Light (For) Reading

Our 32 year-old cabin lights are gradually falling prey to old age and cheap manufacturing.  Until today, there were four remaining of the original 6 lights.  One had been replaced before we bought the boat, and I replace another at some point during our ownership.  Although I’m not compulsive about having all the fittings match, it seems to make sense to replace this whole batch with something more up-to-date and energy-efficient.  I’ve ordered all new lights with LED elements in them, and also ordered two flex-arm reading lamps, which I installed in the V-berth today.

Prior to today, there was one light in the v-berth (on Ruth’s side) and it wasn’t positioned in a way that made for easy reading.  There was no light on my side of the berth.  I have always used a flashlight. This is okay, but it doesn’t stay put if I move at all – it rolls around and shines in places where I’m not reading.  Due to the ineffective positioning of the existing light, Ruth also used a flashlight to read.

The new lights have bendy necks that are 12 inches long and can pivot every which-way.  They made so much more sense than the old short-necked original light.  Now we can shine the light on our reading and have it stay where our eyes are looking.

Flex-Arm Reading Light

Flex-Arm Reading Light

DSC_2499Installation was straightforward.  On Ruth’s side, there was already a hole in the bulk through which the wires fed.  I drilled three holes and screw-mounted the fixture over the original installation location.

Old lamp.  Cracked shade, intermittent switch, restricted aim.

Old lamp. Cracked and yellowed shade, intermittent switch, restricted aim.

New lamp installed

New lamp installed

And it works.

And it works.

My side of the berth wasn’t quite as easy.  I had to splice into the light circuit from the light forward of the clothes locker, then fish the wire through to the berth.  Not hard, just needed to develop the right technique with the right tools.  Drilled mounting holes and mounted the fixture.  Here, the location had a small challenge in that it will share space with the dinghy’s spars and sail.  I repositioned the dinghy gear slightly and secured them a little better.  This provided enough room to mount the light.

The dinghy gear is held in place with strap eyes and small stuff.  Reorienting the spars and retying the lines made room for the light.

The dinghy gear is held in place with strap eyes and small stuff. Reorienting the spars and retying the lines made room for the light.

And this one works too!

And this one works too!

After a bit of contorting and suffering with elbows, hands and line-of-sight issues, I managed to secure all the wire supported and hidden.  I trimmed off the wire tie tails, and flipped on the light circuit for one last look at my handy work.  The port-side light no longer worked. . .  Upon rechecking the connections, I discovered that I had neatly cut the positive wire at the same time I trimmed the wire tie. This is my life.  This is the way I do things.  So I cut off the remainder of the connection, unscrewed the wire tie and cut it off, attached another butt connector to the positive side, and wrestled again to secure the new wire tie with a screw, then carefully trimmed the new wire tie.  I checked the light, and it works again.  Sigh. . .

I also received the new cabin lamps (just a few minutes ago, actually) and have inspected them.  I’m impressed.  These are not high-dollar fixtures, but feature a “satin chrome,” finish and seem pretty robust.  The lamps are wired with tinned wire – a “marine-use” feature.  They are made by GoWISE. The information on the box indicates that they operate on 8-30 volts – which seems like a pretty wide range of voltage to me.  Hopefully, the range will be sufficiently flexible to accommodate the 12.4 – 14.4 volts of a boat system.  I’ll start installing them in the next day or two.


This photo reminds me of a Pixar film character.

This photo reminds me of a Pixar film character.

DSC_2515So we’ll see how they do.  The flex-arm lamps were $24 each, shipped together (shipping charge was steep, at $20).  I found them with this eBay vendor: Alliance Coach-RV sales and service.  I doubt we will use the reading lights while under power – with the engine running the voltage is right around 14.4 volts.  Automotive-style LEDs aren’t typically very flexible with regards to voltage fluctuations, so hopefully using them with the engine not running will allow them to last without the failure that is attributed to voltage levels that are too high.

The cabin lights were $49 for three – I ordered two sets.  Shipping was a little more reasonable at $15, and the eBay vendor is Bovilles.

  1. David Grimm said:

    I’ve got 3 of the little silver LED lights. Got to mount the last one up in the v berth. Could you email me I can’t log in at the groups. conagher60@gmaildotcom Thanks

  2. Joe Hochadel said:

    Hi Rick!

    The voltage range they indicate is probably accurate. These devices have active circuitry that makes them rather flexible in terms of input voltage and RVers have the same voltage swings that you experience on your boat.

    The thing that really surprises me is that the MFGs haven’t yet realized that folks replacing tungsten lamps with these LED units are used to the yellowish light that tungsten produces and the human eye works better with some yellow in the light spectrum. I guess the quest for more lumens has trumped common sense. They also make high intensity LEDs that produce yellow, red & green light. If they combined the right number of yellow and red LEDs with the blue/white ones, they could come close to replicating the spectral content of a tungsten lamp. That sure would make the light seem less harsh and still be bright. Ah well, no doubt that will be the next “big development” in LED lighting!

    Joe H.

    • Joe,

      The “marine” versions of LEDs are very pricey, even now after a number of years of being on the market, and they often feature a light quality/color that is easier on the eyes than the bright-white of these lights that I’ve installed. But, I’ve never gotten past the price for these bulbs: bulbs alone often cost $15-$25, so I’ve been waiting to find products that aren’t so dear. The new fixtures, including bulbs, cost right around $21 each, including shipping.

      I was impressed with the chrome fixtures – they are not sensitive to wiring polarity, and as you mention, and very flexible wrt voltage variation. Although the light is very white – almost garish – I think I can tolerate that. I was impressed by the power consumption, of course. With all the lights burning, the volt-meter hardly moved lower at all, compared to the old incandescent lights which would pull the volt-meter down to around 12 volts. Still, it would be nice to have a pleasanter, warmer color for the cabin lighting. I’ll wait a few more years and see what develops in the market.

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