I will never forget the night many years ago when we lost our boat. Wed followed the cruisers custom of sundowners on a neighboring vessel and got carried away in the depths of good friendship, good conversation, and a great sunset. When the good-byes were finally said, it was pitch black. The vessel we visited had been directly abeam of us when we arrived, so off we went in the dinghy among the hundreds of boats in the anchorage.
What we hadnt noticed was the wind switch that caused all the boats to turn. Without a flashlight, and with precious few anchor lights to guide us, we would practically bump into a hull before we could see it. We idled into a blind mangrove alley before we realized there were no more boats, and then nearly ran onto the beach in the other direction. An hour later, low on both dinghy gas and patience, we finally found our wayward floating home happily bobbing in the midst of the black shapes.
We didnt have the electrical juice to run our 1.5-amp anchor light for long. So with typical cruiser ingenuity, we took an indicator lamp and socket, the lens from a powerboat stern-light pole, a broken rubber-armored flashlight, a piece of lamp cord, and some duct tape, making a 12-volt hanging light that drew a measly two watts. It gave off a cheery glow in the cockpit for entertaining and, best of all, we could turn it on in mid-afternoon if we thought we might be back after dark without fearing dead batteries on our arrival home. The thing looked like a Rube Goldberg reject, but it worked for years and saw us through two more boats.
The first time we saw the Davis Mega-Light, we bought three after cursing ourselves for not having perfected and patented our low-draw cockpit lightwe were obviously years ahead of our time. Granted, the Mega-Light looks a lot better than ours ever didand it has a lot more features too. The best thing about it is the power consumption. At 0.074 amps (about 0.9 watts), the Mega-Light can run 12 hours on about one amp-hour of 12-volt power. And because of its waterproof Fresnel lens, this little light can be seen for up to two miles.
The Davis Mega-Light has more subtle features too. The top of the lens is clear so that when it is hung upside-down, a small circle of better light is available for reading. The bulb is easily replaceable, and the 15-foot long cord has a cigarette-lighter plug at the end that incorporates a standard automotive fuse. All of our lights came with a little triangular hanging bracket that we seem to have misplaced, but they are so lightweight that a clothespin hangs them just fine under the bimini top.
But I saved the best feature for last. The Davis Mega-Light has a photo sensor that turns the light on and off automaticallyon at dusk, off at dawn. So now we can hang one in the cockpit before we leave the boat, and it comes on of its own volition when the sun gets low. We like this from a security standpoint as it makes it appear as if someone is on the boat. And it saves power.
The Mega-Light actually comes in three versions. The original model, now called a "Utility," has no provision for mounting. The identical light with an L-shaped stainless steel bracket and a 12-inch pigtail for wiring directly into the ships power instead of a portable cord is named the "Masthead." Although Davis claims a two-mile visibility, which would be legal as an anchor light on most vessels, the Mega-Light is nowhere near as bright as a standard anchor light. We have a Masthead model mounted in the interior as a security light at our stairway with a switch to turn it off when it is not wanted.
The third version is called the "Ultimate Cockpit Light" and it is indeed the ultimate in nautical gadgetry. It has the standard 15-foot cord, cigarette-lighter plug, and triangular hanger, but the Ultimate has two bulbs, a red LED, a yellow LED, and switches for six different lighting modes. Choices include one steady white light at the standard 0.074 amp draw or two bulbs at double the power consumption and light output, a steady red light, a blinking red, a steady or blinking yellow, and alternating red and yellow blinkers.
I suppose that in a harbor full of other boats with Davis Ultimate Cockpit lights, we could tailor our blinking pattern so that we could always find our boat in the darkone white with a yellow blinker means its Tuesday. But until they become that popular, well probably just stick with the plain-vanilla $35 Utility model.