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
The Moorings has just announced the launch of its newest Caribbean destination, Antigua. 
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 Middens of Galiano Island

By Catherine Dook

We motored our way into Montague Harbour along a twisted channel with our engine muffled by the leaning trees.

“This is peaceful,” I told my husband, John.

“Look,” I pointed to an eagle sitting on the top of a tree overlooking the channel entrance like a sentinel giving permission for us to pass. Dignified, unruffled, his impassioned gaze noted and then dismissed us, as uninteresting and perhaps unworthy. I was tired. We’d pulled up anchor at Portland Island that morning, and the grind of the diesel engine had worn me down.

Read More of the Middens of Galiano Island.....

 

 

 

 

Lifestyle

  • Prev
Your boat is tucked away for the winter, but there may still be a few un-invited guests.
In the world of yachting, it is increasingly becoming the case that Canada is no longer the small ...
Ho-ho-ho. Our Photo of the week comes from Sunday’s Santa Parade. Clowning around was Paul ...
This Photo of the Week sequence from Chris Chahley and Kathy Coyle explains the whole boat thing. ...
The off season is suddenly upon us. Yikes! We need your photos more than ever to keep us thinking ...
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 ...

 

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 ...

 

Cruisers Yachts Cantius 50

Cruisers Yachts Cantius 50By: John Armstrong and Andy Adams
Photos: Cruisers Yachts Inc.

Almost a decade ago, Cruisers Yachts Inc., launched an entire line of express cruisers called “Cantius” (named after company owner KC Stock’s grandfather) that began with the 48Cantius then came the 54, the 60 and now the Cantius 50. In the fall of 2017, we will be at the debut of the 42 Cantius at the Fort Lauderdale International boat show.

These designs have a strong family resemblance withhandsome and distinctive linesand with a design philosophy that you could say, pioneered the new version of the express cruiser. 

Read more of new Cruisers Yachts Cantius 50.....

 

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
Just 10 shopping days to Christmas, so what to get for the boater who has everything? How about a ...
I am fortunate to have the ability to work from just about anywhere. A cellular signal and a Wi-Fi ...
Out here on the West Coast with boats in the water year-round, there is one constant activity and ...
As I sit looking out my window at the snow that is slowly piling up it is easy to be downtrodden by ...
In the last edition of this column we took a close look at iRegatta and the advantages it can bring ...
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.     ...