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June 12, 2007

Let There Be Light

Illuminating the water under your hull isn't just for squid fishermen anymore

Hull Holes or ?
Most underwater boat lights presently available are through-hull units. Yes, they require cutting a hole (or more than one) in one of the last places in the world you want a hole. One alternative, called trim-tab mounts, avoids cutting holes in your hull.

Capt. Todd Hurley makes one of the foremost lamps with this type of lighting. Hurley's lamps use halogen bulbs. Compared to regular incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs burn considerably hotter, and thus brighter, and last longer because of their construction and the inherent characteristics of halogen.

Hurley's models bolt on both Bennett and Insta-Trim tabs, and you can retrofit them to most other trim units. They're available for less than $1,000 (that's four lamps, two on each trim tab). These are a very valid option if you can't or don't wish to go the through-hull route (especially considering that through-hulls run $1,600 and up).

Still, other LED systems are external units that can be transom-mounted. Intended for fastening below the waterline on the transom, these units run the wiring either through the transom (still requiring a hole) or configured like a  transom-mounted transducer wire. These units permit lights to be mounted where access previously may have been limited or impossible.

One other brand-new product from  E-Tec (manufacturer of innovative out-  riggers, rod holders, etc.) must be considered truly ingenious. Designed for small boats with transom drain plugs, this compact yet powerful LED unit replaces the drain plug in the transom, with the wire threading in through the drain hole - no new holes, watertight fit and the most affordable underwater light on the market.

As noted above, green-spectrum light seems to be a fish attractant, and a plethora of manufacturers offer different types of equipment accordingly. Key in the words "green fishing lights" on any search engine, and you'll get page upon page running the gamut in design from Star Wars lightsaber-looking units to bulb-on-the-end-of-a-cord types. Prices on these seem to vary from the $40 range on up.

If you're going the through-hull route, fixtures sealed both front and back are advisable choices, since a catastrophic failure of an exterior glass lens won't result in boat loss.

Look for flush-mounted lights, and make sure the bulbs change from inside the boat (don't laugh; I'm sure there are bargain lights out there that don't). Also make sure changing the bulbs won't require some David Blaine-like legerdemain to reach. Naturally, cathodic protection and correct wiring count as important with lighting, as with anything else electrical or metallic dipped in salt water.

While the aforementioned trim-tab and drain-plug lights can certainly be a DIY job - assuming you know your way around DC current - none of the through-hull fixtures can remotely be considered in that realm. Get thee to a local installer if you're going through the hull. All the manufacturers of lighting have recommended installers, so avail yourself of their particular skills. Besides, that's where you'll get a chance to see your lights in action.

Many of the products we purchase for our boats allow us to pursue our favorite sport/pastime more safely, efficiently, etc. But very few of the various gadgets, widgets and electronics we buy have ever claimed they'll actually bring fish to you. But underwater lighting can certainly do that.

Do you need lights under your boat? No, you don't, and you don't need them under your car either, but no matter what anybody says when their buddies are listening, we all kinda like the way those purple lights look under a lowrider or tuner. Oh, c'mon now - yes, you do!

Underwater-Light Manufacturers

DeepSea Power & Light
Green Fishing Lights
E-Tec Marine Products
Hurley Marine, Inc.
Sea Waterlight
Sea Vision
Underwater Lights Ltd.
Fluid Technologies
(Aqualuma Underwater Lighting)
IMTRA Marine Products