The power for each LED strip usually comes from a 2.1mm standard coaxial power socket, that is pre-soldered to one end of the strip. That gets plugged into a standard 12-volt power supply which usually has a matching 2.1mm power plug
on it. $5-10 from any source that sells power supplies.
For boat use, you cut off the socket and connect the two wires to your 12-volt lighting circuit instead, same as installing any light fixture. You can twist, crimp, solder, as you please to do this.
It is only when you cut the strip into shorter lengths that you would need
to actually solder, and a $10 pencil iron from Radio
Shack or any hardware
store is a perfectly good tool for the job. (Although, those cheapies always find a way to get spun around by the power cord and burn you if you give them a chance to. It helps to stick the business end in a can or mug when you're not holding it. Or buy a $25 model that comes with a stand to do that. Don't ask me why I know this.)
There are also butane and electric
portable soldering irons that are perfect for occasional small
jobs, boat/mobile work, like this. None of these will handle anything like coaxial antenna
fittings, they just don't make enough heat. You'd need a soldering gun
When you cut the strip into smaller strips, you peel the backing up a little bit, and scrape the two power traces clean. This is a really
easy soldering job, if it was being sold as a kit it would be rated a "first timers" level.
Dave makes a good point about PWM. PWM is used for many things including alternator
output control, battery charging
(it generates less gas so it charges faster than pure DC even though the power is on for less time), and mainly for light dimming circuits on all sorts of lights. I've never heard current
control being called PWM, because PWM usually supplies a fixed voltage for a varying time period.
But LEDs can very definitely be used without external currrent controls, because they limit themselves. Crudely, but they limit themselves. If you don't limit the current you supply to them, they self-limit to some extent. At their rated voltage, they will consume their rated power and no more. Raise the voltage--and they cook. By using an external current control, even if that's just a resistor, you can also ensure that they operate more efficiently. An LED that is capable of being used in a range, say from 20-40 milliamps, may change birghtness by 50% over that range, but also have a 500% life expectancy change. So the external control allows you to choose brightness versus life as well.
LEDs can also be killed very quickly by electrical
spikes, since they are diodes and diodes really don't like voltage spikes. Having an active power control, digital or linear, is also more likely to clamp those spikes.
Bottom line, using LEDs properly is something like sailing: Any idiot can
do it, but it takes some attention to really figure out how to trim the sails
and do it well. How they really work isn't at all obvious, and because they're so cheap
(even the expensive ones, relatively) they're easy to replace. Unless they're 65' up in the air on a pitching mast
on a stormy night, in which case a proper implementation like BiBi's is worth every buck they charge for it.<G>