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How many sailors does it take to change a light bulb? I guess that depends on where the bulb is. In our case, because the bulb was up the mast, it took two of us, and three trips up and down the mast!

I mentioned the other day that when I went up the mast the first time, I neglected to take the bulb down so that I could match it. As such, I was going solely by exterior photos, and the good tips by one of our blog’s regular readers, Bob. When I came across a bin of sealed beam bulbs at the local “man store” I figured I was all set. With gear sorted and bulb in hand (actually in a bag, hoisted beside me on the flag halyard) up the mast I went. Of course, only to find that the bulb I purchased was at least 2 inches bigger. 🙁

Is that a halo around my head?

Not to be fooled again, I removed the bulb this time and went off to a different parts store. The clerk shook his head saying that they had no such thing. When I told him that our friend thought the bulb was model number 4411, he punched it in the computer and lo and behold, they did have one. Thanks Bob! I owe you another beer!

The third trip up was the charm and I am happy to report that all lights on the mast are “lighting” as they were meant to. No tools were dropped overboard and no bones were broken in the process. After confirming that everything functioned, I went to work fixing up the plug at the base of the mast, which I think was the root of the problems. Wires were re-tinned, connections tightened and I sprayed it with a corrosion blocker. Hopefully now that it is all put back together, we won’t have to deal with that for a while.



  1. Mike…..

    I have learned whenever I have to replace something, I always buy one (1) extra if it only goes in one place and I buy two (2) extra if it goes in more than one location…..I do this at home, work and on the boat……I am always amazed when I see men or women changing out a light or fixing the wind vane atop the mast……

    • That is a good tip. It might be hard to do with really expensive or large items but with cheaper/smaller ones it makes sense. What sucks is I can see that exact bulb being sold for 3-5 dollars online. I paid 16.00 for it at an auto parts store:(

      Why do you say it amazes you about seeing someone change a bulb up the mast? We didn’t have much choice, other than to ignore it (in this case, the light wasn’t critical or required by law).

      • One thing we’ve been trying to ask ourselves when we decide whether to pay too much for something on Van Isle is how much it will cost to get when at anchor (will the store be walking or a taxi ride from the dinghy dock, etc) or if we’ll have to pay to ship it to where we are at that point. It’s hard to know what will be available “easily” but it has caused us to grit our teeth and buy the second item a few times. YMMV of course.

        • You’re right of course. I think our list of spares will increase as we get closer to the southern US border. At the moment we are doing the opposite though. I know that we’ll be able to get a ton of things much cheaper once we’re in the US. So for that reason, our current list of spares (engine, etc.) is sparse.

      • I am amazed because unlike you, most people are not 2% body fat and in shape…….I see all sorts of people…old, young, in shape, out of shape…….No matter who is up the mast, i always stop and just watch…..I guess it is like american idol to me……

  2. Lesson learned: When replacing bulb, bring the original down with you! Then take both part AND number to the store. Store clerks don’t always know what they have. Glad it’s now functional.

  3. Glad you made it up and down (and up and down) safely. Our mast is still horizontal so we have had lots of time to troubleshoot and fix things as needed but we’ll be going up there at some point I’m sure.

    • Thanks Rowan. Our light “was” working. Like everything though, this was good practice. 🙂

      • yeah, I have no doubt that once we get the mast stepped something will stop working or we’ll figure out we overlooked something and we’ll be going aloft.

        • The first time we went up is because we had the spinnaker halyard tangled around a flag halyards, above the spreaders. This was after looking very closely at all the lines to ensure that they would be ok after it was stepped.

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