BY AN­DREW PARKIN­SON Get Your Shine On

‘Plug-and-play’ doesn’t even be­gin to de­scribe what yachts­men can achieve with to­day’s LED tech­nol­ogy.

Yachts International - - Elec Tech -

As a kid grow­ing up in the sleepy boating vil­lage of Niantic, Con­necti­cut, I spent many sum­mer evenings down on the boat. These were among the most tran­quil mem­o­ries of my youth. As the sun set over the hill­tops and the aroma of fresh steam­ers and melted le­mon but­ter per­me­ated the air, the only light along the docks came from the dim gal­leys of other yachts and the rhyth­mic flicker of blue propane flames lap­ping at the bot­toms of pots hang­ing off cock­pit rails.

Fast-for­ward about two decades, and much has changed: Those cool flames of yesterday are al­most in­vis­i­ble against the back­drop of high­pow­ered, light-emit­ting diode (LED) un­der­wa­ter lights. Al­most ev­ery yacht seems to have them— save for a few purists still hold­ing out—and ac­cord­ing to Zack Sav­age, part­ner at LED con­sult­ing firm SLS Cus­tom, the op­tions and prices have never been bet­ter.

“Prob­a­bly the coolest thing about LED to­day is price,” Sav­age said. “The prod­ucts have be­come much more rea­son­able, and there’s more com­pe­ti­tion com­ing into the mar­ket be­cause of it, which is driv­ing the price down even fur­ther. It’s chal­leng­ing ev­ery­one to up their game. In the early days of LED, com­pa­nies could get away with pro­duc­ing less qual­ity be­cause there wasn’t much com­pe­ti­tion. To­day’s LED mar­ket is much more driven by qual­ity and price.”

Four years ago, a 10,000-lu­men un­der­wa­ter light—the bright­est avail­able at the time—cost around $3,500. To­day, a 10,000-lu­men light re­tails for $1,600 from Un­der­wa­ter Lights Ltd., with

higher-qual­ity com­po­nents and ca­pa­bil­i­ties in es­sen­tially a plug-and­play in­stal­la­tion.

“The price of high-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als—alu­minum, bronze, brass— has plateaued, and though it’s still ex­pen­sive, it makes more sense to peo­ple to in­vest in those ma­te­ri­als to de­liver a high-qual­ity prod­uct,” Sav­age said. “Whereas early LED light­ing was a nov­elty of sorts, to­day it’s one of the frst things peo­ple ask for when buy­ing a boat.”

And with de­mand for LED grow­ing at a fre­netic pace, so is the tech­nol­ogy it­self. To­day’s LED sys­tems are con­trolled with smart­phones, timed to cre­ate a show with mu­sic, set to fip on and off even if no­body is on the yacht, and a whole lot more.

“In the su­pery­acht sec­tor, we’re see­ing more re­quests to wrap un­der­wa­ter lights all the way around the boat—a halo ef­fect—and also full ex­te­ri­ors and in­te­ri­ors with LED,” Sav­age said. “Al­most ev­ery new build we spec out in Europe and Amer­ica nowa­days is ask­ing for that.”

Retroft­ting older yachts is also a rapidly grow­ing cor­ner of the busi­ness, with mod­ern LED lights re­plac­ing high-in­ten­sity dis­charge (HID) un­der­wa­ter lights in easy, plug-and-play ap­pli­ca­tions, such as the one em­ployed re­cently on a 500-foot ves­sel. “The crew were able to do it them­selves while the boat was afoat,” Sav­age said.

As for over-the-top LED in­stall­ments, Sav­age has seen his fair share. In the case of one par­tic­u­lar 450-foot su­pery­acht, handrails were reft­ted to in­cor­po­rate LED rope light­ing. Now, those handrails can change col­ors depend­ing on the owner’s mood.

While I’ll al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate the darker, starry-sky nights that I grew up with in Niantic Bay, I have to ad­mit that there’s a lot to like about 10,000 lu­mens at half the price—es­pe­cially when they be­come part of the yacht’s de­sign, mak­ing the ves­sel look even more like a foat­ing piece of ever-chang­ing art.

“Peo­ple want their boats to stand out,” Sav­age said, “and some own­ers are will­ing to spend a lot of money to get the light­ing just how they want it.”

TOP: The move to­ward com­plete LED light­ing sys­tems for su­pery­achts is now be­ing regularly ad­dressed in pre-build. BE­LOW: With a mas­sive 18,500 lu­mens of light out­put and a 90-de­gree beam an­gle, the QT130 LED is rec­om­mended for boats 65 feet and up.

AbovE ( lEft to right): Man­u­fac­tur­ers are see­ing more re­quests for cus­tom LED in­te­ri­ors; Flashy LED un­der­wa­ter light­ing makes a bold state­ment, both at the dock and un­der­way. bot­tom: At the cut­ting edge of LED tech­nol­ogy, pixel tape of­fers lim­it­less in­teg

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