Anchoring Stars


Part of cruising is experiencing new places, but these places could easily (and probably much more easily) be visited by land or air. While the sights at the destination are identical, there is a time when cruising will set its sights apart from any other method of reaching this destination. 

This shirt was developed to embody the wonder of an anchorage, where the mast head anchor lights blend into the night sky as extra stars. The yachts beneath them disappear into the darkness of the night, with only a small light high above them quietly displaying their presence.

You can purchase this shirt at Teespring by following the link below:

Anchor Lights

The requirement for an anchor light for most pleasure boats is 360 degree visibility for 2 nautical miles. This means that the anchor light must be located above everything else that way it can be seen from any direction. 

On a power boat, the anchor light is typically located at a reasonable height, just above the flying bridge. On a sailboat, this location is elevated significantly, as they are placed on top of the mast. 


Yes, the anchor light is very visible from a distance, alerting others of your presence and preventing a needless collision, but only at a distance. When we have anchored in busy anchorages, where there seems to be a lot of boat traffic as the sun is setting, we notice that people have been skirting past us at a rediculously close range. 

This made me wonder, do they see the anchor light way up high in the night sky? Or is it out of their field of view? 

The other problem with a single white anchor light is it does nothing to demarcate where we start and where we end. Ideally, other boats would keep a safe and reasonable distance from us, thus nullifying any fears or concerns of a close passing vessel, but they do not seem to care in the same way. They will pass less than 10 feet from our bow or stern, missing us only by luck! 


Before our luck runs out, we have made some alterations to our setup. We hung a solar powered lamp off the stern and off the bow. When we are anchored in a high traffic area, we can simply turn them on at the times of peak traffic (usually when small skiffs are returning home after the sun has set) so that these inconsiderate boaters can better see where we start and where we end.

I can not say for sure if this has worked becuase I do not know what is going through the mind of someone who flies through an anchorage at full throttle in the dark, but I can say that since we have started setting these lights, there has been a much greater distance granted between us and the speedy passerby. 

Deck Lights

Illuminating the deck is crucial on dark nights. I am not a fan of harsh bright spreader lights that blind away your night vision and turn the deck into daylight since they also eat away at your batteries precious amps.

My alternative is to use solar powered yard lights from Home Depot! They do not draw on the batteries and provide a gentle light that will not kill your night vision. They also stay on all night long, letting other boats know that you are anchored and the mast head anchor light is not a star in the sky!

I removed the grass stake and set the lens into a tupperware filled with plaster. As the plaster set, the light was trapped in the stone and properly weighted to keep them from falling over while sailing.

I made a bunch of these a few years back and they have worked very well! They do not slide around on deck and best of all, do not fall overboard!

When we anchor, we spread them around the deck to provide a gentle light and to let other boats know the length of our boat (marking the bow and stern with lights). When morning comes, we collect the lights and set them in the stern where the solar panels charge their AA battery for tomorrow nights illumination.

LED Lighting

The old dim florescent light

The old dim florescent light

Wisdom came with florescent lights mounted throughout the boat. A total of 9 lamps could evenly distribute a pale yellow glow. Each lamp consumed 16 watts,  burning 144 watts to light the whole boat. The truth is only 2 lamps worked so the boat was rather dark inside. 

I decided to update the lights rather than replace high energy consuming bulbs. I decided to convert all the lights to LED!  

I took a stroll over to West Marine and suffered incredible sticker shock as I gazed upon small lamps with prices ranging from $23 to $52 per lamp! I returned to the boat without any lamps but full of ideas. 

The lamps they offered all reminded me of lights I had seen before in IKEA. I made a trip to the closest IKEA and discovered that their cabinet lights are 12v DC! The best part is that a 4-pack only cost $22!

I decided to place the IKEA lamps over the existing holes from the old lamps. This allowed me to complete the conversion without replacing the ceiling. 

Each lamp had 3 holes that we not evenly spaced, one for the wires, and two other areas for the screws. I simply placed a set of 4 lights evenly spaced to cover the 3 holes. I also added a few extra lights in dark areas of the boat.  

The IKEA LED lights provide more illumination than the florescent ones and only consume 3 watts between 4 lamps. This allows me to have interior lights on while anchored out and not worry about my house battery bank holding up. 

The conversion itself was more involved than I had anticipated (like all boat projects tend to be). I had to lower the ceiling in each part of the boat to remove the old lamp, then (by the use of a jig I made out of the box the lights came in) install the 4 new lights in their respective spaces and run the wires. 

IKEA lamps are 12v DC which means you can cut the fancy IKEA connector off and wire the lamp directly into the boats 12V system. LED lights are polarized, so be sure you connect the lamps positive to the boats positive (you can trace the wires inside the transformer to figure out which wire is positive).

I have read that if the lamps are connected with their polarity crossed, they will either die instantly or else have a shorter life. I did not want to find out so I made sure it was correct before I connected it to the current. 

Once the lights were wired and tested, the ceilings and all their associated mouldings were reinstalled.  

The new lights provide plenty of light to live and read by while producing minimal heat.  

The downside to the cheap lights is they are not marine grade. I don't believe they use tinned copper wiring, and I don't expect them to last forever. They have been working wonderfully since 2012 and for a fraction of the price, I think they are doing just fine!  

When installing 48 lights (which only draw 36 watts when they are all on), cost became a significant determinant. My cost from IKEA totalled to $264. If I had bought them from a marine store such as West Marine, it would have cost me around $1,104.

These little cabinet lights deserve some credit, they can light up a tiny living space with minimal electrical consumption, they look modern, and they are flush mount!  

LED Navigation Lights

When the sun sets and the lights come on, we begin trying to conserve every amp of electricity we have. We turn on our navigation lights and begin our dilemma. We need to have them on for safety reasons, but each bulb is burning through our batteries.

When the deck lights are on, we are burning 3 bulbs (Port, Starboard, Stern). We can reduce the consumption by converting the Port and Starboard lights into a combination unit, which is still burning 2 bulbs (Forward Combo, Stern).

Our next best step is to switch over to a masthead light, which burns only 1 bulb! Dilemma solved! Other navigators can see us from miles away as we quietly sail along burning only 1 light bulb. 

This single light consumes around 2 amps, which doesn't sound bad, but when you think about it, that one light bulb will burn around 20 amps in 10 hours. If that bulb were switched out for an LED bulb (which is a direct replacement), you could burn a mere 0.1 amp. In 10 hours of night sailing, that would only be 1 amp. 

I have switched my lights over in 2012 and I haven't needed to replace a burnt bulb since. I used lights by Dr. LED which can be found at West Marine. Their bulbs are USCG and COLREGS complaint and work as a direct replacement for the old bulb. No fancy wiring to run or adapters to install, simply open the housing, remove the old bulb and install the new LED bulb in its place.

This way, you can sail by night without draining your batteries and safely alert other sailors to your position and relative heading.