I mounted two 68W Unisolar flexible panels on my lifelines, and they've performed beautifully from Oregon
down to Panama
. These panels have been through 45-kt squalls with no problem, and they still kick out their rated output after a year and a half at sea.
For mounting, I screwed and glued cedar "ribs" on the backside of the panels to give them some rigidity (the outer border of the panel is screwable without wrecking any of the electronics) and ran a thin PVC pipe through pipe brackets on the ribs to stretch out the panel. Then I tied the panels at the level of my lower lifeline with thick fishing
twine. They're suspended between the top of the stanchions and the toe rail at a slight angle to catch more sunlight throughout the day. From outside the boat you can't really tell they're there. Due to the curve of the hull
and the length of the panels, however, there is a bit of "baconing" that uglies it up a bit.
The way they're suspended on the twine, when a strong puff comes they simply flip up against the stanchions and create a kind of cockpit
cover. If they're flopping too much, I just tie them tight against the stanchion in the flipped-up position until the storm is over. No problems. If you do go this route
, I recommend attaching them in the aft of the boat instead of at the bow, so there's no stress on the panels when your boat charges through waves. Also, my panels had roofing tar on the back side, which I recommend leaving there. On the one panel where I scraped it off, I must have nicked the backside because there's a small spot of corrosion
starting up in the panel (which doesn't appear to have affected the output yet, strangely).
Photos of the setup can be found on our blog at Take to the sea
. Look up the posts, "Cheap and Complicated, Just Like Me" and "Frugal Warriors". If you have any other questions or need a better picture, feel free to send me a message.