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Old 01-06-2009, 06:35   #1
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Working Toward the Horizon

I have a Martzcraft 35ft centre cockpit ketch that is a bit like the house I currently own. It was a mess when I bought it but it is comfortable and looks good now. The boat is a work in progress and one that I hope to have as near to complete in about 2 years. She is a lovely boat to sail and hopefully I will get a chance to sail the South Pacific and to South East Asia.

One thing I have learned is to take advice from people but often that means you have to take a lot of advice from a lot of people before and generally you are in a position where you are not able to work out the value of any of the advice. I have had a couple of boats and have enjoyed reading some of the posts on this site prior to registering. Now I am at the stage of doing the sort of things on the boat that will require advice...

I have just installed a Raymarine Autopilot and for the first couple of days I thought I had bought a lemon... I read all the destructions and followed all the steps until eventually I managed to get t working at the response level I felt comfortable with. But, as this will probably suck the life out of the batteries it brings me to an enquiry... If I am going to cruise... how much power do I need... solar or wind or a combination, number of batteries and type. I am sure this is a common discussion...
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Old 01-06-2009, 06:56   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Masquerade View Post
If I am going to cruise... how much power do I need... solar or wind or a combination, number of batteries and type. I am sure this is a common discussion...
First Let me say welcome; Second let me say, what follows is done with much tongue in cheek. Please don't take me too seriously!

You need as much power as you use!


Solar, wind and generators are good! Combinations are even better!

Number of batteries... Hmmm. I think 6 would be good. AGM's of course.

Yes, it is a common discussion. But given all that. It really depends upon what type of cruising you intended, what systems you will have on board, how much time you'll spend doing what kinds of activities.

I started with a spread sheet of the power consumers that I wanted aboard. I then structured what kind of power producers I felt appropriate for me, then optimized the batteries for the power producers, longevity, and maintenance.
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Old 13-06-2009, 13:44   #3
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Aloha Masquerade,
Welcome aboard! Good to have you asking questions. Power is always something to consider and needs a bit of study. I'm going to be going minimal and have a wind generator and some solar panels.
Good luck on your choices.
Kind regards,
JohnL
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Old 13-06-2009, 14:42   #4
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Howdy Masquerade (cool name),

Power consumption is a different "boats for different strokes" kind of thing. I live aboard a 30 ft sailboat. I have a very simple set up, no TV (obviously I have a lap top), all my water is manual pumps, no radar, no generator. Its simple cause thats what I want to handle. I can rebuild a pump but I'm not to good with a/c and d/c systems, I could learn but frankly its just not that big of a deal to pump the water.
My long winded point is -You just have to figure out whats a big deal to you. I think my set up might be a bit extreme, most peole settle in the middle.

Welcome to the forum,
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Old 13-06-2009, 15:23   #5
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Strygalwir gave you good advice--start with an analysis of power consumers, and then optimize your battery charging systems. Here are some articles by Tom Wood that illustrate that approach. You really can't come up with the best plan for your specific situation without "getting your hands dirty", i.e., just digging into the details until you develop an understanding of how to weigh all the alternatives. Posting questions here along the way will help, and you can bounce ideas off our "experts" anytime you like.

12 Volt Spreadsheet

Onboard Charging Systems

Onboard Charging Systems-2
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Old 13-06-2009, 18:26   #6
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Thanks for the comments on Power

I have been playing around with the calculations and spreadsheet of my own and I found that things like autopilots and fridges really burn a lot of power! It is not hard to see power consumption rising to 2k-2.5k watts over a 24 hour period while cruising. No problem if the motor is on but I really don't want to put hours on my almost new engine or burn up expensive fuel.
I will now investigate solar panels and regulators. I will be building davits for the stern to hold the dinghy/inflatable and will mount them there.

Colin
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Old 24-06-2009, 08:35   #7
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Colin;

Excellent! I have found that by far my biggest overall energy consumer is my refrigeration/freezer. Yes, I have a Raymarine S2G, linear drive autopilot, and yes it probably consumes 5 amp hours per hour. Yes, I pretty much ALWAY use it when I am underway. But, I am only underway for 8 - 10 hours, normally per day. And, I am only moving about 10% of the time I am cruising. Also, I find I motor/sail a LOT more than I'd originally assumed (probably 50% of the time).

Your 2k watt estimate is very close to what I use when I am cruising. Even throwing out the autopilot numbers. (tend to be replaced by usage of anchor lights, normal lights, computer and entertainment system while at anchor)

If you run numbers in your spreadsheet, I think you'll find that burning fuel to solely generate electrical energy is a VERY expensive proposition. It even becomes more so when you factor in engine maintenance and depreciation. It makes solar and wind energy sources a lot more compelling. Having used both solar and wind, both are nice, I'd lean much more toward solar.

Lots of posts available on the subject, but I am sure you'll get lots of feedback if you have any questions, comments!

Cheers,

Keith
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Old 24-06-2009, 17:29   #8
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Energy consumption

Thanks Kieth,
I appreciate the feedback. My boat is a work in progress and power consumption is a serious issue.

In a few months I will be embarking on a trip from Sydney to Coffs Harbour, a trip that could take as little 40 hours or possibly 60 hours depending on the conditions. I will probably be doing the trip on my own so will need to have the autopilot working reliably. I have just installed the Raymarine linear drive and all the other bits... a non-G version. It has taken a bit to configure it to the boat and the sails (and my stupidity) but I have only used it on short trips around Sydney which involve about 40 minutes motoring then 4-5 hours sailing. No real stress on the batteries. From what I can gather the 5amp consumption is at max load and max settings but I also think that working on the worst case scenario is more appropriate than foolish optimism.

Hopefully in about another 2-3 I will have all the bits and pieces on the boat sorted. New sails, solar panels, efficient refrigerator, nav gear/electronics and I will head off over the horizon to a couple of places in the south pacific for a year or so. I might add that I will be retired then.

When I slipped the boat a few years ago the bloke working on his boat on the slip next to me said 'There isn't a problem on a boat that can't be fixed with money. The problem is not the problem. It's the money'
And don't I know it!

I agree with your comments about the motor as the source of power. I have a cheap petrol generator that I can haul out, crank over and produce a bit of 240 and 12 volt power as a back-up at the moment but the long term plan is to build some davits for the dinghy. On top of these I will put possibly 3x100watt solar panels. On a good day that should give me about 2500watts reliable. On a bad day 1800-2000watts. Then of course there are the batteries.

Do you mind what you are running... number, type and arrangement? It seems like your power consumption and mine would be similar and I like to communicate with people in a similar situation rather than working from the theoretical. You suggest 6 AGM’s. I would have to find a location to house these. Maybe two in one spot and 4 in another.

I did have a look at the spreadsheets suggested by Hud3 and appreciated being pointed in that direction. Ocean Girl’s (Erica’s) frugality is to be admired, particularly the capacity to live aboard a 30ft boat. My last boat was 27ft and was a little cramped but one of my students (I lecture at a university) did live on the same sort of boat. The one advantage he had was that he was a lot shorter than me. In essence though Erica is right. When I do trips I generally go into ‘shut-down’ mode and turn almost everything off. The fridge is on a thermostat and is only on full power when the motor is on.

Thanks again for all the advice.

Colin


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Old 24-06-2009, 21:15   #9
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Welcome Masquerade,
I am in the process of upgrading a 30 year old vessel, and one of my priorities is getting the electrical consumption down to a minimum. I am also very excited about the LED lights, and some of the other technological improvements that have come about, the wind generators, solar panels etc... Good Luck!
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Old 24-06-2009, 22:38   #10
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From your description, the progress you've made on your boat is a fine thing in that it has become comfortable and looks good. Soon it'll be telling you it needs to go places and there's nothing better than being able to take your home out on the ocean.
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Old 25-06-2009, 07:05   #11
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Colin;

I was joking about the 6 batteries! Sort of. I currently have 4 L-16 type flooded cell batteries for the house bank. They are 375 amp hour deep cell 6 volt batteries. They lasted about 7 years and I'll be replacing them VERY shortly. I would have replaced them with 4 Fullriver DC400-6 AGM batteries. This would give me 800 amp hours. I would have ordered them, but I recently heard that Surrette/Rolls was coming out with an AGM solution and I am waiting to see what they offer. I have 1 AGM starter battery, it is used to start both engines. We currently have 1 24 volt BP 175 watt solar panel (mounted across dinghy davits), Air X wind generator, a Kipor 2400 watt portable generator and 2 55 amp stock alternators on Yanmar 3YM30 engines. We stopped using the engines as a source of power after 3 months or so. They were new engines and I was adding all kind of hours to them and the fuel cost was getting silly. I had the wind generator but I then added the panel to see what it would do. It proved to be a VERY pleasant surprise. With the wind and solar I found I would only have to run my portable every other day or so, when I was making water. The wind generator however proved not as good as the solar. I broke some blades, expensive to replace. I anchored in spots where there was very little wind. I found I was running the portable 1-2 hours a day to keep up when the wind generator was not working. Thus, it is my intent to get 2 more panels for a total capacity of 510 watts. This should cover our usage under normal conditions. I'll put the wind generator back up, that should fill in the no sun void and I'll have the portable as a back-up.

The battery capacity I have has been fairly optimal for our utilization while cruising. It allowed us to periodically live with no sun and no wind and still not have to run our portable generator constantly. After having used it for years, I admit to being a big fan of the portable generators as a backup source! They are inexpensive, relatively speaking, reliable, easy to install, and not that noisy. Since I have to carry gasoline for the dinghy motor anyway, it did not increase my worries about carrying this HIGHLY flammable substance on the boat. I was originally looking at a diesel genset, but the noise, installation, expense and weight were prohibitive for me. I don't use high output altenators, I'd put the $$$ I would spend on them into additional solar other power generating sources.

My experience is you won't get 2400 watts out of 300 watts of panels, normally. To get 2400 watts, I think you're going to need something closer to 500 watts of panels. I have an Outback MX60 MPPT controller for my panels. This allows me to optimize/maximize the output of the panels. It also lets me use 24 volt panels in my 12 volt boat.

While underway, the autopilot is the MOST pleasant piece of equipment I have on the boat. My wife and I hand steered our boat 500 or so miles, and let me tell you, it is not the most fun thing to do. We finally got our autopilot installed and squared away after that first trip. It was such a difference. We set the autopilot, get a book, go to the bow (see better up there, no sails in the way) and just enjoy! The darn thing steers better than we do too, even in high seas.

We will replace our mast anchor light with an LED unit. Since we run it from dusk to dawn it consumes quite a bit of energy. We have some fluorescents, and we'll replace some of our other lighting with LED's. Maybe not all, for reading, I like a bright light, so I make keep the halogen in our cabin and one in the salon. I am not sure about the navigation lights as of yet, not sure the energy savings is worth the cost.

For us, refrigeration is our top energy consumer. I will spend some significant time and $$$$ rebuilding the freezer box. I did this for the refrigerator and it paid wonderful dividends in terms of energy savings. I didn't have the time to do it for the freezer, but it is number 2 on my pre-cruising list.

Cheers,

Keith
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