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Nautical Antiques Searchlight

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I have spent time, lots of time, browsing in second-hand marine stores. Minney’s Yacht Surplus in Costa Mesa, California is a big second-hand store on the West Coast. Seattle has Dunato’s Second Wave, a new and used supplies store, where I have sold some equipment on consignment. There are several intriguing websites under nautical junk or, if you have more to spend, nautical antiques. I was a collector of nautical artifacts (some say junk). Then I retired and thought about space on our boat and at home. No more of that collecting for me.

I was browsing at another used equipment emporium, the Pacific Marine Exchange in Bellingham, Washington. They have a huge selection of practical parts for pleasure boats and workboats alike. There I found a 50-year-old Ray-Line light, a searchlight that came as a standard equipment piece on some early Chris-Craft cruisers. This was not a collectable piece and I knew I could put it to good use. It was a little corroded with the lower parts that controlled direction and elevation of the light missing—the price was just right.

I thought the light could be restored and installed on top of the pilothouse on our 42 Krogen. In the great Pacific Northwest, we avoid night cruising because there are logs out there that can ruin your day if you run over one. They are virtually impossible to see at night except when the wind is calm, and the moon is out. The one time we do cruise at night is to take part in boat parades on Lake Washington at Christmas time. The lake is very exclusive and logs are not allowed there. There are, however, some channel buoys on the way into the lake that are not lit. A searchlight is a great way to spot them. Besides, old searchlights like the one I found look so nautical.


I made the handles that controlled direction and elevation of the beam from black Starboard. The light cleaned up nicely but the shape of the light wasn’t working for me. Before I drilled a hole in the top of the pilothouse roof, I knew the searchlight needed to be far enough aft to allow the post that had the controls for aiming the light to extend into the cabin near the helm. On a flat roof this would have worked fine, but the Krogen roof has an upslope that would cut off the light beam looking forward and prevent illumination of the area just in front of the bow. There are some taller searchlights that would work, but this one would not.

Now what? Would my wife permit a nautical-themed lamp in the family room? To find out, I pulled the center post out of a tripod I use in photography. The light fit.


But the lamp was for DC use on a small vessel. Without a complicated transformer-rectifier, the light would not work. I slid the original bulb socket out of the reflector and, miracle of miracles, I found that an E-12 candelabra socket slid right in. I had a smaller tripod missing the center post to replace my good tripod. I wired the lamp so it could be a table lamp when the tripod was collapsed and a freestanding floor lamp when the tripod was fully extended. Granted, it is not really a good reading light, but it looks great and our grandsons love it. It is a spotlight and can show off shadow puppets like nobody’s business. I can see its use in plays and other productions as the kids get older. As long as the little ones have fun with the light, my wife will keep it around.