We have some winners! First, a bit about our process. We looked at all the suggestions for flashlights and came away with two conclusions. First, for catching attention over a distance, a strobe is the right tool, but for pinpointing your location to a visible rescuer, a flashlight works well, and since that was the focus of the analysis, we stuck with those for the analysis and contest. Second, there are many, many, many varieties of flashlights out there. We compared six of them online like a shopper would looking at standardized qualities like Lumens (brightness), effective distance, size, and other features. We treated it like an aggressive research and buying campaign, and publications like Practical Sailor and Consumer Reports might go a bit farther in their research, but we came to some conclusions, and a recommendation. You can see the complete analysis by downloading this Excel spreadsheet.
When it comes to the ideal flashlight, someone asked "how much is your life worth," but we didn't think a very expensive or bulky flashlight would save your life if you couldn't afford to buy it, or found it too big to actually carry on your lifejacket. For example, the best combination of brightness, implied durability, size/weight, and all-around life-saving potential has to go to the Sure Fire LED Titan, but at $250 per light, it just doesn't seem realistic that many average sailors will go pick one up, when for safety purposes, a strobe and personal EPIRB will also compete for a sailor's dollar. The MagLite XL50 is very cool, offering a very bright light that dials back to 25% power with a click -- and with a third click, turns into a strobe -- but seemed too bulky to live on a lifejacket at almost 5" long with 1" diameter. It seems good as a boat or car light, but not a personal one.
Instead, we chose the Pelican Tracker 2140. It's average size for a "small" flashlight but its Xenon bulb throws light an estimated 80 meters -- and made a visible spot on the sail loft wall 120 feet away in daytime. It's not round but oblong with a plastic casing, and powered by two AAA batteries. At $19 (less on Amazon) it's priced so anyone can afford one or two, and it's small enough to live permanently on a lifejacket or harness, as well as in a pocket. For the purposes of this analysis, it seemed the best bet.
So, we have two prize winners, the first chosen randomly from all our Facebook friends, the second, from those who submitted suggestions. The first is Shannon Ayer of Plantation, Florida. The second, from submissions, is Steffi Schiffer of Fort Lauderdale. Thanks for "liking" and helping us, and we'll hunt around for another fun contest! Stay safe on the water, and have fun.