Friday, May 6, 2016

Cheap Marker Lights

I've often wondered how effective the anchor light on a sailboat actually is.  A white light that can be seen for miles sounds like a good idea, but having that light 60 feet up in the air seems problematic to me.  From a distance you can look out across an anchorage and see the anchored boats.  But what about when you are in the anchorage trying to maneuver between boats on a dark night?  Or when someone in a dinghy is trying to make their way back to their boat after the bars have closed?  Do the lights sitting up 60 feet just blend into the stars or a nearby city skyline?

I decided a while back that it would be a good idea to add the equivalent of marker lights to our boat. Having not spent a lot of time at anchor, it was not a high priority (until recently). When at a BJ's Wholesale club back in Virginia last summer, I found and purchased a 4-pack of solar powered deck walkway lights. I figured if I could devise a way to mount these, they would work well.

Naturally, while sitting at anchor out at Elliott Key, a long way from a hardware store, I remembered my purchase and decided to see if I had any way to temporarily mount them and see how well they would work. After a little pondering, I remembered that one of the things the prior owner had left on the boat were these clips designed to make it easier to attach and adjust fenders.  I never found them particularly handy so they have been sitting in a settee locker since I discovered them.  I decided that I could use zip ties to attach the lights to the clips and see how well they would work.

It only took a few minutes to assemble.  I clipped them onto the pulpit and pushpit rails at the four corners of the boat.  We used them during most of our trip to Key Largo and so far I am pleased with how they work.  They are relatively low profile so they don't get in the way.  They cast light outward and a little downward to light up the hull. And since they are solar, they require no wiring and turn on and off automatically, so even if we forget to turn on the anchor light, we have lights warning others that we are there.

So far I am pleased with the result.  The units seem at least somewhat sealed from the elements so I hope they will last at least a while in the marine environment.  Looks like I will need to find a better way to mount them when I get a chance.


  1. What a great idea! These are so much more attractive than the ones on the poles that everyone hooks to their stanchions. Any chance of attaching a piece of two sided Velcro to the back and using it to attach to the rail?

    SV Kintala

    1. I was thinking of using velcro to attach them to clips that could clip on the stanchion. Just a loop of velcro (a strap) I think may cause the lights to swing down below the horizontal bar but might work for a vertical stanchion if you can add a piece of rubber to prevent it from sliding down the pole.