Heating and cooling systems add immensely to cruising comfort, whether you boat in cool shoulder seasons or contend with hot, muggy summers. Most boaters learn quickly that extending their season is ideal – Canadian summers are so short, whether you’re on the west coast or the Great Lakes. In central areas, summer is short but it can be hot and humid, and winter is too cold for much cruising in all parts of Canada. Extending into spring and fall makes boating so much more enjoyable, to say nothing of helping justify the costs.
With a source of external power, shore-cord or generator, current still needs to be fed back into your battery banks to reset their chemistry and return them to full electrical output. This requires a battery charger. Here most boaters can rightly claim to confusion. There are dozens of brands available and most products are a “black-box” with little to distinguish one from the others. There is nothing to show a quality comparison or actual performance, save massive ‘spec’ sheets that tell us too much, usually in techo-talk; incomprehensible without an advanced degree.
Batteries lie at the heart of most boats. We need them to start our engines, power our electronics, chill our food and sometimes cook our meals. We rely on them but often don’t give them much thought until they fail. Or outlive their normal lifespan of about five years and need to be replaced. With major advances in new technologies reaching the marine marketplace, let’s take a look at alternatives to the traditional lead-acid battery.
So, I have to open with a joke. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide all the other people in the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t. For the purposes of this article, I do! To be more specific, I divide boaters into two kinds of people: those who want to play in the engine room and those who don’t. Whether your boat is power or sail, you are almost certain to have an engine and every engine needs maintenance and occasional repair.
Getting the owner of an older sailboat to spend the money on a brand new diesel auxiliary is a challenge for many marine service businesses. Often the costs involved in the purchase and installation of a new powerplant carries a bill that can make most recreational boaters blush and run away. Some vessels, however, are built for the long haul and replacing the diesel engine on an otherwise sound mechanical vessel can extend the life of the boat at a fraction of the cost of the replacement of the entire boat. Newer marine diesels are also more fuel efficient, smoother, quieter, lighter, and pack far more horsepower into smaller packages.
Smart chargers are not new, but they are getting smarter all the time and that’s a great thing.
In almost every issue of Canadian Yachting, we suggest you add some new or upgraded piece of equipment to your boat and virtually everything runs on electricity. The highest draw equipment onboard would be your windlass, air conditioning and refrigeration, but new entertainment systems, navigation equipment and galley items can all add big load increases.
Complicating this, battery manufacturers are always working to improve the performance of their products and new batteries can change the “charging profile” of the battery bank.
First, if you just remember one thing from this article, remember - never swim in a marina.
Why? Because in a marina, you have people, water and electricity. When everything is working properly, that is a recipe for fun and great times. But, if just one wire chafes through its insulation and shorts to ground, there is the potential for tragedy.
We recently spent time aboard a 54' Bertram called the Maple Leaf and the boat's owner made a great comment about his boat. He said that he has not fixed up a used boat; his boat is in the process of 22 years of constant improvement!
I loved that attitude. Bertram's 54 was designed and built as a sport fishing yacht and the only real advantage of moving to a new boat would be that it was new.
The recent Miami International Boat Show (February 14-18, 2007) was the launching pad for a host of new products, most notably from the engine manufacturers.
Among the biggest news stories in the diesel field was that Cummins MerCruiser Diesel (CMD) has announced that they have started shipment of pre-production Zeus pod drive systems.
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