A Trio of Sailboat Lighting Options
LED products offer low-amp options to lighting challenges.
One of the fastest moving targets in boating equipment is LED lighting. While researching products for a larger test, we stumbled across three products that struck us as potential stocking-stuffers worthy of mention this month.
The Lightship Solar Light, manufactured in China and introduced by Simply Brilliant in the fall of 2006, weighs only 5.5 ounces and sells for $15. It’s powered by the sun, but stores that energy in a rechargeable, nickle-metal hydride (NiMH) battery. The battery, circuitry, 2x2-inch photovoltaic panel, and three LEDs (two white, one red) that produce the light are all mounted to a polycarbonate plate that fits snugly inside a housing of the same material, with a silicone O-ring to keep out moisture. That housing has three legs fitted with small suction cups, enabling the Lightship to stick easily to the underside of a hatch or inside of a portlight. We’d like to see the product modified for easier mounting in more locations.
According to Simply Brilliant, the device will provide up to eight hours of light&emdash;in the white or red mode&emdash;with only four to five hours of solar charging. We tested the Lightship on several occasions at various latitudes and found that it operates as advertised.
However, in our experience, if the light is charged in not-so-bright or indirect sunlight, the bulbs will illuminate for roughly eight hours, but they’ll be dim after the first 10 to 30 minutes. And, if it is not charged for the recommended length of time, it won’t give a full eight hours of operation.
The Lightship comes in a variety of colors and carries a two-year warranty, but the maker vows to "replace any of our products for any reason, forever."
Sailor’s Solutions Sensibulb, a Chandlery item featured in the May 2006 issue, is now brighter than before. This dimmable LED ($40) more faithfully mimics the color temperature and wide beam of an incandescent bulb than any LED we’ve seen. The new light has two bright "bulbs" instead of the six small ones on the original. To our eyes, a single Sensibulb does not match a 10-watt halogen for illuminating a cabin, but it comes close and serves quite well for most other lighting needs. We had no difficulty reading a NOAA chart that was 5 feet away from the light. The bulb drew about 0.2 amps (compared to about 0.9 for a 10-watt halogen) during our test, and it was unaffected by voltage swings between 10.5 and 15 amps.
If you are into kitschy boating gadgets, a flameless LED candle certainly fits the bill. The soft plastic Smart Candles, also from Sailor’s Solutions, look surprisingly real, unless you are looking directly at the bulbs. The taller (4 inches high by 1.5 inches in diameter), AA-powered Smart Candle ($10) produced a flame-like flicker for five days. The smaller (2.5 inches high by 1.5 inches in diameter), rechargeable pair ($45, with charger) "burned" for about seven hours and took about 1½ hours to recharge. If you’re into LED candles, we’d opt for the AA version and use rechargeable NiMH AAs.