Geoff, I think there's always been a dilemma for cruising sailors to move up the technology scale because it truly improves that boat's performance or safety
or comfort vs. choosing new technology because it makes us feel better. We opted for diesel
PFDs and roller furling
jibs despite some disadvantages because the benefits (despite their costs)demonstrably outweighed the status quo.
WRT nav lights - and despite the desire to upgrade to what seems more efficient - I'll bet you've already equipped your ketch
, at some significant expense, to deal with the nav light electrical
demand: HO alternator
; external regulator
; alternative energy source(s); clever analysis meter that 'counts' amp/hrs. In truth, you've already addressed this issue (electrical consumption), yet now technology is inevitably luring you further. It's fair to ask, just as you did in your original post, at what point is it reasonable to accept a given 'cost' (in amps) for a given level of safety
& performance (nav lights) vs. adding additional cost ($$) for (hopefully) the same performance.
FWIW the ONLY light I've been concerned about improving while full-time cruising has been the anchor
light. As Tim pointed out, bow/stern/steaming lights are usually a non-issue. My AquaSignal Tricolor light is not electrically efficient but it is very functional; it is also an approved device. And re: bulb life, I have to say the majority of nav light problems I've had to solve have been bad contacts (easily cleaned) and corrosion
due to poor wire connections on my part. I have yet to replace all the bulbs in my lights even once (5 yrs cruising so far), so an argument about 'maintenance' being expensive for these halogen lights has not ben my experience.
But the anchor light has been a worry. First, the masthead light (part of the AquaSignal fixture) is just not in a place that I think motorboaters routinely look for when in close quarters at night-time. This was e.g. very noticeable to me - was I just imagining it? - on the Spanish Rias this past season, when concerts, inpromptu socializing and lots of boating
activity went on all night long (along with much alcohol consumption) on many a weekend. My masthead light is bright and clean white, and I added a photo
cell in the circuit so I could throw on the light before leaving the boat to go ashore, yet know it wouldn't turn on until needed...but despite all this, I worry about it meeting the entire need that WHOOSH has. I've used a Davis MegaLight for some years, usually as an addendum to the masthead light and mounted lower over the dodger
, but have always been dissatisfied with its visual impact. I even built my own 'automatic' anchor light, using a photo-cell, peanut butter jar and incandescent bulb; I expected this would be an improvement in several directions when in practice it was somewhat the worst of all choices: I still had a 1 amp/hr draw, no effective lens, and a yellowish, weak light.
What's my current
answer? On the rec of John Drake (a visitor here on occasion) I bought an Innovative Lighting
LED anchor light. They are either $70 or $80 (depending on shaft length) at Boaters World (not inexpensive but not outrageous), they do not lend themselves to a variety of mounting options so I'll have to do some fiddling, but I just MAY have arrived at a compromise I will find reasonable: 1/4 amp/hr draw, long-life LED in an effective lens, bright white and brilliantly white light, and USCG 2 NM approved. I plan to use it as either THE anchor light (probably mounted above & near the cockpit
, which also adds a bit of security) or supplemental to the masthead light, depending on conditions in the anchorage (level of traffic, viz and level of observed alcohol consumption); we also plan to use it as our cockpit
illumination when using the cockpit at night.
Is this 'the answer'? Well, it's getting closer to the level of protection I think can occasionally be needed in a busy anchorage; it is certainly closer than anything else so far. One thing I am sure of: for my limited cruising kitty, the anchor light is where it's worth putting my attention and money
Hope this is of some help to you.