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Andy Durnin

Are LED Tunnel Lights Really Necessary

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I've boats through the night with nothing more than a head torch to make sure I can see where I'm standing. Once you are away for light sources you don't need lights as your eyes get accustomed to the dark and the moon shining off the canal is enough to see where the bank is. Boating through built up areas where house security lights suddenly turn on as you are passing messes your night vision up though.

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53 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

Don't you have your engine running when your head light is on with the alternator supplying the power.

Of course I do, that doesn't make the power free. Better it went into my 640Ah battery. My alternator provides around 20 to 25A while cruising so a 5A draw isn't negligible.

 

53 minutes ago, Sea Dog said:

The blinding loss of their night vision and the pain their retinas will tell other boaters of the former and an overwhelming feeling of relief will tell them you're going away.

You must have missed the bit where I clearly stated I would not use them when there are oncoming boats.

 

If you take that into account the rest of your post may need revising?

 

I know that figuring out direction is what navigation lights are meant to be for, but knowing where the edges are of a boat you are passing is in my view a very useful thing when trying to avoid a collision on the canals.

 

56 minutes ago, IanD said:

From my experience of cruising at night, a super-bright headlight isn't needed once your eyes are dark-adapted, anything bright enough to work as a tunnel light will work just fine as a headlight  -- but you might want to alter the aim.

It isn't my experience. My dim tunnel light is not really adequate as a headlight.

 

The aim is a good point though, that could help without upgrading the light. Will try that.

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1 minute ago, ivan&alice said:

Of course I do, that doesn't make the power free. Better it went into my 640Ah battery. My alternator provides around 20 to 25A while cruising so a 5A draw isn't negligible.

 

 

However do you manage to recharge them at that rate, it would probably need 6 hours plus to replace just one days usage 

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15 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

However do you manage to recharge them at that rate, it would probably need 6 hours plus to replace just one days usage 

It is a long story, head over to the lithium battery thread if you want details!

 

Short version - it is a work in progress - until last month solar kept them full, and I'm hoping that will be the case again come March. The alternator can put out 70A+ but I don't allow that to happen because of overheat. I have recently created a way to "fast charge" the battery at about 50A but I won't do that while cruising because it is too difficult to monitor the temperature of the alternator the way it is currently set up. As I say, work in progress.

 

We only use around 40-50Ah a day at the moment as we're trying to be careful. At the moment I run the engine 30mins a day on average, which is a bit less than I need to replenish what we use, but cruising and a bit of winter solar tops up the rest. Hence why every amp counts for me.

Edited by ivan&alice

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45 minutes ago, Rob-M said:

I've boats through the night with nothing more than a head torch to make sure I can see where I'm standing. Once you are away for light sources you don't need lights as your eyes get accustomed to the dark and the moon shining off the canal is enough to see where the bank is.

Perhaps a good solution would be lights mounted low in the bows and shining at low angles - perhaps in the gas locker shining out the scuppers - that illuminated the banks without blinding oncoming boats.

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4 minutes ago, ivan&alice said:

Perhaps a good solution would be lights mounted low in the bows and shining at low angles - perhaps in the gas locker shining out the scuppers - that illuminated the banks without blinding oncoming boats.

Ive moved many boats at night, both my own and others. In Winter there is almost no choice if you want to get a decent day in.

I could probably count on one hand the number of boats coming the other way in the dark......having a decent set of spots on a separate circuit switchable from the back would be a good solution.....perhaps fed from a battery remote from the domestic bank. 

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2 hours ago, ivan&alice said:

The answer is clearly: No, it is not necessary. One can use any kind of lighting technology for a tunnel light. I was amused at the choice of location of this thread - perhaps we need a new subforum, Rhetorically Asked Questions?

 

I have a halogen tunnel light, and with all my cabin lights on it's just about adequate in tunnels. However it draws quite a current to achieve "just about adequate". I don't go through enough tunnels for it to be a concern, but I think what may be lost on some of the posters here is that for some boaters a tunnel light doubles as a headlight in the dark...

 

I know night cruising is a bit of a controversial issue. As a liveaboard continuous cruiser with a remote day job, I do sometimes need - or heck, I'll admit it, WANT - to boat at or after sunset. I have been moaned at twice for it, which - carefully crawling past at tickover, at 6pm, with my hospital silencer meaning there is very little noise - I think is most uncalled-for.

 

Thing is my halogen tunnel light is definitely inadequate as a headlight and I'm looking at purchasing some bright LEDs that will be better for night cruising. For energy efficiency and longevity reasons I'd not consider any other technology for lighting, but I think perhaps I should keep my headlight as the "dipped" version so when passing boats I can extinguish the LEDs.

 

I was also thinking of adding navigation lights just to make it easier for other night cruisers to see what we were doing. I gather that the COLREGs are pretty complex but I have seen plenty of narrowboats with a red and green light stuck on the side of the boat which must make it much easier to judge width when passing (I realise that this is not what the are for, but on the canals this is perhaps more important than being able to judge how they are manoeuvering. In a tunnel I think blocking the white stern light is probably a practical if not strictly correct thing to do.

 

I really am trying to be sensitive to other waterway users (yes even cyclists) and so I would love some recommendations for bright LED headlights (either dippable or switchable to halogen) and basic navigation lights.

If your halogen bulb is of the normal wattage (50-55w) and is still inadequate then it would be the housing/reflector that is the issue, having 50 percent of the light specified for a vehicle on the road should be more than adequate for a canal. Those chandlery offerings in those plastic casings are not up to the job and a change to one of those offered for tractors and plant would be a sensible upgrade, rather than adding to the growing number of selfish people blinding everyone else they meet.

 

"You must have missed the bit where I clearly stated I would not use them when there are oncoming boats."

 

Turning off overly bright lights when meeting an oncoming boat could leave you struggling to see at the worst possible time, so not an ideal solution. 

 

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30 minutes ago, matty40s said:

I could probably count on one hand the number of boats coming the other way in the dark......having a decent set of spots on a separate circuit switchable from the back would be a good solution.....perhaps fed from a battery remote from the domestic bank. 

Yep, there are very rarely other boats coming the other way, so it's mostly a moot point.

 

13 minutes ago, BWM said:

"You must have missed the bit where I clearly stated I would not use them when there are oncoming boats."

 

Turning off overly bright lights when meeting an oncoming boat could leave you struggling to see at the worst possible time, so not an ideal solution. 

Let me try again, because there seems to be a misunderstanding what I'm thinking of doing.
 

  • Installing a bright LED headlight (doesn't need to be "like the sun" bright, but bright enough to see where I'm going clearly at new moon).
  • Installing navigation lights - red and green on the sides of the boat.
  • Keep the current halogen tunnel light.
  • Both head lights are switched from the steerer's position.
  • Normally when traveling through tunnels or in the dark, bright LEDs are on.
  • When meeting an oncoming boat, halogen tunnel light and navigation lights are on.

 

I expected a healthy dose of outrage at the proposal. In fact I've grown to rather enjoy the outrage at trivial things on this forum - from passing moored boats at one click higher than tickover, to not cruising far or fast enough, to running your engine even before 8pm, to cycling on the towpath, to daring to moor in London, to suggesting that boaters should pay more to maintain the canals, to using LED bulbs outside of your cabin... the list is endless really. But let's at least be outraged at what I'm actually suggesting. Surely there are enough people who think cruising at night is a cardinal sin no matter what light we're doing it by?

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One advantage of cruising at night is that nobody can see your boat and disparage it for being too shiny/too scruffy/having the wrong kind of stern/rivets/cratch/pram hood/windows...

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1 hour ago, ivan&alice said:

You must have missed the bit where I clearly stated I would not use them when there are oncoming boats.

 

If you take that into account the rest of your post may need revising?

No, I didn't miss that bit, I just thought it was tosh and it didn't make your rediculous headlights any less unnecessary.

 

My post doesn't need revisiting just because you disagree - it's my view, whether you see wisdom in it or not.

 

Looking at some of your other responses:

Five amps going to the tunnel light is not significant in terms of battery charging unless you have a totally inadequate alternator.

Running the engine for 30 minutes a day after drawing 40-50 Amp Hours is woefully inadequate, even if sometimes you do also actually cruise.

 

My view, which you won't really want but it's here anyway, is that you need to get the basics weighed off before you come up with your novel solutions to practically every well established norm. That said, it's only a view - you're welcome to yours. :)

 

Edited by Sea Dog
Needed a not!
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Tosh why exactly? Because you think I won't bother to dip them when a boat comes past? I really dislike being moaned at while out enjoying my boat so I am hyper sensitive to that kind of thing.

 

I can't see well enough when I'm boating at night and therefore I think an upgraded headlight is prudent. Is that really such a novel solution - I'm open to hear of a better one. Despite what it may seem I do really take the advice I get here to heart, so if there is a better solution I really am open to it.

 

Yes my alternator is inadequate. Improving its output is a work in progress. But I monitor my energy usage very carefully (both Ah consumed via my BMV, and the voltage of my cells) so I know for a fact that my charging regime is 100% adequate for the time being; I only need to upgrade so I can be more relaxed with my energy usage.

 

We've had this conversation before and you did successfully convince me to abandon my ignorant novel plan so I'm not sure why you say I don't want to hear your view, on the contrary I know I'm an idiot and I take the advice of the seasoned boaters such as yourself very seriously. I'm sorry if that comes off as sarcastic - it really isn't - asking stupid questions is more often than not a sign of a genuinely ignorant person trying to learn.

 

So, what is the correct, orthodox solution to night time visibility if the boat's headlight is not sufficient?

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I fitted a "bright LED headlight" a few years ago because a few members of our club got them, loved them, and recommended them.

 

They lit up the way ahead like it was daylight - fabulous, I thought.

 

After a few weeks, a few cyclists had a go at me, and one of our club members put his hands over his eyes when I was passing.

 

I took a look from the front of the boat while moored, got rid of them as fast as I could, and replaced them with a 55W car headlight. This is plenty bright enough to see where I am going at night. It seems that you can get LED bulbs for them, although I haven't bothered as the power used is insignificant, and is immediately replaced by the alternator - How many night hours does anyone cruise for, on a regular basis

 

I'd say, if your headlight isn't bright enough, there is something wrong with the headlight. Try a 55W car foglight, and replace the bulb with an LED. If that doesnt work, we could revisit it.

 

If you have a set of "bright headlights", which you turn off when you see another boat coming, your night vision will have been destroyed, and may not recover at a time when you are in close quarters with another boat. In addition, by the time you turn them off, you may also have destroyed the oncomers night vision.

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2 minutes ago, ivan&alice said:

Tosh why exactly? Because you think I won't bother to dip them when a boat comes past? I really dislike being moaned at while out enjoying my boat so I am hyper sensitive to that kind of thing.

 

I can't see well enough when I'm boating at night and therefore I think an upgraded headlight is prudent. Is that really such a novel solution - I'm open to hear of a better one. Despite what it may seem I do really take the advice I get here to heart, so if there is a better solution I really am open to it.

 

Yes my alternator is inadequate. Improving its output is a work in progress. But I monitor my energy usage very carefully (both Ah consumed via my BMV, and the voltage of my cells) so I know for a fact that my charging regime is 100% adequate for the time being; I only need to upgrade so I can be more relaxed with my energy usage.

 

We've had this conversation before and you did successfully convince me to abandon my ignorant novel plan so I'm not sure why you say I don't want to hear your view, on the contrary I know I'm an idiot and I take the advice of the seasoned boaters such as yourself very seriously. I'm sorry if that comes off as sarcastic - it really isn't - asking stupid questions is more often than not a sign of a genuinely ignorant person trying to learn.

 

So, what is the correct, orthodox solution to night time visibility if the boat's headlight is not sufficient?

Ivan, don't ever change! Well, curb a few of your whacky ideas maybe, but certainly not your enthusiasm or your adventurous spirit!  :D

 

i really don't like the idea of night cruising (or tunnel transits) with powerful lighting is all but, whilst I will give you my opinion or offer advice for what it's worth, I'm certainly not here to beat you into submission. There's plenty of folk doing stuff without considering others or seeking advice where they could use it, but you're not one of them. 

 

i don't know about the orthodox solution, but I'd offer that night time is a bit like the weather when it comes to cruising: wonderful on a beautiful moonlit night; rather less so when it's as black as your father's hat. Do it when conditions are favourable, sit by a cosy fire when they're not. How's that grab you? 

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I find no problem using my 55w halogen tunnel lamp for night time cruising and I’ve done quite a bit with just a head torch. The tunnel lamp just needs adjusting so it picks up the canal in front of the boat rather than the tunnel profile. You don’t need to see that much to cruise and in urban areas a light isn’t necessary in many instances.
 

However if that isn’t sufficient for personal tastes get a stronger light. It really isn’t a big deal.

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1 hour ago, BWM said:

 

 

"You must have missed the bit where I clearly stated I would not use them when there are oncoming boats."

 

Turning off overly bright lights when meeting an oncoming boat could leave you struggling to see at the worst possible time, so not an ideal solution. 

 

I met one of the trip boats out of Birmingham (something 4 awhile) in a tunnel with two big lights on it, as we got closer he turned them both off, I wondered where he had gone to.

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The best light I have is fitted on the stern rail. I bought it for £3 from the 2nd hand bin at Kings Lock Chandlery. It has a wonderful 180 degree flat beam. I fitted it after my dog had slipped off the counter a couple of times in Harecastle tunnel. I no longer have the dog (he died of natural causes), but the light is still very useful when mooring in the dark.

 

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