Let There Be Light!

LED TECH­NOL­OGY CHANGED THE WAY BOATS ARE IL­LU­MI­NATED. Own a boat and at some point you’ll op­er­ate it af­ter dark, ei­ther be­cause you chose to stay out and fish the night shift, or be­cause of a later-than-ex­pected re­turn to the dock.

Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - By Capt. Dave Lear LED lights in­crease safety.


But to stay safe and see what you’re do­ing, you need ad­e­quate il­lu­mi­na­tion.

Pro­vid­ing con­ve­nient and abun­dant light­ing, both in­side the boat and out, is no longer a daunt­ing, com­pli­cated and high-main­te­nance propo­si­tion.

Luck­ily, light fix­tures for boats have evolved and are pre­dom­i­nately lightemit­ting diodes suit­able for dozens of ap­pli­ca­tions.

“LED tech­nol­ogy has cer­tainly been per­fected,” says John Ca­ballero with Seavee Boats of Mi­ami. “It’s awe­some stuff. LEDS are easy on bat­tery sys­tems be­cause they draw so lit­tle power. They’re also com­pact, last longer and don’t put out a lot of heat. Plus, they come in a va­ri­ety of col­ors, sizes and packages at rea­son­able prices. What’s not to like?”

Ca­ballero says practically every boat the semi­cus­tom builder de­liv­ers th­ese days has un­der­wa­ter LED tran­som lights and LED cock­pit lights un­der the gun­wales. “We can spec out any boat for what­ever the cus­tomer wants,” he adds. Cour­tesy lights of­ten in­stalled in hard­tops are nor­mally white am­bi­ent lights, but blue and red col­ors are also pop­u­lar. Aqualuma, Lu­mishore, Lu­mitec and Ocean­led are the ma­jor ma­rine light sup­pli­ers.

There are nu­mer­ous ben­e­fits of LEDS ver­sus in­can­des­cent or halo­gen light­ing. Light-emit­ting diodes are de­signed with two semi­con­duc­tors, one with elec­trons and the other with holes. Cur­rent is routed through the two con­duc­tors to create pho­tons, or the emit­ted light.

The re­sult­ing il­lu­mi­na­tion is much cooler than the other two de­signs and uses 80 per­cent less power than in­can­des­cent light­ing and 75 per­cent less than halo­gen.

Capt. Ge­orge Mitchell has Lu­mitec LEDS on his 36 Yellowfin for mul­ti­ple pur­poses.

“I’ve got two sets of un­der­wa­ter lights in­stalled on the tran­som and en­gine bracket, two fac­ing down and two aft, that change col­ors,” Mitchell says. “I use the green for bait, and dur­ing the last tour­na­ment we fished, we had fly­ing fish be­hind the boat and even jump­ing in be­cause of those

lights. When the tuna are bust­ing fly­ers and you’ve got a live one out, you’re gonna get bit.”

Mitchell also has LEDS in­stalled un­der the gun­wales and on the con­sole and hard­top. “The lights let you see when trans­fer­ring bait early in the morn­ing or when chum­ming at night. They help with ty­ing knots, thread­ing line on the rods or rig­ging bait. They don’t hin­der your night vi­sion, so you can see and still be func­tional.”

His boat’s nav­i­ga­tion lights are LED fix­tures as well, and Mitchell says they last years be­fore need­ing to be re­placed.

Mitchell’s Yellowfin has twin baitwells equipped with blue LED light­ing, and af­ter the ini­tial shock of be­ing placed in one of the wells, the sar­dines, gog­gle-eyes and blue run­ners he nor­mally uses just settle down with the blue glow.

The tail and side lights on Mitchell’s trailer are LEDS too, and he added still more il­lu­mi­na­tion with un­der­wa­ter fix­tures on the trailer’s cross­beams.

“The com­bi­na­tion il­lu­mi­nates the whole trailer and all around the dock,” he adds. “I can launch and load by my­self with no problem. The lights really make it sim­ple. They let me see well, so I can po­si­tion the trailer at ex­actly the right depth.”

John Dun­phy uses sev­eral LED light set­ups aboard his Seavee 390 when fish­ing off­shore in the cen­tral Gulf of Mex­ico. “I’ve got white spreader lights, plus un­der­gun­wale lights and mul­ti­col­ored ones on the hard­top,” he ex­plains. “We use the spread­ers for load­ing and un­load­ing, as well as for drift­ing for sword­fish and tuna. The gun­wale lights stay on for safety while we’re run­ning, and they don’t im­pact night vi­sion. The ones on the hard­top work as night lights when­ever we’re sleep­ing.”

Although adding a set of un­der­wa­ter tran­som lights is on his shop­ping list, Dun­phy has found an in­ex­pen­sive por­ta­ble so­lu­tion in the mean­time: a 4-foot Hy­dro Glow LED tube light that plugs quickly into one of the DC elec­tri­cal out­lets mounted in the cock­pit.

“The Hy­dro Glow works really well. It’s very durable, and we tie it off to a cleat up-cur­rent and hang it over the side. It’s super-bright and brings bait to the boat, then we dip-net fly­ing fish or throw the cast net over the hard­tails drawn to the glow. I’m plan­ning to mount un­der­wa­ter lights even­tu­ally, but this is a slick and ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive for now.”

Thomas Edi­son changed mod­ern so­ci­ety when he in­vented the in­can­des­cent light­bulb, but the ge­niuses who came up with light-emit­ting diodes surely had to be die-hard an­glers in their spare time.

The use­ful­ness of LEDS in boats is too over­whelm­ing to be co­in­ci­den­tal.


HIGH VIS­I­BIL­ITY: Lights un­der the rub rail help you be seen more eas­ily af­ter dark, top. MOOD LIGHT­ING: Tran­som lights look spiffy, at­tract bait, and add a mea­sure of safety, above.

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