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Light'em Up

What's new in underwater lighting systems.

Tarpon cruise near the transom.

Most of us are always looking for ways to enhance our own boat's functionality, mostly as fish catching machines, but if the addition looks good, too—well that's a bonus and another reason to go ahead with the scheme. The scheme I'm talking about here is the installation of underwater lights. Depending on the configuration and lights you choose you can illuminate the water below your boat a little, a lot, or in different colors. Not only would this enhance the look of your vessel at night it will attract both bait and predator alike.

The plethora of permanently affixed underwater lights available in the marine marketplace has blossomed significantly in the last couple of years. Nowadays you won't have any trouble finding UW lights for your boat no matter its size. A variety of metal and composite framed lights using a thru-hull type mount will work in everything from an offshore battlewagon to a large center console. Surface mount units and specialty lights with aluminum or steel frames designed to be welded in place are also commonplace. For those of us running smaller boats the latest rage are lights that mount to your boat's engine, trim tabs, or dive ladder.

Not enough space for thru-hull lights? Systems are being developed for outdrive-mounting.

Although a number of bulb types are used in UW lights today it was the increased availability and reduced cost of LEDs that propelled the development of UW lights for boats. The first to put these to use were larger vessels able to use the first thru-hull style mounts. Most were installed in the transom below the waterline. Because this style of light requires full access front and back for installation they can only be installed in boats where you can reach the transom from inside the hull with enough freedom to seal and secure a mounting nut. Surface mounts still require access from inside but not quite as much as a thru-hull since you will only need to route a wire.



The latest development in the thru-hull style light has been a substantial reduction in size of the part of the housing that lives outside the hull. This makes these lights virtually flush with the hull adding very little if any additional water drag. Now you can install UW lights in areas that remain submerged even at speed allowing for configurations along the hull sides to shoot light to port and starboard instead of just aft.

For small boat operators who simply don't have the room or access to install thru-hull or surface mounts, check out the LumishoreDrivelite Series, Sea Vision SV44, or Aqua Lights AL75TT. The latter pair can be trim-tab mounted and require no drilling through the hull below the waterline. The Drivelite Series features a clamp style mount that can be fitted to a trim tab or outboard motor and is available in three sizes from 18 to 90 watts. The most sophisticated Drivelite uses a panel mounted control head to cycle the light at various rates and here is the kicker—in a full RGB color palette.

Underwater lighting for your boat is not inexpensive, prices start at around $200 each and go up from there. For the serious angler who goes to sea often at night—whether yellowtailing or sword fishing—the installation of UW lights on your boat adds another fish catching tool to your arsenal. FS

UW Light Mx

Underwater lights installed on a boat generally require very little maintenance. The style of mount, where the lights are located, and the bulb type will determine the amount of maintenance your lights will need to provide safe and reliable service. Anytime you drill a hole below the waterline you will need to inspect that fixture on a regular basis; lights are no exception. Some makers recommend removal of thru-hull type UW lights every so often to both replace the light seals and reseal the housing into the hull. Bulb changes may be required, too , on lights using other than LEDs for illumination. To increase light efficiency you should follow the manufacturer's advice on keeping the lens clean.

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