This Light Rocks

By Tom Neale, 12/29/2006


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Occasionally I’m going to tell you about something that I’ve used and that has impressed me so much I think the information should be shared. This won’t be the typical product press release regurgitation that we all groan about in the magazines. It’ll be something that I’ve used on my boat. Today, it’s a flashlight—not your every day flashlight, but one that really turns me on. It’s made by Pelican (go figure) and they’ve combined two technologies to make something work better.

I’m referring to the SabreLite™ 2010 Recoil™ LED. Most of us own an LED flashlight of one kind or another. These are now all the rage because the LED lamp (I still call them “bulbs”) doesn’t burn hot and consumes very little energy. Further, it doesn’t produce light by heating tiny thin filaments which soon break from shock (as when you drop it) or constant heating and cooling. Therefore, the LED bulbs last a very long time and the batteries in the light last a very long time. You can use one for hours and hours and not worry about getting left in the dark.

I frequently use LEDs for close up work. I did just today, when I had to stick my head down in a little hole in the bilge to clean the strainer for my shower sump pump. They create a soft glow which can be ideal for lighting a work area under your nose (where most of mine seem to be). There’s one problem with some LEDs that bears mentioning. I’ve found, that some produce a light with a slightly colored hue, often blue. Beware that If you’re doing work where observing colors is important, such as color coded wires, the LED light produced may make the colors appear differently from what they are and mislead you into mistakes. But there’s also another problem with many LED flashlights.

LED hand held flashlights generally don’t do a good job at throwing a beam into the murky dark distance for picking your way through the dark or looking for something across the boat when the power has failed. Sure, they’ll project a beam for some distance depending on various factors such as number of bulbs and the reflector behind them, but, as a rule, they’ve been better for close work.

To help with this problem, manufacturers have been piling more and more LEDs into some of the lights. Now the really cool flash light guy will run around saying “Mine’s got more LEDs than yours.” But there’s a limit here insofar as beam projection from a hand held flash light is concerned. So when I go out on deck or go ashore where I need to see out ahead, I take a light with an old fashioned incandescent lamp or some other type of lamp such as an xenon bulb.

Flashlight Tips

1. Flashlights are very important safety tools on a boat. You should buy good ones (which usually means the relatively expensive ones) and maintain them well.

2. There should be a flashlight handy and conspicuous in every area of the boat. When things happen in the night, the last thing that you need is to have to go hunting for a flashlight.

Click Here for More Tips

Enter the Recoil light. Pelican uses what it describes as its “Recoil™ technology to produce an LED flashlight that, even with a single one watt LED, throws a long collimated beam that, in my observation, is quite effective. They do this by shining the bulb not forward, as we’ve come to expect, but backwards towards the carefully designed reflector. The light then bounces forward as a beam, without that old familiar annoying black spot in the middle. They say this principle works like many light houses where the beam is project out by lenses. I was amazed the first time I tried one out.

The SabreLite™ 2010 Recoil™ LED light has other good features common to many Pelican lights. It is marketed as submersible down to 500 feet. This designation is far superior to one of “water proof” or “water resistant,” which can mean very little. Also, it has a lanyard and really tough spring loaded (stainless spring) belt clip that should keep it in place even when your body is contorted in the engine room or while diving. And inside the flash lights are catalyst pellets which, according to Pelican, “are present to absorb hydrogen gas that could possibly be emitted by defective, leaking, reversed polarity or heavily discharged batteries.” There is also a gas relief valve in the body to lessen the chances of damage or harm should gas be emitted by batteries. All of this is important when you’re diving with it, as I do. It’s also important to have a light that has a long burn time per set of batteries. Pelican says that the burn time for this light is 50+ hours, using 3 C-cell 1.5 volt alkaline batteries.

There’s another feature that I like about this light, which is far more important than many realize. The batteries are held securely in their own separate case (which is inserted into the body of the flash light). This is critical because I’ve found that one of the primary causes of malfunction in flash lights has been related to batteries jarring the contact points, the electrical conduit from top to bottom, the switching mechanism, and the bulbs. A good light should have the batteries well secured and protected. This also helps the survival of the batteries themselves. I’ve found lately that flashlight batteries seem to be constructed less and less well, with higher and higher rates of premature failure.

I haven’t done any scientific studies about this flashlight, batteries, or lamps. I’ll leave that for the people with all the grants and foundations. All I can do is tell you about my personal experiences. But I do have twenty seven flashlights aboard, and this is one of my favorites. If you want to read about some of the others and more on the subject of flash lights aboard, check out my upcoming article on the subject in the next (April 2006) edition of PassageMaker Magazine.


Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale