don't kill your night vision.

I often rig spot or flood lighting on boats, but ONLY for docking purposes or for a brief moment if needed to navigate. Don't run them like headlights, as that is both illegal and dangerous for other boaters.
 
I got a little flood/spot led that’s supposed to be pretty bright. I’m going to bow mount it and just use occasionally to help keep my bearings . The two flood lights I have on th transom facing forward for docking only. I have a 16.4 foot led strip I’m cutting in half and running one half under the gunnel from the bow back and the other half on the other side of the boat from the stern forward under the gunnel. That should be all I need without putting off to much glow. Maybe a couple of small ones if needed.
care to share pics of them mounted? I'm looking at options for lights on my jon and would love more examples.
I’ve been running all new wiring and haven’t gotten around to installing the led strip. All I’m going to do is take one 16’ strip (my boat is a little over 16) take that one strip and cut it in half and put them under the inside of the gunnels. One half on the port side will start midway and run to the deck on the bow. The other one will start midway and run toward the stern. I’ve seen two full strips (one on each side) and it’s a lot of light. If I’m right this should give us enough to see by at night. If not I’ll either install some small ones where we need them or start over with two full strips They’re cheap.
I will post some pictures so you can see how it turns out.
 
In my state of Ohio, the boating course states the lights on your boat are under federal scrutiny. According to the coast gard instructor, the red/ green light on the front and all around white on the stern shall not in any way be infringed upin by any other lighting. In other words you cant have any orher lights on while underway!! Forward flood or spot lights can only be turned on for a quick view of what is ahead as long as " it doesn't interfere" with any oncomming craft. They can be used for docking but not while underway. Interior lights can be used while at anchor as long as they do not interfere with the anchor light. The catchy part is, if your extra lights interfere with any other crafts ability to navigate, you can be held responsible for any and all damages. Just like the wake your boats makes, your extra lights can also make you liable for any damages incured by others. So....if other boats are in your area while you are underway on any public waterway, dont use anything other than the coast gard approved lighting.
Just completed a boating course along with my grandkids so they could get there operators license. Extra lights on board was a hot topic with all the fancy lights availiable nowadays....
That’s how I plan to operate. I got just one 16’ strip and will cut it in half start midway on the inside of gunnel and go towards the bow then the other half on the other side start midway and go towards the stern. This should be all we need to see at night. My boat is a 16/52 without a middle bench so it’s open. If not I’ll place a small one here or there where we need them. Minimal light only one while not underway. The one I want to put on the bow will be used a few seconds at the time to keep my bearings.
 
The long strips are okay, but after doing a lot of rigging, I typically use sealed single LED's instead. The biggest reason is because the strips tend to fail pretty quickly. After trying 2 or 3 different brands, I avoid them all now.

For certain areas, these are small, easy to install and cover a nice area in light. I use a step bit and stick them under consoles, inside hatches and under gunnels. They are bright, and need to be offset so as to not cause night blindness:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01IR3G474

More often, under gunnels I use these or similar lights. Typically, it takes 6 or so to give good light coverage inside a boat:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B3DVBQQT
ALL of the better lights will come with TINNNED copper wire pigtails. Any lights that come with the CCA (copper clad aluminum) wire is GOING to fail sooner than later.

I very strongly recommend that you use TINNED wire when rigging your LED lights. Here is the wire I use a lot for LED installation:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N0A16X2
One thing is that the sheathing is pretty stiff and hard. This is good, when fishing wires, as it's slick and pulls through the worst rigging tubes, but it can be annoying at times. I always have a heat gun for shrink tubing when rigging, and will warm the wire ends up a little during cold weather. I really like that I can form it and it stays put.

Remember, if you wire correctly, the wire will outlast the lights, so rig with re-rigging in the future in mind. Give yourself a little slack here and there.

Another thing you may want to get is strong, double-sided mounting tape. There are a bunch. Gorilla makes a decent clear one that works, but I've gotten to where I use Automotive Decal mounting tape or similar. Here is one I've been using for a number of years, and it really holds as long as mounted to a clean surface:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07PBLQKLH
I hope this helps
 
The long strips are okay, but after doing a lot of rigging, I typically use sealed single LED's instead. The biggest reason is because the strips tend to fail pretty quickly. After trying 2 or 3 different brands, I avoid them all now.

For certain areas, these are small, easy to install and cover a nice area in light. I use a step bit and stick them under consoles, inside hatches and under gunnels. They are bright, and need to be offset so as to not cause night blindness:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01IR3G474

More often, under gunnels I use these or similar lights. Typically, it takes 6 or so to give good light coverage inside a boat:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B3DVBQQT
ALL of the better lights will come with TINNNED copper wire pigtails. Any lights that come with the CCA (copper clad aluminum) wire is GOING to fail sooner than later.

I very strongly recommend that you use TINNED wire when rigging your LED lights. Here is the wire I use a lot for LED installation:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N0A16X2
One thing is that the sheathing is pretty stiff and hard. This is good, when fishing wires, as it's slick and pulls through the worst rigging tubes, but it can be annoying at times. I always have a heat gun for shrink tubing when rigging, and will warm the wire ends up a little during cold weather. I really like that I can form it and it stays put.

Remember, if you wire correctly, the wire will outlast the lights, so rig with re-rigging in the future in mind. Give yourself a little slack here and there.

Another thing you may want to get is strong, double-sided mounting tape. There are a bunch. Gorilla makes a decent clear one that works, but I've gotten to where I use Automotive Decal mounting tape or similar. Here is one I've been using for a number of years, and it really holds as long as mounted to a clean surface:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07PBLQKLH
I hope this helps
Thanks for all the information I appreciate it. I’m rewiring the entire boat is why it’s a good time to add a few things. Everything is tinned copper including the heat shrink connectors that have the adhesive in them as well. Then use heat shrink tubing over that. Most everything came from Ancor Marine. Like you said you never know when you want to change something so I leave extra tucked away and it’s all 14awg except the wire for the led strip is 16 awg also tinned copper. I’ve have just a few feet left on a 100 foot roll of the 14 awg. I ordered a little more because I want to run an extra from stern to bow while I’m looming the bow light. Then I’ll have power already there for the small light bar Im thinking about. You just caught me before installing The strip. I’m going to check out your links and reconsider.
 
If you already have it, you might as well install it. Just make sure to silicone (E6000) the ends carefully. You never know. Maybe the one you have is a good one and will last a few years. You can always change it later.

Anchor wire is the best. Sounds like you are doing a good job.
 
after-12-years-ive-finally-moved-on.50291
 
I cannot write about the legality while underway, but as long as you have your proper nav lights on while underway, any other lights should not be an issue.
Duck hunters for decades have been using flood lights to navigate channels on the Mississippi river...where both coast guard and dnr wardens patrol...never heard of anyone getting a ticket.
Carp bowhunters have their fronts lit up with floodlights at night with no reprocussion.

I can understand, like with my boat, if I only had my green LED on while underway....that would be illegal as there is no way to distinguish front from back or direction of travel.

On a side note, I made sure the backing was 3m tape on my LED strip, then I sealed top and bottom with 3m clear sealant....so far, so good. Under the gunnel is best to avoid glare...all light points downward.
 
Like many things, it is a matter of getting caught... Having any other lights on while underway besides running lights is against federal navigation laws, but...do officers stick to that law? All depends..I have been stopped and have watched others get stopped, never a ticket as long as you cooperate, get bent out of shape/ into an accident and you will/ can get a ticket!!
 
Like many things, it is a matter of getting caught... Having any other lights on while underway besides running lights is against federal navigation laws, but...do officers stick to that law? All depends..I have been stopped and have watched others get stopped, never a ticket as long as you cooperate, get bent out of shape/ into an accident and you will/ can get a ticket!!

So if you have had a few beers maybe stick to the federally mandated lighting?
 
Open water travel I would not have them on. In a cove or backwater would not worry about it. I have seen boats lit up like New York skyline back inside of coves and backwaters on Lake Eufaula{OK} but open water travel most just run the proper navigation lights.
 
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