The Spreader Light

4 Takes. Lots of lessons learned…

Let me start off with explaining what a spreader light is. A spreader light is a tiny light that’s mounted about half way up the mast together with the steaming light (just above the spreader light). The spreader light lights up the foredeck at night, while the steaming light indicates the vessel is moving under motor ‘steaming’ (no sails).

View weeks back the spreader light on Talisker  stopped working and the bulb needed a replacement. Easy task, right!? Alan ordered this special LED bulb – and oh boy it must be special – the most expensive bulb on the planet.

I was super excited, it ment I get to go up the mast on the Bosun’s chair for the first time! YAY.

TAKE 1 – Gone up, removed cage and changed the spreader light bulb, but then the steamer light stopped working.

TAKE 2 – Alan bought a new steamer light bulb and I’ve gone up the mast again to change it only to notice the bulb is a male fitting but we need a female fitting. Back down I go…to the shops.

TAKE 3 – Was during the big lap sail race last weekend, with hardly any wind and 1-2 knot boat speed, no better time to go up the mast, again, with the new steamer bulb (female fitting this time). Yes, now… going up the mast when the boat is under way even in low winds is just a totally different level. Unscrewing the cage I was thinking ‘do not drop the screws, do not drop the screws…’, then I lifted off the cover and, “oh shit”…my eyes followed down the spreader bulb as it bounces twice on the deck before it made its way to the Moreton Bay ocean floor. Of course I had to drop the expensive bulb and not the $5 one.  I felt so bad, and you can imagine I copped it and it was one of the running jokes for the weekend.

Later that night at the presentation, I spoke to Chloe and Jason who are Dave Waller’s crew on ‘The Matrix’ and equally still pretty new to sailing. Apparently they’d broken a winch (approx. $7000) the same day, and in the last 2 years cut a sail and broken a few other bits and pieces. Made me feel pretty good, considering all I’ve done in the last 2 years is drop a $60 lightbulb. LOL, touch wood!!

Yesterday TAKE 4 –  Gone up the mast again with this new spreader bulb, made the fitting tighter and Voila! both lights are working! (for now…

So what’s the point of this story? The smallest things often teach us the biggest lessons!



  • I’ve gone up and down the mast 4 times (once while under way)
  • I’ve experienced how tricky it is to do work up there  – in hardly any wind!
  • I now know what a spreader light and steamer light is.
  • We all noticed the cage around the light fitting really is doing a good job (we’ve left it off and the sails got caught on the fitting)
  • A. Not to drop anything
  • B. If you can’t avoid it, drop the cheaper and easier to replace item.
  • How expensive light bulbs can be!
  • Tell skipper about your mistake once you’re back on solid ground. 😉
  • Everyone makes mistakes. Me included.

Talisker First Mate