By Tom Neale, 9/7/2006
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Wait A Minute! You want me to SEE what’s out there? What if I don’t like it? It could be all sorts of things. UFOs. Water spouts. Waterfalls. Dragons. It’s kind of nice sitting here with my book, cozy and safe behind my wheel. That autopilot hasn’t let me down yet. It knows where it’s going. I’m sure it does. It knows…………… wait a minute……… WHAT’S THAT NOISE???
Ok, I admit it, I can be a little spooked by the dark. Especially out in the ocean. Give me a nice moon and I’m fine. Even a clear starry night isn’t all that bad. But give me a pitch black night when even the stars are gone behind clouds and there’s nobody on the VHF and there seems to be no world at all beyond my running lights and my normal male macho pseudo bravery thins out a bit. I’ll never admit in public that I was one of those kids that used to duck under the covers when he heard a bump under the bed. And I’ll never admit that I used to take a flashlight with me. (Unless you want to admit it first.) But I will admit to always having a thing for flashlights. I’ve got almost 30.
From time to time I’ve said that I’d tell you about a really neat product that I come across if I think it merits your attention. Today, I’ve got two, and they’re both handheld lights. One’s an amazing spotlight, the other’s more along the lines of a flashlight.
For years I’ve been jealous of the people with permanently mounted spotlights. They use ship’s power, they’re big, and they’ve always thrown a bigger beam than my handhelds. There was always this guy saying, “I’ve got a bigger beam than yours,” and it was never me. I’ve tried to assuage this feeling of inadequacy by occasionally buying yet another of those “10 million candlepower” cheapies that keep showing up. But they’ve never come even close to doing the trick. I don’t know how those people count candlepower and I really don’t think that many of them even try. If they do, somebody should tell them that with a spotlight you want a beam, not a bonfire. But now I can stand tall, because I’ve found the Profiler II by Golight. (www.golight.com).
This handheld spotlight is rated by Golight at 440 M Lux which is a measurement that’s actually performed with objective instrumentation and indicates illumination of surfaces at given distances away. Its beam, when it hits its target, doesn’t leave a black hole in the middle. They do this with an “H-7 axial filament Blue Vision bulb” and a “precision pressure cast aircraft aluminum parabolic reflector”. (Reflectors are a critical feature of most lights, but often they are cheaply done and perform poorly.) It’s powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery which, they say, gives it up to an hour’s run time in spotlight mode with a 2 hour recharge time. (You can also power this light with the boat’s 12 volt power with an included cable.) A secondary 1 watt LED beam with stated running time of over 50 hours lets you use the Profiler II like a small flashlight.
I compared the Profiler II with permanently mounted spotlights by major manufacturers on two boats at a marina. The Profiler outperformed these dramatically. I also compared this light with a super duper inexpensive “3 million candlepower” spotlight. It had some other goodies in its box such as a spare battery (always important), a battery charger (that didn’t work as described), a case for the extra battery (which was too small for the battery), a 12 volt auxiliary supply cable for power directly from your boat’s circuits, and a little incandescent bulb for regular low power flashlight use. Rubber inserts in the battery compartment looked really fine to protect the battery from shock, but they came out with the battery, damaged, when I removed it. The cost of this light was under $40.00. “A good deal,” I thought, until I did some comparisons.
One trial was on a clear night and another was during TS Ernesto with light rain and mist blown by very strong winds. (Yeah, everybody else was hunkered down and I was out on deck playing with my lights.) The cheap light was, in my personal opinion, almost worthless compared to the Profiler II. If you don’t want to see what’s way out there in the night, the cheap one is the light for you.
The Profiler had the extra features of the other (except the spare battery), but all were much, much better. The light and its accessories, including a battery charger mount, are, in a word, exceptionally rugged. (OK, that was two words.) Now I don’t envy so much the big power boats with the mounted lights. I’ve got one that works as well or better than many and it’s handheld (although it can be permanently mounted). The cost? Don’t ask. It hurts. But a spotlight isn’t about cheapness. It’s about being able to see things that may destroy your boat and kill you in the night. The MSRP is around $440.00. Like most MSRPs, this is probably more than what you’d actually have to pay for it in a store. But, as I see it, it’s worth it.
On the close-in range of seeing at night, I have a new favorite general purpose small handheld flashlight. It’s Pelican’s SabreLight 2010 Recoil LED™ “Photoluminescent” submersible (www.pelican.com). I told you about the recoil lights in an earlier column on this site (Number 45 on the list of past columns). I got several communications from people who’ve used it and agree that it’s a great light. Check out that column and you’ll see how it works and why it’s great. But Pelican just made it (and a lot of their other lights) greater by adding a Photoluminescent lens cover so that it glows a little in the dark—not enough to destroy your night vision—but enough to let you find it on those black nights when something’s going wrong and the last thing you need is to go hunting around in the dark for a flashlight.
Here are few of the amazing things about this light. Being an LED, the bulb has a very long life expectancy (10,000 hours says Pelican) and it consumes very little power. Batteries last for a very long time. A problem with LED lights in the past has been that they don’t throw much of a beam. Some manufacturers have added more and more LEDs to the array to solve the problem but, in my view, this hasn’t necessarily been that helpful. Pelican’s Recoil ™ technology directs the LED backwards to a carefully designed reflector which sends it back out in a strong collimated beam without a hole in the center. The light’s battery compartment is exceptionally well designed to hold the batteries in place, protect them from shock, and hold them firmly against the contact points. It can also be used as a dive light for depths down to 500 feet, says Pelican. The MSRP for the Photoluminescent light is $64.95, but you can get it for less.
A great thing about a handheld light or spotlight is that, if you don’t like what you see, you can always turn it off. But these two lights are so neat I can’t wait for an excuse to turn them on.
Copyright 2004-2008 Tom Neale