Recently I needed to do something about the old cabin lights when the switches stopped working.
I decided to upgrade the lights to Red / White LED fixtures. I wanted the Red light option to preserve the night vision of the crew if we were using the boat at night. The old lights were surface mounted and pinched the wiring, I had spaced out the fixtures a bit but I wanted to improve the mounting and not pinch the wires. I had not intended to buy lights that day (at the boat show) so I had not measured the size of the old fixtures. When I explained my dilemma about the size to the light guy, he had the answer “the smaller size fixtures are standard on all boats.” So gullible me bought two of the smaller lights and when I got to the boat a few days later I found out that the lights were smaller than the original lights on the boat.
Since I wanted to space the lights away from the surface of the cabin, the new lights being smaller turned out not to be an issue. I had part of a piece of 1/4 inch white King Starboard left from another project that I decided to use for the spacer.
I cut two doughnuts out of the King Starboard sheet. King Starboard is all but impossible to mark on. After several attempts to mark the circles, I got a pair of dividers and used them to scribe the inside and outside diameter circles for the light spacers. The OD was a bit larger than the old light housing.
King Starboard is soft, gummy and a bit tricky to cut. I used a powered jigsaw to cut out the circles. If the saw blade goes too fast the plastic will sort of flow around the blade. A very course blade and slow speed was the secret.
I used a small bench mount belt sander to smooth out the outside of the spacer. If you don’t have a power sander, a block of wood with a bit of foam on it or a rubber sanding pad that can flex a bit to help even up the outside edge. The edge does not need to be perfect to look good. If the edges have a bit of a mat finish, any irregular areas will not show as much as a finely polished edge. Round the edge that is toward the inside of the cabin to help the edge look better, rounding the edge also makes if safer if someone bumps into the spacer.
I cut a slot on the backside of the spacer for the wires to exit. I used a router, make sure to use a guide to make sure the slot is straight and the router does not jump around.
Mark the spacer to show the proper mounting direction. I held the spacer up where it was going to be mounted to find where to drill the mounting holes to match the existing holes in the bottom of the overhead and used the old light housing to drill the holes in the spacer. Pilot holes for the new light mounting screws were drilled in the spacer and orientated to put the light switch to the center of the boat, orientate the switch position to one that makes sense for your use. The screws for the new light were short since the mounting spacer was only 1/4 inch thick, so the pilot holes need to be the correct size and the screws short enough to not go through the spacer.
When the new cabin light was ready to assemble, I mounted the new light to the spacer, connected the wires, tested the new cabin light and lastly mounted the entire cabin light assembly on the cabin overhead.
Thanks for your interest in and support of boating safety
– c / m –