Replacing the Anchor Light – So Simple, and Yet…

At the end of last season, the sail was being removed for proper storage. This operation requires the two bolts at the Mastendr® hinge (http://www.com-pacyachts.com/mastendr-mastraising.html) to be undone and the mast brought to one side of the rigging.

Suddenly, the mast shifted forward, gliding off the gallows. The anchor light at the top of the mast hit the wood hard, and the plastic housing broke away. The plastic locking pieces that latched the housing to mirror notches at the base of the housing had broken off. The housing fell on deck but the smaller pieces fell to the water. There was no repair possible, the casing of the anchor light would have to be replaced.

The original anchor light was an “Aqua Signal Series 25, All-round White Optic, Black Housing, Model Nr. 3513012000″. The housing alone was not available as replacement part on its own, but a complete 3513012000 was available at the local chandlery (http://www.thechandleryonline.com/product_info.php?cPath=8_250_244&products_id=1229). Then, on a first approach, all that was needed was to buy it, discard the base and the metal parts, keep only the clear plastic housing and gently lock it on the base of the light at the top of the mast.

This was not meant to be: the new Aqua Signal 3513012000, albeit sporting the same part number as the original one – for some obscure reason known only to the Aqua designers – has new positions for the notches that latch the clear housing in place, and the new housing could not be fitted to the old base. Hence, the old base would also have to be removed and replaced with the new one. This would also require the wires to be threaded out from the old base and passed through the center hole of the new one, for which the crimpled end-connectors would have to be cut off and replaced with new ones.

Back to the shack to fetch new terminal connectors and appropriate tools for the job. And back again to the boat.

Two screws attached the base of the light to the aluminum block topping the mast. Upon removing the screws it came clear that they had been held with nuts on the inside of the mast, which upon removing the screws quickly went loose, swallowed into the guts of the mast, likely all the way to the keel via the mast stub that emerges through the deck.

Replacing the nuts would now require the aluminum block at the top of the mast to be pried open. The task seemed daunting but a quick consultation with the makers of the boat (many thanks, Gerry!) put things in perspective: the top aluminum piece was held attached to the mast only via the through-bolt that also holds the top bail where the gaffer halyard and the topping lift are attached. After removing the bolt and the bail, the aluminum block was easy to pry out. The nuts that had held the two screws attaching the base of the light to the mast were nowhere in sight. Hence, a second visit to the local chandlery secured two new stainless-steel pressure nuts of the appropriate size.

Eventually, the wire terminal connectors were cut off, the wires threaded through the center of the new base, new connectors were crimpled at the end of both cables and affixed with screws to the corresponding holes in the base. Then the base was affixed to the top aluminum block using the newly acquired nuts, the block was repositioned at the top of the mast and the bail and bolt were also fastened back in position. The bulb was then replaced and the new casing securely fastened to its base with a small twist. It fitted the base perfectly. And finally, the mast was raised and, once again, there was light at the top.

The following picture shows a few of the stages of the work (and some of the storm clouds that loomed over it):

Mast top 2

Epilogue (added June 2, 2017) –

The wires at the mast hinge were reconnected and so did the batteries, but at the top of the mast the LED 39/44 bulb could not be installed: LED bulb packageThe new Aqua Signal had one last surprise up its sleeve: it required the two 44mm Pointed Caps that came with the bulb to be attached at each of the bulb ends. However, the old Aqua Signal had required it to have the Dimpled Caps, which – of course – were those still attached to the bulb.

The 44mm Pointed Caps cannot be bought separately, and a new bulb package costs over $50.00. So, back to the home garage in search for the original package. Found it! and within it the two 44mm Pointed Caps! Back to the boat, after changing the caps and determining proper polarity (LED lights are diodes), light finally returned to the top of the mast.

 

 

 

 

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