As the days get shorter, the odds that you will be returning to your slip or entering the marina at night are increasing.
Entering many marinas after dark can be a real stressful experience, here are three lights that I have added to my after dark tools over the last year that can help make entering a marina as well as other after dark boating much safer.
Some marinas are poorly lighted and even going down your home fairway can be stressful and finding the right slip is many times very difficult.
The three lights that I have added all have different characteristics and each offers different strong points, match the light to the need. They are different power, some are easier to carry, provide longer battery life or reach out farther.
All of these will reach out if you need to signal for help or signal another vessel that does not seem to be aware of your presence. A note on the use of lights to signal another vessel, you are not allowed to shine a light into the pilothouse or the eyes of the people driving the other vessel, that can ruin their night vision and is unsafe. Shine the light on the water in the direction of the other vessel, you can also shine a light on the side of your vessel or the sails if you have sails up to attract attention. Two of the lights have a strobe mode that is real annoying and should attract lots of attention at night.
I picked Streamlight Lights because I have been using them for many years and been quite happy with them, some friends have gotten Streamlight Lights after seeing and using mine. The lights I have all use easily available batteries with most of the lights using AA batteries. This is to simplify the keeping of spares, the good old “one size fits all” theory which also includes the GPS batteries & the backup batteries for my handheld VHF radio. I also like the industrial look of the lights.
All the lights are waterproof but not dive rated so they can be left in the rain without fear of damage or dunked a bit into the water. The cases are reinforced plastic so they will not rust or corrode and will take the normal bumping and banging on a boat.
All distance observations were from the foot of the ramp, Shilshole Marina R & S Dock. About two hours after sunset, close to high tide, moon looked about 1/4 crescent. The Fairway at this point is about 550 feet long and it was about 735 feet to the breakwater (based on Google Maps in Satellite View).
Streamlight 4AA Propolymer LUX LED Flashlight
Streamlight 4AA Propolymer LUX LED Flashlight: Details were visible about 2/3 out the Fairway (about 360 feet). I could tell there was something at the breakwater that I probably did not want to hit. Expected battery life about 4 hours constant light level with 4AA batteries. This uses their new C4 LED technology that gave a boost to the light level over the earlier version of the light but keeps the same battery life.
I used the earlier version of this light for some years and really liked them, had plenty of light to find my slip after dark. Claimed range is 130 meters or 425 feet.
The Streamlight 4AA Propolymer LUX LED is small enough to fit in a pocket and comes with a writs strap to help keep from dropping it. For boat work I add a lanyard that goes around my neck or tie the light to my Lifejacket or Jacket, so if dropped it does not go overboard, sometimes being able to let go of a light or something else without loosing it is a nice safety feature.
Cost: about $36.00 from Bright Guys.
Streamlight ProPolymax 4AA LED Flashlight
Streamlight ProPolymax 4AA LED Flashlight: Details to the end of the Fairway (about 550 feet). Details visible on the breakwater (about 735 feet), details of individual rocks were shown, nice detail. About 2 1/2 hours of constant light from 4AA batteries.
The center of the beam is nice for reaching but widens out so as you approach something you have a nice spread.
The black clip was an extra.
The claimed range is 261 meters or 856 feet. That would seem like a reasonable number based on what I observed.
When I have demonstrated this for friends, they are amazed at the light and the reach from a small LED light.
The Streamlight ProPolymax 4AA LED Flashlight is small enough to fit in a pocket and has three light modes (High, Low, High Strobe) controlled by a single push button. I have not gotten used to the mode thing yet, so I have it set to always come on in High Mode. The strobe is real obnoxious and annoying, it is bright enough that caution should be observed when around a person that might be subject to seizures.
Cost: about $45.– from Bright Guys add extra for the belt clip.
Streamlight Waypoint LED Pistol Grip Flashlight
Streamlight Waypoint LED Pistol Grip Flashlight: Lots more light on the Breakwater, very easy to pick out details. The Fairway was visible on both sides.
The center of the beam is very tight so the light will reach out a long ways (claimed distance is 678 meters or 2,200 feet). But the beam has some spill to the side so as you approach something you can see a wide area an not just a spot of light a few feet in diameter.
About 2 hours of quite level light, with the light level falling to not quite as bright at about 5 hours. The claimed battery life is 8 1/2 hours, but that is to a lower level and reduced range. Since this light is used for reaching out I will probably be swapping when the light starts to have a noticeably shorter range (or every couple of years just to keep fresh batteries in the light if history is an indicator of usage) (this is where having a target in the distance to check the light against since people’s eyes are not so good with subtle light level changes).
Lighting up the side of a building from a block away always amazes friends.
Has three modes, High, Low and Strobe. The strobe is real annoying and is bright enough that it should not be pointed at anyone that is subject to seizures. Included wrist loop, holster that mounts to a wall and a 12v adapter. Additional features, retractable stand to hold the light up when using it as a work light and a metal loop on the top to attach a lanyard for hanging the light from a hook.
The Waypoint LED pistol grip light uses 4 C cells, there is another model that uses built in rechargeable that is more powerful, but that means I need to keep it charged etc. If I was using the light everyday I might consider the rechargeable version. However rechargeable batteries in C size are also available as are adapters that allow the use of AA batteries in the light (at a reduction of run time) which is an option I might consider in the future. The Waypoint LED light also comes with a 12v plug adapter for the standard what we used to call cigarette lighter plug (my new car specifically warns not to use a cigarette lighter in the plug as the plug will melt, also there is no ashtray so I now need to store spare change somewhere else).
Cost: about $64.- from Bright Guys.
A note on the batteries, Except for the Waypoint LED, I use AA size Sanyo eneloop Ni-MH (Nickle-Metal Hydrate) batteries, the eneloop batteries are low self discharge, which means they have about 90% of their power available after a year of storage. This has made them ideal for the emergency lights in the car as well as the flashlights in the boat as well as the GPS and my standard digital camera. One size fits all so I can use the spare batteries in many things and since they are rechargeable the cost per charge is low.
Flashlight Beam Shots
The orange card is five inches long. The front of the light was 24 inches from the target. The first series exposure was 1/8 second, the second series was 1/100 second. The f stop was the same for all pictures.
Translating the Beam Shots:
The left hand image is the Streamlight 4AA Propolymer LUX LED beam shot – The light main light beam diameter was 27 inches with the center spot 7 inches in diameter, it does not have a distinct center “hot” spot, it is a bit diffused.
The center image is the Streamlight ProPolymax 4AA LED Flashlight beam shot – The main light beam diameter was 29 inches in diameter and is very distinct. The center hot spot is a two level center. The center bright spot is 7 inches in diameter with the center most hot spot of 3 inches diameter. This gives a very bright center that reaches a long distance with enough spill to fill in the details of the object you are looking at.
The right hand image is the Streamlight Waypoint LED Pistol Grip Flashlight beam shot – The main light beam is 26 inches in diameter and very distinct. The brightness is very even across the full diameter and provides nice fill to see details in the object being looked at. The center hot spot is 2 1/2 inches in diameter and is a very bright hot spot that reaches and reaches.
The bottom shots are 1/100 second exposures and give a better indication of the center hot spot.
For a Lantern that works nice as a cabin and cockpit area light, see: Let There Be Light – Testing the Streamlight Siege LED Lantern.
A note on the vendor links, I don’t get paid for the referral, but I have bought several lights from Bright Guys over the years and so far I have been happy with the price and service. I did not want visitors to spend a lot of time searching the internet or whatever looking for a place to buy the lights if they want to get one.
Thanks for your interest in and support of boating safety.
– c / m –
Good info on lights…..It is always way different after dark.
Glad you liked the article –
Thanks for dropping by
Thanks for the roundup! There is a dizzying array of lights to choose from and having a few tips really helps.
I’ll just add (maybe I missed it) that a critical feature of any light is that it should be able to lie on deck without rolling. Any cylindrical light without some significant facets is not actually very useful as a tool for helping to perform repairs, assist with first aid etc.
Nice post CaptnMike. It is always important to have a good flashlight on board. I personally like to have two. A smaller light for looking around the boat, and a spotlight for help with navigation. Appreciate the valuable resource you posted!
Not in this article, but noted on the article about personal safety equipment I think – is a Streamlight 2AA LED that is not as bright as these lights but works nice for in the cabin and does not disturb others much – have live aboard friends that use that light so they don’t disturb each other at night
Pingback: The View From The Fremont Bridge Tower – The Bridge Operators Perspective | Boating Safety Tips, Tricks & Thoughts from Captnmike