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Old 29-12-2015, 09:09   #1
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What do YOU think is the best charging option?

Hey, all! I'm sure something like this thread has been posted before, but my ADD only allows for a certain amount of researching old threads - SO, I'd love to know your opinions:

I'm dreaming of a single-handed Pacific crossing in my '64 Columbia 29 (28.5'), and I've been researching the available options for replenishing my batteries. I have a good old Atomic 4 engine with a 55 amp alternator that is pretty reliable. I also usually keep a Honda 1000 EU generator on board.

I read that wind generators can be pretty good, but depending on the make of the generator, they can be irritatingly noisy. Likewise, depending on the direction of the wind, they create a fair amount of drag. Up side is that they create power as long as I have wind.

I read that towed generators don't add much in the way of charge, but do create a fair amount of drag. Up side is constant power, as long as I'm moving 3k or better. But, even though I'm not racing, a 28' boat doesn't go very fast to begin with. So I wonder if the drag vs the power gain will be

And finally, I HEAR that PV is just not what it's cracked up to be, and obviously subject to the sun. I have honestly not done much research on these, as my mentor is not a fan. However, at first glance, they actually don't look like a bad option.

My initial thought is that PV would probably be the best mainstay of a recharging system, with wind (a small, quieter generator) as an adjunct. Of course, I'm sure someone will mention I could just use the engine or the generator to top things off, and you're right. But that takes all the fun out of things, doesn't it?

Please, feel free to share your thoughts!
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Old 29-12-2015, 09:25   #2
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

ALL LED lights and a wind vane,you won't need much replenishing,a nice,quiet,solar panel sounds good seeing as you already have a Honda for emergencies and 120v needs.
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Old 29-12-2015, 09:44   #3
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

Pacific crossing should be mainly downwind - don't rely on getting much energy from a wind generator.

Personally, I'd go for all the PV you can fit.
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Old 29-12-2015, 09:50   #4
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

Thanks, StuM! Yes, crossing there should be all down wind, but headed back should be another story! lol
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Old 29-12-2015, 10:13   #5
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

Thanks for the reminder, Steamgoat. I forgot to mention that I do have all LED lights, and a Monitor windvane. My fridge only draws about 3 amps, and I use a cpap to sleep, which draws 6 amps. I will also charge a laptop, but not sure how much juice that'll consume. Onboard electronics consist of an older Raymarine radar, vhf w/AIS, depth sounder. Currently only handheld GPS, but I'll purchase a chartplotter/gps or other multi-function nav aid system prior to departure.
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Old 29-12-2015, 10:56   #6
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

Not sure who told you solar isn't as good as the hype. I sure love listening to the 300 watts flowing into my batts during peak hours..

There is a reason why virtually EVERY cruising boat has solar and only a percentage have wind generation.

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Old 29-12-2015, 11:13   #7
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

Thanks, Trav, that's why I started this thread. I want to get the opinions of folks who have already set up their systems - pros and cons. What panels do you use, how many and in what arrangement? Like I said, I have a small boat - 28.5'. Bimini will be about 6'x6' or so. I have done a little reading about flexible panels that can be sewn to the bimini, but apparently if part of the panel doesn't get sun, then none of it works. I can't remember what type of panel that's called.
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Old 29-12-2015, 13:12   #8
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

Hi Dave, I am impressed you found the room for the Honda generator! (I'd recommend saving room for a series drogue and/or parachute sea anchor. I have been trying to figure out how to pack my boat too!) I too think the solar panel is the way to go, especially considering you have a lot of extra charging power in the engine and generator. It is the simplest, and involves the least amount of STUFF, and it won't slow you down or drive you crazy with noise. I'd probably add 2 or 3 batteries under the sole on top of the keel (I think there is room in there, just have to be sure they are well anchored.) And don't forget what Ben Franklin said, a watt saved is a watt earned! Now, where to put the panel(s) on our boats? I don't have one on my boat yet, but I have been playing with all the options in my mind. Since I have a large stainless arch that came mounted on mine I'll probably modify it to accommodate a panel, but I am a little wary of the windage. At least in my case though, it would be out of the way of the windvane. I have seen folks mount them on the stern rail along side the coaming and then have them fold up when needed for charging and down in rough weather. I thought that looked reasonable. Oh by the way, I'd probably upgrade to an AIS transceiver like the Vesper so others can see you too, might help you sleep better at night. Hope that helps. You going to go down through the Panama Canal or truck her over to the west coast?
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Old 29-12-2015, 13:39   #9
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

I have solar panels, 4 and 1 wind generator.

But, hey, this is the internet so I am obviously wrong
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Old 29-12-2015, 13:51   #10
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

We live off solar panels. We have 800 Watts. 90% (or more) of the time they are ample.


For a sustained cloudy period we have a portable genset and battery charger.


The biggest problem is that the genset suffers from lack of use.
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Old 29-12-2015, 14:16   #11
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

On my 28.5' boat I have a pair of solar panels mounted on poles on the stern so that they can be rotated and articulated to follow the sun (greatly increasing their output). There's no shore power and no inboard engine so these are my ONLY source of power in Southern Cal (decent sun) and these have been sufficient for the last three years to keep me charged up. Electronics are minimal: all LED lighting, a depth sounder, vhf, chart plotter, a Waeco fridge, and occasional charging of iPhone, iPad, and handheld vhf. Battery bank is 4 x 6v golf cart (~440 ah).
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Old 29-12-2015, 14:54   #12
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

For most places, since you already have the Honda 1000 (and I assume a battery charger?), I would just add as much solar as you can fit and call it a day. However if you will be off the beaten path you might have trouble carrying enough fuel for your generator. That is the only reason I would even consider a wind generator personally, but I find them very annoying.
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Old 29-12-2015, 15:36   #13
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

Great responses here - thanks so much! It's quickly becoming apparent that solar is, indeed, most folks' mainstay. That's what I figured, but it's good to read a consensus. RainDog, I think your suggestion of solar w/ generator back up is on point. And Vancouver25, thanks SO much for the pics of your set up. As I'm sure you're aware, the Triton is very similar to the Columbia - so I'll likely be using your configuration. What panels do you use, and how much do you get from them?

And Don! It's good to see your well-written reply, as always! An AIS transceiver might be a good idea; I'll take a look at them. And the battery bank under the sole would be a great idea...if I hadn't already built in an additional fiberglass water tank there. lol However, I'm going to cut hatches in the cockpit seats and convert both quarter berths into storage lockers - that's where the generator and battery bank will go. I already cut the heads out of both and converted one side into a refrigerator cabinet/galley counter top, and the other is a chart table and electronics station.

As far as how to get there - probably west coast. The trip from Corpus down the Gulf Coast is a rough one that will take some time - doesn't sound like that much fun. Fortunately, I just got a really good deal on a heavy duty transport trailer. I'd like to do the Panama Canal, but I'm thinking that will be a later trip. I'm trying (vainly) to talk my wife into letting me try a circumnavigation, once the kids are out of school. But I think if I want to stay married, that may have to be indefinitely placed on hold. lol
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Old 29-12-2015, 18:50   #14
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

Quote:
Originally Posted by padave29 View Post
And Vancouver25, thanks SO much for the pics of your set up. As I'm sure you're aware, the Triton is very similar to the Columbia - so I'll likely be using your configuration. What panels do you use, and how much do you get from them?
Not sure if they're still available but mine are 54-watt Kyocera panels. A good discussion and relevant info here: Atom Voyages - Solar Tracker

I don't have any exact numbers for output but I'd guess between 5-6.5 amps when the batteries are drawn down and sun is optimum. The controller slows it down once they're almost full. On sunny days I don't even rotate them but if it's cloudy for a few days it helps to "track" the sun.
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Old 29-12-2015, 19:28   #15
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Re: What do YOU think is the best charging option?

No1 put as much solar on your boat as you can reasonably fit and who ever told you solar wasnt any good....don't take any more advice from them.

No2 upgrade you 55A stock alternator to a 100A high output.

With those two things your Honda 1000 with a 40A charger is your back up and you will be charged happy.

Now....let's talk battery bank size because if you think two Costco deep cycle batteries are up to the job....forget about it. Have a real cruiser battery bank or expect trouble.
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