Best Handheld Spotlights For Sailing

Best Handheld Spotlights For Sailing | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

Handheld spotlights are an essential tool for low-light sailing. Waterproof spotlights work for repair, rescue, navigation, and rigging in poor conditions.

In this article, we’ll cover seven of the best handheld spotlights for sailing. We’ll also go over what to look for when purchasing a spotlight, battery types, light measurement units, and the benefits of having one aboard.

The best handheld spotlights for sailing are bright, durable, and feature multiple light modes. These spotlights also have a long battery life, and they’re completely waterproof. For navigation, marine spotlights should produce at least 1,000 lumens of light and have a beam distance of 350 yards or more.

We sourced technical data from top spotlight manufacturers such as Goodsmann and Browning. We also took into consideration the experience of expert sailors who navigate with these products on a regular basis.


Table of contents

What Is a Handheld Sailing Spotlight?

Fundamentally, a handheld sailing spotlight is just a glorified flashlight. What differentiates it is its shape, how you hold it, and how you control the light.

Handheld marine spotlights have a pistol-style grip and buttons where the trigger would be. This is because it's very easy to aim and control a configuration like this. Also, the precise pointability of handheld spotlights gives them an advantage over traditional flashlights.

Another area where they differentiate is brightness. For reference, a standard Maglite flashlight produces about 14 lumens of light, which is enough for indoor and limited outdoor use. A standard handheld marine spotlight produces 1,500 lumens or more, which can illuminate an entire building.

Handheld Marine Spotlight Uses

What are handheld marine spotlights used for, and how can they benefit sailors? A handheld marine spotlight is one of the single most useful tools a sailor can have. These lights are useful for navigation, making repairs, rescuing people, and even communication.

Rescue and Repair

High-power marine spotlights make it possible to Pinpoint the location of tangled rigging high up on the mast or to spot the reflective strip of a life jacket in a violent sea. You can use them to scan the water for obstacles such as driftwood or rocks, and the strobe function can alert rescuers to your exact location.

Communication and Distress Signals

Spotlights are also used as signaling devices. Everybody knows the morse code signal for "SOS," and experienced sailors can communicate proficiently with other vessels using lights. Most marine spotlights have a momentary switch function, allowing you to essentially tap-out morse code signals to other vessels.

What Makes a Great Handheld Sailing Spotlight?

Sailing spotlights (in general, "marine spotlights") are not the same as traditional handheld utility spotlights. Rather, marine spotlights must stand up to harsh conditions such as extreme heat, extreme cold, and water.

The best marine spotlights are durable, shock-resistant, and completely waterproof. Water resistance is a key feature of the best sailing spotlights. These marine lights must be completely sealed around the lens, battery compartment, and buttons to qualify as waterproof.

Waterproofing is especially important for bluewater sailing, as saltwater is notoriously corrosive to the electrical contacts in the spotlight. Some marine spotlights feature red lens filters, which help your eyes stay adjusted during the night.

Marine spotlights should be constructed of durable material that's also somewhat pliable. Rubber compounds, for example, are often found on marine spotlights, as it's drop-resistant and provides a level of shock absorption for the sensitive components inside.

Lumens vs. Beam Intensity

Lumens and beam intensity are similar but often confused, so it's important to know the difference when choosing a marine spotlight.

A lumen is a unit of measurement for light. It quantifies how much (or the total quantity of) visible light comes from a particular source. It's essentially just a way to measure brightness.

Beam intensity is measured by a unit called a "candela." For reference, a typical flame candle emits about one candela (1cu), and a typical marine spotlight emits about 2,000 or more candelas (2000cu).

Beam Distance

Beam distance is another factor to consider when choosing a marine spotlight. Most sailors find a beam distance of between 350 and 500 yards acceptable, and anything above 500 yards is excellent.

For reference, a typical Maglite flashlight has a beam distance of about 100 yards. Keep in mind that beam distance is usually measured with the lens focused for range, so you may not always be able to achieve such long beam ranges.

Rechargeable vs. Disposable Batteries

Battery type is an important factor to consider. Today, most marine spotlights use high-powered rechargeable batteries, but some models still take disposable batteries. Today, most handheld marine spotlights use lithium-ion or lithium polymer cells.

The primary advantage to a spotlight with disposable batteries is that when they run out of juice, you can just toss and replace them.

Rechargeable batteries store much more power, and they often work longer between charges. However, batteries take a long time to charge, and you may need to run a generator to keep your spotlight topped off.

The happy medium between rechargeable and disposable batteries is the replaceable rechargeable battery. These batteries are removable, so you can keep one on the charger at all times, and you'll always have a fresh replacement ready to go.

Rechargeable Battery Hazards

Always purchase name-brand batteries for your handheld spotlight, and always charge them on a controlled charger.

Many cheap batteries have quality-control Problems, and lithium batteries can explode and cause fires if punctured or overcharged. Charge controllers regulate the speed and intensity of charging, and (unlike cheap chargers) they stop charging when the battery is full.

Best Handheld Marine Spotlights

We used a combination of experience and technical data to find some of the best handheld marine spotlights available today. These spotlights can help you make the most of nighttime sailing, and they can even save your life in dangerous situations. Here are seven of our top picks.

1. Goodsmann Rechargeable Marine Spotlight

Goodsmann is a trustworthy and well-known manufacturer of marine spotlights, and their standard model is an excellent choice for sailboat owners.

Goodsmann uses proprietary IP67 materials on this marine spotlight. It's designed to float in water, making it easy to retrieve if it falls overboard, and it's completely waterproof, which is a must for sailing spotlights.

This Goodsmann spotlight features three lighting modes. There's an ultra-bright mode, a soft-light mode, and a flashing emergency mode.

The Goodsmann spotlight features a respectable 2000mAh rechargeable battery that charges from a USB port. Most users of this spotlight are satisfied with its battery life, though the battery is not removable.

This spotlight falls into the 'light duty' category, as it's reliable and functional yet not quite robust enough for real bluewater sailing. That said, it's waterproof and shock-resistant, making it an excellent option for coastal and inland cruising.

Goodsmann reports that its spotlight produces 3,000 lumens of light in a relatively wide beam. This is perfect for general use but can become blinding in fog or heavy spray. This model uses LED bulb technology.

2. ZOHI LED Rechargeable Marine Spotlight

Here's another great entry-level marine spotlight that's great for light and medium-duty roles. The ZOHI LED handheld spotlight is a 1,500-lumen waterproof torch with a rechargeable battery and a USB port for charging a cell phone.

This marine spotlight is positively buoyant and waterproof down to one meter. That means it's great for use in rain and spray, but it's not waterproof enough to be used as a dive spotlight.

ZOHI states that this model has an effective range of about 500 yards, which is sufficient for most sailing activities. The battery life is exceptional, as it features two internal 2,200mAh batteries. You can charge this spotlight from a 12v DC outlet or from a standard 120v wall outlet using the included adapter.

This spotlight features five modes. The solid-beam functions in a high, medium, or low mode, and a strobe mode is also available. This light also features an SOS mode for emergencies.

The bean is controlled by a trigger. The trigger itself is large and tactile, making it easy to use with gloves or cold hands. It also features a trigger-locking mechanism, which allows you to store the light safely without draining the battery accidentally.

The case of the ZOHI marine spotlight is made of a. durable plastic, which resists shock and holds up well to foul weather conditions. The inside of the light body is mostly hollow, which is necessary to make the spotlight float.

3. YIERBLUE Rechargeable Marine Spotlight

This YIERBLUE ultra-bright utility spotlight has an extra-long battery life for when it really counts. The YIERBLUE spotlight isn't completely waterproof, but it's perfect for use on the dock or when making repairs at anchor.

The most useful feature of this spotlight is its long battery life. It comes from the factory with an enormous 10,000mAh battery, which is more than twice the industry standard. With a battery that size, you can use this spotlight continuously for up to twenty hours.

In addition to long battery life, the YIERBLUE spotlight is also exceptionally bright. This spotlight uses CREE LED lights to Produce about 6,000 lumens of useful light. It can illuminate over 2,600 feet, which is roughly 870 yards.

Like most utility spotlights, this model features three lighting modes. The settings include a high mode, a low mode, and a flashing setting for distress calls. It also has a red and blue setting, which is relatively uncommon.

This spotlight is made of a combination of aluminum and A3S plastic. The aluminum adds a comfortable amount of weight to the light, and ABS plastic Provides an acceptable level of impact resistance.

There is an additional light strip on the side of the housing that can be used as a lantern down below in the cabin or up on deck in dryer conditions. The YIERBLUE handheld spotlight isn't a purpose-built marine spotlight, but it still makes the list because of its many other applications.

It's the perfect long-lasting light for down below, making repairs, and navigating in calmer conditions. Ii-or the price, it's difficult to find a more useful water-resistant (but not waterproof) handheld spotlight for sailing.

4. EMMMSUN Rechargeable Marine Spotlight

EMMMSUN makes an excellent entry-level marine spotlight that meets nearly all the qualifications for sailing. This yellow marine spotlight is waterproof, floatable, and powerful enough for use in navigation.

This handheld marine spotlight emits a maximum of 1500 lumens of light, which is sufficient for most sailing tasks. Unlike most marine spotlights, this EMMMSUN model includes a removable red lens filter, which can be used as a distress signal in an emergency.

Like the previous spotlight, this EMMMSUN unit features an excellent battery life. The manufacturer states that it includes three 18650 rechargeable batteries for a total capacity of 10,000mAh. That gives it a battery life of eight hours. This unit also charges relatively fast, as a complete recharge can be achieved in about four hours.

Like many other affordable marine spotlights, the EMMMSUN also features a USB port, which converts it into a mobile power bank for charging phones, cameras, and handheld GPS units. Some may view this feature as a bit of a gimmick, but sailors often find it useful in real-world situations. For example, you can use it to preserve your phone battery while playing music and repairing your boat.

This marine spotlight features a high mode with a range of 530 yards, a low mode with a range of 400 yards, and a high flashing mode with a range of 530 yards. On the low mode, the manufacturer claims a battery life of up to twenty hours.

A spotlight like this may not be the best primary light for a transatlantic crossing. That said, it's a perfect backup, and it's perfectly adequate for coastal cruising, inland cruising, and short offshore excursions.

5. West Marine Mini LED Marine Spotlight

You can always count on West Marine to fill a sailing market niche. This West Marine-brand miniature spotlight may be small, but it's robust enough for serious sailing.

As far as light production is concerned, this relatively weak 250-lumen handheld spotlight doesn't quite stack up to the other models on this list. But if you already have a preferred light, this model would make an excellent backup.

This miniature spotlight uses disposable alkaline batteries, which are easily replaceable, making it ideal for emergency use. Additionally, the low-voltage catteries used by this light are safer than lithium-ion batteries.

This miniature spotlight is durable and waterproof enough for offshore use. As a standalone light, it's not quite bright enough to be used as a primary spotlight. However, it makes an excellent pair with ultrabright spotlights like the less robust YIERBLUE 6,000-lumen water-resistant handheld spotlight. Also, spotlights can malfunction, so it's always smart to have a less complex backup around.

This spotlight uses three standard C batteries and has a maximum range of 984 feet, which is just over 320 yards. Overall, the simplicity of this design makes it an excellent addition to any sailboat tool or emergency bag. And with up to eight hours of run time, it won't break the bank with battery replacements.

This 1,400-lumen marine spotlight has a beam distance of 725 yards, which is quite good. Most nighttime navigation can be done in a small boat within this distance, and it's plenty far for use in rescue and repair.

6. Browning High Noon 40 Marine Spotlight

Browning is a well-known producer of hunting and outdoor supplies, and they also produce a respectable 1,400-lumen marine handheld spotlight. This lightweight and waterproof spotlight is an ideal choice for offshore and coastal sailing.

This handheld spotlight is waterproof and rated to about one meter, meaning it's good for storm conditions but not suited for diving. However, water resistance shouldn't ever be a problem because this spotlight floats. And at just about one pound in weight, it's light enough to tie to your lifejacket or keep in an emergency kit.

The case of the Browning spotlight is designed to float in water, and it's made of impact-resistant ABS plastic. This spotlight looks and feels quite similar to many other high-quality marine spotlights on the market today.

This spotlight uses rechargeable batteries, but there's also a model available that uses disposable C batteries. The model with disposable batteries weighs in at around 3 pounds loaded and has a remarkable 72-hour battery life when set to low power. On high power mode, this flashlight battery lasts a still impressive nine hours.

7. Princeton Tec Sector 7 Dive Light

The final spotlight on our list isn't technically a sailing spotlight, but its characteristics make it ideal for bluewater voyages. The Princeton Tec Sector 7 is a handheld diving spotlight that's completely waterproof. Dive spotlights are specifically designed to be used underwater. As a result, they are almost entirely impervious to the harsh conditions of open ocean sailing.

The Princeton Tec Sector 7 spotlight runs off of 8 C batteries, which can either be disposable or rechargeable. This light can operate for four hours at 700 lumens or thirty hours total. The initial four-hour burn time is "regulated," meaning the light is guaranteed not to lose brightness during that time.

This dive light uses a trigger activation system with two stages. The first stage is a spring-loaded momentary switch for flashing or signaling, and the second stage is a constant connection. It also includes a trigger locking mechanism that prevents accidental battery drainage.

This spotlight is multi-purpose, durable, and robust. Unlike the other sailing spotlights on our list, this model can be used to scrape the bottom or repair underwater damage in a pinch. It'll also work well under the harshest weather conditions, and it's subdued beam works better in foggy conditions.

Unlike brighter lights, it won't blind the user when it's misty outside. The primary disadvantage of this light is its reduced range and brightness. This model has only a fraction of the lumens that many other LED marine spotlights have, and that's partially because it's designed to be used underwater. That said, 700 lumens is plenty for most low-light sailing tasks.

Best Handheld Spotlights For Sailing
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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