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On a long run, size counts. Photo: OceanMedia
On a long run, size counts. Photo: OceanMedia

Let There Be Light

The government of the British Virgin Islands have placed themselves at the forefront of Caribbean conservation by establishing a permanent shark sanctuary in its waters and banning the sale and trade of sharks and shark products within the territory. This is a brave decision and one that All At Sea hopes will set a precedent. Feared, hunted and abused, these magnificent predators play a major role in the marine ecosystem and the decision by the BVI to protect them focuses world attention on the Caribbean for all the right reasons. Now, all we need is a progressive regional government to ban one-time use plastic bags in supermarkets. As more sailors and tourists seek ecofriendly destinations, here’s a golden opportunity for a Caribbean destination to lead the way. The first island to ban single-use plastic bags will see their tourist industry prosper, world media attention will see to that.

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Regatta season is behind us and what a time we had. With each passing year, well-organized Caribbean regattas attract more top race boats, crewed by some of the best sailors in the world. You notice I used the words ‘well-organized’. Why? Because some regattas are now blowing in the wind, sitting back on past glories and hoping that by simply existing, people will come. In this competitive world, where regattas are a product, a brand, this laissez-faire attitude no longer works and I fear that some quite unique regattas, that had great potential, are heading for oblivion.

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I have seen the light, literally. Before rewiring the mast on G-String, I did my homework and decided to replace the old incandescent tricolor at the masthead with an LED. The cost was more than a traditional tricolor but the benefits in the form of power consumption won me over. We rewired the mast when it was out of the boat but instead of using 16 gauge wire recommended for the masthead light, I took my usual belt-and-braces approach and upped the wire size to 14 gauge to avoid dreaded voltage loss on such a long run. With the mast re-stepped, I waited until dusk to test the lights. Rewiring anything always makes me jittery, having had my share of flash-bangs in the past.

Troubleshooting faulty lights at deck level is one thing, doing the same at the top of a 40ft mast is quite another. Having put off the dreaded moment for as long as possible, and with fingers crossed and fire extinguisher at the ready, I hit the switch marked ‘deck-light’ and was rewarded by a two amp register on the ammeter and a lovely glow around the deck. The steaming light offered the same happy results.

This was going splendidly!

Masthead next, and … nothing, or was there? Did the ammeter give a feeble kick or was that just wishful thinking? I went outside and looked up but the puck-like device wasn’t visible from the cockpit. Down below, I flicked the switch several times and each time noticed a tiny kick, one too weak to register on the boat’s old analog gauge. The only way to see if the lights were actually working was to view them from the dinghy, so off I went. Dragging out the moment, I finally looked up and there they were, three incredibly bright stars shining red, green and white at the masthead.

There’s more to this story than that of successful DIY. My reluctance to use the recommended wire meant we struggled to pull the heavier stuff through the mast, added more weight aloft and increased the cost of the installation. I like to think this exercise taught me a lesson and perhaps helped temper my bullish belt-and-braces attitude towards maintaining the boat, although my wife says she doubts it.  On the plus side, and this is huge, we can now sail all night with navigation lights switched on and do so without running the batteries flat. It sounds such a simple thing until you have to deal with a loss of power at sea, then an amp saved is everything.

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