LED Navigation Lights

I'm an inveterate tinkerer, so when I decided I wanted better lights for night outings on the kayaks I wanted something other than a flashlight stuck to the hull! Browsing around Youtube I found some videos where people used LED strips from the automotive store. They generally just went with a single color - kayaks aren't required to show the standard navigational colors - but I figured that would be kind of cool so bought some red, green and white LED strips at Autozone.

These aren't marine-grade or waterproof, they're labeled "weatherproof" and intended to be installed on the outside of cars - with driving rain and such - so I figured they'd probably do okay on a kayak. At first I simply stuck them to the kayak with the supplied double-face tape, but after a few months I noticed the clear covering over the LEDs was starting to peel off at the ends of a couple of the strips. Now I apply a beat of Marine Goop all the way around the edge of the strips.

These LED strips are VERY BRIGHT, especially on the water in the dark! It's easy to blind people paddling nearby. I used the shortest strips (4", two 3-LED segments) for the red and green up front, and on the first kayak used 8" of white on each side at the rear. The white was INSANELY bright! The bug collection on the water around those lights was remarkable! I added a 100 ohm 1/2w resistor in series with the pair to cut the level down to a reasonable level. On the other kayaks I just used 4" for the white strips, and still used the resistor.

The Tsunami and Pungo are made with a plastic that's translucent so I bought some Ultra Bright White foot-long strips to put inside the hatches. They are bright enough to make the ends glow Mango! :) Really ups the current requirement, but the batteries I'm using are large enough to run the whole setup for many hours. It would be cooler to illuminate the whole length of the kayak, but without a spray skirt I think I'd end up sharing the center section with every bug on the lake!

The exterior lights only draw about 200mA total. Adding the interior strips on the Tsunami and Pungo up the total to a bit over 500mA. I had a couple of spare AGM batteries - 7AH and 4AH - that I use to power the lights. These have some velcro strips stuck to one side, and matching strips inside a hold of the kayak. That keeps the battery from sliding around normally, although I probably should do something a bit more secure in case I flip. The Hobie has a nice pole (actually the socket for the optional sail mast) that I can strap the battery to.

To mount the LEDs, I simply decided where I wanted them - a few inches back from the bow or stern, above the waterline, but at least for the red/green up front NOT in a direct line of sight to myself. Didn't want to ruin my night vision. I cleaned the area, affixed the LED strip with the double-faced tape on the back, drilled a small hole (the smallest bit that lets the wire pass through) right at the end of the strip into the hull, fed the wires through, then used Marine Goop to seal up the hole and secure the head end of the LED strip to the hull.

The internal strips are affixed to the foam bulkhead. The double-face tape won't stick well to that, so I dabbed Goop on the back.

Once everything was mounted, I ran a wire the length of the kayak to power the other end then simply connected all the LEDs in parallel. Being a ham radio operator I have plenty of PowerPole connectors around so I used them in spots where I wanted to easily disconnect things. They aren't waterproof so I secured them up high to keep them out of any water that might collect.

Once everything works, it's time to go enjoy the show! :) In the first picture the Coosa to the left is mine, and I am in my Tsunami. The second picture is the Tsunami after dark on the beach. It also has a Kayalu KayaLight on the back.