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Exterior Lighting Upgrade

2011/07/15 - All of the exterior lighting on Tomfoolery is original, perhaps with the exception of a few of the bulbs that have burned out over the years. Being incandescents, they consume a lot of power and I've been looking at options to make the ship's batteries last longer for some years.

LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting came on the scene a few years ago, but at a prohibitive price. Over time, competition has worked its magic and the prices are now approaching reasonable (and thus, justifiable) levels. The first step was to survey the boat and identify what was being used in the existing fixtures and see if there was an LED replacement available for it.

Existing Exterior Lighting
Location Current Bulb Notes/Comments
Bow Lights G94 BA15D base, ~13 watt
Stern Light E90 BA15D base, ~7.5 watt
Steaming Light GE90 BA15D base, ~7.5 watt
Anchor Light C90 BA15D base, ~7.5 watt

All bulbs cross-reference to an 1142 bulb/socket.

Fortunately, it appears that a consistent socket was used aboard the boat, but that more powerful (i.e., brighter) lamps were used in the bow lights to compensate for the colored filters used there.

After the bow pulpit was removed from the boat it was much easier to begin working on the bow light fixtures. They were removed and disassembled so that the bulbs could be positively identified. The hope is that an LED replacement can be found so that the entire fixture does not have to be replaced. Photos below show the disassembly sequence.

This first photo shows how the bow lights are integrated in with the bow pulpit. A small Allen screw locks the fixture into the tubing of the frame. Wiring for the lights comes up the starboard side of the pulpit through the aftmost pulpit base and feeds both lights.

Loosening the Allen screw a bit allows the fixture to drop from the pulpit.

Just a few screws hold everything together. This photo shows the "exploded" view. If a replacement LED bulb can be found, then the teak trim piece will be refinished or replaced.

The bulbs, by the way, are labeled as "G94". A search on the Internet suggested that the bulb base is the same as the "E90" and "C90" bulbs found in the stern light and steaming light. I believe the difference is in the wattage of the bulb, with the bow lights being more powerful to compensate for the colored filters. According to one web site, the base of the bulb is identified as "BA15D".

2011/08/15 - Finally took measurements and confirmed everything. The bulbs are all cross-referenced under the number 1142. The double contacts in the bottom of the socket are positive and negative. There is no electrical connection to the socket itself for any of the exterior lights.

The incandescent bulbs were of two power levels - 7 and 13 watts. The brighter bulbs were used in the colored running lights presumably to make up for the attenuation caused by the colored filters. The dimmer bulbs were used in the clear (white) fixtures in order to conserve power. Since the idea is to stay visible, I opted to get all "high power" LED bulbs.

I found a very helpful web site at While I don't think their prices are the lowest (about $25/bulb), they had everything in stock with all of the correct colors (red, green and white). I opted to get the "warm white" bulbs since the color temperature was closest to that of an incandescent bulb.

2011/08/15 - Inclement weather kept me on the Internet today, where LED bulbs were ordered both for the cabin and for the navigation lights on the exterior. The only remaining lights left to replace are the spreader lights. Some interesting possibilities exist, but quite frankly, this can wait for a while, especially since the spreaders have not yet been refinished .

2011/08/20 - LED bulbs for the navigation lights arrived, however they didn't quite fit in to the fixtures. Because of the way the original bulbs were recessed, a flange on the LED model didn't allow the new bulbs to completely settle into the bayonette socket. A few minutes with a countersinking bit in a drill solved this problem and now everything fits (and functions) just fine. The photo at the right shows the original fixtures with the new LED bulbs inserted. Original bulbs are on the bench in between.

The anchor light uses a smaller bulb at the masthead and has a fresnel lens sized to match, so the new LED bulbs did not fit. One more LED bulb will be ordered and the exterior conversion to LED will be complete, significantly reducing power consumption.