An anchor light is something we should all use when
dropping the hook for an overnight stay.
Unfortunately, many of the smaller sailboats do not come
equipped with such a light. Moreover, running the wiring
necessary to install an anchor light on top of an already
crowded masthead can be a lot of trouble, and sooner or
later the wires will short out or the light bulb will burn
Those of us without a permanently mounted anchor light can
always use a halyard to hoist up a kerosene lamp or a self-
contained battery powered light. But there are problems
with these alternatives. The electric light can go through
a lot of batteries and as far as a kerosene lamp is
concerned, I have never been too comfortable with the idea
of fire and fuel swinging above my head as I sleep below
One solution to this dilemma is to make an anchor light
that can be plugged into the boat's 12 volt electrical
system and raised above your deck with a halyard. All that
is needed is a short piece of wood, 15 to 20 feet (5 to 6 m) of wire,
eye-rings, and an inexpensive 12 volt clearance light.
(These lights are mounted on top of a truck's cargo box,
and they can be found for about three dollars in the
automotive section of a Canadian Tire store.) Assemble
everything as illustrated. Note that one of the wires from
the boat's electrical system has to be attached to the
light's metal bracket (with a truck, the metal body
provides the ground connection to the battery).
When it is time to use the anchor light, shackle a halyard
to the top eye-ring and raise it about 10 to 15 feet (3 to 5 m) above
deck. A line should be tied to the bottom eye-ring and
attached somewhere on deck to steady the light once it is
in position. The electrical wires can be connected directly
to the boat's battery or some other point in the electrical
system. You may want to install a permanent plug for this
When raising the anchor light, be sure to keep it away from
the mast so that it will be visible from 360 degrees.
Running the light up along the forestay or backstay is a
good way of achieving this. Also keep in mind that there is
no need to raise it very high. Someone manoeuvring though a
tight anchorage will have an easier time spotting a light
10 to 15 feet ( 3 to 5 m) above deck than one on top of a 35 foot (10 m) mast.
Text and graphics by Michael McGoldrick.
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