Seeing the Light ... Sort Of

I’ve lost the first round in my quest to install LED lights, but I am not finished.

Del Viento- old light

Here is what we want to replace: 22W circular fluorescent bulbs in a 10-inch-diameter, RV-styled fixture.Michael Robertson

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Lighting aboard Del Viento is poor. General lighting comes from the six original fluorescent fixtures on the cabin overhead, circa 1978. They emit a good amount of light, but it is fluorescent light. And while these bright overhead lights are great for cleaning, they are no longer appealing come dinner time—and they cannot be dimmed. And don't get me started on the power draw, about two amps a piece. When we have just half of these guys burning, they consume more power than the refrigerator.

So I attacked the problem, sacrificing a forward light that stopped working last month.

At IKEA, I bought a nice looking, 120V, ceiling light fixture. Once home, I confirmed it’s aesthetic suitability and then headed back out again, this time to an electronics store. The resident LED expert happened to be working that day, so I learned what I could from him and bought what I needed.

Unfortunately, it wasn't just the light that didn't work in this experiment, but I couldn't mount the fixture close enough to the overhead to make it attractive. Also, I don't know what I was thinking, but the glass shade supported by dinky plastic clips wasn't the best idea. I need to find something else.

Back aboard, I ripped the 120V socket and guts out of the IKEA light. Using mounting tape, I attached the three LEDs I bought, pig-tailed their wires in the back, and attached them to the hot 12-volt wires hanging from the ceiling. Wow, were these things bright!

I screwed the fixture into the ceiling, again temporarily connected the wires, and replaced the glass shade.

I hadn’t installed even the switch or the potentiometer for dimming this thing and already I could see it was all wrong. The quality of this light sucked: colder than ice. It made the output from the fluorescent lights resemble the little glowing cottage windows in a Thomas Kinkade painting.

I’ve lost the first round, but I am not finished. I’m hopeful that if I find a yellow tape or film, I can color the light so that it is incandescent-appearing. I am drawn by the promise of affordable, dimmable, bright, all-around ceiling lights that are pleasing and consume very little power.

Stay tuned.



_The lighting thing is really just a distraction from the dozens of other projects I am completing now. Among them is the windlass gypsy. After emailing back and forth with the tech folks at Imtra (Lofrans), we think the pockets on this bronze gypsy are worn, the cause of our recurring and dangerous chain jumping problem.


_I__n our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we slumbered through the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Follow along at _