Add a Solar-Powered Flood Light in Your Cockpit

This is one of those little things that I did on a whim and I didn’t think would last. But it has turned out to be so handy that I’d miss it if it were gone.

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Things that go bump in the night

Back before I added LED strip lights in my lazarettes, getting gear out of them at night or doing almost anything in the cockpit after dark was a hassle. Sure, I could go dig out a headlamp but in many cases, that would take as long as whatever it was that I needed to do so, not a time saver.

I had a couple of these bicycle flashlight mounts in my toolbox and hadn’t come up with a good use for them yet. They’re soft rubber saddles with hook and loop straps that you can use to attach one small diameter cylindrical object to another at right angles.

Bicycle (sailboat) handlebar (pushpit) flashlight (anything) mount

Then one day I noticed that the post of one of our solar-powered landscape floodlights was about the right size to fit in one of those flashlight mounts if I attached it to the top pushpit rail.

LED flood light, photocell, solar panel, and battery all in one

I wasn’t optimistic that it would work very well onboard Summer Dance, but I figured it was worth a try. I had nothing to lose.

It turned out to work great for many reasons:

  • Inexpensive at about $15
  • Takes only a minute to install with no wiring or screws
  • Doesn’t draw down the house battery
  • No switch to remember. It comes on at dark and goes off at sunrise.
  • Swivels up and down and side to side to wherever you need more light
  • Easy to remove or re-position
  • Helps to prevent burning dinner on the grill
  • Makes loading and unloading at night safer
  • When anchored for the night, illuminates the entire cockpit for more visibility than a masthead anchor light alone
  • If your marina has a theft problem, this could make your boat a less desirable target than some other guy’s

Sometimes too much of a good thing is bad

One drawback that I’ve found is that it tends to attract bugs to the cockpit at night. We don’t have a lot of them here in the Pacific Northwest, so it’s not a big problem. But you southerners might want to think twice before inviting them all aboard at night. And if you sail at night, you should turn it off or remove it so that it doesn’t affect your night vision.

If you’ve ever considered installing courtesy lights in your cockpit or just want a little more light there for night time fun, consider adding one or more of these. You could also mount one on the bow pulpit to light up your foredeck and mast. They’re a lot of light and convenience for the price.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Tom Luque says:

    In reference to LED lights vs Bugs.
    I installed a solar walkway unit on my Potter-19 for a 11 day sail in the San Juans and did not have one bug around it. Same results in driveway test before sailing trip.
    The light spectrum given off from LEDs is harder for most bugs to see.
    The best thing I like about the solar walkway light is the its ability to have two light levels. Dim and bright for a minute when it senses someone nearby.

    1. Maybe what I experienced was wife bugs. They see everything, you know, instead of husband bugs that have selective vision. Like when I can’t see the garbage by the back door that needs to be taken out.

  2. LlewelynsDog says:

    Hi there.

    This is a great idea! Do these look difficult to get into and access the wiring without damaging the case? I was thinking that adding an on/off switch would be a great upgrade 🙂


    1. They actually have a small switch built-in already.

  3. Jesnil Trups says:

    Really, this is a great idea. The blog was absolutely fantastic! There are Lot of valuable information which can be helpful in some or the other ways. Recently I have bought a SOLAR ULTRA BRIGHT FLOOD LIGHT from “Solar Galore” & it helps me.

  4. Tom Beetham says:

    Hi, it looks like this article was first posted in 2015. I am wondering if this specific light is still working strong for you now in 2017 (September). On Amazon, the light doesn’t get real strong reviews, but I wanted to know how yours is treating you. Thanks, Tom

    1. Hello, Tom

      I haven’t used it this year because I’m not anchoring out as much but I’m still happy with the light. The only downside is that it can attract a lot of bugs if they’re around. So I got used to turning it off when done with it for the night.

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