The flow of parts is starting to become a river, but that means decisions need to be made. Case in point is cabin lighting.

If we were going to be sailing only during the day and then be moored/docked/anchored at night, the decision is easy. I wouldn’t have to be concerned with preserving night vision. However, Opus is also intended to be a racing sloop for big, multi-day races wherein she’ll be sailed day and night. This means she needs dual lighting systems in the cabin. White light for when we’re relaxing. Red light for when we’re racing at night.

Why red light? (actually, it could be blue light too, according to the latest research I’ve read) White light destroys your night vision. After being blasted by the white light, it can take a long time for your night vision to fully recover. Red (or blue) light doesn’t have that same effect. For racing, this is important as you don’t want your crew to be blind on deck at night.

So, back to the issue of lighting. Right now the cabin is illuminated with white incandescent lights. These are power hungry and, of course, white. I want to replace them with White/Red LED lighting. LED lighting is a lot better for power consumption, which is important when you’re sailing for several days and don’t have some (alternate) means of recharging your batteries – you want to keep the amount of engine running time (the engine is used to recharge the boat batteries) to a minimum since you have to carry fuel to power the engine.

Rather than buying a bunch of LED lights (which are about $100.00 or so each) and then finding out whether they’d work, we ordered ONE light to try out, and it’s a good thing that we did. The light works well and it fits in the existing holes in the cabin headliner. However (isn’t there alway a however or a but?)…

The LED light has three wires and no intrinsic on/off. One wire is common, it’s attached to ground. Then, depending on whether you want white or red, you apply power to one or the other of the remaining wires, and that’s where the difficulty comes in.

Right now, Opus’ wiring only has two wires going to each location. That means I can turn the light on or turn the light off from a switch at the nav station. I can NOT select whether it should be red or white. Also, it would supply power to all the lights on one side at the same time. The current system has a “master” on/off at the nav station and an individual on/off at each light. The new LED light doesn’t have an on/off at it.

So… what to do… the choices are:

  1. Use two switches at the nav station. One supplies ‘red’ power, one supplies ‘white’ power.
  2. Use one switch at the nav station that provices power to all lights, then put a switch at each light to select “red”, “white” or “none”

Choice one can be further broken down as right now the nav station can supply power to the “port” and ‘starboard’ lights independently. I could set it up where port lights are red, starboard lights are white. However, that still leaves the problem of they are _all_ either on or _all_ are off. “All” meaning all of the same colour.

An alternative is that the “Port” switch at the nav station is repurposed to “white” and the “starboard” switch is repurposed to “Red”. This has advantages of all lights can be either red or white. However, we again have the problem of all the lights are on or all the lights are off. A second drawback is that it allows all the lights to have BOTH the red AND the white lights on at the same time – something the manufacturer says not to do.

Choice 2 has the drawback of more complexity and expense since now I have to wire in (and mount) a switch next to each light. However, it overcomes the difficulties of option 1 and uses the existing wiring runs to each light. It does have the drawback of a light being accidentally set to “white” during the day so that at night, when power is turned on, that light blinds people.

This will take some thought.

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