Prepare Wisely for Nighttime Cruises With HID Spotlights|
Every summer sees a greater number of boaters taking to the water. More and more of these boaters are extending the hours during which they operate their craft, and many are discovering how enjoyable it can be to include the occasional night cruise in their boating plans. As more boaters begin operating their vessels at night, it becomes even more important that they understand the different hazards and requirements that come with cruising in darkness. Although most boats are equipped from the factory with the requisite navigational lighting, this equipment is usually only basic in nature and leaves a great deal of room for improvement. Nighttime cruising introduces added hazards and in order to avoid unpleasant surprise and prepare for all eventualities, skippers need to consider adding to their boats standard lighting equipment.
One of the first things a boater interested in cruising at night needs to realize is that travelling the waterways at night is not the same as operating a motor vehicle on the highway. On the water, you do not navigate by headlights, and preserving night-vision is paramount to safety. Bright lights when used on the water have more detrimental than beneficial effects. There are no lanes or clearly marked byways, and lights shown on the water have a tendency to reflect light back at the operator and cause night blindness. Worse, other boaters are present as well and a bright light shown in their direction can easily blind them and lead to errors in navigation or worse. It’s because of these factors that bright spot and flood lights are not legal for continuous use in marine applications. Most regulations only allow the use of spotlights for periodic surveys and emergency situations, or when navigating dangerous channels and pulling to dock.
Despite these caveats, spotlights are still an extremely important part of any boater’s illumination equipment. Spotlights are very effective for finding channel markers and buoys, and if an emergency arises on the water, a spotlight will be very useful indeed. As well, spotlights are very useful for sportsmen and pleasure boaters because they can provide an immediate and intense light source as needed for onboard activities like landing big game-fish. If there is an engine breakdown, or a prop gets fouled, a spotlight will become indispensable and wise will be the skipper who has more than one on hand for just such an occasion. Imagine trying to replace an alternator by the light of a cheap hand held flashlight, and then imagine having a powerful spotlight that’s capable of illuminating the entire rear of your boat instead. No comparison is there?
Of course, it’s also important that those who operate their boats at night be aware of the drain that auxiliary lighting equipment places on their electrical reserves. Operating a boat at night means that in addition to the added concerns that navigating in darkness brings, a skipper must also be judicious in his use of electrical power. GPS systems, radar, cabin lighting, anchor lights and everything else that runs on electrical power is a drain on a boats batteries. Effectively managing the use of all these electrical drains is a high priority and can mean the difference between being stranded and being able to fire up and head in when the time comes. Spotlights generally tend to be power hungry devices, so any equipment chosen by skipper needs to be as compatible with his electrical management plans as possible. This means a spotlight needs to be as powerful as possible, without posing an undue strain on electrical reserves.
These types of concerns are what have led many boaters to abandon their typical incandescent spotlights in favor of HID versions. HIDs have gained their popularity with boaters for two major reasons. They produce an intense and powerful beam of light, and they are significantly more efficient than incandescent spotlights. For an idea of the differences between the two, consider that a traditional 50 watt incandescent halogen spotlight will produce around 900 lumens of light. While bright, the light is yellowish in color, and not intense enough to penetrate fog or inclement conditions very well. In addition, this type of lamp can draw over 10 amps of electrical power making it an energy hog. A 35 watt HID spotlight in contrast can produce over 3,000 lumens of intense white light, powerful enough to penetrate fog and be seen in clear conditions for over a mile. In addition, this same HID will draw only 4-5 amps of power after initial startup.
A good example of this type of HID spotlight is the Larson Electronics HID-35-RC Remote Controlled Light. Drawing only 35 watts of power, this HID spotlight produces an intense beam of light that can project for 5,000 feet. Even better, this light is remote controlled, an added bonus for situations like the aforementioned nighttime repairs. No need to have someone hold a light, or even leave your workspace to position the light. Just operate the remote control from wherever you are and light is placed exactly where it is needed. Of course, it should also be mentioned that lights like the Larson Electronics are resistant to salt water and the elements. There are few conditions as extreme and damaging to electrical equipment as the marine environment, and any equipment to be operated outside the confines of the cabin or bridge need to be able to withstand constant exposure to the weather.
Obviously,iIn addition to power and efficiency, marine spotlights also need to be durable. In this regard HIDs have yet another distinct advantage over incandescent lamps. HIDs have no filaments in their construction. The wire filament in an incandescent bulb represents a weak link, a critical yet easily broken piece of wire that is vulnerable to impacts and vibrations, especially when under power. HIDs on the other hand have no filament. Their light is produced by creating an electrical arc between two contacts, which then ignites gases inside the lamp producing a type of plasma. Because of this, the light produced by HIDs is not only more powerful but the lamp itself is naturally resistant to damage from the vigorous movement often encountered with a boat that is underway.
Any boater taking to the water at night needs to be vigilant. They must understand that they are entering into an environment that is much different than the one they normally encounter during the day. They need to follow additional safety precautions and allow for the differences in navigation that come with operating at night. In addition, they also need to be cognizant of the possible problems and emergencies that can also arise. Equipping their craft with an HID spotlight is an excellent way to address these potential difficulties and ensures that whatever situation arises on the water at night, they will be well equipped to shed as much light as needed on the problem to resolve it.