night lights- again

Having been almost run over by a motorboat trolling w/o lights and who was atching his line more often than my glo-sticks on my canoe, I am more than a bit concerned with safety.

Now there are a number of companies that make lights for small boats and Aqua Signal makes a portable battery set that is not only cheap ($20) but perfect for any kayak or canoe use.

The only problem is that their lights are either 2-D or 4-AA (not a problem at all) but that they use a standard incadescent bulb which eats batteries.

I have been looking for a similar idea with LED bulbs for brighter and longer battery life with no success.

Anyone know of this idea?

I’m not interested in the smaller LED that costs $50 per as that is more than I can afford to mount on a half-dozen boats. But for $20 a set and removable, the Aqua Signal battery bow & stern lights are perfect IF they had LED bulbs.

If you’re interested in a little do-it-yourself, here’s a good link Some of the new LED’s are extremely bright. I built an illuminator for my truck so I can find it when I return from paddling after dark. See this link for it.

Night lites
Check Cabelas. They use to carry a bow and stern set that was LED.

How about an LED headlamp?
You typically turn your head toward noise , so it wouldn’t hurt.

I have a couple of these

– Last Updated: Mar-10-04 4:49 PM EST –
The stern light can be attached with a suction cup and clipped to your deck rigging just in case.
That way when you change boats you can put it on the boat your using at the time.

I ordered direct from TEKTITE

Bought the lights individually (didn’t need the bag). I got a red and a green single LED (same ones in their NAVLITE set), and a white 2 LED marker light. The 2 LED costs a bit more, but it’s the main light and brighter is better (they have a 4 LED, but it goes through batteries).

Long and thin with long diffusion cones with internal strip - 3 AA each. Last a long time.

My R/G go under forward beck bungies at the sides. Single white either on a pole on aft deck - or just rigged up on your hat.

These lights may be expensive - but are way beyond waterproof and reliable. Very bright, very compact. Looks like real running lights - with nothing permanently attached. Highly recommended.

Have you seen the report on the kayak lighting visibility experiment conducted by Ralph Diaz of the Folding Kayak Newsletter? I’ll email it to you if you’d like.

bike lites
look in your local bike shop and pick up one of those little clip on lights - i have one and it flashes letttle red lights in all sorts of obvious dispalys - i clip it on the back of my life jacket (or my bike shorts ) - it is very obvious. they are small, lightweight although not waterproof. wear a LED head lamp and you are all set!

nice but too expensive
At $60 for the bow lights, and almost an equal amount for the stern, I can’t afford to equip the boats that go.

I like these but…

I was hoping to do the job for $10-20 a boat since I often float 4-6 boats at a time.

Don’t use it in flashing mode…
…as it’s illegal to use a flashing/strobe light as a running light. However, the Coast Guard people our club spoke with indicated that the back and forth scanning mode that some bike lights have is very eye-catching and perfectly legal.

LEDS at Cabela’s
Cabela’s has them. They’re new this year – I bought the incandescant ones last year :frowning:

Go cheaper
and plan on replacing alot.

I saw some small button cell battery powered LEDs a while ago, might have even been sealed. If I can find them again I’ll post.

Some web searches for LED stuff should turn up a lot of smaller lights you could try.

The ACR C-Light is a pretty good cheap item. Waterproof of course. Not LED, but has a 360 degree lens that focuses the light and makes it visible long range. Also has a beam out the end that works as a flashlight. I keep one on my PFD (and can be pinned to a hat, etc,). Also can be bought with a small post and suction cup mount. Works decent as a marker light.

No matter what you end up with though - don’t expect lights to keep you safe. They are more of a courtesty for the other boaters. By Coast Guard regs all you need is a directional light (flashlight) that can be shined at an approaching vessel to warn them off (good luck!). Inland state waters may vary.

LED version is an improvement
but the size, weight, and mounting leave a lot to be desired (at least for kayak use). These are really better for inflatable motor boats/rowboats.

Had a set of the regular bulb ones for use on my SOT. White one failed second use. R/G still works. Battery life short too - but the new LED version should improve that and the reliabilty.

These made me REALLY appreciate the TEKTITE marker lights.

cost factors
I did find a set exactly like the Cabelas but with LED and differing attachments and they were $16 a set.

For that I can afford to float a few boats at a time. though I’m not happy with cost plus shipping. If I could buy 4 sets at a time, the shipping drops or if I can get the local store to carrythem, I capuld save shipping completly and buy them a set at a time.

I’m more worried about some trolling fisherman w/o lights running my kid over because it is moonless and we don’t see or hear him in time to flash him.

Almost happened last year at Lake Patagonia.

And yes, he was in the wrong but…

But I’m paranoid. I even mounted a bike flag to my kayaks for kale crossings.

I found this using the search funtion…
It’s long but very informative…

Human Powered Boat Group


From: Ralph Diaz

Subject: Results of Lighting Test for Paddlers/Rowers

Date: June 14, 2001

As we were finishing up our testing of a number of flashlight systems that would make paddlers and rowers most visible in NY Harbor, Jim Wetteroth of the Downtown Boathouse came up to me and said “The Coast Guard was right all along.” What he was referring to was the standard lighting requirement for small vessels such as outboard motor boats, i.e. a red/green combo light at the bow and an 360 degree white light up on a stem toward the stern. Jim went on to say, “The more we look like other boats, the more we will be recognized as one by other things out there.” And he is right based on what we were able to see.

The red/green running light concept gets rid of one of the problem facing an urban paddler at night: How to avoid his/her white light being lost in the confusion of bright lights of a city? The US Coast Guard requirement that small human-powered vessels have a white light ready to turn on when approached by oncoming traffic is totally inadequate except on some small lake somewhere. Paddlers in the Big Apple know this and have been using different lighting schemes that have at their base some light that is steadily on and not meant to be intermittently shined for approaching traffic.

The task of the Human Powered Boating Group (HPBG) was to size up what lighting systems seemed to work the best. Earlier there had been discussions of having some special color of flashing light set up here in NYC harbor for use by paddlers. There were problems with the idea. Finding a light color that was distinctive; lots of flashing lights are already taken and have a special purpose such as a flashing blue one for law enforcement boats. Strobe white lights are out since they are, in effect, emergency beacons for some one in distress possibly in the water already. Every vessel spotting a strobe is legally and morally obliged to stop what it is doing and come to the aid of those sending off the strobe distress signal or to radio an alert to the Coast Guard. If they don’t, the penalties are severe including loss of captain’s license, fines, jail time. Flashing lights are taken that seriously. It might be possible to designate some flashing color for paddlers and agree to this in the harbor, but what about visitors; would they be confused and come to the aid of a flashing light? Or would flashing lights be confused with navigational aid lights warning of obstacles in the water and along the shore? Maybe it will happen some day but the wheels of regulatory change, especially ones that go against well-known habits and protocols, grind too slowly to wait.

So the HPBG decided to operate within existing parameters and existing light schemes. We tested seven different systems or variations of systems last night. The systems were on different kayaks operating within the Downtown Boathouse embayment and its immediate outer edge bordering the river proper. To check their effectiveness, the kayaks were viewed from the DTBH pier looking outward to the river and from a small motorboat out on the river looking back. This allowed us to test them against both city lights and more open water. The kayaks moved back and forth (like shooting gallery ducks :-)) so we could see them from both sides. They also came at the Pier and out toward the motorboat to see them from the front and from the back. As an added test, the kayaks moved along the dark background of the derelict Pier 32. Here are the results:

A) First of all, what DOESN’T work:

  1. Headlamps. Our finding from both the pier and the motorboat underscores what the NY Waterways ferry captain advised us about last week from his viewpoint high up on the bridge of his vessel; “Those miner lamps don’t work. I can’t always see them as the guy’s head bobs up and down or he turns his head. They aren’t steady enough and I just don’t really see them.” Amen. Headlamps with a straight focus beam were visible only now and then. They may be great for spotting your campsite after a moonlight cruise out in the wilds but they are not good as navigation lights to make you visible in city waters.
  2. Headlamps with red/green lens. To my knowledge these don’t exist but did seem a good idea to try. To test this, Jim Wetteroth tried an experiment of jury-rigging a red/green light to a headlamp. It also proved as useless as a focused white headlamp. Any movement of the head throws its port/starboard indications off. A headlamp would only work in one configuration explained further down.
  3. Chemsticks or chemlights. Many paddlers believe these work because they crack the vial, shake it and it seems to give lots of light. Another paddler 50 feet away who has one seems to be visible. But it is an illusion brought on by closeness. At any distance they don’t show up at all. We saw that on a kayak in the embayment not all that far from the pier.
  4. Anything with AAA battery power. We didn’t test this last night, but such a lighting system, from past observation, is minimally visible. More importantly, AAA flashlights with cones such as from Princeton-Tec, die in a little over an hour of constant use. At most consider these as a bare minimum just-in-case light if you get caught out at the end of the day in encroaching darkness. If you have such a light, you may want to upgrade your just-in-case system now to the AA version for more power and longer burning time.

    B) What DOES seem to work:

    The best system seems to be the following: First, have a red/green light system on you bow deck in front of you no farther than you can reach to turn on and off or replace batteries if you have to. Next have a white light with cone high on your head, connected to a headband or to the back of baseball cap. Lastly, have a cone white light behind you on your stern deck, raised a bit if possible.

    This system has a lot of advantages. It gives you that red/green configuration that makes you definitely identifiable as a boat to others on the water. By having the cone light high on your head, you have a constant 360-degree white light showing. The cone light on your rear deck sets a pattern of two white lights in conjunction with the cone light on your head. The more there is a pattern, whatever it is, of a series of white lights, the more they stand out.

    Some of us, including me, have questioned the use of red/green lights. Our concern is based on not wanting to be confused by the captain of a large vessel with small motorboats that can move a lot faster than paddlers or rowers. However, small motorboats are often moving slowly or even in a trolling mode, i.e. not faster than a kayak. So, I don’t think a large vessel captain would necessarily expect that a red/green bow light meant 30-knot speed. And, the benefit of being considered a boat is of utmost importance to us in the long run.

    You can achieve this lighting combination for as little as $50 retail (not counting batteries) using incandescent bulbs with better versions of this using LED lights going up to over twice as much as that as an initial cost. Neither is a lot and anything less won’t get you really noticed at night as a boat.
  5. The less expensive version of this involves the following.

    A split red/greens 4 AA light from West Marine that runs $19.99. Look for the version to put on inflatables. It will require some playing around with it to fit under bungees, possibly creating or buying a plate to put it on; or just use foam. It has the advantage of lots of power, brightness, a degree of waterproofness and it will float.

    For the cone lights use either Princeton-Tec models or the Mark III from Tek-Tite (these cone lights retail for around $13 to $15 each. For full effectiveness the Princeton-Tec models require some doctoring. The normal cone light powered by 2 AA batteries and sold as the Aqua Flare lacks slots through which to attach a Velcro or other type strap to secure it to your headband or hat. What I have done is to buy the Princeton-Tec Aqua Flash, which does have those slots, and swapped out the flashing light bulb. In contrast, the Tek-Tite Mark III already has the slots for straps, runs on 3 AA batteries for greater brightness and longer burning time. The cones for the two brands differ. The Tek-Tite Mark III is taller and clear with a white plastic strip inside that reflects the light coming up from the bulb. The Princeton cones are shorter but broader and translucent. I think the edge might be with the Tek-Tite cone as, being taller, it stands up higher.
  6. The more expensive version involves the following:

    For the cone lights, put in LED light modules, preferably a 2 or 4 LED light one. Such modules cost around $20 but they have the advantage of staying brighter for longer and having much greater burning time with your batteries than do incandescent bulbs. LEDs ordinarily have a disadvantage in that their beam does not project far, BUT this doesn’t matter in a cone light when all it is doing is lighting the cone up or reflecting across a plastic strip in the cone. So there is absolutely no disadvantage of LEDs in cones.

    I am not certain if Princeton-Tec has a provision for this but Tek-Tite does. You actually buy the basic cone light with either 2 LED or 4 LED. The models are called Mark III 2 LED ($34.95 suggested retail price) and Mark III 4 LED ($44.95 suggested price). The Tek-Tite has an advantage in that it is based on a 3-cell battery system, the ideal one for LED lights. In a 2-cell battery system you will get less power out of an LED (a 4-cell system is too much and you have to have a 3-cell with one dummy cell to operate a LED). BTW, the 4 LED is noticeably brighter than the 2 LED.

    The only LED green/red system on the market is a product from Tek-Tite called the Navlite. It has two Mark III bodies, one with red cone, the other with a green one placed in a special pouch that has a grommet and other ways of tying to deck D-rings and bungees. It sells for $55.95 with a 2 LED bulb in each. Its advantages over the incandescent West Marine basic split green/red light are greater waterproofness (really submersible) and longer battery life and continued brightness as well as being unbreakable and bulb life measured in the many thousands of hours. The disadvantage is the initial cost outlay.

    C) Other Lighting Systems and Thoughts:
  7. One system that did not have a split green/red light component but that worked extra well was one we cooked up based on the Princeton-Tec Solo Headlamp. We placed a Princeton-Tec cone over the light, giving the paddler (Jim B., a good sport) a silly Unicorn look. At the back of the headband we strapped a Tek-Tite Mark III 4 LED. Two cone lights so high up on the head made the setup quite visible. Plus, it created a pattern of lights that was constant and being so close together seemed to give them even greater visibility. If you can stand having two lights on your head, you will have a distinct visibility advantage.
  8. Deck lights do help give you more of a distinct profile. This is especially true if you can pre-arrange a light at the very end of the bow and the stern as well as have some on your head or PFD. Just an added note here: If you plan to use a red/green light navigation on the bow deck in front of you, dispense with a white light way up at the bow end. It confuses and diffuses things.
  9. Cheaper lights do show up nicely. There is a cheap Everready yellow light that retails for under $10 in places like EMS. It really doesn’t have a cone but rather a raised glass portion. These show pretty nicely. The problem with them is they are not that well made and can fail. They also don’t have much burn time.
  10. Anything at the back of your PFD, unless high up on the shoulder, is very limited in how much it can be seen. But, again, it is something that can fool you as you may see another paddler in your group and believe he would be visible from far away when he isn’t.
  11. Deck color helps in being seen. Lighter colors reflect back deck lights and even lights on your head to a degree.

    D) Sources For Lights:

    Princeton-Tec’s are ubiquitous although you won’t always find the Aqua Flare or the Aqua Flash, with its better body because of the strap slots. Try a dive shop since both lights are big with divers. A good one, with good prices, is Leisure-Pro on West 18th St in Manhattan. Leisure-Pro would also be a good source for the Tek-Tites, although the Mark III LED versions do not appear in the catalog or website. Call them and say that Tek-Tite has these other lights (and the Navlite setup), state the list price and they will likely discount by a nice percentage. You can also purchase direct from Tek Tite.

    E) Thank You’s:

    The test was under the auspices of the Human-Powered Boating Group. We used the Downtown Boathouse and volunteers. I would like to thank Jim W. and Tom for manning the motor boat and make observations from there. Also to thank Andrew for helping me on the pier. Bonnie, from the Manhattan Kayak Company and co-chair of the HPBG, who acted as field general on the water. And to volunteers, Richard, Scott, Harry, Jim and Susan.

    For more info on the NY Harbor Human Powered Boat Group,

    contact Ralph Diaz, Chair, Human-Powered Boating Group

Like I said…
If you are serious and want lights that other boaters will undertand as being another boat’s running lights - and need simplicity and reliability. Go TEK-TITE.

Put R and G up forward (I like mine just within reach and close to the shear on either side as the deck bungies allow. That way only one is seen from eoither side unless head on, which is the only time you really want someone ot see both). The lights have little bungees on the ends so you can tie them off so if you knock one out of the deck bungees it won’t get lost.

I have a light deck, and as the article says, this increases your visibility as it lights up parts of the deck and also reflects off it.

White is easiest to put up on head (integrate loops for straps make this easy - longer length cone and handle get it up higher and distribute the weight more). The head and deck combo in teh article sounsds good too, but I only use one all around light (single white light indicates smaller vessel).

I’d skip the NAVLITE set and just order the two lights in it separately. They use single LEDs, so I did same - and ordered a 2 LED for white. If really wanting more light - go 2 LED on the R/G and 4 LED on the white (but that raises your cost about $40!). You will have to call to order the 2 LED lights. Best to call anyway to ensure right colors & LEDs for each. Tell them what your doing with them and they’ll make sure get you the right ones.

Seems expensive, but these things will last for years and are super easy to transfer between boats.

I can take pictures of the R/G ones on my kayak if anyone needs to see it. The hat thing for the white is pretty self explanitory.

Sorry to repeat all this again, but if operating at night with other vessels - I’m strong proponent of rigging proper lighting. Non-standard light colors/patterns are confusing to other boats, and as mentioned already - strobes are illegal except as emergency signals.

Pictures of TEKTITEs on kayak

Sorry about the quality - but these explain better than I can. These are the single LED (red & green) and 2 LED white on hat.

Seems like you’d want the lights higher
Those red & green lights are awfully low to show up over the waves, aren’t they? In the daytime, I often can’t even see the decks of kayaks in the distance except for brief glimpes over the waves. Seems like putting them up on little stalks, even if just a foot or so, would be a good idea. Then just make a shield (or better still, a reflector) that prevents each light from being viewed from the wrong side of the boat.

Hey, I can’t help it. I’ve never bought anything for my boat that I didn’t modify to make better, especially when using non-specialized parts such as lights.

Just as an example, here’s what I did. On my guide-boat and packboat I don’t have red & green lights (yet… I could change that pretty quick), but I do have a white light on each side and they clip onto the gunwales with home-made aluminum brackets. I found that the lights make me completely blind at night, so I fashioned a reflector for each of them that eliminates one-third of the total 360-degree shine, and positioned each reflector so it keeps the light out of my eyes (and at least one light is always visible from any direction). If the lights were red and green, I’d make the reflector block-off a larger portion of the 360-degree shine to meet the regulations. The reflectors work great, and were cut from a soda can with scissors. They took a couple minutes to make and vastly improved the overall setup.


– Last Updated: Mar-12-04 12:09 AM EST –

In any decent sized waves the boats won't see you in daylight! No need to raise the red and green as they are not for general (360) visibility. The white takes care of that.

The red and green tell other vessels which way you're pointed (assumed direction if moving).
You don't really want them both visible at the same time - unless you are heading toward another vessel. From either side they should see the white, and either a red or green out ahead of it (and lower).

Lights like this may offer some safety - but I use them more as a courtesy to the other boaters (it is very much appreciated too), not so much to avoid being run over. I still use eyes and ears and paddle strokes for that!

Kayaks have some trouble meeting the exact letter of the law for running lights. The R/G are technically supposed to be mounted above the highest deck. Since there is nothing above the deck, some leeway is needed. Anywhere above the shear sould do. Similar with the rule about the all around white light being a meter above the R/G lights. A meter is a bit much (mine would be more like 2 ft), as long as its the highest thing it serves the purpose. Fortunately vessels under oars are only required to carry a flashlight - so runnning lights are extra, not required.

If these lights interfere with night vision, it is a simple matter to cut small sheilds from thin plastic and attach between the cone and body of the lights.

I tinker with everything too (Product Designer by trade - so can't help it!). I may have the most modified Q700 on the planet now.

Stern light

Thanks for the photos, I’ve been thinking about the Teklites and the illustrations helped. How much does you “stern” light interfere with your night vision, if at all?