Super-Easy Cockpit Light

I’ve written four(!) other posts about great cockpit lights (LED candles, a solar light, strings of lights under the bimini, and a portable light).  Now comes a super-easy-to-do idea from TBG reader Donna Fisher Szabo, perfect for charters or taking to the beach.

While preparing to go cruising on their own boat, she and her husband have been doing a couple of charters each year.  And they always take along a small LED flashlight on a lanyard (see my favorite).

To make a nice, non-glare light in the cockpit, they simply hang the flashlight in an empty translucent one-gallon water bottle by tying the lanyard to the handle.  You can see in the photo at the top of this post what a nice soft light it gives off — perfect for eating or enjoying a drink without spoiling the ambiance.

An LED flashlight gives off virtually no heat, so there is no risk of it melting the plastic.

The small one-LED flashlights will run anywhere from 32 to 100+ hours on a single AA battery, and using a lithium battery will improve that anywhere from 4 times to 8 times (results depend on the model tested and who did the testing).

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  • Allan Cobb
    Posted at 14 March 2014 Reply

    You can do the same thing with a translucent Nalgene or other plastic bottle to have a subdued, colored, mood light.

  • Jim and Barbara Shell
    Posted at 14 March 2014 Reply

    We have cut the bottom out of the 1 gallon milk jug and cut small holes near the spout and pull it over a kerosene lantern for softer light. We got the idea from some boating book. The kerosene lantern does not blow out easily inside the milk jug. It could serve as an emergency anchor light.

  • Jim and Barbara Shell
    Posted at 14 March 2014 Reply

    Correction: We cut the top and bottom out of the milk jug. The bail of the lantern must exit through the top.

  • tami
    Posted at 14 March 2014 Reply

    for an instant all-round dinghy light, we have used a translucent go-cup put over a flashlight

  • Skylar Walker
    Posted at 14 March 2014 Reply

    cool idea, thanks!!!

  • Lynn Buta Radder Greenberg
    Posted at 14 March 2014 Reply

    She always has brilliant ideas. Pun intended.

  • Mary Lander Lucas
    Posted at 15 March 2014 Reply


  • Chris Laletin
    Posted at 19 March 2014 Reply

    I’ve used a milk jug with an led flashlight for an anchor light in a pinch. Easy to raise on a halyard.

  • S/V Dos Libras
    Posted at 11 October 2015 Reply

    What a great idea!

  • Tom Haupt
    Posted at 19 February 2017 Reply

    Could make for an anchor light in a jiffy, too

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 20 February 2017 Reply

      Probably not legally bright enough, but in an emergency, definitely better than nothing!

    • Tom Haupt
      Posted at 20 February 2017 Reply

      I’ve noticed if you make an effort they’re less likely to ticket.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 20 February 2017 Reply

      Ticket is one thing — I want the other boats to know where we are and not run into us, too! When we cruised Mexico, there really wasn’t a ticket worry . . . but there was a BIG worry about being hit by a fishing boat who just didn’t see you!

  • thomas dobyns
    Posted at 04 August 2017 Reply

    I used gallon plastic milk jugs to act as a shade over bare 12 volt light bulbs. The jugs made the light softer so it didn’t destroy night vision. It also made the light visible for maybe twice as far. I cut the bottom out of the jugs and most of the light came out that way. As you probably know, electricity , especially 12 volt electricity doesn’t much care for being around the salt water. Plain old 120 volt “mercury” aka clickless switches worked great around the water. There were no contacts to corrode. Actually, the regular 120 volt light switches worked better than the marine variety and cost a LOT less. I think they could carry about 10 amps, which is high. It’s also a good idea to place a couple drops of solder arouind wiring connections and then cover with black electrical tape. The tape also worked well for protecting things like hydraulic fittings from corrosion. Anything that is made of steel and gets warm around salt water will decompose. Calling it rust or corrosion isn’t quite the right term. A single layer of black vinyl electrical tape would stop it indefinitely. Try it.

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