Monday, April 22, 2013

Can We Get Some Light In Here?

No, not that light! A red light, so it doesn't hurt night vision!

Oh, and now we're at anchor, so we want a white light there. Please, make up my mind! ;-)

Humor aside, we frequently have to sail at night or very early morning when delivering LUX to or from the Bahamas and Annapolis. Having a red light over the navigation station is necessary for saving our night vision. There is also a cockpit light behind the helm station that we'd like to occasionally use at night. But when at anchor or at dock, we'd like to have the option of a white light. Adding another fixture and switch would be a pain.

LUX is fitted with the G4 (dual pin) 10-watt halogen bulbs for the main salon lighting. They use a lot of electricity and generate a lot of heat. Heat is the last thing we want in the middle of summer and it is always good to conserve electricity on board. There have been several discussions on the Yahoo Leopard list about LED lighting, which helped us find some good LED salon lights. One good source is, which you have to contact via email to

But then we saw some combination LED lights at the 2012 Annapolis Boat Show. Turn the switch on and red LEDs light. Turn the switch off and back on within 3 seconds and white LEDs come on. As long as the light is off for more than 3 seconds, you get red, which is exactly what we want. No accidentally hitting the wrong switch and killing our night vision. Only if you fumble the light switch do you get white when you don't want it. It sounded good, so we bought one for $25 to see how we liked it.

It worked out well. The three red LEDs are just enough to light the nav station without killing our night vision either at the nav station or at the helm, which is within eye shot of the nav station.

We decided to buy one for the cockpit and were delighted to find an alternate source on on Amazon at a lower price. It has three red and twelve white LEDs.
"Ledwholesalers Dual Color Red + Warm White Swichable Marine G4 Side Pin Base Light Bulb" $9.88

We will know next month when we return to LUX if it is as good as the one we bought for $25. [NOTE: When the red/white LED arrived, it looked quite large. I'm concerned that it is too large to fit the housing. We'll know more when we get back to LUX and try to install it.] [Update: Sure enough, it was nearly too big. I had to replace the pins with short pieces of wire. I used stranded wire and installed the original pins on the end. Even with the modifications, the LED is too large to fit the salon fixtures. Here is a photo of the cockpit fixture with the LED mounted, ready to have the lens reinstalled.]

While we were looking at LEDs, we bought two of these:
"LEDwholesalers BA9S Mini Bayonet Single Contact with 6 SMD LED Light Bulb 12 Volt, 1406WH"  $4.75

The BA9S base is used on the bulb that is in the sleeping cabin lights. These lights are typically marketed as parking and turn signal lights for cars. We're going to try a pair of these LEDs to see if they produce enough light for reading. As with the salon lights, the existing lights are halogen and run very hot.

We have already replaced the masthead anchor light with an LED unit, which saves a lot of power at night. We have also replaced the courtesy lights at the steps with red LED festoon lights, which we leave on all night. There's no fumbling for a light switch when we need to get up in the middle of the night and the red color keeps our night vision in tact if we have to rush on deck to handle some emergency. We also replaced the head fluorescent lights with red/white switchable light fixtures for similar reasons. I would like a brighter white light at some point and may update the head fixtures to add another set of white LEDs to them.

LED lighting technology has made big improvements in the past few years. Even in the six months since the boat show, the prices have come down and the light output has increased.


1 comment:

Paul Bennett said...

Thanks for the photo. We're going to be trying this same trick in two weeks on our L40.