Let There Be Light . . . Or Maybe Not.We have been putting off the decision to either install a fixed lighting system or go with just the oil lamps and LED headlamps for a long time. We are quickly approaching the point where we must decide. On the one hand, we like the idea of really keeping it simple--as long as we have everything we need and everything works. This keeps the cost of the boat from sky-rocketing out of sight and makes it a lot easier and affordable to maintain. On the other hand, we are not gluttons for punishment, though some people might think otherwise. I know from personal experience how hot oil lamps can make the interior of a sailboat. But, augmented with some LED headlamps it would not be too bad. Still, a fixed LED lighting system with a couple of portable 12 volt low amp fans would be very nice. I have priced the fixed system out several times over the last two years--all good stuff mind you--and it always comes out about the same--$4000-$5000. That is a lot of "ching" for lights. Sure, the lights are not cheap (we chose Alpenglow) but it is the cost of the supporting electrical system that is the real expensive part. Batteries (I have looked at everything from 6 volt wet cells to 6 volt AGM and gel-cells), breaker panel, battery switch, wiring, solar panels, regulators, and a fixed mount system all add up pretty quick. And, at this point, I don't think I am mentally ready to hang a solar panel off the Far Reach. Some see all that glass and SS as a thing of beauty . . . but I see it as an eyesore. I could do it less expensively if I went with cheaper components but that would defeat the purpose of having an utterly reliable boat. We have always been about keeping the boat as simple as possible, focusing on it's sailing capabilities, and on our ability to maintain it for a reasonable cost. Yes, we have spent a lot of time making it comfortable too, but to us that means lots of accessible storage, good sleeping arraignments, simple convenient bathing system, good galley layout with plenty of work top space, an efficient icebox, and uncluttered decks. To this point, we have not spent that much on the rebuild when you consider how much we have done. Most of our funds have gone into wood, epoxy, a couple hundred feet of biaxial tape, fasteners, varnish, bottom and topside paint, and sand paper (a lot of sandpaper). We bought the heater, galley faucet, water tanks, stove, SS kerosene tank, three though-hulls and seacocks, and windvane new. We bought the bronze for the bulwark brackets but we fabricated them ourselves. We bought the dinghy, oil nav lights, bronze bilge pump, and bronze windlass used. We still have to buy the cushions and upholstery and new rigging. We have some sails to purchase along with some anchor chain and additional ground tackle. We will make our own canvas. There have been a lot of below the radar expenditures but we have kept track. Many of the tools I already had and the ones I bought I don't count since I use them for other non boat projects. The boat is in our back yard so there are no boat yard fees. Of course, I have a couple hundred thousand dollars of labor in the project but I owned the labor all ready . . . so I don't count it either. Having said that, we have no plans for refrigeration, watermaker, radar, SSB, shore power, electric auto pilot, inverters, or a chart plotter. So, cost wise, we are in great shape. Back to the lighting--the smart thing to do would be to run the wiring for a basic system now, shunt the ends, and it will be in place if we want to go that way later. But, it's still a distraction . . . . I'll think about it some more over the next couple of weeks . . . then I have to decide.
During yesterday's post I mentioned our ongoing indecision about whether to install an electrical system or not. Ever since the Zartman family stayed with us 18 months ago I have maintained correspondence with Ben. You may recall the Zartmans from their many Cruising World articles and his recently released book "We Who Pass Like Foam." Ben, his wife Danielle, and their three young girls live and cruise on their 31' Cape George Cutter Ganymede. They have zero electricity and Ben says he does not miss it. Last night, my best friend Steve and I were discussing the lighting issue and he sent me a video of a newly invented light called the gravity light--what a great thing these two inventors have developed. Perhaps we could adapt and modify something like this for our own use. Or perhaps there are some hand crank LED lights that are reliable and practical for our application. Anyway, we should not feel compelled to follow the herd. Interesting stuff.