Power On The Hook

By J. Rodall

Boaters who prefer to be on the hook, such as ourselves in our Islander 36 sailboat Holole’a, greatly extend their cruising experience. There are many more bays and nooks and crannies available when using the anchor. And it is free! However, the one big issue is electrical power. The boat has to be self-contained for storing electrical power (batteries), recharging the batteries, and providing 120 Volt electrical power (main engine with alternator or dedicated genset). Solar panels can help recharge batteries also.

Most boats use deep-cycle batteries for the house battery system. These are batteries that can tolerate hundreds of cycles of a 50% discharge. Without getting too technical, they are generally robust batteries of lead-acid, gel-cell, or AGM (absorbed glass matt) construction. The common physical sizes for 12 volt systems can vary from Group 24 (common car size), to golf-cart 6 volt batteries (connect 2 in series for 12 volts) up to massive and very heavy 4D and 8D. Battery banks can be added in parallel for more capacity.

Charging systems (when not on shore power) generally run off an engine of some sort. The only other options are solar power and wind turbines, but those are different topics. For a sailboat such as mine, typically the only engine has the secondary duty of battery charging through its alternator. A big improvement over the stock 60 amp (or so) alternator is a 100 to 150 amp externally regulated unit such as made by Balmar. These alternators are controlled by a “smart 3 stage” regulator mounted nearby to properly charge batteries, but of course require the main engine to run. This system is strictly 12 volts. A better alternative if space and budget permit is a proper genset, using whichever type of fuel the main engine(s) use. Gensets provide household quality power of 120 or 120/240 volts to receptacles and to the same battery charger that is used when on shore-power. This hopefully is a smart 3 stage charger. Electric stoves and such notwithstanding, only run gensets at appropriate times of the day.

Now, seriously consider adding a battery monitoring system. These are essentially a very accurate fuel gauge for the batteries. These units accurately track outgoing power and incoming charging power.  They are a voltmeter, an ammeter, a temperature sensor, a small computer, and display all in one unit, but are simple to read. They need to be programmed initially for the type and size of the batteries. Batteries are more complicated than they appear, and using a battery monitor will tell you the state of battery discharge. When charging the battery, it can be determined when to shut down the genset or main engine. This will minimize engine running time.

Adding a high quality (true sine wave) inverter of at least 2000 watt size, but more preferably 3000 watt size, will provide quiet AC power any time. Some of the better units combine a good battery charger with an inverter. When shore power, or genset power is available, they automatically become a battery charger. When the shore power or genset is disconnected, they switch to being an inverter which provides 120 volts AC to receptacles. A true sine wave unit provides high quality 120 volt AC power not unlike the utility power ashore. A true sine-wave inverter will power anything up to their rating. Bear in mind that motors such as a vacuum cleaner and large power tools have a large inrush current when starting, and may temporarily overload an inverter. Most good inverters will tolerate this.

Cheaper inverters are available and provide modified sine-wave AC power. This will work for devices such as vacuum cleaners, toasters, and hair dryers, but are not suitable for electronic devices such as microwaves, televisions, computers, etc. Electronics can overheat and be damaged when subjected to the poor quality AC power of cheap inverters.


The one big advantage of inverters is providing silent AC power; the big disadvantage is the large power requirement from the battery bank. Inverters require very heavy gauge cables to work properly. A rule of thumb is roughly 10x current out for current in. Simplified, a 1200 watt toaster draws about 10 amps from a receptacle; the inverter draws about 100 amps from the battery bank to provide this. Fortunately this heavy power drain is only for a few minutes at a time. Electrical appliances and tools that run for only minutes are very practical, as are electronics used for extended periods. High draw devices like electric stoves and hot water heaters are not practical with inverters.  The aforementioned battery monitor is almost mandatory when using an inverter.

An obvious but often overlooked energy saving scheme is…turn off the lights and appliances when not needed. Also consider using LED bulbs, including the anchor light. These bulbs are getting less expensive and the power consumption is considerably less than incandescent bulbs.

Always remember, electricity can be dangerous and life-threatening. Even 12 volts, while not likely to electrocute, can cause a devastating arc-flash which can seriously burn and blind anyone nearby. And 120 volts can definitely cause electrocution. Batteries for the most part are filled with highly dangerous sulphuric acid. Always wire devices to applicable standards for wire size and fusing using the ABYC standards. A fire on a boat can be deadly. If you are not competent to set up marine electrical systems yourself, many good marine electricians are available.

A good reference: Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual, Nigel Calder, ISBN 0-07-143238-8.
Related Articles

Destinations

  • Prev
Located about half way between Shediac and the Miramichi on New Brunswick’s Acadian Coast, the town ...
Suddenly the once forsaken city of Hamilton, Ontario is booming for at least two good reasons.
The Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA) invites all sailors to join a cruising rally from the ...
Long popular with New England and St. John area boaters, Passamaquoddy Bay is too often overlooked ...
We did breakfast yesterday in the Greek port of Piraeus, just outside Athens:strong coffee, crisp ...
After much speculation Prince Harry finally popped the question to American actress and longtime ...
Last January we ran a short piece on the motor boat A Great Story which had been restored by the ...
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 ...

How to be as Polite as a Canadian at Gulf Island Marine Park Anchorages

Gulf Island Marine ParkStory and photos by Catherine Dook

One summer I sold ice cream and knick-knacks at Montague Harbour Marina. I was standing behind the counter one day, when the phone rang. “There’s a boat at anchor in the middle of the bay that’s been playing loud music for three hours,” complained an irate-sounding male voice. “Can you make them stop?”

“Um, no,” I replied. “The marina has no jurisdiction over the anchorage. Besides, my only weapon is a till.” The man hung up on me.

Now when you think about it, you can understand why the poor fellow was annoyed.

Read more about the Gulf Island Marine Park.....

 

 

Lifestyle

  • Prev
We were all set with this week’s POTW when a real stunner came in as part of a story on the Blind ...
Have your say. Send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need ...
When I was about ten years old I starting racing sailboats on Cape Cod and the sound of the wind ...
I took this photo in July 2017 from our boat Ginger which was anchored and stern tied in Mouat Bay ...
Were we nervous when we returned to Adamant 1 in November? The answer would be a hearty yes. The ...
Just to put it in historical time warp I was a World Sailing Vice President 1976-1994 and President ...
Great icicles! This is not what one expects from the tropical climes of BC. It’s a nice winter ...
Rossiter is a Canadian builder in Markdale, Ontario that builds a nice fleet of rowboats and small ...
Welcome to Photo of the Week 2018. If you are not familiar with this wonderful feature (What???!!!) ...
Living the dream! Longtime CY staffer and now blogger Lynn Lortie with her husband Pat left Midland ...
Canadian Yachting Digital April 2018

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 42

Cruisers Yachts Cantius 42By John Armstrong and Andy Adams 

The latest new model from Cruisers Yacht sis the Cantius 42 and this yacht made its debut in the fall of 2017, at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. We had the pleasure of going all through this newest Cantius there and clearly, the Cruisers Yachts people continue to refine and expand on all the features that have made the Cantius line such a success.

The new 42 continues the Cantius family resemblance with handsome and distinctive lines including a big section of hull side glazing port and starboard that makes the full-beam mid-ship master stateroom feel very bright and open.

Read more about the Cruisers Yachts Cantius 42...

 

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
We have all had the experience of heading down below on a nice boat only to encounter an unpleasant ...
Last year when this column launched a good deal of time was spent understanding global satellite ...
This article was my first about 10 years ago, and it found it's way to an outdoor editor/writer ...
For a gloomy February we look not only at how an app that works within your phone can be of benefit ...
ZCare Marine, offers effective, eco-safe products to help keep your boat clean. They have products ...
Monaro Marine Ltd. of Richmond, BC, designs and builds its own unique brand of semi-custom 21' to ...
With Garmin it is now possible to use both devices without independently operating two devices with ...
When the Halifax Boat Show opens on February 8th there will be an excellent selection of pontoon ...
The 627 is the largest outboard in world. New cylinder heads and camshaft, an uprated ...
Sirius Signal held a product information session for interested parties prior to demonstrating ...