Cruising Safely at Night|
Cruising at night is probably one of the more enjoyable aspects of pleasure boating. The water has calmed, and the heat has gone, making the cool breezes that blow across the water as enjoyable as they can be. Despite how relaxing a boating trip on the water can become at night however, darkness brings new concerns for a skipper to keep in mind. With the pleasure of night cruising also comes increased hazards, and extra vigilance is required since boating at night essentially means you are cruising blind.
The first thing a boater notices while cruising at night is that it seems as though turning on and running with the brightest lights possible would be common sense. After all, how else can you see where you’re going if you don’t have any light? So the first impression would be that mounting up some super bright spotlights in the bow would be the way to go for boating at night. This first impression however, is a false one. Bright lights used on the water at night do the opposite of what you would expect, and rather than help with navigation, they hinder it.
Light reflecting on choppy waters and rolling waves can easily produce the illusion of debris and obstacles, and bright lights shining across the water can blind other skippers. Once a person’s eyes become acclimated to the dark, a ten-million candlepower beam shown into the eyes can be something of a distraction to say the least. It’s with good reason that spotlights are not legal for use in nighttime boating navigation, except for periodic surveys and illumination of markers or obstacles.
So why are high-power lights considered to be so important in marine applications if you can’t even use them to see where you are going? The first part of the answer is that they are a vital part of your boat's safety equipment. Although they are not intended for navigation, they provide an effective way to identify the potential dangers posed by obstructions in the water, and more importantly, a crucial means for quickly illuminating an area in an emergency situation such as man overboard. While no one wants to imagine such an unpleasant scenario, reality says it’s something that must be prepared for. Also important, especially in pleasure cruising or sport trips, is the ability to provide adequate lighting for onboard activities. If you’re rigging gear or landing a big sport fish at night, having a well-lit deck makes the job much easier and safer.
One of the biggest concerns for the skipper who frequently heads out for nighttime runs, aside from safety, is power management. Good illumination comes at a price, and in marine applications, that price is the load this illumination places on the boat's electrical system. High-powered boat lights are notorious among skippers for their tendency to drain batteries at an alarming rate. Too much power going to lights and not enough left for starting the engines at the end of the night can make for an unpleasant boating trip. Finding ways to reduce this drain on the batteries without compromising the enjoyment of the boating experience has led to the creation of some interesting options in marine lights.
Quickly making their mark within the boating industry, LED lights represent one of the best options now available. Lights like the LED Light Emitter Bar - 120 watts - 40 LEDs - 1350'L X 330'W - 9-32V offered by Larson Electronics.com provide an excellent option for the skipper interested in maximizing his nighttime boating enjoyment without increasing the concerns associated with power management.
When mounted atop the rear edge of a cabin roof or canopy frame, this LED light bar is a perfect choice for sport or utilitarian applications. Forty LED bulbs of three watts each are arranged in two rows, producing a wide and brilliant beam that is capable of illuminating objects at distances of over 1,300 feet. With this light bar, at that distance, there is still enough light to read by. As well as producing far-reaching illumination, this light also throws a wide beam, making it excellent for lighting an entire rear deck with brilliant white light during nighttime sport fishing activities. The swivel mount base allows it to be tilted up or down, giving the skipper the ability to direct as little or as much light as he desires wherever it’s needed. It can accept voltages ranging from nine to thirty-two volts thanks to a built in voltage regulator, so skippers running either twelve or twenty-four volt systems can install the LED light bar without hassle.
The current draw of the Larson Electronics LED Light Emitter Bar is ten amps at twelve volts while producing 7,200 lumens of light power, making these lights highly efficient as well as battery friendly. To get an idea of just how efficient this is, consider that a standard incandescent halogen bulb would require almost five times as many watts as the LED light bar in order to match its performance, while drawing higher amperage. As an added plus, the LED bar has an estimated lifespan of fifty thousand hours, making its longevity far superior to that of any incandescent lamps currently available.
In an emergency situation, this light's instant on capability means there is no waiting for ballast or lamps to warm up, and no delay in the delivery of brilliant illumination. The 7,200 lumens of brilliant light thrown by this lamp accurately reproduce an illuminated object’s colors, and can light up an area 1,350 feet long by 330 feet wide. This makes illuminating objects in the water or casting light on an adjacent boat fast and easy. Although not correct for anchor light purposes, this light certainly has the capability to serve as an emergency beacon in the case of collision avoidance as well.
The LEDLB-40 Light bar is weather proof and waterproof, and the housing is constructed of extruded aluminum. Machined aluminum mounts slide within the housing, allowing adjustability for mounting into existing holes. The mounting hardware is stainless steel for resistance to the conditions of a marine environment, and the inherently durable LED bulbs are protected by a polycarbonate lens. Larson Electronics also offers a bar clamp mounting kit that allows this light bar to be mounted in alternative locations like horizontal or vertical rails. While more challenging than boating during the day, nighttime runs can be just as much fun as any day cruise. With the proper knowledge and preparation, taking your boat out for regular night outings can be every bit as safe and relaxing as well. Modern technology and equipment offer effective solutions that can alleviate the usual concerns associated with night cruises. The availability of durable and energy-conserving equipment, like the LEDLB-40 Light bar, means you can make those nighttime trips last longer, while spending more of that time enjoying the trip, instead of managing it.