A Rally around the world by a group of over 30 yachts is an excellent opportunity to stress-test the on-board equipment: some experiences I already described in the past, some others I will post when the opportunity arises, like for the subject of this post, triggered by having seen an advertisement on a nautical magazine.
The electrical consumption of the nav-lights is a factor to be taken in consideration on a long-distance sailing yacht: even using only a mast-top tricolor light, its 25-watt lamp, coupled with the intermittent use of cabin lights, will easily eat-up between 20 and 25 amp-hours overnight.
Since some years low-consumption LED-technology lamps have appeared on the market, both in the form of full, type-approved nav-lights, as well as in the form of replacement lamps that can fit in the same socket of regular lamps, both for cabin lighting as well as within nav-lights.
There is no major drawback in using LED lamps for cabin lighting, just a couple of characteristics that need to be taken into account before ordering: one is the “color” of the light, there are both “cold” lamps, emitting a somewhat brighter but bluish light, or “warm” lamps, whose yellowish light is usually more pleasant under-deck. The other caveat is that not all 12V LED lamps are suitable for use aboard vehicles, where the actual voltage can raise up to over 14 Volts when the engine is running; overvoltage-protected lamps are available, just slightly more expensive, but they last much longer.
Many of the Rally yachts also replaced the lamps in their nav-lights with LED lamps, a much cheaper solution compared with full-fledged LED-based nav-lights: no problem at first sight, but you can imagine the surprise when we found out that the LED lights became invisible from only few hundred meters!
This came as a surprise because if you check your lights from a limited distance, say from the quay some 50-100 meters away, the LED lamps seem to be as bright as a regular lamp, but quite evidently this is not the case! Even more dangerously, the light which disappears first is the red light, just the sector from where you expect to have right-of-way!
When we reached Australia, we found a (very expensive) LED lamp specifically meant for use in nav-lights, so we installed one in our tri-color, while we kept using regular lamps in the “low” nav-lights that were normally used when motoring, so with no worry about power consumption.
Last remark: somebody pointed out to us that the use of non-type-approved lamps could be objected by authorities, andin case of an accident this may give the insurance company good reason to refuse payment.