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September 21, 2010

Outfit Your Boat With Underwater Lights

Dramatic underwater lighting now the norm...

Nowadays, it's nearly impossible to walk down a dock at night during a tournament and not see several boats with their waterlines ablaze with light. Underwater lights took the boating world by storm several years ago, with manufacturers producing many different styles and sizes using every color in the rainbow. It's almost become a fashion statement of sorts to have your underwater lights match your tower and bridge lights, and even make them change colors automatically. Personally, I'm thinking the guys with the automatic color-changing lights must be frustrated rock promoters - but to each his own.

When the first underwater lights hit the scene, I admit I wasn't inclined to join the crowd. The first lights didn't seem to be engineered with service or maintenance issues in mind, and I don't really care for knocking extra holes out of a perfectly sound hull under the waterline - I just knew they would leak and saw many that did. Ever have to change out an old swimming-pool light where you either had to drain the pool to the bottom of the light or hope the light had a long umbilical cord so you could get it out of the water and change the bulb? Well, the early generation of underwater lights required a haul-out to change the bulb, an expensive proposition at best since most of us only require a haul-out once a year. Another problem was that the heat buildup in the early units shortened their life dramatically, especially if you accidently turned them on with the boat out of the water.

The good news is that technology moved with the demand of the popularity of the lights, and the issues that plagued those early models have been addressed and significantly improved. I still don't have them on our boat, so I'm either a slow learner or just not that into fashion trends - or both since there's no question that today's units are reliable and well engineered.

When I first saw the hull of a 220-footer at anchor in Sardinia lit up with a light every 15 feet or so, I must admit it was very impressive. More recently, I've started seeing several smaller boats fishing for swordfish with their lights pointed straight out the bottom when night fishing - it made me think that I'd probably have to install some if we spent more time fishing at night.

Several companies offer a full line of underwater lights designed to fit boats of all sizes and meet many different applications. You can select from a wide variety of beam widths, candlepower, and either bronze or injection-molded polymer housings. They even make underwater lights for docks that can also work in the open air. Ocean LED makes an array of LED lights for use both in and out of the water. These tightly sealed products make great lighting alternatives for use anywhere around water. As its name implies, Ocean LED relies on LEDs instead of bulbs to produce light. LEDs use less power, generate much less heat and offer some 40,000 hours of operation. All Ocean LED lights undergo vigorous testing and are approved by such classifications societies as LLYODS, ABS (American Bureau of Shipping) and RINA (Royal Institute of Naval Architects).

ocean LEDOcean LED makes both flush-mount and through-hull models, and the through-hull option takes away one of my concerns with underwater lights by being the first to use just a 1-inch hole. The company's Amphibian range of lights can be used both underwater and above water, and it recently developed the Amphibian Pro, which is 75 percent brighter but is only meant for underwater use. Ocean LED's lights come in 12-, 24- or 110-volt models, and the dock lights are offered in either six or 12 LED configurations - depending on the amount of light you need.

Aqualuma also makes a wide range of lighting products to cover many different applications. It produces its lights using an injection-molded transparent polymer for the housings that is more than 250 times stronger than glass. The special polymer is also lightweight, scratch resistant and protected from UV rays. As an added bonus, you don't have to tie Aqualuma's products to the vessel's bonding system like you have to do when installing a light with an alloy or bronze housing.
Aqualuma packages its LED lights in single, triple and six-light sets in through-hull configurations. The company's new Tri-Series uses six LEDs that you can mix up by using any two different colors offered: white, blue or green. Naturally, the one- and three-series lights are also offered in any of the color options.

Aqualuma seals all of its surface-mount lights in a thermally conductive polymer housing with a simple two-wire connection. These little surface lights pack a big punch, however, sporting nine high-powered LEDs. The surface-mount option provides a quick alternative for boats where through-hull lights can't be practically installed. Aqualuma also produces spreader lights, dock lights and a unique trim-tab light that mounts directly to your tabs if they hang out the back. All of Aqualuma's lights come in both 12- and 24-volt models.

San Diego, California-based DeepSea Power & Light provides lights, cameras and power support to some of the most famous underwater scientific exploration projects taking place today. Many of the company's products were used in the theatrical release of Titanic, Expedition: Bismarck and various projects for the National Geographic Society, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Lockheed Martin, Oceaneering and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. They can also be found on the deep-diving submersibles Alvin, Sea Cliff, Jason, MIR I and II, Kaiko and the Shinkai 6500. So you know these fellows know how to go deep!

DeepSea Power & Light's HID through-hull SeaLites are available in multiple beam widths and are constructed from aluminum, stainless steel or titanium. They come in varying wattages, voltages and four different connector types. The company also allows you to choose from three different reflectors that either produce a spotlight effect or wider beam patterns.

Just as with any major purchase, shop around to find the right underwater lighting system for your needs - whether you just want something that looks sharp on the dock or want to try to attract more fish to your transom while on the water at night.



DeepSea Power & Light

Ocean LED