I don't mind climbing that much, but bulbs burn out or corrosion ruins the connection at the worst times, and I'm not climbing up there a some rolly anchorage at the end of a long day, after dark, not just for a damn bulb. It's happened for the last time.
The rule does not say it has to be at the masthead. It says where it "can best be seen," which in my opinion--and many sailors agree--is absolutely not the masthead. Mostly it just looks like a star, way up there, giving no clue as to how far away it is, or helping anyone to actually see the boat. It can be confused with shore lights from a distance, and in an anchorage full of overlapping boats with lights of variable brightness on masts of variable height, it's just confusing. If you are moving directly towards the anchored boat, the shift of the light against the background is not easily noticed, and on a cloudless night there is no background. Every year high-speed dinghies and runabouts strike boats they didn't see, marked by a single light far above their view line. I have always left a cockpit light on in crowded anchorages (LED), which alone is more visible than that useless masthead light, since it lights up the boat and warns off drunken late-night navigators. That is what I do when the masthead light fails, generally adding a cabin light for good measure if in a crowded place. In most creeks, the cockpit light is enough. It would also be nice if I could reach it or at least lower it to the deck for maintenance.
1. A pole on the stern.
2. On the hard top, forward and inside the shrouds.
3. Add a plug an run something up the flag halyard.
4. Use the steaming light and stern light in combination. That gives 360 white coverage.
Commenters have mentioned that sealed LED will solve the reliability problem. Additionally, LED is the only rational answer when power consumption is considered.
Whatever I do will meet the 2-mile viability standard. No point in tempting liability.
Other ideas? But the masthead location is nonfunctional in my opinion.
Several posters on the PDQ Owners Forum suggested the Davis 3300 Mega Light. LED, photo cell, tiny power consumption, plug-in, and deck lighting too. Sounds like the answer.