New parts vs. old fixtures
Last week while motoring back in from an afternoon sail it got dark enough to need the lights turned on. After doing so I checked them, and saw that the steaming light was not on. Now I know it was working the last time I checked it, so I thought maybe I had mislabeled its switch, and tried them all. No dice. Not much I could do about it at the time, so we motored back into the slip with no steaming light.
Replacing the light offered a dilemma. The fixture is only 12 feet off the deck; but I have no bosun's chair or any other "up the stick" gear. However, I do have a 6' A-frame ladder, a few lengths of line, good balance and not much sense.
So picture if you will -- and you'll have to, because I didn't get any pictures -- a regular A-frame latter set up in front of the mast, lashed to the mast with various pieces of line and sitting on my car's floormat for better traction than on bare deck. Luckily the weather was perfect: very little wind and no swell. Up the ladder I went, screwdriver in pocket and gripping the shrouds for balance.
Of course, to reach the fixture I had to stand on the VERY TOP step -- way past the point where the ladder manufacturers tell you to NEVER STAND HERE -- and let go of the shrouds so that I could get both hands on the bulb and fixture, as it had been happily in there for many years and had no intention of coming out easily. A circus act should offer such a sense of possibly impending catastrophe.
But happily for me, I got the bulb out and back down the ladder with no mishaps, and off to West Marine for a replacement. I had tried to get a replacement BEFORE going up, but the nice young man in the store told me he didn't have a type 68 bulb, and that I should bring mine in and he'd try to match it.
Back into the store I go, and since my clerk was busy and no one else was nearby, I walked back to the light bulb display... where I found the type 68 bulbs hanging in plain view. Well, I'd been right there when he said he didn't have it, and I didn't see it either, so I had to accept partial blame. Back to the boat with the replacement bulb.
Up onto the wobbly ladder again to continue my balancing act, only to find that the new bulb does not fit into the old fixture. It... was... just... a... tiny... bit... large. And no amount of forcing or swearing would make it go in. I tried both new bulbs on the chance than maybe one was slightly larger than it should be, but no go. It was either the old bulb or nothing for that light fixture. I retreated to the cabin to ponder my alternatives.
That bulb had worked fine a week ago, and it hadn't been used since. I had checked the wiring already and it was OK -- could something be up with the bulb other than being burned out? I grabbed a couple of wires with alligator clips on them and connected them into the distribution panel. When I made the connection across the terminals of the bulb, up it lit.
It was either put the old bulb back in or spend a lot of time looking for another manufacturer for the bulb or spend a lot of money buying a whole new fixture. I climbed back up for the third time, re-inserted the bulb, then went back to the cabin and turned on the steaming light. When I looked again it was nicely lit, so I figure that it just wanted reseating in the fixture.
I bowed to fate, climbed up onto my ladder one more time and screwed everything back into place. Then I went back to the cabin and turned the light on one more time just to make sure. It was lit. OK.
So now I'm operating on borrowed time: when that bulb does burn out, how am I going to get a replacement if all the new bulbs are too large?
I guess I'd better start looking for a nice, inexpensive LED replacement?
And should this be a new thread like the BFSs, only called SFR's: Stupid Freaking Repairs?
I can't help with the repair but was able to show your post to my wife and loudly proclaim, "See I'm not the only *#@&*#@ idiot to use a ladder on a boat." You have done me a great service. And I know we are not the only ones that have completed a repair and thought, I can't believe I just did that. I hope your luck holds and the light burns for a long time.
But you have answered the question: "How many sailors does it take to change a lightbulb?" Answer: "One clever one with a 6 foot ladder." Seriously though, there has to be someone out there who makes a replacement bulb that will fit. At some point I also want to go to LED but $30 for a light bulb seems a bit steep at this point, especially given that my current needs don't kill my battery. Anyhow, thanks for the great story and good luck!
Great story. Been there done that. You'll have to do a LOT better to top some of my stupid-isms. See the What's your biggest bonehead move sailing? thread. Look for my posts.
I had the same problem with my anchor light, but 55' up. I replaced it with an LED light.
28 year old boat i feel your pain :)
You will feel a LOT less pain just replacing the fixtures a bit at a time to keep the cost down and have far LESS problems :)
Did you lightly sand the old bulb's contacts? And the same for the mounting points? That would probably help..at least, until the inevitable burn-out.
No, I didn't sand them. Would have been a good thing to do, though. But since it's a twist-out bulb, I figure the twisting did enough contact cleaning for the purpose.
I'll just put a new fixture up there the next time.
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