Saturday, 30 April 2011

You Light Up My Life...

I have been putting off the combined task of repairing the masthead light (the anchor light) and rewiring the mast ever since the last attempt at a repair resulted in a swim in Doral Harbour following our anchor-light-removal-using-a-low-bridge-as-a-hammer on the Georgian bay trip.

A couple years ago I bought a new anchor light from Bebi Electronics of Fiji. It was a great buy on a pretty cool looking light from a grassroots business. I loved the idea of supporting small business, and the notion of an anchor light that would turn itself on at dusk and off at dawn.

The light arrived just before our Georgian Bay trip, but then I didn't have time to mount it. We nudged the bridge in the Trent Canal with just enough force to bend our masthead anemometer back, remove the windex, and break our old anchor light, providing the perfect opportunity to replace the old light with the new one from Bebe.

At the end of the canal we docked at Doral Marine to raise the mast and do repairs. Repairs included replacing the anchor light. Hanging off the transom of the boat, sometimes hanging from the mast itself, I tried to fit the light to the masthead. It slipped from my hands, and sunk to the bottom of the marina. Looking down, all I saw was mud and seaweed. I dove anyway.

I think it was on the third or fourth dive that I found the light, nudged it with my fingers and felt it sink further into the maze of seaweed and mud. I surfaced for air, caught my breath, and ducked straight down to get the light. Success.

Sadly the rest of the repair in harbour went as well. The anchor light never worked on that cruise and we used a light hoisted on a halyard for an anchor light. The only mast light that has worked with any success since then has been the steaming light - a good thing since we often head out at night, but rarely anchor on our own lake.

Last week I dragged Chuck out to the boat in the driveway and we began messing with the wires on the mast. A battery was liberated from the salon and put on the foredeck. Each wire was tested in turn. The connector to the mast was only a 3-wire connector. The mast has 3 lights and a ground. Either one of the lights wasn't working, or two were wired to come on together.

I connected a jumper wire between the negative battery terminal and the largest prong in the connector. A test light was used to jump between the positive terminal on the battery and the other prongs on the deck connector. As expected the only wire that showed continuity was the steaming light. Damn.

I looked up the inside of the mast to see if there were any hints of impropriety and discovered a fourth wire coiled inside the mast. Jumping between it and the positive terminal resulted in the deck light flashing on, then blowing a bulb. Bingo! I now had a steaming light and a deck light.

I wondered if its long swim in the marina had killed the Bebe Anchor light. Had I wired it backwards so the LEDs wouldn't light up? Were the wires broken when we hit the bridge? With only one light out instead of 3, I started working through the reasons the light wouldn't come on. Chuck and I worked through the gathering dusk trying to troubleshoot the light. Then a change...

You may remember that one of my earliest projects on Iris was the installation of a solar powered vent a couple years ago - well apparently I learn from my mistakes. Eventually. After about a half hour of fiddling, I had Chuck hold the leads on the battery while I went and put my finger over the photo eye on the anchor light. Bingo! Dazzling white light. All the circuits in the mast work just fine, but the connector between the mast wiring and the boat wiring is deficient. I seemed to remember having come across a connector in my rummaging through the boat stuff left by the PO. Hmmmm. I wonder...

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