Wednesday, November 30, 2016

LED Nav/anchor replacement bulb

Depending on the build year and the market, the First 260 often came with a single light at the mast top, most typically a red/green/white navigation light. Designed for offshore/coastal use, the fixture placed the light source high where it was easily seen.

The single light has its disadvantage however, the primary one being that there is no provision for an anchor light. You CAN replace the fixture to a stacked nav/anchor light, but beyond that being expensive, you still need to run another set of 12v wires to the top of the mast, and add a switch to your DC panel to control it. So most boats stayed rigged in the original manner.

A later option was a LED replacement fixture from NASA Marine in the UK. Called the Combi-LED, this light had the innovative ability to be controlled by ONE 12V wire pair, meaning no new wires to be pulled. It did this by reversing polarity to get anchor light, and came with a small switch to add to your panel to control this. I looked at doing this for quite awhile, but frankly was put off by the cost of importing it form the UK, and the seemingly flimsily mounting stalk the light came with.

Now enter a new and innovative product from Marinebeam. I'm a big fan of their products, and use their interior LED replacement bulbs on BlueJ. These bulbs switch between white and vision saving red light by simply toggling the power on and off while the light is on, greatly reducing the complexity of the install. I wrote about these bulbs HERE.

The new Marinebeam nav/anchor bulb uses this same capability to give a single wire install, meaning it is a drop-in replacement that give you both nav and anchor light capability, in a low power LED design to boot.

The bulb is available with or without a fixture for around US$100, making it a spectacular deal. It has too many cool features to list here, like the ability to have it turn off automatically when the sun comes up, and a SOS blink mode.

A video from Marinebeam that walks through all the features is here.

If your boat has hull mounted nav lights and a mast-top anchor light, this bulb is a great way to add off-shore style mast-top nav lighting with a simple bulb replacement. Of course there is nothing First 260 specific about this at all, and works on any boat with the same mount or more generally with the replacement fixture.

Needless to say, I ordered one, and it arrived in three days. For the extra US$10, the optional fixture is quite nice, and although the bulb would have fit in my old fixture, the old lens had yellowed badly and I'm assuming that the bevels on the new fixture are designed to help the LED pattern project high and low. . The bulb is available from the Marinebeam store HERE.

UPDATE: I installed the fixture right before launch. As I had hoped/expected, the new fixture lined right up into the light platform on the Z265 mast. That was easy.

It functions exactly as expected. As I wanted to be able to have my all-around white on an any time, I covered the small sensor at the top of the unit with tape. The lights are VERY bright. No one is going to miss us!