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Old 01-27-2002
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Lighting Up the Interior

While the teak in our offshore cruiser is beautiful, the cabin is dim. We've considered changing out the round brass, glass fixtures with something similar in halogen, but the heat and the power drain worry us. Fluorescent has been recommended as a cool, bright, and efficient alternative, but we've read about interference with SSB and VHF. What's the real scoop on this?

Sue and Larry respond:
Before you replace your overhead lights, try to find the right screw-in adapter to convert them to accept halogen bulbs. We found these for some of the fixtures on Serengeti. We like the bright, white lighting of halogen, and have never found the heat to be a problem. One thing we discovered on our last boat, Safari, was that some fixtures with five-watt bulbs and a clear lens provide much better lighting than some other fixtures with 10-watt bulbs and diffused lenses. The fixtures with the five-watt bulbs were much cheaper, and used half the power.

It seems a no-brainer to look for this type of fixture. As far as fluorescents are concerned, we personally find the light they give off to be a bit harsh, but they have their place over a galley counter or possibly in an engine room. We understand that some fluorescent fixtures contain radio suppression technology. Look for this in the higher- priced fixtures. Our truly favorite lighting is provided by oil lamps and candles, which we use everyday even though we have plenty of power for the others. You simply cannot match the warmth and ambiance provided by this kind of lighting.

Here are some tips to brighten your interior:

1. Use white or light fabric on cushions. (Leather or ultra-leather coverings don't stain like cloth. We had ultra-leather on Safari and loved it.)

2. A large mirror on the bulkhead will reflect light wonderfully back into the cabin. If you can strategically place one or more of your lights near the mirror, you will get the greatest benefit.

3. Many people change the area around the ports on the inside of the cabin-house to white. You'll be amazed at the difference in brightness.

4. High-gloss varnish will reflect more light than a satin or oiled finish. If you don't want to go full board with the gloss, try using it on the trim pieces only. This often provides a nice effect without being too glossy. 

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