• Welcome to this website/forum for people interested in the Morgan 38 Sailboat. Many of our members are 'owners' of Morgan 38s, but you don't need to be an owner to Register/Join.

LED bulb to replace original masthead anchor light bulb?

Tim Eichel

Member
I am planning to replace my masthead bulb with an LED. I have a Morgan 383, 1982. I am assuming most masthead lights are the same 382, 383, 384 but not sure...anyway....I would like to order the bulb now and then when I go up I can swap out the bulbs. Mine is the original single color set up.

Anyone have any brands, model numbers, etc. that they have used and works well?

I appreciate any feedback as always.
 
You need to get one that is designed to be a navigation bulb for sailboats. It is right next to the VHF antenna, and a generic bulb will interfere with VHF, and could completely wipe out AIS. The USCG issued a memo/warning about it.

Also, there is a color temperature difference. Although they "look" white to the naked eye, when behind a green or red lens LED can change color, resulting in a pink or blue color instead of red or green. An LED for a tricolor is different than an LED for an Anchor light, even if the base is the same. In some cases the LEDs are indexed, with a different temperature port and starboard, so they become specific to the fixture in how the bulb is oriented behind the LENS.

I don't think the navigation lights are standardized across all years/versions. Mine is an aqua signal combo tricolor/anchor light, and I bought bulbs from Dr. LED that are USCG certified for an Aqua signal fixture. Expensive, but I have had no issues. I installed with a bit of dielectric grease to prevent corrosion, and they have been reliable for several years and 30,000 ocean miles. The aqua signal uses the 1157 type bulb.

Nitpicking, but worth knowing. A "masthead" light is defined as the forward facing light that is on while you are motoring, despite it not being on the masthead. On a motor vessel, it IS on the masthead, and while motoring a sailboat no lights may be on above it, so from a distance it looks like the masthead. On the top of the mast you may have, a tricolor, an anchor light, or all around red over green- but none of those are masthead lights.
 

terry_thatcher

Terence Thatcher
Warren, I had a standard AquaSignal tri-color. For my Polynesia trip, I installed a tricolor bulb from, I think, Dr. LED, which they said would work. Specially designed for tricolor. It was only on the way home from Hawaii that I was told by a freighter a mile away that I had no red or green lights. (I was aware of the white, from the cockpit and assumed all was well.) Anyway, back home at my moorage, I turned on the tricolor and went less than a 1/4 mile away. No red or green; those colors were visible only closer than that. I have replaced the tricolor with an AquaSignal built specifically for LED--weird design, with little lights about 1/2" square. But they are visible from a much longer distance. Just a caution. You might want to check yours. (I ran my AIS at all times and it became clear that that is how vessels located me, including more than one freighter whose skipper's changed course so I would not have to jibe while running before the wind.)
 
Warren, I had a standard AquaSignal tri-color. For my Polynesia trip, I installed a tricolor bulb from, I think, Dr. LED, which they said would work. Specially designed for tricolor. It was only on the way home from Hawaii that I was told by a freighter a mile away that I had no red or green lights. (I was aware of the white, from the cockpit and assumed all was well.) Anyway, back home at my moorage, I turned on the tricolor and went less than a 1/4 mile away. No red or green; those colors were visible only closer than that. I have replaced the tricolor with an AquaSignal built specifically for LED--weird design, with little lights about 1/2" square. But they are visible from a much longer distance. Just a caution. You might want to check yours. (I ran my AIS at all times and it became clear that that is how vessels located me, including more than one freighter whose skipper's changed course so I would not have to jibe while running before the wind.)
Interesting. I wonder if it was a dud bulb, or if an all around white was packaged incorrectly as a tri-color? Or maybe the lens was old and oxidized? I am visible at least 5 miles based on VHF conversations I have had.
I do believe that a whole new fixture is a better option, but more expensive too.
 

Tim Eichel

Member
Warren, thanks for the clarification on masthead vs. anchor light. I will check out Dr LED to see what they recommend.
 

datswite

Ken Ferrari
Be very careful with LED's at the masthead. I installed an OGM tri-color fixture back in 2015. I used it happily for a few years, loving the lower power draw at anchor. Only after I started making longer passages while using the tri-color did I discover that the fixture ABSOLUTELY KILLS my VHF/AIS performance. Once the sun goes down, I lose 100% of AIS targets and the range of my VHF is decreased to barely a mile. To combat the problem, we have to put the fixture into "strobe" mode - which is entirely contrary to the COLREGS, but we choose to see and be seen. We're currently looking for a solution, but this is a known problem caused by LED lights. Apparently it has to do with the power supplies. OGM apparently knew of the problem and "fixed" it, but my fixture was built after the fix was in, so to speak. I've heard the same complaint said of all manufacturers.

I'd be cautious of the LED replacement bulbs, when even the purpose built fixtures costing hundreds haven't entirely solved the problem. If you decide to go through with it, make sure you test, test, test!
 
Last edited:

terry_thatcher

Terence Thatcher
Good warning. Lots of info our there on LEDs and VHF signals. I have seen no significant degradation on VHF/.AIS signals from my AquaSignal LED Tricolor. Attainable Adventure Cruising has some good info on the issue.
 
Yes. I would expect that a purpose built LED would be ok, but apparently that wasn't the case with your OGM. 2015 was quite a while ago, and I would hope that problem has been fixed for current models. Aquamarine and Dr LED are known to work well, based on a number of other reports from other users. Dr LED even advertises that fact, and their lamps are USCG tested/approved. If you buy a generic LED lamp for a few dollars you will almost certainly have an issue. I leave my tricolor on 24/7 while sailing and have not had an issue with AIS reception.
 

datswite

Ken Ferrari
Yes. I would expect that a purpose built LED would be ok, but apparently that wasn't the case with your OGM. 2015 was quite a while ago, and I would hope that problem has been fixed for current models. Aquamarine and Dr LED are known to work well, based on a number of other reports from other users. Dr LED even advertises that fact, and their lamps are USCG tested/approved. If you buy a generic LED lamp for a few dollars you will almost certainly have an issue. I leave my tricolor on 24/7 while sailing and have not had an issue with AIS reception.
My unit was built after the problem was supposed "addressed". USCG testing is not a certainty - in fact, the USCG and the FCC both investigated and found the units trouble-free. Yet, here we are. This, combined with numerous anecdotal reports on the web, make me skeptical of simply replacing with another brand. As you know, these units are expensive.

OGM Statement
 
My unit was built after the problem was supposed "addressed". USCG testing is not a certainty - in fact, the USCG and the FCC both investigated and found the units trouble-free. Yet, here we are. This, combined with numerous anecdotal reports on the web, make me skeptical of simply replacing with another brand. As you know, these units are expensive.

OGM Statement
Fair enough. Everyone needs to know their vessel's safety equipment works properly.
 
Top