Another Lighting Upgrade

While here on the hook in Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten, I like to keep busy between all the sundowners and social sessions. We’ve done some hiking and visited our favorite restaurants, and then some new favorites too. But sometimes, we just sit around on Fayaway.

The weather is usually perfect – and I’m not kidding. We get warm rain sometimes, but often in the morning before light, and then only for ten minutes. Temperature is always between 75 and 85, and usually around 82. What more is needed? It tends to make one lazy and simply soak up the environment, gazing about.

Well it often gets dark outside, usually around sunset, and it happens, without fail, every day. So, because we don’t live in the stone-ages, nor even in the modern 19th or 20th centuries, and live in the 21st century, we use ample electricity for lighting.

We also liberally listen to music on the stereo, stream movies and yes, watch YouTube too. We like cold beer, ice in our rum drinks, (and sometimes fresh fish) in the freezer. While typing this, our watermaker is chugging, pressing out pure clean RO water out of the salty bay so we have plenty for drinking and washing up. We have a long list of iPads, laptop, Raspberry Pi, TV, cellphones, Starlink, VHF radios, and sailing instruments, mostly modern, which run fairly efficiently. All are miserly with power except… for the interior lighting.

Our gadgets run on (mostly free) electricity. Because we use 98% solar power, and store in lithium batteries, we do have a finite capacity and so carefully monitor the power levels. I think we have a pretty cool system for charging and monitoring our power. The system will warn us if the batteries get below 20%, but we’re too attentive to let them get to that point.

We use an advanced battery monitoring system that continuously measures amperage as its draw or added.
Sidebar: We have allowed the batteries to a level below 30% (of full capacity) only once in the last two years! - it was after about 4 days of rainy, cloudy weather in Maine last summer. Simply by running the engine for 1.5 hours, we brought the charge back up to 60%, which got us into the next day of sunshine. Typically we have ample battery charge for weeks, as we have here in the Caribbean, without ever running the engine!)

So, with that background, here’s a tidbit on our Alpenglow lighting upgrade.

Beautiful wood-trimmed Alpenglow fixtures are original equipment throughout Fayaway.

We found a solar-powered LED dinghy light at one of our favorite chandleries: Completely self-contained and hermetically sealed, this navigation light is solar powered and automatically switches on at dusk and off at sunrise. Our new light is simply screwed to the top of the outboard engine, and no more trying to deal with battery-powered navigation lights for KoryKory! Pretty cool.

Difficult to tell from this shot, but the light is tri-color.

So that “genius” dinghy light got me to thinking about other lights – original incandescent bulbs are power-hogs and fluorescent bulbs still use 5x more power than LED. As part of Fayaway’s re-rigging, we replaced the defunct mast and spreader-mounted lights with modern Hella fixtures, and retrofitted bow and stern fixtures with bright LED bulbs. We found cheap drop-in LED bulbs on Amazon for some of the interior reading and utility lights. However, the most useful interior lighting is high overhead, and most of these original-equipment Alpenglow fluorescent lights no longer worked. (Alpenglow offers an LED “upgrade” for over $100 (plus shipping both directions). Yikes! We have eight of them aboard, and so that wasn’t on our budgetary radar.)

I don’t like being bored, so perhaps after one of our sundown sessions, upon stumbling down the companionway ladder (nothing to do with imbibing rum) and looking for the first light got me thinking about those lights! Kelly got that “not again” look, as I wielded a Philips screwdriver, and easily unscrewed one from the headliner. It wasn’t long before the guts were out on the chart table.

Programmable 12V LED cockpit lighting for extended “sundowners”.

The next day we visited that favorite chandlery again and found some component-level LED “bulbs”. The $16 package says they’re equivalent to a 20W bulb, so we purchased two, being concerned about the lighting output. Below is not the same model, but you get the idea – it’s not just a screw-in bulb.

After ripping out the old guts (ballast and bulb) I cut off the old wires from the switch and soldered new wires onto the “bulb”, carefully shrink tubed, and soldered onto the original switch.

Then came the test… was it going to be bright enough? We purchased two bulbs to start, because the switch is a “double pole, double-throw”, meaning that I could wire two of the bulbs in an off-dim-bright format if one bulb isn’t bright enough. After dark, we clicked the switch, and…. Kelly deems that the single bulb IS bright enough and so then that’s how we shall proceed with the remainder. There you have it… Kelly Approved!

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Solutions to Boredom in Paradise!

Cheers! from Kelly and Chris

2 thoughts on “Another Lighting Upgrade

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s