It was the last sail of the season. The winds were stiff, the swell was moderate, but a bit rough, and Ravat was flying like a jet. With about 15 degrees of heel and water occasionally breaking over the bow I was in heaven. As the afternoon drew into evening we suddenly realized that we needed to turn back in order to make the slip by dark. We hadn't ever brought her in at night before, and for that matter I hadn't checked to see if the navigation lights worked.
It wasn't my best fit of preparedness, but we chose to sail on until it was dark, then head in. We enjoyed every last second of the sailing, although it was getting a bit cold once the sun went down and we were ready to head in. Fortunately, all of the critical lights worked: bow bicolor, and stern 180. When we dropped sail and fired up the engine to return to port I should have flipped on my steaming light. When we finally returned to the slip and needed to secure the jib roller, and tidy the fore lines a deck light would have been very helpful. Note, I said "would have."
Thus began my quest for a replacement light. My boat is not a big by yachting standards, so there wasn't need for a monstrous light. That narrowed my search to the sort of medium category for boats bigger than dinghies yet smaller than the Titanic. The next criteria was lighting method: incandescent or LED. I love LEDs, and think they are a perfect investment for boats. That being said, I selected incandescent. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the mast light. The steaming light bulb was burned out, and the deck light was... Missing. Completely. So was its lens. When inspected even more closely I realized that the fiberglass housing of the entire lighting unit was badly cracked. The chances of getting a replacement lens were slim, and even if I did, the unit looked pretty trashy. My yacht will not be trashy.
I wouldn't run my deck light for very long under any circumstance I can think of. It kills night vision and attracts bugs. The steaming light will only be used when the engine is running, and thus when the alternator is charging the DC system. Considering these two points, it seemed that the mast light would never have the chance to be a drain on my batteries, and so I decided to enjoy the considerable cost savings of an incandescent unit. My final choice is the Hella 8505 light. A nice compact unit, and a fair price.
In this project I will be removing the original fixture and plugging its holes since the new unit is considerably smaller. I will then run a new in-mast wire, drill and tap new holes for the Hella fixture, and install the new unit. Maybe it will even work when I'm done, but even if it doesn't it will still look better than what I have now. Yet another example of how you can't go wrong with DIY boat projects.