Letting There be Light


When we replaced a 30-year-old compass aboard the Cal 34 Misty, the new one was a beautiful sight. Despite the fact we have a multitude of devices that exhibit GPS information, it’s always comforting to have a compass on board — especially true under foggy conditions, day or night.

When the new compass light failed to illuminate, it was time for some troubleshooting. After lifting the compass from its pedestal mounting, we easily discovered the cause: the wires providing power were not connected. The base of the new compass incorporates two spring-loaded brass contact surfaces intended to rest on top of the power-lead attaching screws. This is a simple and foolproof method of applying power (Figure 1). However, the power-terminal attaching screws were missing.


We hoped a quick search of the bottom of the junk box for two suitable 6-32 screws would save a time-consuming trip to the marine hardware store. The screws we found, however, were an inch too long. Fortunately, the solution was close at hand. The wire stripper tool contained screw cutters made for just this situation (many low-cost strippers do not have this feature). The screws were screwed into the correct screw holes in the cutter to the desired depth. A quick squeeze and the screws were cut. When the shortened screws were backed out of the tool, it freed their threads of burrs and made them easy to start in the terminal block. We then attached the power leads securely to the terminal block (Figure 2). One of the power-lead crimped terminals was badly corroded and broke off when flexed. We cleaned the copper wire and crimped a new terminal on.

After remounting the compass, we were rewarded with a cheerfully glowing compass light.


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