Skip to main content

In Search of Budget LED Nav Lights

As much as I value LED lighting, I was hesitant to change Gizmo’s navigation light fixtures. Why spend the (significant) money and refit time to save power when a big alternator is always running at the same time as the running lights anyway?
  • Author:
  • Updated:

As much as I value LED lighting, I was hesitant to change Gizmo’s navigation light fixtures. Why spend the (significant) money and refit time to save power when a big alternator is always running at the same time as the running lights anyway?

This past winter, though, after I had already removed the boat’s side light boards for refinishing, I noticed thatthe cost of at least some LED nav lights has become quite reasonable. The result was nearly an impulse buy as I put a pair of Aqua Signal ( Series 33 sidelights in my cart at for a price of $45 each. Truth be told, I’m not totally satisfied with the purchase, but I do expect the Aqua Signals to be a vast improvement over those old incandescent fixtures.

Power testing showed that the old Perko ( fixture uses 12 watts, or over an amp of 12 volt current, while the LED Aqua Signal comes in at about 2 watts or 0.17 amp, even though it’s approved to meet the requirements of pretty much every authority possible—BSH, USCG, IMO COLREG, GL, RINA, ABYC A-16 and CE—and is rated to be reliably visible at a range of 2 nautical miles.

Of course, that’s why LED running lights are a no-brainer for sailboats. Equally important for boaters of all stripes is the fact that these and other LED fixtures are completely sealed and claim a working lifespan of 20,000 hours or more.

A look inside the old running light reveals a typical but unreliable incandescent design. First, there’s the intrinsically delicate bulb, whose filament must heat way up to work. Then there are the spring clips, which have to deal with the heat and current in often damp atmospheric conditions. No wonder they often fail.

It’s important to note that this is why LED bulb replacements are often a bad idea when it comes to running lights. You can get a Dr. LED festoon bulb ( that fits this fixture, but you’ll still have the clip connection to worry about. You also won’t get maximum power efficiency because you’re putting an entirely different lighting technology into a fixture it wasn’t designed for. Finally, the Dr. LED replacement bulb costs almost as much as an entire sealed and purpose-built Aqua Signal 33 fixture!



Crowdsourcing Age-of-Sail Weather Data

Although big, multi-million-dollar projects like the Large Hadron Collider and the human genome project with their legions of PHD’s tend to grab headlines, there’s still a part of play for the “citizen scientists” of the world. Amateur birders have long contributed to an more


Ultims to Race Solo Around the World

For years now, maxi-trimarans, both solo-sailed and fully crewed, have been racing the clock on their own around the world in an effort to set ever faster records for the world’s fastest circumnavigation under sail. Back in 2000-01 there was also a no-holds-barred more


Juneteenth on the Water

Discovering Amistad and Mystic Seaport Museum have partnered to organize their third annual Juneteenth festival, featuring concerts, speakers and a reflection on the lasting legacy of racial injustice in America. Declared a National Holiday in 2021, Juneteenth celebrates the end more


New Multihulls for 2022

Lagoon 51 In keeping with many of the more recently launched models created by French multihull builder Lagoon, the Lagoon 51 is all about comfort, “en plein air,” in particular, as the French might say. Topside, a whopping 80 percent of the boat’s flybridge is given over to more


How to Spectate on the Newport Bermuda

The biannual Newport Bermuda Race starts on Friday with the first warning signal at 1 pm. Whether you’re tracking a loved one’s progress or just spectating an event that draws pros and weekend warriors alike, there are plenty of ways to stay up to watch. The starting line will more


US Sailing Strikes Gold in Hyères

After being skunked or nearly skunked at multiple Olympiads, could the US Sailing Team (USST) now under the direction of Olympic veteran Paul Cayard, be finally turning it around? If its performance at the 53rd French Olympic Week regatta in Hyères, France, where the team posted more


New York City’s Newest Fleet

120 children enrolled in Brooklyn Boatworks’ STEM and life skills-focused program launched their hand-built optimist prams on June 14 from Pier 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The launch is the culmination of years of student work, with boats in process before the pandemic caused the more


Charter: Off the Beaten Path

So, you like to charter in the Caribbean with its warm waters, swaying palm trees, steady trade winds and strong rum drinks. What’s not to love? It can be easy, though, to get stuck in a rut when chartering year after year in the same place. Sure, the British Virgin Islands are more