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Date: 29 October 2021. Power from None to Now (the complete series)

janice142
 

This became a multi-part series on power for an off-grid life afloat. It details the order in which I added power to Seaweed. In the series I cover both the mistakes made, and the choices that were spot on. Feel free to learn from my mistakes.

This is the Complete Series, aka Power from None to Now ←this one

For those who prefer their articles in smaller portions I have split it into six parts. They are:

This is Power from None to Now, the complete series.
 


Update: In the previous article I expressed my frustration at not being able to locate a Penguin II rooftop RV air conditioner made by Dometic. I specifically desired the heat pump version. A kind reader named Rob found one in white (my preference) and it is here awaiting installation. I am SO GRATEFUL to have acquired this item.

Of course this is going to complicate my life because at anchor I might want to power said ac and at present have no means to do so long term. Not yet.



 

Date: 7 October 2021. Power, Initial Purchases (#1 in series)
 

As described in the Power to Obtain Freedom (penguin request) article, adding power production to Seaweed has been a priority as the budget cooperated. Although I have now reached a point where power is readily available for needs while off-grid, I've made some mistakes along the way. Here is the litany of steps forward, and backward, involved in making Seaweed self-sufficient off-grid as far as power is concerned.


Initially I purchased a second hand 75 watt solar panel with a MorningStar10 solar regulator. That provided about 25aH (amps) to use per day at the Florida/Georgia border, latitude 30 north.
 

The buoys at the top of this print show the St. Marys Channel which feeds into the river system.

St. Marys is at the demarcation line between Georgia to the north and Florida on the south side.
 

 

The Story of the initial solar panel and regulator purchase:

 

St. Marys, Georgia is at the border of Florida and Georgia on the Atlantic Ocean. Each year at Thanksgiving the locals put on a pot luck celebration for boaters. Of course boaters contribute side dishes however most of us have no means of baking a turkey so there the town folks step in. Locals also create and bring a myriad of side dishes that are both delicious and beautiful. Truly I feel blessed to have attended. It is a favorite memory.
 

Many friendships are started, while others are renewed at the harbor anchorage each year. Plans are made for meeting up later further south and/or in the Bahamas.
 

Additionally, a nautical flea market/exchange is held on property near the cemetery the Friday after Thanksgiving. In 2010 I found myself at both the holiday celebration and the flea market. There I scored, and big!!!

 
 

At the nautical exchange I met a couple from S/V Tsamaya who had upgraded to larger solar panels. They were selling their 75 watt panel, and also had available the regulator. A solar regulator takes the 17 volt power from the solar panel and converts it into a lower voltage that can be accepted by my standard 12-v batteries. I was thrilled!
 

We swapped boat cards, and I paid the $150 in cash. After the sale was completed the couple was kind enough to deliver directly to the cockpit of my boat at the end of the day. How nice that was!!!

 

Before you get all impressed by the fact that I know what happened eleven years ago, please note the back of their boat card. I had taken notes so that I would remember.
 

Boat cards are incredibly useful for cruisers. Taking notes on the back of cards enables me to recall details that would normally have been erased by the sands of time.

 

Details about boat cards can be found in the
Intriguing Possibilities (boat cards) article.

 


After that first solar panel was installed I was delighted. Finally I had reliable power. On average I was getting 25aH per day. Twenty-five amps enabled me to use my netbook, monitor the VHF radio 24/7, power my anchor light, and actually live life more fully.


At about the same time I upped my battery bank from two to four batteries while in St. Marys. S/V I Wanda passed along two great batteries which I installed in a separate bank. They enabled me to double my battery capacity. Those batteries continued to serve me for several more years. Thank you again Christian and Mary.


All boats always have project lists. This is Christian working on I Wanda.

This photograph was taken by our friend Cap'n Bob Winter. You met him in the Time Stopped article.


Power for Seaweed has two components. The first is generation of power. Along with that is storage of same. The solar panel purchased from S/V Tsamaya nicely bundled with the batteries from I Wanda. I was on my way to power self-sufficiency.


Aside: Boaters often refer to each other by the name of our boats, especially if the boat has a unique name. If you live aboard a Dove, or a Wind Dancer it is likely that you will be known by a nickname.
 

That initial solar panel began my quest to have "enough" power generating ability. Newsflash: There's always another product that requires power, thus the ever expanding "need" for same. I'm STILL not there yet, though I can manage all of my needs at present, more than ten years after starting the quest for power. Wants are another thing entirely.


The next part of this series brings generators into the equation. More on that tomorrow. This article became massive. Thus I am splitting it into smaller portions. It is far easier to download a smaller webpage especially when the internet connection is iffy at best. This is Part One.
 


 

Date: 10 October 2021. Adding an Air-Breeze Wind Generator (#2 in series)
 

As described in part one of this series Power, Initial Purchases, I first added a single 75 watt solar panel to Seaweed back in 2010. Later friends passed along two batteries which I added to my system. Though better than where I started by a wide margin, I knew that more would be better. In that regard there were other options to explore.
 

Fortunately I was offered a SouthWinds Air-Breeze wind generator at an entirely reasonable price. Thanks to Ken on Sparrow who installed same, Seaweed was on the river to self-sufficiency at anchor.


This is my friend Ken.


Solar panels when combined with a wind generator meant I had redundancy. This is important because if the sun isn't shining often the breeze is often blowing. If I were to run down my batteries, having the ability to sit tight and have them recharge via wind or sun is a comforting matter.
 

Memory Lane: Growing up aboard our 40'er, one of the things we strove for and eventually achieved was abundance. We had three belt sanders, two alternators, two anchors, a spare shaft, spare prop, extra pieces of steel, two welders (one regular, one TIG), and just one child. Hey, they hit it right the first time -- no need for a replacement, eh?!? Although if I were to be completely honest, Daddy did say one of me was quite sufficient.


But I digress...
Now the stats according to literature at SouthWinds stated that this unit would produce a peek of 40aH. Although I have yet to see those results, I am not complaining. Experience has lead me to believe companies tend to provide best case scenarios when describing their gear. On the east coast where sea breezes are the norm the wind generator was a Great addition to my power situation.
 

Here on the west coast the Gulfport anchorage has good breezes. As a matter of fact, I have seen more sailboats actually sailing in that area than any other since leaving Pensacola. A bit about the town can be found in the Gulfport, FL weekend dockmaster Tom article.



The wind generator post is just aft of my initial 75 watt solar panel.


One gent had given me the Schedule 40 (heavy duty pipe, with thick walls) stainless support that holds my wind generator. And then Dale (you met him in the
Birds and my friend Dale the Welder article) welded the piece together. Dale added a davit I had found by the side of the road to the wind-gen post. He went above and beyond to create a cleat for me to use. That cleat has been even more useful than I had originally imagined. I am grateful.



A night heron is perched on the dinghy davit Dale welded to the wind generator post for me. Note the cleat too.

 

 

When Ken sold the Air-Breeze unit to me he said he'd supplied Air-X blades as his kitties were annoyed by the sound of those blades on his unit. I thought that was a mite strange and let it pass. It was wonderful to have a working wind generator and blades are blades, aren't they?!?
 

Then a square wave inverter was installed aboard Seaweed. It had the worst tone/hum... the sound of the unit running was beyond annoying. Though I love having an inverter I almost always shut mine off at night so the noise won't disturb me.
 

Ken's crew, Erin and Lessa

 

I am in league with kitties. I too know
empirically certain sounds can be annoying.

 


So a few years into the journey I am making progress. At that point I had one 75 watt solar panel with a Morningstar 10 solar regulator. Friends passed along two great batteries which doubled my battery bank. And then I purchased the Air-Breeze wind generator. I am on my way to a self-sufficient life at anchor, thanks to friends both new and old.
 

Free Advice: Make sure before you opt for a wind generator that your cruising area has strong prevailing winds.
 

There are going to be more additions... those will be detailed in the next article in this series. Thank you for reading.



Date: 12 October 2021. Gasoline Generator Added (starting the wrong way) (#3 in series)
 

Shortly after installing the wind genny described in the Adding an Air-Breeze Wind Generator article I moved Seaweed to the west coast of Florida. Those winds I was so used to experiencing became virtually nonexistent where I was anchored. Though I could power my necessities, decadence was rather sparse.
 

For those curious, this is the reason I came to Pensacola:

This is the Original Grand. She is wonderful!

 

 

The Original is truly a grand girl.

How wonderful you may ask is the Original? Well, let me tell you she writes letters. There is something incredibly special about receiving illustrated thank you notes. I treasure them.
 

She is growing up so quickly...

 


But I digress...
After the Original Grand was born I headed east from Pensacola along the Florida Panhandle.
 

The FLORIDA PANHANDLE encompasses the region from the
Alabama state line to the "big bend" where Florida curves southward.


Referred to as the panhandle this region is not just coastal. It includes the area further inland too.


Later, while heading east along the panhandle I met a wonderful couple. I told you about Frank and Jewell in the
By the Shipyard article.  One thing I did not share in that article was the blessing they bestowed upon me. First, they allowed me to stay at their dock for a few days so that Baby could mail me a mi-fi device, thus enabling me to surf the internet.


That area was brimming with pelicans.

 

Jewell was a true gem to take me to a large grocery story so I could provision. It had been more than a month since I had visited a grocery store. My lockers were nearly empty. Alas shopping took longer than I anticipated. All this happened as I cruised along the panhandle of Florida.
 

Jewell and Frank live just east of PANAMA CITY. It is a beautiful area.


In addition to their hospitality, Frank and Jewell gifted me an 800 watt gasoline powered generator. That became a part of my power solution too. Manually starting the generator was possible though it took a lot of strength.
 

 

My friend Irene over on the east coast opted for a Yamaha1000 specifically because she can start it manually. This is an important consideration.

Irene made a cover for her generator
 

Decisions I make are made after careful consideration. Of course I take into mind what will work today, however that is not all. I MUST believe that any purchases made for such things as power (generators and the like) will work in the long term as well.
 

Boaters like me on a budget have to be wise with our money. Selecting items that will mesh into my infrastructure takes a great deal of saving in order to afford such luxuries.

 


Folks with poor upper body or wrist strength need to be aware that pulling a cord to start a generator can be Extremely difficult. It doesn't matter how wonderful the generator is if it cannot be started. This is Exactly why I do not own a Honda2k. I am unable to *cold start it. Now if I could figure out how to install a starter into that unit... but that's a matter for another day.

*Cold Start: A cold start means that the motor has not been run recently. At that point, starting the generator can be difficult. After the genny has run for a few minutes it is considered to be warmed up. Pulling the cord is much easier when the unit is warm.
 

 

How-To start a generator (and this is DEFINITELY all wrong and bad for said genny) however I have seen recalcitrant generators started by this method when *all else failed.

*Definition of all else: Pulling the spark plug, cleaning same, then blasting connections with starting fluid. Also, hitting the air intake with ether sometimes works. Replace the plug and pull cord.

 

I witnessed some former inmates demonstrate this method... apparently in the Big House aka prison, the guards do not allow inmates to use a pull-cord. Instead, this is how they start a generator:

 

First remove the fan casing and fan blades. There, where the fan blades connect to the unit is a spot where a socket can be inserted to spin the shaft like the pull cord would do. They utilized a 12-volt rechargeable drill with a socket to start the generator. Then they would place a fan blowing at the generator to keep it cool.

 

WARNING: I am certain you are not supposed to do this with a generator. I found the method curious and share it here with you as an anecdote.  I  DO NOT  recommend this.

 


Alas, due to my inexperience at the time no doubt, the generator Jewell and Frank gave me eventually would not start despite my best efforts. In retrospect, I suspect a carburetor failure. I would like to believe I am smarter now.
 

That generator was later passed along to Lynn and Dave, friends of mine introduced to you in the Overnight Guests article. Lynn is a fun gal. I hope to get to see her again before she heads off across the Atlantic ocean aboard her sailboat.
 

Lynn is known for her fabulous New York sourced home-made apple sauce. Hers is chunky and delicious.


Lynn makes wonderful apple sauce. It is chunky, and tastes almost like eating the good stuff out of an apple pie. I've tried canning my own but thus far mine is not as good as hers. Not yet anyway. I believe next time I will add more sugar.
 

I am still working on getting sufficient power aboard Seaweed for all of my wants. Needs are met, however wants are another thing entirely. For instance, I cannot run my cube refrigerator... there simply is not enough power to do so. Not yet. The next article will cover yet another step in providing power aboard my home.
 

Stay tuned, and thank you for reading.
 


 

Date: 16 October 2021. Adding Renogy and Upgrading Solar Regulator (#4 in series)
 

After living aboard Seaweed for approximately six years I had accumulated a 75 watt solar panel and an Air-Breeze wind generator. An 800 watt generator was in my charging system for quite some time too. This combination allowed me a minimal level of comfort. True decadence was beyond reach however.
 

I was fortunate in that my cooking was done on a propane stove.
 


Directly across from the stove is one of my FIRE EXTINGUISHERS aboard Seaweed.


I wanted the ability to power a small cube refrigerator I owned at the time.
 

This is the original reefer ↓ Baby purchased for me all those years ago for Seaweed:


I could provide minimal comfort at anchor with just one small solar panel. Because I cooked with propane, this was sufficient. In the summertime having a way to keep the refrigerator running moved up the priority list. I needed more solar panels to make that happen.
 

 

Although on the east coast my wind generator was most excellent, the sea breezes I had become accustomed to disappeared on the west side of Florida. Thus I decided to purchase two more solar panels. This time I opted for two Renogy 100 watt panels paired with a Morningstar30 ProStar solar regulator.

 

 2pcs 100W Mono Watt 100W 100Watts Off Grid 12 Volt 12V RV Boat USA Solar Cells

 MorningStar ProStar PS-30M PWM Solar Battery Charge Controller, 30 Amp 12/24 Volts

affiliate links


 


This is my Morningstar ProStar-30 solar regulator.  I like that this solar regulator displays the
battery voltage in numbers rather than simply colored lights. The precision makes me happy.
 

The Morningstar ProStar30 solar regulator was wonderful. It is a standard version, versus the "better" MPPT solar regulators available. MPPT's are interesting, and now I do have one. Back then though it was beyond my means. It takes a while to save up for the goodies. Details on the differences between the less costly standard solar regulators and MPPT's can be found in the Solar Regulators (Standard vs. MPPT) article.


Because I had an end plan of where I wanted Seaweed to be, I have been able to eventually have everything I desire, almost! Yes, what I have now is totally amazing. However please note that this has taken more than a decade to achieve, and much of it could not have been done without the help of friends near and far. I truly am blessed.



The two 100 watt Renogy solar panels were installed on the top of my pilothouse.
 

Yes, that is my favorite night heron Buddy. His girlfriend is off to the side aft near the Air-Breeze wind generator...
 

Details on the night herons can be found in my favorite bird book, Birds of North America.

I continually flog this book because it is excellent. Frankly, Birds of North America is the best bird book
I have ever seen. A couple weeks ago I again purchased a copy, this time for my Grand. She likes it too.

Side Note: The link provided takes you to a page selling this Golden Guide to Birds of North America. Pick the least expensive edition, as except for the covers the contents are identical. Older copies (more than 50 years old) do have glue issues. After half a century the glue holding the pages to the binding isn't as good as when first manufactured. Aboard Seaweed I have Golden Guides published in the 1950's. Several of my Golden Guides came from our 40'er way back when. Frankly they are the best Bird Books made.

I should get a commission from Golden Guides, though if you do purchase via my link Amazon does monthly deposit a bit into my cruising kitty which is rather nice. Oh, and check eBay too -- the book should be less than $10 unless you opt for brand new.


But I digress...
 

With the addition of the solar panels while on the panhandle, I was
up to 275 watts of solar, plus the wind generator. Life was indeed good.

 

Next I added a larger a/c powered refrigerator. It is a standard 3.1 cubic foot under the counter two-door model.

Buddy is standing in the doorway waiting for me to retrieve "his" hotdogs from the reefer...
 

The refrigerator is wonderful. Like all things boat however it came with complications. Making certain I have enough power was the main problem, especially when days were cloudy.


On sunny days I would be fine. The current (at that time) solar panel wattage totaled 275, which roughly translates into 90 amps per day. [watts divided by 3 equals amps per day, roughly, at the 30th latitude] The new refrigerator required 60aH, which is doable with the first three panels, especially if there is wind.


Having the ability to keep foods cold increased my contentment level enormously.

As long as the sun is shining, I have a working reefer. This is a wonderful life.
 

Having spent years without a refrigerator of any sort, I can tell you without hesitation that having one is a mark of civilization. I am SO GLAD that I have one now, and mine even has a freezer section. Life is becoming more and more decadent... I am indeed blessed.
 

At this point life aboard Seaweed is good. The solar panels provide sufficient power for the reefer when it is sunny out. In seven years I have achieved a comfortable life off-grid. I am closing in on a level of decadence only dreamt about way back when I first bought my home.
 

Thank you for reading.
 


Date: 22 October 2021. Solar on Cloudy Days (#5 in series)
 

Of course any off-grid power set-up tends to be tweaked, improved, and upgraded over time. There are always more projects on a boat. We reach one plateau and promptly extend the goalposts a bit further with the next Great Idea. I started with two 100aH batteries, which doubled to four due to the gift from Mary and Christian. Over the years I have increased that to seven batteries in the bilge. That is a lot!


Being able to generate power is only one part of the off-grid solution. Having adequate storage for said power is critical too. Thus, batteries are a required element. And the more, the better.



 

For a synopsis about batteries aboard Seaweed,
please read the
Batteries Store Power article.
 

Chasing green water, I moved the boat south to the St. Petersburg area.

I've been here meandering around for quite some time. It is beautiful, albeit crowded.
 

Once I arrived in St. Petersburg I was gifted two more solar panels from Bucky. This pair made a Big
Impact. Thank you again Cap'n Larry and Eva. Your panels put me over the top in power production.

The two 85 watt panels were installed outbound above my galley/dinette area.
 

The two Bucky panels increased the total wattage of my solar array to 445 watts. That sounds like a lot, and indeed it is. The five panels reliably provide 150aHs per day when it is sunny. This is sufficient for my decadent lifestyle. Excluding the air conditioner, there is zero difference between my life at the dock or while anchored. Those last two panels secured a relaxed off-grid life. I now really don't consider power at all, unless it is cloudy...

 

 

I currently use approximately 150 amp hours per day.

 

In total I have seven batteries, each with the potential to store 100aH. That means the when batt is fully charged, I have 700 amps. Nigel Calder in his Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual 4th Edition tome recommends that folks like me with Lead Acid batteries not take our batts down below 50% of full. Thus, though I have 700 amps of power it is unwise to use more than 350aH of said total.
 

Lead Acid batteries are the least expensive available. They require maintenance. Details on how I check my batteries is found in the Battery Check and Cheater Method article.

 


I am happiest when my batteries are above 12.4 though that is not
usually possible until the sun shines on my solar panels in the morning.

 

 

 
Cloudy Days Battery Bank Amps Daily Use
normally 150aH
*Charging Via Solar Percentage Available
 
Starting Amps 700aH Batts Full Normally on a sunny day the
batteries recharge to full via solar panels.

*Charging Via Solar ... even on a cloudy day I can generally get in 30 amps via my 445 watts of solar panels.

 
Day 1, start 700aH minus 150 = 550aH plus 30 = 580aH 83%
Day 2, start 580aH minus 150 = 430aH plus 30 = 460aH 66%
 
Due to batteries going down I
would now cut back to 100aH daily...
Day 3, start 460aH minus 100 = 360aH plus 30 = 390aH 55%
 
At this point, Day 4, the refrigerator has to be shut down. I am in a difficult situation.


I do not want to use my Lead Acid batteries below the 50% mark. Although occasionally it is okay and the batts will recover, I prefer to be careful. That is why my batteries last from five to seven years on average.

 


I primarily rely on solar to power my life off-grid.


With the reefer turned off, I can maintain a minimal lifestyle at anchor. Although I won't be nuking popcorn I can utilize propane for cooking. I will still be able to visit Trawler Forum online via the lovely tablet I was given. Thank you again Cap'n Gary for that. I never imagined how cool a tablet could be! And too, my Kindle beckons on these lazy days of autumn... I am indeed blessed.
 


The thing is, as long as I am having windy days I can manage to continue life as normal with the power generated by my Air-Breeze wind generator. It will supplement the lack of solar on cloudy days. Often times, if the sun is not shining there is some wind.
 

I will say that in Gulfport I found the breezes I had missed since the east coast.

This Tidewater center console boat is heading across the bay near Gulfport.


The Problem with Gulfport is that my boat is smaller than most. Gulfport has a great deal of fetch. I explained fetch in the
By the Shipyard article. Basically the danger occurs if there is a long distance between you and the shoreline combined with winds. Winds will cause the waves to increase.
 

For those of us with smaller vessels, it is wise to anchor in areas with nearby shorelines. This means I chose to be out of those winds. Therefore I rely on my solar system for power. Solar when combined with a hefty battery bank enables my life to be incredibly decadent. But there's more to it than that. The next article will conclude the series.
 

Thank you for reading. Happy boating.



Date: 28 October 2021. And in Conclusion (#6 in series)
 

As written about in the previous articles of this series, I purchased a beautiful boat which happened to be totally inadequate for life off-grid. Seaweed when in production was marketed as a weekender. See the Seaweed article for details about her origins. That said, I always knew life at anchor would suit me. Some of my favorite memories when young occurred while anchored off deserted islands.
 

Before I was an adult I had 15,000 miles at
the helm of our 40'er. Life afloat was indeed good.

 

 

 

We were not financially wealthy so in retrospect I suspect some of our choices were made due to a lack of resources. We ate a lot of seafood because it was abundant and free.
 

This early life enabled me to understand that there are a multitude of ways to do many things...

  • The Right way where money is no object and issues can be resolved immediately

  • A temporary fix that will work until a better solution can be found

  • Making adjustments so as to manage until improvements can be made

 

 


In my view folks starting their life afloat should begin boating while docked at a marina, preferably one near a boatyard. Marinas like C-Quarters pictured below with a shaded front porch tend to have boaters sitting around chatting. Those people either have the answer to your questions or know someone who can resolve difficulties. I highly recommend places such as C-Quarters for their down-home friendliness.
 


The blue Hatteras 48 "Lady Pamela" is passing in front of C-Quarters in Carrabelle, FL.

 
But I digress...
Seaweed went through stages of comfort, from minimal to now decadence. There were serious budgetary constraints, thus I did add items gradually. I believe even if I were blessed with Big Bucks that my way has advantages.


The Primary Benefit of being broke is that I did not go all in with any one system. I appreciate that there are redundancies. Seaweed makes power in more than one manner, thus I do not rely on a single means of creating power. Instead I have an integrated system with the ability to capture power from multiple sources. Those include solar, the wind generator, a small alternator on my engine and a portable generator.



On a smaller boat such as mine no one system can consistently provide every bit of power required. I have the ability to make adjustments as needed. For instance, if it is overcast I might forego using the microwave to make popcorn during my afternoon DVD movie time.
 

Instead I can pull out the propane burner and cook popcorn the old-fashioned way.

I do not do without, rather, I opt for a different method to obtain the same end goal of popcorn.
 

The biggest bonus is that if (when!) I make a mistake and take my battery bank down too low, there are multiple means of recharging. I am never stuck. Having options is HUGE!!!
 

One thing I overwhelming advocate for is 12-volt meters, visible from every place one sits and relaxes.

Aboard Seaweed I have six meters displaying the status of my batteries.
 

Like many, I have one battery fully charged that is set aside just in case I need to start the engine while my house bank is depleted. This was a recent addition. The added costs, $100 for the battery, plus cables, terminal ends, and then wiring made this a lower priority than many would consider wise.


For the curious: Yes, I run all seven of my batteries in the bilge together as a single house bank. That is why I have that spare battery on hand. In case I need to start the engine, I have one battery capable of doing so at all times. I have not yet wired it into the system properly. For now the spare batt sits under the port side step into my pilothouse.


S/V Katja has solar panels in addition to her wind generator.

Utilizing multiple charging methods is common among boaters who chose to live off-grid.


I consider solar panels an ideal source of power. There is joy in silently harnessing the power of the sun. As long as the cable (wire) connections remain intact there is nothing to break. Well, actually a solar regulator can fail. That has happened however all those digital meters made me aware that there was a problem before my batteries were depleted.
 

One of my digital voltage meters is aft, starboard side in the corner of my galley.

This picture is from a previous Christmas. I have not yet begun to decorate for that holiday this year.
 

Eventually I ended up with 445 watts of solar, plus seven 100 amp (standard, Group 27) lead acid batts in the bilge. This allows me three days of power with zero input from other sources. Most cruising boats have a two day supply, so I believe I am good in that regard.
 

The main problem with solar panels is having the real estate (flat surfaces) to secure said units. One boat, M/V Freedom solved that by placing his on the fly bridge railing. Other boats such as S/V In Ainneoin mount theirs along the life lines on brackets so they can be raised and lowered.
 

A solar panel mounted to the fly bridge rail in front of black canvas disappears into the background.


Aboard Seaweed my Air-Breeze wind generator does input power provided I am in a windy anchorage. This is generally not the case. I did see two wind generators on a S/V Hodos, a large sailing catamaran many years ago. They were proponents of dual wind gennys having just returned from the Caribbean and those lovely trade winds.
 

I supplement solar with the small alternator on my engine, along with a separate gasoline generator. I told you about some of the issues I had with my alternator "improvements" that basically broke the system in the Upsizing the Alternator - My Mistake article. Definitely learn from my myriad of mistakes during that whole Great Idea fiasco.
 

 

The problem with power is that with each addition to the power available there is that one more item that fits nicely into the "would be great to have" column. From a small cube reefer that could only be used when attached to a power cord, I've upgraded myself into a spectacularly decadent lifestyle aboard Seaweed. It has been a journey, and I'm enjoying it.

 

My original cube refrigerator

The upgraded larger two-door reefer

 


Over the years between the start of my journey and today I have increased not just the ways I can acquire power, but also the number of batteries to store said power. The things to note are:
 

  • #1) Solar panels are by far the most reliable source of off-grid power aboard Seaweed. 445 watts generate on average 150aH (amps) that I utilize daily.

  • #2) Even if there is no sunshine, I do still get in approximately 30 amps per day via my solar panels.

  • #3) Adding batteries enabled me to have increase the amount of power stored. This allows me the freedom to manage what power I have available, using more when plenty of power is on hand.

  • #4) I am always checking my voltage via bunches of digital voltage meters scattered throughout the boat. When the voltage goes down I make adjustments by using less power. This primarily means I switch to propane for cooking.

  • #5) I do have a wind generator. On windy days my batteries are full before noon.

  • #6) Regarding my engine alternator: My 18hp Kubota has a 15amp alternator on her frame. I tried upgrading to a larger alternator, twice, however that did not work out well. See the Upsizing the Alternator - My Mistake article for details on what not to do.

  • #7) A separate gasoline powered generator provides back-up in case I need to charge the batteries when the wind is not blowing nor the sun shining. This necessitates keeping non-ethanol gasoline aboard the boat. I'm fine with that, though some are not.

  • #8) The addition of a spare battery allows me to start the engine when all else fails. This will eventually be wired into my system. Like all things boat, this project has not been tackled.


My favorite thing is that over the years I have with the help of friends created a wonderful home. To you and yours I wish the same...
 

Thank you for reading.
 

If you're interested in life off-grid, what systems have you added to your home?
What is your primary source of power when away from the dock?
 

Regarding the Comments Section, found at the end of every article:

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2021

Categories:  Anchorages, Boat Talk, Boats, Books, Characters, Comfort, Gear, Locations, Money, Memory Lane, Pets,  Recommendations, Wild Things,

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The Archive holds a running list with synopsis of published articles, and links to same.

A favorite aphorism:  All power corrupts, but we need electricity.

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The Cruising Kitty is what boaters refer to as spending money. There's never enough aboard Seaweed!


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