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Old 14-06-2016, 14:18   #1
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Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

Hi everyone.

I'm new to cruising and to sailboats and have been doing lots of research into the type of electrical system and electronic navigation gear for our Alberg 30.

My partner and I are heading down the ICW this fall and into the Caribbean.

We live off grid and want the boat to be as self sufficient as possible, energy wise and don't want to rely on the engine.

I've figured out the Amp draws that we will be requiring for the time at anchor and the time making passages and am sizing the system on the later.

My questions in this post are relating to Navigation equipment. We are looking for the most energy efficient way to use electronics on board. Both of us are energy savers and looking forward to keeping the electrical draws to a minimum.

1.From our research we feel we need a VHF with DSC and possibly AIS integration and GPS .

Questions:

a. Will the GPS and AIS information from the VHF be available via Bluetooth to an ipad or tablet?

b. Would we still require a separate means of GPS to link wireless to the tablet? Only some tablets will have the quality of GPS required for use in navigation. Anyone have any experience with this?

2. Radar is important and we have found that Broadband radar uses a very small amount of power in comparison to traditional radar.
Questions:

a. How does the Radar communicate with an ipod or tablet? Does it have to be plugged in and/or use special software?

Any advice would be great!
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Old 14-06-2016, 14:44   #2
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

Doesn't seem to me that you want to be energy efficient at. Where you start talking GPS, AIS, DSC, radar on a Alberg 30 you have long crossed the energy line (IMO).

But the most energy is a compass and paper charts!! For electronics mos efficient is an smart phone or tablet app. There are apps for AIS also. Lots of the new stuff has wifi and can send data to your smart phone, computer or tablet.
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Old 14-06-2016, 14:56   #3
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

Hi Timber and welcome to the forum.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Timber View Post
I'm new to cruising and to sailboats and have been doing lots of research into the type of electrical system and electronic navigation gear for our Alberg 30.

We live off grid and want the boat to be as self sufficient as possible, energy wise and don't want to rely on the engine.

First go for solar panels as the main source of power. If space and budget allow supplement with wind power.


I've figured out the Amp draws that we will be requiring for the time at anchor and the time making passages and am sizing the system on the later.

My questions in this post are relating to Navigation equipment. We are looking for the most energy efficient way to use electronics on board. Both of us are energy savers and looking forward to keeping the electrical draws to a minimum.

Have to agree with Sailorboy1 that you have a pretty long list of equipment for minimum power use. But if you want or feel like you need it all then you will have to increase your charging power to cope.

1.From our research we feel we need a VHF with DSC and possibly AIS integration and GPS .

Definitely VHF with DSC. AIS maybe, depending on when, where and how you cruise. GPS for minimalist you can get this from a VHF or a small handheld GPS then use paper charts for plotting and navigation.

Questions:

a. Will the GPS and AIS information from the VHF be available via Bluetooth to an ipad or tablet?

No VHFs that I know of have bluetooth. There is a hardwired marine standard called NMEA that is usually used for interfacing various electronics.

b. Would we still require a separate means of GPS to link wireless to the tablet? Only some tablets will have the quality of GPS required for use in navigation. Anyone have any experience with this?

You can navigate with a tablet without any outside source of GPS or wireless link.

2. Radar is important and we have found that Broadband radar uses a very small amount of power in comparison to traditional radar.
Questions:

a. How does the Radar communicate with an ipod or tablet? Does it have to be plugged in and/or use special software?

All radar domes (the signal transmitter/receiver part of the system) are made to work with the displays from the company that made the dome. There are a couple of software options that will translate the radar signal to display on a third party display like a PC or tablet. Look at the OpenCPN discussion on this forum and it will tell you about interfacing a Garmin radome with the free OpenCPN software that runs on a PC.
Any advice would be great!
I would add that for all the devices you're looking at it will be pretty difficult to get enough solar panels on a 30' boat to power them all. The big negative to solar is it just takes a lot of sq ft to make much power.
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Old 14-06-2016, 16:04   #4
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

Quote:
Originally Posted by Timber View Post
1.From our research we feel we need a VHF with DSC and possibly AIS integration and GPS .

Questions:

a. Will the GPS and AIS information from the VHF be available via Bluetooth to an ipad or tablet?

b. Would we still require a separate means of GPS to link wireless to the tablet? Only some tablets will have the quality of GPS required for use in navigation. Anyone have any experience with this?
Some ideas:

Tablet GPS should be good enough to put an electronic chart in the ballpark, and I personally wouldn't have the tablet on all the time, only when I was unsure of position (I'm a paper chart + compass guy). But you can feed an external GPS or other NMEA data (eg AIS) to the tablet in a number of ways.

Google "NMEA to wifi adaptor" and you will find a number of options... mainly for NMEA0183; NMEA2000 is proprietary, with a few pricy adaptors available. Wifi seems to be more common than bluetooth, but NMEA to bluetooth does exist as well. The low-end includes ideas like this, or handmade widgets like this. I'm planning on making something similar to the latter, for playing with OpenCpn.

Right now on our little boat I have an old Lowrance handheld GPS I bought for $15. It's mounted and permanently powered from the boat 12v. I've brought out its NMEA out to provide data to the DSC VHF... and this is the signal I intend to put on wifi for the tablet if necessary. We also have an eTrek Vista handheld ($100 on ebay) that has rudimentary charting. You can do alot for cheap if you want.

Quote:
2. Radar is important...
I have not done the ICW or cruised seriously yet, but it's my understanding that for the ICW and the Caribbean, unless you intend on sailing at night alot and/or in bad visibility, radar is not mandatory.

We are fond of Alberg 30's - very yachty. Not too much real estate for a huge solar array, though. For sure, convert to LED lighting; LEDs use 1/5 to 1/3 the power of incandescent bulbs.

Good luck with the project.
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Old 14-06-2016, 16:05   #5
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

Skipmac pretty well sums it up. The ditch is a daytime operation - a handheld GPS or even smart phone and paper charts will do, and all you need the VHF for is bridges. But.... when you get to West Palm Beach/Fort Worth you face 29 lift bridges between you and Biscayne Bay that you can't get a mast under. Off shore begins. The Carribean means long crossings through nights. What electronics satisfy your minimum comfort level at that point? Depth sounder, VHF, chartplotter, sat phone, AIS, radar, autopilot, watermaker, refrigeration; the possible list gets pretty long and takes plenty of power..
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Old 14-06-2016, 16:26   #6
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

Quote:
Originally Posted by Timber View Post
Hi everyone.

Alberg 30.

Caribbean.

off grid the boat to be as self sufficient as possible

the most energy efficient way to use electronics on board

keeping the electrical draws to a minimum


1.From our research we feel we need a VHF with DSC and possibly AIS integration and GPS .

Questions:

a. Will the GPS and AIS information from the VHF be available via Bluetooth to an ipad or tablet?

b. Would we still require a separate means of GPS to link wireless to the tablet? Only some tablets will have the quality of GPS required for use in navigation. Anyone have any experience with this?

2. Radar is important and we have found that Broadband radar uses a very small amount of power in comparison to traditional radar.
Questions:

a. How does the Radar communicate with an ipod or tablet? Does it have to be plugged in and/or use special software?

Any advice would be great!
We are sailing a similar boat on similar assumptions, visited West Indies 3 times by now. Maybe we will meet you this time!

This is how we rigged things here:

Energy sources:

- solar energy 150 Watts, PWM regulated,
- alternator 60A (hardly ever used for energy, but a nice back-up)

Energy storage:

- house 2 x 55Ah,
- starter 90Ah,

Energy consumers:

- GPS handheld (Garmin 72 style),
- VHF/AIS combo,
- LED for all navigation lights,
- depth sounder,
- tablet 7 inch for nav and fun,
- netbook 10 inch for nav and fun,
- 12 V wifi router.

NOTICE: no fridge, no water-maker and no AP.

The above worked for us very well in our 2013/2014 cruise that included two Atlantic crossings and about 6 months in the Caribbeans. We had to reduce consumption only twice on the passages (easy: just switched off the AIS and GPS by day). We often had plenty of excess energy at anchor.

BTW On today's technology you can easily get 50% more energy from the same print we have - our panels are 'old' technology. There are more efficient panels on the market today and an MPPT regulator may be a fine choice too now that they got so much less expensive.

BTW2 If you are not too budget limited, you may opt for batteries that can accept plenty of charge at any state of charge - e.g. NEC lithiums. Otherwise find a fine optional load to use the excess energy available on some days (e.g. a watermaker, a portable cooler, a set of remote control drone dildoes, etc.).

Now back to your questions, my take in bold:

a. Will the GPS and AIS information from the VHF be available via Bluetooth to an ipad or tablet?

You can have a AIS/VHF/GPS combo (e.g. SH unit) and one like this may be fed via a BT or WiFi device into your tablet. I use wifi router for this.


b. Would we still require a separate means of GPS to link wireless to the tablet? Only some tablets will have the quality of GPS required for use in navigation. Anyone have any experience with this?

It depends on the tablet. Some units have GPS onboard. HOWEVER, if you are feeding nav data to the tablet via wifi (e.g. AIS data), then it may make plenty of sense to switch off the internal gps and use the gps data contained in the wifi stream. This way the tablet may last longer on the internal battery.

In my experience the gps in our economy Samsung smartphone beats our marine gps units hands down. And it collects GLONASS too.

2. Radar is important and we have found that Broadband radar uses a very small amount of power in comparison to traditional radar.

At lest two manufacturers make wifi radars now. Look up Furuno and Ray. I think they require Ipads (no android Apps on Furuno, maybe Ray or maybe later).


Questions:

a. How does the Radar communicate with an ipod or tablet? Does it have to be plugged in and/or use special software?

Wifi (see above). There are also other methods possible (I think ethernet connection is possible too).

BTW We did not find radar necessary. But it is sure nice to have one.

BTW2 We are considering an AIS transponder our next top of the 'to have' list. Not a substitute for a radar, but we do not have a radar anyways. No brainer.

I hope this helps you find your own perfect set-up. Listen to everyone, then make own educated guesses ;-)

Shopping for the consumers, pay attention to their power foot print, there are some differences and so some savings. This relates to the devices and to their chargers/adapters as well.

There are only two tricks in this game: make as much energy as you can, then consume with moderation.

Cheers,
b.
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Old 14-06-2016, 16:32   #7
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

I'm also a bit concerned, although you didn't ask, about your planning to start with no experience, go down the ditch, and head into the Carribean. I've made my share of mistakes, fortunately none resulting in insurance claims or bodily harm (but a few tows), and it's a learning curve that has taken me years. Are you really ready for this? It's a great dream, and I encourage you to pursue it, but do realize that you've got a bunch of skills to learn. Energy management is only one part of it.
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Old 14-06-2016, 16:55   #8
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

This site has a lot of information

Panbo: The Marine Electronics Hub
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Old 15-06-2016, 09:02   #9
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

you don't need much for the trip down the icw. a chartplotter and depth sounder and vhf.

Why not start with the basics and add as you need them? you will use less electricity.
An autopilot would be more help than a radar, by far.

you can always add things.
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Old 15-06-2016, 09:24   #10
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

If you are serious about low consumption a simple handheld VHF that uses AA batteries will do you fine.

If you can get over the illusion that a VHF is your “lifeline” and don’t make a radio check every hour to reassure yourself you can get help, AA batteries will last a long time. You will find a VHF’s real use is talking to bridges, occasional traffic (ch 13), getting local weather, and chatting with friends on other boats. There is so much chatter on it that if I have it on I usually just leave it on 13. All that chatter uses juice that you have to replace.

Your tablet should have a GPS built in, and with Navionics it will be much cheaper and us a LOT less electricity than a GPS/Chart plotter.

AIS is great and passive uses little electricity.

A good depth sounder though is a nice and useful piece of gear near shore, and once offshore you can switch it off.

If you truly want to spend the electricity and money, Raymarine makes a small MFD chartplotter under 1K that will talk to your tablet, you can add to that their wireless radar (about 1.4K) that will talk to your tablet via the chartplotter. To that MFD you can add just about anything you want… wind, boat speed, autopilot, depth, sonar, internet, cameras, stereo, phone, I think you can even control your microwave oven with it…

Offshore, an autopilot is really a Godsend, but it eats power like a politician. A vane on the other hand will sail miles and miles and miles, and only ask for a wee bit of maintenance. If you plan on steering by hand, you will soon change your mind.

To many people, being on their own out of sight of land cases them a great fear and apprehension. Merchants are aware of this and have developed and will sell you all kinds of equipment to give you the illusion their gear will keep you safe. People have been happily sailing the oceans for many years without all this kit.

If you can keep the mindset of relying on yourself rather than the plethora of “safety items” out there, you can live pretty efficiently, inexpensively, simply, and happily.

Michael
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Old 15-06-2016, 12:04   #11
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

Hi,

Here are some personal datapoints, humbly offered for your consideration.

In 2014, my wife and I took our 34' trimaran from Maryland to New Brunswick and back, then to Miami and back. We had a Solbian 140-watt panel on the bimini and a Yamaha 9.9 outboard with alternator; these were our only charging sources. We had an Espar diesel heater (which we used a lot!), Frigoboat refrigeration, a VHS with AIS, Lowrance chartplotter, Raymarine depth sounder, cabin lights, two smartphones, a laptop for watching movies, an iPad mini and my electric razor. We also had a 3G radar and of course running lights, which we rarely used. We had two 75amp-hour West Marine flooded batteries hooked up in parallel for storage. With moderate motor use, even in foggy Maine and Canada, we never had a serious shortage of electricity.

You will not need radar in the ICW. I'll bet you can do without it in the islands as well.

AIS is nice, but remember that most small boats do not yet have AIS transceivers (we didn't), so AIS has limited value outside of shipping lanes.

We had the AIS and depth linked to the chartplotter, which was very convenient (the depth had a separate readout as well); but many seasoned navigators do not like to be too linked as if one thing goes out it may affect the others.

I strongly recommend you go with the largest chartplotter screen you can manage, at least 7". It just makes everything so much easier to see. You can put your chartplotter on standby for long periods and save energy.

Both of our cellphones and the iPad were loaded with nav apps, so we actually had four completely independent nav systems. With that kind of redundancy I felt that paper charts were unnecessary, although we did carry some chartkits and a chart book for the islands. We never once needed them.

FWIW, we also had a couple of the commercial ICW products, and they were marginally helpful, but we really got 99 percent of what we needed for the ICW from Garmin Bluechart Mobile and Active Captain (see below).

On our devices, each of which had its own GPS antenna, we had iNavx, Navionics HD and Garmin Bluechart Mobile. Each has different cartography and it is sometimes fun -- even useful -- to compare them in order to get a better overall picture, but our way-preferred app was Garmin Bluechart Mobile, for three reasons: The Garmin cartography and graphical presentation are really tops; all of the Garmin data is resident on the device so you do not need an Internet connection to use it; and Bluechart Mobile incorporates Active Captain data, which may turn out to be the single most useful feature of your entire navigation suite. Seriously, do not leave home without it!

Hope this is helpful. . . .
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Old 15-06-2016, 12:35   #12
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

Why radar?? Yes it's a nice to have navigation aid if you are going to restrict your cruising to foggy areas but even then not necessary with the advent of GPS. I know the big wallet electronics geeks are horrified at my saying that but have cruised a ton of miles without a radar many of it without GPS as well. Radars are energy hogs when turned on. Yes you can run them in power saving mode but still a big energy draw. Still amazed at the accuracy of GPS after the good old days of DR and sextant navigation. With a little caution, you can almost sail your boat into its slip in a marina.

Our first cruise, we had a depth sounder, Walker taff rail log, a Sony short wave radio for time ticks, and a sextant. Only later in the cruise did we add a Ham radio. Got us to SoPac and back without any great difficulties. Navigating the passes with one of us up the mast sitting on a spreader looking out for coral heads. DR Navigation for coastal work and ocean passages with the sextant. The most important addition to the boat was the Aries self steering vane. If the boat sailed, the Aries was driving. No LED's, refrigeration, Solar or Wind Power. We ran the engine occasionally, about once a week if we hadn't been powering to recharge the 220AH GC batteries in the house bank.

Current boat have a Garmin GPS Plotter and a bunch of old handheld Lat/Long GPS's for back up, still have the Walker Log but also have an electronic knot meter/log and depth sounder, a tiller pilot, VHF radio, Ham Radio, Pactor modem for weather GRIBS, AIS and the most important cruising necessity, A WindPilot Pacifc Plus self steering vane. If I had it to do over again would get rid of the hard wired VHF and buy a cheap hand held. All lighting changed to LED's. Have 260 watts of solar which got me to Hawaii and kept the batteries charged for the past 7 years.

Ran the Chart Plotter, an old Garmin 3206, AIS, the autopilot for the compass display and knotmeter/log continuously, with the navigation lights at night and occasional use of the Ham radio and modem for GRIBS, checking into the MM net and a daily email to the wife on the passage to Hawaii. Despite having heavy overcast for most of the sail and mast partially shading the solar panels sailing into the afternoon sun, didn't have to turn on the engine to charge the batteries. Batteries were getting down when the sun finally showed for the last few days of the sail but charged back up again with the welcome rays.

As captmiken said, get a self steering vane and sort it out thoroughly before leaving. It will work diligently mile after mile and doesn't need to be fed. If you don't like to steer under power, a cheap tiller pilot will take care of that for a very small investment. You should be able to buy a good used vane off eBay, Craig's List or this list for under 2 boat units or twice that for new. For your boat, a pendulum servo unit should work great with the tiller. Best money you'll spend on the boat. Auxiliary rudder vanes are nice because of the back up rudder but don't think they steer quite as well as P/S unit, definitely more expensive and rare as hen's teeth on the used market.

If you go with radar, refrigeration, autopilot for self steering and other high amp draw electronics, you'll need lots of generating power and big battery bank. Probably more than 300 watts of solar, a windmill, and a big alternator on the engine. Plan on running your engine to charge the batteries more than you'll want even if you have lots of solar and a windmill or nearly every day if you don't.
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Old 15-06-2016, 16:39   #13
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

Quote:
Originally Posted by Timber View Post
Hi everyone.

I'm new to cruising and to sailboats and have been doing lots of research into the type of electrical system and electronic navigation gear for our Alberg 30.

My partner and I are heading down the ICW this fall and into the Caribbean.

We live off grid and want the boat to be as self sufficient as possible, energy wise and don't want to rely on the engine.

I've figured out the Amp draws that we will be requiring for the time at anchor and the time making passages and am sizing the system on the later.

My questions in this post are relating to Navigation equipment. We are looking for the most energy efficient way to use electronics on board. Both of us are energy savers and looking forward to keeping the electrical draws to a minimum.

1.From our research we feel we need a VHF with DSC and possibly AIS integration and GPS .

Questions:

a. Will the GPS and AIS information from the VHF be available via Bluetooth to an ipad or tablet?

b. Would we still require a separate means of GPS to link wireless to the tablet? Only some tablets will have the quality of GPS required for use in navigation. Anyone have any experience with this?

2. Radar is important and we have found that Broadband radar uses a very small amount of power in comparison to traditional radar.
Questions:

a. How does the Radar communicate with an ipod or tablet? Does it have to be plugged in and/or use special software?

Any advice would be great!
Welcome to CF

I won't help much, don't have the experience. But I'll add a couple of things.

a. & b. If you go with a modern Raymarine MFD, it has an inbuilt wifi and bluetooth connection to which you can connect an Ipad or Tablet. It's really easy too. And the MFD has a gps, so it won't matter whether your tablet does or not. On the Raymarine web site you can find 'Apps' to duplicate to your tablet. Even control everything from your tablet.

2. Re Radar - this is when you will chew up the power. I want one, but then I'm not trying to conserve the engery you seem to want to..

And with the Radar aside, all the other equipment will easily come in well under any real energy loss. Concentrate on making sure all your lights are LED's. And go for a windvane rather than an electronic auto pilot (I have the latter and it chews power).

And as for experience, you will get experience as you go. Just be conservative and check everything. Concentrate on safety first and safety equipment.
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Old 15-06-2016, 18:55   #14
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

Hi:

My 19 foot Sandpiper 565 has an 80 Watt panel charging a 100A-H battery. I have a small 5 inch Lowrance GPS - fish finder - depth unit, a stand alone depth sounder, VHF, LED lights, and TP-32 AP. There are miscellaneous loads like cell phones and MP3 players, but they are inconsequential.

I might not be able to sail 12 hours a day every day with all the above on, but with full sun I am confident I could, and otherwise can selectively turn some stuff off.

I also sail with chart books. I like to get the big picture on paper, and use the GPS for the fine detail.

Oh and GPS accuracy, goodness if I am not under a tree or something, the error estimate is usually about 4 feet. It is stunning what $500 gets in these little units. I worry more about the chart accuracy than the GPS accuracy.

Do people do the ICW to Caribbean 24/7 til they get there or is it more like 3 days out of 5 daylight hours only? If the latter, I am confident my electronic setup would get me there with little fuss.

My Tanzer 22 is set up pretty much the same, except it has the 7 inch version of the GPS, and a 150W panel. So essentially double the electricity of the little boat.

I would think an Alberg 30 should easily hold 300 watts of panel. With a setup similar to mine and wind vane steering instead of AP, I am confident you could go 24/7.

Boulter
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Old 16-06-2016, 19:50   #15
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Re: Complete boat electrical and electronics from scratch

Hi again everyone!
Thanks for all of the great advice. Lots and lots of good information here.....too much to digest in just one sitting. I’ve had to sit back and enjoy all of your various adventures and think about this post awhile before responding.
Yes....one of the most prevalent things to take away from your comments is that there are so many different ways of sailing, so many wants, needs, preferences,and so many levels of experience.
Radar
Many of you have suggested that Radar is not necessary for the ICW or Caribbean. In planning for the off grid system on the boat, I do want to leave open the possibility that when it comes time to aquire some of these things, if ever, my system is designed so that it could be added. Since the outfitting of Ariose is becoming as expensive as all of the projections that we have read, we’ll probably drop this off of our must have list for now. One of our biggest take-aways from this post.
We are trying to plan for the eventuality that our first 6 month journey will whet our appetites and take us into other waters where we might consider purchasing radar and other devices. Spending too much now, before we’ve tested our willingness to continue, could be a little foolhardy though.
I’ve just put some things that you’ve said in Quotation marks and responded to them.
Sailerboy1
You are quite right....this is a long list of wants that would demand a lot of power. Depending on how one wants to live, a lot of it could be taken off of the list. We are starting with the assumption that we need certain things to be safe and re-evaluating the necessity of things that we thought we had to have. The responses to this posting have given us some great reasons to re-evaluate our power consumption!
Skipmac
Good points for saving energy-thanks!
“You can navigate with a tablet without any outside source of GPS or wireless link”.


I was under the assumption that tablets don’t have the quality of GPS as specialized GPS units. The replies to this posting have given me the confidence that tablets do have the capability to provide good GPS positioning!
Lake-Effect
Sounds like we’re in the same camp when it comes to energy use. Thanks for the great tips for wifi, handhelds and NMEA. I am in the process of changing all of the lights to LED.
Captmikem
Thank you Captmikem!
“AIS is great and passive uses little electricity. If you are serious about low consumption a simple handheld VHF that uses AA batteries will do you fine.”
We are interested in buying an integrated VHF with AIS and using a handheld for backup.
“Your tablet should have a GPS built in, and with Navionics it will be much cheaper and us a LOT less electricity than a GPS/Chart plotter.”
We really like this idea......using less power and spending a lot less money!
“If you can keep the mindset of relying on yourself rather than the plethora of “safety items” out there, you can live pretty efficiently, inexpensively, simply, and happily.”
I’m with you on that one. At home, I have 700 watts of solar which gives me plenty of power. I run a pump to pressurise water that I gather off of the roof and pass though the woodstove to a hot water tank. My outhouse is only 100 meters away and it’s the nicest walk I have all day, even in -35!
Arthur.watson.1
Thank you Arthur!
“AIS is nice, but remember that most small boats do not yet have AIS transceivers (we didn't), so AIS has limited value outside of shipping lanes”
This is a great point, and we wouldn’t have known this.
I strongly recommend you go with the largest chartplotter screen you can manage, at least 7". It just makes everything so much easier to see. You can put your chartplotter on standby for long periods and save energy.


I like the idea of having redundancy built in. We are definitely interested in learning the old school techniques that don’t rely on any electronics at all so will probably go with a tablet and apps since most Chart plotters are out of our budget and probably use more power than a tablet. If we have too many electronic gadgets onboard, we will have less incentive to hone basic navigation skills.
I hear you on the Garmin capabilities. Since I’ve worked in the bush for 25 years , I have developed my own ablility to navigate using map and compass firstly, and later on in the ‘90’s developed ability to use GPS through Garmin devices. These have been a great addendum to my ability to navigate, but, have on many occasions had to use the old school techniques to get myself out of the bush when the GPS failed to do its job!
Tkeithlu
“I'm also a bit concerned, although you didn't ask, about your planning to start with no experience, go down the ditch, and head into the Carribean. I've made my share of mistakes, fortunately none resulting in insurance claims or bodily harm (but a few tows), and it's a learning curve that has taken me years. Are you really ready for this? It's a great dream, and I encourage you to pursue it, but do realize that you've got a bunch of skills to learn. Energy management is only one part of it.”

We appreciate your concern Tkeithlu. There is a lot to learn and luckily, so many fine people have gone before us and imparted their wisdom. We expect to make mistakes and are hopeful that we can avoid some of the problems that others have had. We have been researching for several years, have read many of the classics and have been practising on the water while getting used to Ariose. We are undertaking this adventure with clear heads and sound minds.

Barnakiel-We are sailing a similar boat on similar assumptions, visited West Indies 3 times by now. Maybe we will meet you this time!”
Yes, would be nice to meet up! I already feel like we’ve made some cruising friends and we haven’t yet pulled Ariose off the lot!!
One of the big differences in our systems is that Ariose has a fridge that uses 5.4 amps. I calculated 20 minutes per hour for the fridge to be on and this uses 54 Ah per day. This would be almost half of our usage during a typical passage. Since I made this calculation, Shirley has made me aware that we would probably do mostly without the fridge on long passages in order to leave necessary hardware on. This seems like a reasonable way to go about making a passage. She has already been testing most of Lynn Pardy’s suggestions for storing food without refridgeration and they seem to work really well. This isn’t too hard for us as well, since I’m a vegetarian and Shirley can eat vegetarian for long periods at a time. She’ll dig into the meat when she gets the chance though!
I’m really happy to hear that AIS/VHF/GPS can be fed to a tablet via wifi. That means that there is a great power savings for 3 of the most useful navigation aids that we will be relying on as a supplement to paper charts. We do plan on using paper charts and learning the art of navigation without electronic devices.
Stu Jackson
Thanks for that suggestion Stu! Looks like a great place to hang out for a while!
Suggested Panbo: the marine Electronics Hub
SVJasmine
“Why not start with the basics and add as you need them? you will use less electricity.
An
autopilot would be more help than a radar, by far”
Very good advice! With the list of things we want growing and our budget shrinking fast, we are making changes to the things that we are expecting to have done before we leave.
Roverhi
“As captmiken said, get a self steering vane and sort it out thoroughly before leaving. It will work diligently mile after mile and doesn't need to be fed.”
In going through our want list, we had decided to wait with the self steering since it is such a huge investment. Having read some of the comments on this post, we might revisit the size of the electrical system that I was planning to have on board. Maybe the savings here could go into the self steering mechanism. We’ll have to see.
‘If you go with radar, refrigeration, autopilot for self steering and other high amp draw electronics, you'll need lots of generating power and big battery bank. Probably more than 300 watts of solar, a windmill, and a big alternator on the engine. Plan on running your engine to charge the batteries more than you'll want even if you have lots of solar and a windmill or nearly every day if you don't.”
Having lived off grid myself for several years and created the system myself, I believe it is easily possible to create such a system on our boat that would meet all of the needs of making passages with all of this equipment on board. Solar panels have steadily increased in ability while decreasing in cost and the same applies to batteries. This could be done without changing the original 55amp alternator. I even think that the engine would only be required in an emergency. Having said this though, the diesel does need to be kept running on a daily basis to keep the starter battery in good shape and to keep the engine alive and kicking. There is a balance here that means running the engine some each day and designing an electrical system with less storage and solar capabilities. The cost savings can hopefully be put to a self steering gear!
RusticCharm
Great advice, thanks.
“ If you go with a modern Raymarine MFD, it has an inbuilt wifi and bluetooth connection to which you can connect an Ipad or Tablet. It's really easy too. And the MFD has a gps, so it won't matter whether your tablet does or not. On the Raymarine web site you can find 'Apps' to duplicate to your tablet. Even control everything from your tablet”
“And as for experience, you will get experience as you go. Just be conservative and check everything. Concentrate on safety first and safety equipment.”
Thanks, we definitely are focusing on having all of the proper safety gear and following all of the recommendations that we have been given, within reason. I agree that we will get experience as we go. I believe that we are both pretty level headed and will continue to learn and put our learnings to good use!
Boulter.
“I also sail with chart books. I like to get the big picture on paper, and use the GPS for the fine detail.”
“I would think an Alberg 30 should easily hold 300 watts of panel. With a setup similar to mine and wind vane steering instead of AP, I am confident you could go 24/7.”
I believe you are right Boulter. We should be able to power all of the necessary electronic gizmos with a properly designed system and not have to run the engine to keep it going. By my estimations with new solar panel technology, we could carry as much as 400AH of storage and 500 watts of panels even on our small boat.
After reading all of these thoughtful replies to my posting, I am going to rethink the total system capacity. Who knows what the changes might bring! Maybe a new self steering windvane with the savings!
Thanks to everyone who responded! It’s a wonderful thing to share this voyage with you all. Maybe we’ll meet down in tranquil blue waters one day! Fair weather sailing to you!

Tim and Shirley on SV Ariose
www.ArioseNotes.com

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