In Charging Part I, we looked at battery technology and options. In Part II we reviewed the primary charging system, shore power and the ubiquitous shore connection cords. In Part III, we look at onboard charging systems.

Battery Chargers

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.

Some brands are well-known, others are obscure. Conversations with friends will probably confuse more than enlighten. Retailers will promote what they carry and have lots of horror stories about choosing incorrectly. Some of those stories might be self-serving, but there may elements of truth as well.

To start, all battery chargers transform the power from the source – almost always alternating current – into direct electrical current that reverses the chemical reaction in the battery and restores its electrical power. Whatever the battery type, the charging profile needs to be specifically matched in charging voltage, current (Amps) as well as the time duration at each step.

The concept of charging steps, or stages is important. All batteries – particularly lead-acid ones – will work best and live longest with a 3-stage charging profile. The first stage, called bulk, puts in maximum voltage and current but only for a fairly short period, a third of the charging cycle or less.  The next stage, absorption, holds charging voltage constant and reduces current levels, but it does the majority of the charging. When the battery is about 95% charged the charger changes to float profile, much lower voltage and current, but it will maintain that small but constant indefinitely. This is sometimes called a “trickle charge”. Note that many inexpensive automotive chargers and solar and wind generators all produce a similar small current, trickle or float charge. This will maintain a charge, or it will actually charge any battery, but it will take many hours to do so. More detail, including graphics, is available from Battery University a comprehensive reference on all things battery related.

How does the charger know what profile to use? The first step is for the user to select the battery type on the charger – usually a manual switch that sets the particular 3-step profile. The next step is up to the charger – “smart” technology senses circuits and measures the state of the battery bank and applies the appropriate voltage, current, and time period. The charging system constantly monitors the state of the battery, and for this reason alone, common, inexpensive one-stage automotive chargers, even well-known brands, should be avoided. They are too much a “blunt instrument” and should never be used on marine battery banks. Instead a more sophisticated multi-stage “smart charger” is needed.

The charge profiles are different for different battery types. Flooded lead-acid batteries are the easiest to match, but gel, AGM and Lithium ion all need specific and sometime quite different profiles. Some battery manufacturers call for different profiles than other manufacturers, even within the same battery type, another reason to get professional advice. If a new charger is being considered, check if it is compatible with the battery bank, and vice-versa. Professional advice is valuable, as is direct contact with manufacturers.

Many battery chargers today are available combined with an inverter, a worthwhile combination as it ensures compatibility of these two components and saves space and minimizes wiring. Inverters and chargers do completely different jobs however. While a charger simply re-builds battery capacity, an inverter is an output device. Batteries create direct current (DC) which is fine for most marine electrical components, marine radios, navigation electronics, even marine pumps and refrigerators, but household appliances, toasters, blenders, microwaves, stoves and ovens, etc. all need alternating current (AC). It’s the inverter’s job to turn the DC battery output into the needed 120-volt (household) current for appliances. That is not an easy job, nor an inexpensive one. The drain on a battery bank for these household level currents is severe, a ratio of at least 10 to one – all of which increases the demands on the battery bank, which necessitates further charging.

There are a great many inverter/charger brands on the market. Brands include MasterVolt, Outback, Xantrex, ProMariner, Charles, and dozens of others. The key is not the brand itself but the performance specs that need to match the electrical load of the boat and the battery size and type.  Again, professional assistance is a must, as is contact with appropriate manufacturers.

Permanent Generators

Boaters with larger vessels or ones with a larger electrical needs will soon decide on a permanent generator. For marine applications there are a number of manufacturers including Northern Lights, Onan, Westerbeke, MasterVolt, Fischer-Panda, Next Generation Power, and a number of others.

Generators are needed for the increasing large house current electrical load for refrigeration and cooking, for example, as well as for charging the battery banks that are found on most power-boats and larger sailboats. Almost all of these fixed generators are powered by small diesel engines, the most well-known by Kubota. They are coupled to a dynamo producing the charging electrical current. Outputs vary according to the battery bank needs, but most common sizes for recreational boats are between 5 and 15 kW. The major efforts of manufacturers today include increasing reliability and in reducing noise, the latter is found with more sophisticated sound shields and vibration free shock-mounts.

For better reliability manufacturers are finding ways to lengthen belt life by reducing revs. 1800 rpm is more common today, down from 2500 to 3500 previously. Diesels are already fairly reliable, but the occasional use pattern of most recreational boaters puts a great amount of uneven wear on critical components. Most important is clean oil, and most manufacturers recommend oil and filter changes every 100 operating hours. Many generators have Hobbs meters to make record keeping easier.

If a new generator is being considered the most care should be given to sizing it correctly and matching it to the battery bank involved. Flooded batteries need longer charge times at modest current, but gel, AGM, and LiION batteries can use a higher current and shorter duration charge. A higher capacity generator may be indicated in these applications.

Care should be taken, however to match unit capabilities closely, as installing a higher capacity than is needed is not wise. Running a generator at less than ideal load can cause premature wear and early replacement of components. Most boaters want to have as little noise as possible from their generator set, as do their neighbors in remote anchorages. So noise-canceling is important. Some generators are so well noise-cancelled that the only sound is water being pumped from their cooling system. That’s quiet, but some models can even be installed with an under-water exhaust that is essentially silent. At a premium price, of course.

Existing generators are a classic compromise. They produce 120v house current for appliances, then covert to DC (rectify) to charge batteries. Transitional losses abound. But one more option is available, a DC generator. Without needing to convert current from AC back to DC a new DC generator can operate at higher efficiencies, with less time and cost to operate. This choice means running most electrical systems by DC and others through the inverter from the battery bank. This needs a larger battery bank, but is a system that works well with high output Lithium ion batteries. This is the preferred solution of Coastal Craft, for example who have found the ideal match of lithium ion battery bank and DC generator to give electrical performance but minimizes charging times.

As with many things mechanical and electrical, professional installation is a must.  Far too many generator sets are installed poorly and the DIY crowd is not sufficiently skilled for this equipment. Leave it to the pros. Particularly, water-lift mufflers are easily installed incorrectly and are a peril to the engine itself as cooling water can be siphoned back into cylinders with disastrous results.

Care should be taken on size and weight, as well as noise. Most boats will use up space for mechanical systems fairly quickly. Access is critical for routine maintenance and sound shields need to be easily removed and replaced. Engines and generators are heavy and bulky meaning dimensions are as important as performance specs. We’re impressed with the size-weight-performance of the Fisher-Panda and the MasterVolt lines for example.  The physical footprint and overall installed weight of generators can be critical to the performance of sailboats and smaller craft, so careful shopping is advised.

Outback                                  www.outbackpower.com
Xantrex                                   www.xantrex.com
ProMariner                             www.pmariner.com
Northern Lights                      www.northern-light.com
Onan                                       www.cumminsonan.com
Westerbeke                           www.westerbeke.com
Fischer-Panda                       www.fischerpanda.com
Next Generation Power        www.nextgenerationpower.com
Kubota                                    www.kubotaengine.com

by Robert Buller

Destinations

  • Prev
Toronto sailor and former RCYC coach/sailing instructor Ryan May is now a US coast guard captain ...
Just before the weekly party at Shirley HeightsSunsail staffer Chris Donahue conducts our chart ...
Chartering in the Caribbean conjures up images of turquoise sea, palm fringed beaches and great ...
Since anyone who opens an independent bookstore is at least as brave as a small boat shop owner, I ...
You’re on your way east to the 1000 Islands or the Trent-Severn. By entering north of Prince ...
I have lived in Ontario my whole life but have only recently had the pleasure of visiting the City ...
My trip to the Northwest Passage started long before I boarded the flight to Kangerlussaq with ...
During the summer of 2016, my wife and I cruised through the North Channel in Lake Huron on our ...
It’s like we’ve waved a magic wand and disappeared into a picture perfect painting, our ...
The Schooner Cove Yacht Club is situated between Nanaimo and Parksville, on the east coast of ...

Cowichan Bay to Genoa Bay – Almost the Gulf Islands

Cowichan Bay to Genoa Bay – Almost the Gulf Islands

 By Catherine Dook

“So you’re going offshore to Genoa Bay,” said an old salt at coffee that morning. Genoa Bay was 15 minutes away from our homeport of Cowichan Bay and hardly counted as offshore, but it was our first destination that fall. The fog had socked us in all that morning, so John and I drank coffee and gossiped with the neighbours while waiting for the weather to lift. We’d provisioned with cans of chilli, a sack of apples, and tanks full of water. We’d tested the engine and the anchor winch. We were ready.

Read More of Cowichan Bay to Genoa Bay.....

 

 

 

Lifestyle

  • Prev
One of our most enthusiastic contributors, Rob Dunbar sent us this photo from Halifax.   ...
Checking back into the US was quick and painless. We made the call to Customs but we needed to ...
Two-hundred-year-old homes are what ghost stories are made of, and Beaconsfield Yacht Club (BYC) ...
This time our photos come from Gimli where Katie Coleman Nicoll was on the scene. She’s an ...
Recently we celebrated our country’s 150th anniversary, and in true form thousands of ...
   We left off Part 1 at the year 1914, and will here pick it back up, running through ...
This week’s POTW comes from across the pond. Who knew we had a European audience   ...
Here is our boat anchored at Hockey Stick Bay. We live in a beautiful country.     ...
Michelle Jacques of Cambridge ON share this memory of her adorable pooch. “This is Frodo. ...
  Our 150 year history began in 1867, but Canada was no stranger to watercraft prior to our ...

 By: Katherine Stone

Do you know how many boaters you run into while standing in the lift lines of Blue Mountain and the surrounding private ski clubs? Quite a few! Start some conversations on the ski lifts and you might be surprised how many avid boaters you can meet.

Many who boat say that winter sports are just there to pass the time until the ice clears and you can get your boat launched and start boating again. As a ski instructor, you tend to meet even more interesting boaters… Read more about the Reef Boat Club ....

 

 

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
Commodore’s Boats is a full service shipyard with over 50 years of generational history and ...
Cruisers Yachts debuts the all-new 42 Cantius. The sporty, luxury cruiser will make its first ...
Once again, the designers at Jeanneau have outdone themselves with the innovative new Leader 10.5 ...
The introduction of X-Yachts’Xc range in 2008 has proven itself to be something of a game changer ...
Hull #1 ZINNIA, the all-new, twin outboard MJM 35z left Boston BoatWorks on July 5 for Newport and ...
Following a 10-year hiatus, Richmond, BC-based Crescent Custom Yachts is once again launching ...
According to the folks at Fraser Yacht Sales, you couldn't ask for more - the new Azimut Atlantis ...
During those cold, cold, sunless, dreary months of January and February, I want to remember the fun ...
The Rossiter 23 Classic Day Boatis both a logical extension of the Canadian-built Rossiter line and ...
It's rare for Canadian Yachting magazine to report on the same boat twice, but that is how ...

 

A Trip To Iconic Italian Yachtbuilder Riva And Lake Como

Riva And Lake ComoStory And Photos By Iain Macmillan

Eyes turn and conversations on shore pause as one boat in particular approaches the Grand Hotel Serbelloni’s jetty that extends out into the sparkling blue waters of Lake Como off Bellagio, northern Italy. It’s not because the Clooneys, George Lucas or Richard Branson are on board, not this time anyway, the attention is on the boat itself. The world’s most valuable, most magnificent mahogany launch, a classic 1960s Riva Aquarama, is paired appropriately with Como’s most prestigious hotel, its Michelin star dining room and suites that have housed royalty; a perfect mix of pleasure, luxury and a distinguished history.

Read more about Riva and Lake Como....

 

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
With all the devastation in the eastern Caribbean a natural question to ask is ‘is our boat in that ...
During the heat of summer, many boat owners turn on their air conditioning units. Whether portable ...
A milestone has been reached. The new D13-1000 sees Volvo Penta move into the 1000hp marine leisure ...
  Still looking for the perfect slip for your boat? Look no further!    
Canadian Yachting traveled to Newport to review and sea trial the new MJM 35z.     ...
Erik Pawson Of Watertight Boatworks here in North Vancouver, BC, is really passionate about the ...
Hydro Clean Hull Wash is Canada's first automatic, mechanical hull wash system and the company has ...
For 2017 there were a total of 31 events planned and 2 were cancelled for a total of 29 events. All ...
When Terry Conrad, of Conrad Marine, offered me ride in a brand-new Sea Fox 288 Commander that he ...
EMCS Industries Ltd. has a unique antifouling system that’s quite clever and incredibly ...

By Owen Hurst

Since the initial article of this series we have looked at the iPad and its use as a marine navigation instrument. We have discussed its functionality, available apps, relevant hardware and compared it to traditional charplotters. This focus on iPad led one of our readers to an interesting question that we have yet to address.

Question: Why has the focus been solely on the use of iPads for marine navigation rather than Android devices?

Read More Going iPad or Android.....