Whether it's for a romantic evening in the cockpit or a middle-of-the-night trip to the head, sometimes all you want is a little bit of light. Here's a great solution with no drain on the boat's power supply, no fire hazard and no heat in the cabin!

Cockpit Light or Night Light

When we purchased Que Tal, we were sort of surprised to find that the previous owners left a bunch of large candles on board.  We couldn’t imagine using them — the fire hazard, heat in the boat, getting blown out or bumped if in the cockpit and more.  We eventually traded them to some fishermen who can’t always get batteries in the remote fish camps and wanted some backups for their flashlights.

My friend Robin on The Cat’s Meow came up with a much better solution that I saw when we spent a week on their boat a couple years ago.  A battery-powered LED “candle”!  Even if one of her cats knocked one over, it was no big deal — no burned kitty and no blazing boat.

Unfortunately, the photos that I took of them turned out a total blur as I forgot to turn the flash on.  But I loved them — just a nice soft light with no heat, no fire hazard, and much nicer looking than many of the small LED lights I see.

She used them both as a night light in the head and had one on the galley table in the evening. The one on the galley table was on a timer so that if you were off the boat after sunset, there was a little bit of light as you were coming back aboard.

We often use one in the cockpit of Barefoot Gal after the sun goes down — just enough light to move safely (and see drinks or snacks) but not enough to interfere with stargazing.

The candles with a timer typically come on at the same time every day for a set number of hours — typically 4, 5 or 6.  Otherwise they come with a simple on/off switch.

votivesThey also come in a variety of sizes and shapes, ranging from small votives to ones that are 3″ in diameter and 6″ tall. Shorter ones have less of a tendency to tip over with the motion of a boat and are easier to store when underway.  Some look more realistic than others as well.

The primary difference in brands is how energy efficient they are — some brands will only last a few nights despite supposedly using LEDs.  Combining an energy efficient design with lithium batteries, other brands/models will go 6 months on a single set of batteries.  Another option is to use rechargables (make sure to choose ones that use AA or AAA batteries and not button types).

The “Inglow” brand gets consistently high marks across all their models and is available on Amazon.  Interestingly, they are not the highest priced with the votives being a great deal at just over $2 each (no timer) with batteries included (larger candles cost more):

NOTE that if you buy ones with batteries included, there is often a clear plastic protective strip over the batteries so they won’t discharge before they are purchased — be sure to remove it or the candle won’t work.

UPDATE: We got one of the pillars to use on Barefoot Gal last winter and love it — perfect in the cockpit for “just a bit” of light to find our wine glass in the dark! It nicely complements the brighter Luci Lights and Solar Kandle Rail Lights that we have in places where we need the brighter light.

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  • S/V Dos Libras on Facebook
    Posted at 25 May 2013 Reply

    We had one on our previous boat and it melted while we were away. Now that we live aboard and (theoretically) keep the boat a more wax friendly temperature… maybe we should revisit the flameless candles. Thanks for the addition of one more thing to the wish list! : )

  • burce
    Posted at 25 May 2013 Reply

    I use some solar garden lights – they charge the battery during the day and at dusk I put them around the salon roof to light the side walk ways. At bedtime I put two on the stern to light the swim steps; two to light the cockpit’ one in the head; and one to light the stair from the starboard (owner berth) into the salon. They use soft LEDs – sort of like bug lights. I have them mounted in 2″X6″X9″ wood blocks with a simple hole in the center of the block so they can easily be moved. It would be nice if they had switches for the lights so you could charge them without them coming on at night (they are low light sensitive). When I replace them, I will likely look for a white LED as my partner does not like the color of the current lights.

  • Chuck Burns on Facebook
    Posted at 25 May 2013 Reply

    Thanks… We had seen them at a restaurant and wondered where to get them..Amazon of course!!!

  • Amber Amodei on Facebook
    Posted at 25 May 2013 Reply

    This is a great idea!

  • Louise
    Posted at 28 May 2013 Reply

    We have a set of these, and love them! They are real wax, in a very thin coating around a plastic base, so they feel just like real candles. They were a gift from friends, who purchased them at Costco. The batteries last a looooooong time, so they must be the better brand.

  • Cathy
    Posted at 30 May 2013 Reply

    I’ve been happily using LED wax candles on our boats and our home for years.
    I’ve always selected the real wax, timers, life-like flame, etc.
    But last year I too had a “melt down” with them in the 100 degree heat of Mexico!
    However, I found that Cost Plus / World Market stores in the U.S. carry a LED candle that is designed for the outdoors. It looks like wax, until you pick it up, and it is actually very light and a hard plastic.Perfect for the boat when things go flying around! All different sizes with timers and life-like flame/flicker.

  • Steve
    Posted at 21 June 2013 Reply

    I’ve used these also…I like to keep one on in the salon while we sleep…if something goes bump in the night and you need to get up fast, its nice to have a little bit of light while you’re pulling on your pants. The one we had was from costco…lasts forever on its batt.

  • Sheryl Shard
    Posted at 13 February 2014 Reply

    Yes great idea! We purchased some of these LED candles through The Boat Galley website and just love them too! Thanks for recommending them.

  • Catherine Mary Cornish
    Posted at 13 February 2014 Reply

    Didn’t know you could get scented ones, thank you!

  • Arlene Ehrlich
    Posted at 03 January 2015 Reply

    We use a LUCI light, solar powered and has 3 settings. 8 hours in the sun, 8 hours to light the night.

  • Kim Veitch Davidson
    Posted at 09 August 2015 Reply

    I have those. I love them. I do have real candles in glass jars too. I love the smell of scented candles. BUt only use them at the dock while I’m sitting with them. Never leave them unattended.

  • Diana K Weigel
    Posted at 11 February 2016 Reply

    Hmmm I have some of these candles at my “dirt” home. I’ll take some to the boat when she’s relaunched!

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