Category Archives: lights

Little jobs roundup, 2017-09

Here’s a roundup of small jobs done on Tammy Norie in late August and early September.

When comparing Tammy Norie and Emmelène, I suggested we drop Tammy’s mast and lift the mast stub. When we went to remove the retaining bolt, it snapped!



I cut a new bolt from stainless steel studding.


I suspect the wear on the bolt was the main cause of the clonking sound that’s been gradually building up when Tammy is in rough water. This also gave us a good chance to look at the rather inadequate mast foot bracket.


This is due for an upgrade later when I improve the mast step.

My engine starter cord snapped at an inconvenient moment on the way in to Portsmouth Harbor. I’d only just replaced it. This time I noticed that the cord was slightly melted. Moral: don’t use melty synthetic string for your engine starter. Use cord specifically designed for the job.

Replaced the incandescent bulb in my trusty utility lamp with a domestic halogen-replacement LED that I just happened to have knocking around. Half the power and a great deal brighter — possibly too bright.


Replaced the coaxial connectors on my log and depth instrument. They were being to corrode and the log was unreliable. I had to dismantle the instrument and desolder the old connectors from the circuit board. I bought a pack of 10 replacement connectors from eBay so that should keep me going. NASA Marine were very helpful.

I am finding my new Iroda SolderPro 70 butane soldering iron very useful.

While I was doing that I fixed another problem with the instrument: it’s too bright at night. I couldn’t find a way to do this electronically, but I discovered that the backlight and the display are physically separate. I cut a piece of paper to slip between them and the display is much less dazzling.


The charts in my Solent chart pack were getting dog-eared, so I’ve edged them all with Scotch Magic tape, which is nearly invisible and takes pencil marks.


The bow light hack finally failed after two years. The LED replacement bulb fell apart somewhere inside so that the terminals no longer connect. This is probably because it was not designed to be shaken about on the bow of a small boat. I ordered a couple of made-for-purpose replacements, one of which is now in the bow. The other is a spare for either bow or stern.

My mast lift is now a spare halyard. The mast lift is a loop holds the forward part of the sail bundle when the sail is reefed or lowered. Practical Junk Rig (fig. 3.49) has it as a single line from the mast head.


Practical Junk Rig figure 3.49

I’ve repurposed the enormously long “burgee halyard” that came with Tammy as a spare halyard in it’s place. I’ve felt the need ever since my halyard came off in the Waddenzee. Thanks to Chris Edwards for this idea. (The arrangement below is temporary until I make a new soft shackle.)


I may re-rig it a shown in Practical Junk Rig figure 3.50b, using the spare halyard on one side, allowing me to reef upwards!


Practical Junk Rig figure 3.50b

I found and installed a pair of calibrated quick links for the series drogue. It’s surprisingly hard to find shackles that are rated for load, but these beauties are good for at least 12500N each, more than the weight of the boat, and more than the greatest expected load on the drogue. (The drogue still doesn’t exist, in case you’re looking for it.)

I whipped some rope ends!


I rewired my switch panel using some new terminal blocks and rules: each piece of equipment goes to its own terminal, then switches are wired to terminals using colour-coded jumpers. Much neater, and a model for how I’ll do things when I remake the panel.


Expect more small jobs next month.

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Filed under electrics, engine, instruments, lights, mast, Repairs and Modifications, rigging

Red over Green

The YBW forum thread “LED’s in navigation lights will change their color” has some good technical discussion of how installing “white” LEDs (which are not all the same) can affect navigation lights.  You might recall that I’ve installed LEDs in my lights, but I was careful to use a “warm” white LED at the bow.

Anyway, I posted about my plans for mast lights on Tammy Norie, and I thought I’d share my ideas here.

I’ve been without fixed interior lighting in Tammy Norie for a long time.  Last year, I bought some cheap waterproof LED lighting strip to experiment with.  The main problem with it is that the individual LEDs are so bright that they leave afterimages in your eyes.  I ended up tucking the strip into the shelves around the boat so that I couldn’t see it directly.


This isn’t a permanent solution, but it’s quite handy for now.

Then I remembered NASA Marine’s “Supernova” masthead lights, which consist of an array of individual LEDs arranged in a circle, and I wondered about wrapping a strip of LEDs around my mast to create an all-round light.


This seems like a very easy and cheap thing to rig, and an improvement on my dangly utility light when I’m at anchor or under power.

But what about other masthead lights?

Well, Tammy Norie has deck-level running lights: a red/green bicolour at the bow and a white stern light.  I don’t intend to change that.  I’ve read two separate complaints by ship captains about tricolour lights being hard to see — especially sharp modern LED lights.  I believe tricolour lights exist not to improve visibility, but to save power by having a single incandenscent bulb for the red, green, and white sectors. [Edit: See the comment section for a refutation of this by Annie Hill.] With LED lights using a tenth of the power of incandescents that’s no longer an issue.

Of course it would be nice to be even more visible, and to have some sort of light up the mast to improve visibility at a distance.  It turns out there’s a little used legal light combination that allows a sailing vessel to show both masthead and deck-level lights.  Rule 25(c) says:

A sailing vessel underway may, in addition to the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule, exhibit at or near the top of the mast, where they can best be seen, two all-round lights in a vertical line, the upper being red and the lower green, …

I think I’ve only ever seen this once, on a square-rigged tall ship. There are some nice clear illustrations of this combination at

Annex I 2(i)(ii) says:

on a vessel of less than 20 metres in length such lights shall be spaced not less than 1 metre apart

You can see in this picture that there’s quite a lot of clear mast space between the yard hauling parrel and the masthead.


But I suspect there’s rather less than a meter, and there’ll be even less if I build a bigger sail.

So for the moment I’ve just fitted a white strip for use when anchored and motoring. I lowered the mast and moused a four-core cable into both parts. (I left a loop of mousing string in the mast when I installed the conduit.) I cleaned the mast with meths then wrapped the LED strip around in place. Then I gradually pulled the adhesive backing from under the strip and pressed it in place.


I used a terminal block to connect the light for now, wrapped and secured with tape. That’ll do for testing.
It looks pretty good and is certainly bright. The main problem with this arrangement is that I can see some of it from the cockpit. It may be too bright, but you can simply cut off sections of these strips so it is easily dimmed.

Here is a picture at dusk. (I didn’t think a picture at night would be very, er, illuminating.)

The next step of the plan is to wire up a little matrix using a multi-way rotary switch with positions for sailing, motoring, anchored, etc. That way I can combined my bow bicolour with the new masthead white to give others some idea of my heading when motoring. That will wait until the grand electrical panel rebuild. It’s a bit of a bird’s nest in there at the moment.

I will let you know whether this works out in practice.


Filed under lights, Repairs and Modifications

Bow light LED hack


Before you install LED bulbs in your fittings please consider carefully how they might affect the colour and visibility arcs of your lights and the insurance of your boat. Please check MGN 393 Navigation light units: maintenance and the use of new technology light sources, such as light emitting diodes (LEDs), as navigation lights on SOLAS and non-SOLAS vessels and also I suggest Warning not to use LED bulbs in filament bulb navigation lights from PBO.

My battery ran very low after my 32 hour passage from Rye to the Breskens. The main power draws were the tiller pilot, the VHF, and the navigation lights. The lights were the worst, drawing over 2A by the ammeter. I had incandescent bulbs that came with the boat: 10W in the stern and 25W in the bow, so they ought to be drawing 2.9A.

The chandlery in Willemstad had a cool white (6000K) replacement for the stern bulb, but nothing suitable for the bow. If you put a 6000K LED behind the usual green plastic filter then it shows up as blue. The only solution I’ve seen for this is to use an expensive bi-colour LED bulb.

But the chandlery also had warm white (2500K) domestic LEDs with brightness equivalent to 25W. They ought to give the correct colour, and they were much cheaper. The only problem was the fitting.

Time for a quick hack with the soldering iron!


I soldered some copper flex into the feet of the LED bulb.


The spring contacts to the bulb unscrew and come out, leaving holes for the flex.


The unscrewed contacts have a convenient hole drilled down the centre. I threaded the flex through these holes.


Then I just reassembled and tested the bow light.


It showed the correct shades of green and red, as you’d expect, since the incandescent bulb would also be at about 2500K.

I taped the spring contacts to the old bulb and put it in the spares box along with the old stern bulb.  Nothing was destroyed by this hack and it’s easy to put things back as they were if necessary.

The current draw for the LED bow and stern lamps was about 200mA, less than a tenth of the incandescent bulbs.


Filed under lights, Repairs and Modifications