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Old 14-08-2019, 12:34   #1
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Buying a boat in Europe - the 230V 50Hz problem

Hi all,

if one’s desire is to buy a sailboat that is made from Aluminum, has a lifting keel and a deck saloon with good view to the outside, offers on the east coast seem to be pretty rare, at least in the 45 feet class.
France and the Netherlands have both a great history in building blue water capable aluminum sailboats in many different styles. These boat yards are often rather small and many of them offer semi custom as well as completely custom made boats which are perfectly blue water capable and preferably used in higher latitudes.

The problem is that these boats, if bought new, are insanely expensive compared to a more standard sailboat the same size. A 45 feet boat easily makes it to more than 700k Euros which currently equals about 780k Dollar.

A way around this is always trying to find a good preowned boat. However, I was told that that solution may come with a potential significant caveat.

A used boat purchased in Europe will have an AC electrical system that uses 230V 50Hz and not 115V 60Hz like standard here. I was told that a boat that is brought permanent to the US, registered and insured here would need an AC system in complinace with the standard here, so 115V 60Hz.
Is that true?
If yes and I assume it is yes the boat would need to be changed to 115V 60Hz electrical system which is probably not so easy and for sure expensive.
Would there be a technical way around it

I appreciate every input

Thanks
Chris
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Old 14-08-2019, 13:07   #2
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Re: Buying a boat in Europe - the 230V 50Hz problem

Quote:
Originally Posted by miraculix View Post
Hi all,

if one’s desire is to buy a sailboat that is made from Aluminum, has a lifting keel and a deck saloon with good view to the outside, offers on the east coast seem to be pretty rare, at least in the 45 feet class.
France and the Netherlands have both a great history in building blue water capable aluminum sailboats in many different styles. These boat yards are often rather small and many of them offer semi custom as well as completely custom made boats which are perfectly blue water capable and preferably used in higher latitudes.

The problem is that these boats, if bought new, are insanely expensive compared to a more standard sailboat the same size. A 45 feet boat easily makes it to more than 700k Euros which currently equals about 780k Dollar.

A way around this is always trying to find a good preowned boat. However, I was told that that solution may come with a potential significant caveat.

A used boat purchased in Europe will have an AC electrical system that uses 230V 50Hz and not 115V 60Hz like standard here. I was told that a boat that is brought permanent to the US, registered and insured here would need an AC system in complinace with the standard here, so 115V 60Hz.
Is that true?
If yes and I assume it is yes the boat would need to be changed to 115V 60Hz electrical system which is probably not so easy and for sure expensive.
Would there be a technical way around it

I appreciate every input

Thanks
Chris
I bought a French cat and converted it from 220 to 110, it was by and large a non-issue for me, but may not be for you. There are a few things to think about and several options.
1. Are there any AC driven motors on board, like air conditioners? If so, they're going to be impacted by the 50hz versus 60hz and the voltage. Nothing else will care about the hz except maybe a microwave, so that's basically a non-issue otherwise.
2. The hot water heater element will probably have to be replaced or else you'll have to live with it heating at 1/4 the normal rate due to the voltage change. That was quick and easy for me.
3. If the boat is only sold in Europe it's likely they sized the wiring for 220 which is half the amperage for any given load of U.S. 110. Fortunately for me, FP puts U.S. gauge wiring in every boat, so it was easy to just change out the circuit breakers and put everything back to U.S. wattage. If that's not the case for you then you may have to either accept half the wattage on your circuits and rewire things like AC or hot water heaters that need a given wattage.
4. It was pretty easy to change out the European plugs for U.S., but I could just have easily bought a dozen adapters for $10 on Amazon and used those. I only changed out so I could put GFCI outlets on, and left one for ambiance!

If, after reading all that you determine that your potential boat would need a lot of work, you do have some options that involve leaving the boat 220. Keep in mind that pretty much every piece of electronics now works on 110/60 or 220/50 with nothing more than a plug converter, so you really won't need to buy any new stuff to just stay with 220.
1. You can buy an isolation transformer and convert the U.S. 110V to 220V as soon as the power comes on the boat. I just installed a Charles iso-G2 and it wasn't too hard, but I am an electrical engineer. One issue with that is that it doesn't convert frequency and your motors may be impacted by the higher frequency. A frequency converter isn't easy or cheap.
2. You can either install or use a 220V/50Hz generator and just run that when you need power or maybe when you need AC if you run into that issue with option 1 above.
3. You can install a large 220V/50Hz inverter. Coupled with a large 110V charger. Run all the AC off the inverter, depend on the charger to keep the battery up. The issue I saw when considering this was not the inverter but the charger. I really couldn't find 3.5 kW 12V DC chargers, let alone 7 kW ones, and of course the wires for 12V become cumbersome with size at that amperage.

Good luck!
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Old 14-08-2019, 17:13   #3
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Re: Buying a boat in Europe - the 230V 50Hz problem

Hi,
thank you for your comprehensive explanation of ways to deal with European voltage.
Unfortunately, I am pretty much a dummy if it comes to electricity, my advantage is that I am well aware of it and have accepted it ...
Which means that in my case this would be something that has to be done by a professional just to make sure the boat doesn't fill with smoke as soon as I would start any of the appliances. However, reading your description I get the sense that it's doable and not completely unreasonable.
I would assume that it has to be done professionally to pass a survey so that the boat can have hull insurance?
Would it be reasonable to discuss this with a potential surveyor to get a better idea of what he would think is a solution that could pass the survey?
Does anyone have experience with that?
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Old 14-08-2019, 18:39   #4
Ben
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Re: Buying a boat in Europe - the 230V 50Hz problem

I have a French boat that was wired for 220v with a 220v charger. My boat will now accept either 220v or 110v shore power and I have sockets to run either 220v or 110v appliances. This was not expensive to accomplish.

I have a step-up transformer that accepts 110v shore power and sends it through the boat's original wiring. A switch can be turned to bypass the transformer and accept 220v directly. So it is easy to pick either one for input.

At the other end I have both 110v and 220v inverters taking power from the 12v DC system. So I can run both US and EU appliances.

This seemed like a cheap fix and I haven't had any problems with it.
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Old 14-08-2019, 18:43   #5
Ben
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Re: Buying a boat in Europe - the 230V 50Hz problem

Clarification: I should have said that the step-up transformer accepts 110v shore power and transforms it to 220v before sending it through the boat's original wiring.
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Old 15-08-2019, 05:22   #6
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Re: Buying a boat in Europe - the 230V 50Hz problem

@Ben
thanks for the info, this is again reassuring that it can be done.

One of the remaining questions would be how this would be appraised during a survey for an insurance company.
If I would buy a boat in Europe I would have a survey there before I sign on the dotted line. However, I assume that an insurance company here would like to see a survey from a US marine surveyor before the give me hull insurance.
Someone with experience in that regard?
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Old 15-08-2019, 05:38   #7
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Re: Buying a boat in Europe - the 230V 50Hz problem

I just had an insurance survey in the US last month and it was not an issue. The surveyor found that a couple of the 220v sockets that got power directly from shore power were not in working order. The insurance company did not care. I don't care either because I never use them. If I have a 220v appliance I use the 220v inverter working off the 12v DC system.

In summary, I can accept either 110v or 220v shore power, and run both 110v and 220v appliances, both at the same time. Neither the transformer nor the inverter is expensive.

What was expensive, but probably not necessary for you, are my two new Lithium batteries and Victron controller. But the rest of it was installed years ago just after I bought the boat. I also recently replaced the transformer as the old one had died. Get a good one it's not much more expensive.
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Old 15-08-2019, 10:17   #8
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Re: Buying a boat in Europe - the 230V 50Hz problem

No, that is not true. Obviously you can't plug directly into the standard US 30a 120v AC marina electrical systems but there are many options, transformers being just one. We brought a Euro boat from Tahiti into the US and bought ($600) a device called a "Smart Y" cable. Simple plug the arms of the Y in to both outlets on the standard US 30 amp receptacles and the single cord of the cable (bottom of the Y) into your boat. If your boat has two 230v AC load groups you will only be able to utilize one at a time. One air-con, one water heater etc. while at the dock.
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Old 15-08-2019, 17:01   #9
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Re: Buying a boat in Europe - the 230V 50Hz problem

Given you stated level of expertize I suggest getting an electricion to look at the boat as part of the prepurchase survey. They can then recoment any adaptions needed and give you a costing. Every boat is going to be different. The price tag you mention though reflects a lot more than small scale production in alluminium. You will find tha everything from the wiring to the rigging and sails is at a much higher spec than a 'standard' boat. These boats are build for offshore cruising not coastal hops and marina living and the price reflects it. Well worth it if you can raise the cash and probably not as much extra as you think as there will be a lot less to spend in preparing the boat for cruising.
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