Navigation Lights Under Sail and at Anchor

The International Regulations for the Prevention of Collision at Sea (COLREGS) specify the lights required for navigational purposes, diagramed below in a digram from the West Marine site:

ie41_nav_lights

This pages covers the installations Maringret has gone through.

Navigational lights are required when under way as well as when at anchor. When motoring and the engine generating power the electrical consumption of the navigational lights is inconsequential. While anchored for the night or sailing it is of more relevance. Certainly installing larger batteries will handle the lights but any reduction in their power consumption is desirable.

With the introduction of LEDs which use a fraction of the power consumed by incandescent (i.e. regular) light bulbs, things appeared to be improving for navigational lights. Maringret had been an early adopter of LED lights back in 1999 when she bought some LED replacement bulbs lights for reading lights.

When we bought Maringret she had no mast-top lights, neither a tri-light nor an anchor light. She had the factory fitted side lights on the pulpit, a steaming light partway up the main mast and a stern light on top of the mizzen mast. This meant when sailing that 3 incandescent lights were burning – with between 1 and 2 amps each. For an anchor light she had a lamp with an incandescent bulb which was hoisted on a halyard. We wanted to reduce the power consumption by switching to a mast-top tri-white.

A mast-top tri-light is a single bulb with a 360 degree lens which incorporates the appropriate segments of clear, red and green to conform with the COLREG regulations. A mast tri-white is a 360 degree white lens surrounding a bulb that is mounted below the tri-light. Hence the name tri-white.

Incandescent Tri-White

We mounted an AquaSignal XXX which worked perfectly. We finally decided to replace it  simply because of the power consumption. It had worked perfectly without failure..

First Generation LED Tri-White

We had seen a power boat one night with exceptionally bright LED running lights. Upon enquiring the owner said they were manufactured by Orca Green and he had picked them un in the US on a business trip. They were noticeably brighter than other lights and so we decided to track them down.

The company turned out to be based in Texas and sold through various retailers. One advantage to the unit was there was a circuit on it that turned the anchor light into a strobe light for emergencies by simply flashing the anchor light off and on. They supplied a black chip which multiplexed the signals and allowed 4 signals to be carried by 3 lines (remembering that one line is dedicated to the negative return). There was a matching demultiplexer chip in the mast-top unit.

We tested the unit and then fitted it. For the next couple of seasons we did very little night time sailing and then the mast came down to cross Europe via the Danube river. When we arrived at the Black Sea the Orca Green unit was not functioning except for the anchor light – the red/green function and the strobe function were all dead.

It was at this time we checked the online forums and found numerous other people were also having problems with the products by Orca Green who also seemed to go by the name of OGM. Here’s one example:

It’s hard to follow exactly what happened after we bought our product in 2010, Orca Green merged or something and started trading under the name “MISEA Group” – the reason we knew it was still them was the product pictures were identical. The new amalgamation was of Orca Green and Signal Mate and the newly merged company discontinued the model we bought – reasons unknown. We noticed the merger sometime about 2012 or 2013. Then as of 2020, the MISEA Group no longer had a web presence (“www.miseagroup.com”).

By late 2014 we noticed that the merger had come undone and that the two companies reverted back to their previous names – Orca Green came under their own name and internet domain again with the same old product line (minus the unit we bought). It looks like they got a new website designer and they have all sorts of things like “Message from the CEO” and graphics indicating customer satisfaction at an astounding 92% – astounding if you followed their product reputation through the cruising forums. One thing we noticed is they are now using a Maryland address – when we dealt with them they were trading out of Texas. American cruising friends of ours told us that anyone trading out of Texas is untouchable due to weak customer protection laws in that state.

And then as of 2020 Orca Green seems to be back as Orca Green Marine. Along with equally flattering reviews of their latest incarnation:

  • Cruisers Forum with a thread titled “Orca Green Marine OGM does not respond”

Perhaps the choice extract from the thread is: “We recently went by to find their office in Annapolis and it was not at the address they have listed. There was just an empty office.”

Surprise, surprise, surprise. And can a tiger change it’s stripes?

So anyway, we figure we got less than 24 hours operation out of our Orca Green Unit. It was installed using new tinned wiring, when the unit failed we even replaced the new tinned wire. Still nothing out of the Orca Green unit. We then spent another 24 hours trying to contact the company that had been happy to take our money. No such luck. We finally gave up and moved on. We got burned by them and based on the cruising forums we weren’t the only ones. Given that we already we have full lives doing things we want to do, we don’t have any more time to waste on them, it isn’t our job to police these peoples although we have to pocket the loss of the US$600 they took from us.

One message for any looking at Orca Green products, check the online forums first before making your decision. Our product was a scam and so was the warranty and other people state the same.

To crown it all off, we sold the perfectly functioning AquaSignal unit with the incadescent bulb on eBay for 1/4 of the money we wasted on Orca Green. And the buyer gave us 100% feedback for the transaction as it worked perfectly for him too. If only we had kept the unit and not bought the Orca Green model.

Second Generation LED Tri-White

Once out of the canals of Europe and with the mast up we needed a functioning tri-white again. So rather than deal with a startup trading out of Texas (oops, sorry, Annapolis) we returned to reputable manufacturer and bought a new AquaSignal LED. It’s the same unit as we previously had (and sold on eBay) except that the bulbs are LEDs and so the unit is totally sealed as you don’t have to replace the LEDs periodically. We will be installing it this winter and test it next season.

Not all electrical products are created equally, certainly not all LED products. The Orca Green product was crap and based on their business behaviour (not answering phones, not returning emails) they knew it. With our 3rd set of navigation lights we have LED lights but have returned to a trusted and dependable manufacturer who we have successfully dealt with before.

  • the incandescent lights we installed on Maringret were functioning perfectly, we replaced them simply to reduce power consumption
  • the Orca Green product lasted about 24 hours, we spent more time trying to get them to solve our problems – we would not recommend Orca Green to anyone
  • we have purchased a AquaSignal LED tri-light and will be installing it this winter


© The contents of this site are the copyright property of the authors.  Visitors may read, copy, or print any material for their own use, free of charge.  No material printed or copied from this site, electronically or in any other form, may be sold or included in any work to be sold without explicit permission from the authors.