Advice Please: Which LED Tri-Light is Best?

Those of you who have been readers here for a while know about our tale of woe with Morgan’s Cloud’s Lopolight LED tri-light. You can read the whole saga here, but the short version is that we have replaced this light three times over nine years (on warranty) because of failure and/or RF interference with our VHF radio.

And now the latest Lopolight, while still working, has started to exhibit the same RF-interference problem, which makes it fundamentally unusable, since monitoring VHF channel 16 while underway is just good seamanship.

Bottomline, we are all done with Lopolight, particularly since after we posted, many others commented about the same problems that they had experienced, which make Lopolight’s protestations that:

  • the problems we were having were extremely rare; and
  • it was something to do with our installation that was causing the lights to fail;

a tad difficult to credit. (Why is it that vendors always start with that stuff?)

Be that as it may, we need a new tri-light from a different vendor, and would be very grateful for input on what you have found works. To that end, please leave a comment about your real world (no hearsay please) experiences with LED tri-lights.

It would be great if you could include the following information:

  • Brand and model of light.
  • Rough guess of how many nights you have used it while underway. This is what really matters—simple age is pretty meaningless since many boats don’t use a tri-light for more than a few hours a year.
  • Do you monitor VHF while at sea?
  • If so, have you experienced any interference from the tri-light?
  • If no interference, what is the separation between your VHF antenna and tri-light?

Not only will your help save Phyllis and me from another expensive mistake, your combined wisdom will also help other cruisers make a good choice for years to come. Thank you.

Talking of expense, when commenting, please keep in mind that Phyllis and I are far more interested in reliability than price—stuff that breaks may be cheap, but it’s never economical—and further, we are not interested in options that retrofit an old incandescent light fixture with an LED bulb.

Update November 2019

We ended up with a Hella tri-light and so far we are very happy with it. It seems very bright and we have had absolutely no sign of an RF interference from it. It was also easy to install.

Disclosure: Hella sent us the light for evaluation at no charge.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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