Strip lighting using LEDs under cabinetry and aimed downward can give a very pleasant, low-intensity "area" lighting. Try running yellow LEDs for an even more calming effect.
If you have two strips running under side lockers, and a decent oil
lantern over the saloon
table, you have pretty well ideal "dinner aboard" lighting.
And if you want something not at "marine" prices, but above a string of Christmas
lights, consider the sort of undercarriage LED strips used by truckers. They are very durable and, as said, if you don't mount them in direct sight, it doesn't matter what they look like (plasticky, in this case). Again, go with the amber colour.
Lastly, I concur with the 9V "little strips" lighting idea. If you rig a magnetic contact switch on the lid of deep locker aboard, you can install, at about five to ten dollars a locker, battery
LED lighting for every nook aboard. Velcro the lights behind the lid out of sight and aimed down and forward from your point of view. Even the dim "bluish" ones work well here and are very cheap
as they are falling from favour. The 9V battery can easily last a year, and you have no expensive copper runs if you "hard-wired" the same thing via a panel. I have a single
LED in the top-loading reefer, but it's switched to the ship's DC circuit as a battery would die in the cold. I use it a lot of the time when I don't want to switch on a gallery halogen I keep for precision cookery.
Same deal with companionway
steps. Rig an IR detector switch, a single
red LED and a salvaged cover. Caulk up with silicone. Install on the underside of steps. When you step on the first step, a dim red light glows onto the second. Night vision and ankle bones are preserved. Repeat as needed.
I think the introduction
of LEDs are, with AIS
, pretty well the top two advances in small boat gadgetry in the last decade or so.