Who thinks about where electricity comes from? Until you’re on a boat and off the grid. Because unless you are at a dock and plugged in, you have to make your own power. You can’t start the boat engine, turn on the lights, charge your phone or computer, or run the fridge without electrical power.
So, if you’re at a dock, you plug a big cord into an outlet on a large post and you have electricity. BTW, marinas charge from $0 – $15 extra for power. Some meter it and charge by the kilowatts used.
What if you’re not at a dock? When the engine is running, it makes power and charges the batteries – like your car. When we are motoring down the Waterway, we are making lots of power. What if you’re at a mooring, like we have been at Vero Beach? Or at anchor – like we are now at Peck Lake?
You can still run your boat engine – every day for a few hours. That’s what it takes. Noisy and lots of diesel. Or you can carry a generator and run that. Also noisy.
Plus, it typically runs on gasoline, so now you have to carry gasoline in containers – very combustible (unlike diesel).
But you can also use the wind and sun for power. Some boats have both a wind generator and solar panels. Here is a wind generator; you can see solar panels below, which are mounted on a rigid platform – a sort of super-structure that sticks up over your head at the back of the boat.
We had a wind generator on our boat for our trip in 1995-1996, but were not crazy about it. We also had solar panels. Now we just use solar power. Our solar panels are adjustable and removable. We store them in a lazarette in the cockpit and get them out when we’re at anchor. Goldwin and our son-in-law designed and fabricated the brackets on which the panels are mounted. Instead of a permanent mount, they can be turned and rotated to assure a good angle to the sun.
Unbelievably, they provide us with more than enough power to meet all our needs. You can see below that they are putting over 7 amps at about 13 volts into the batteries. No generator, no engine running, no huge fan blades churning above us – just the panels silently doing their job.
Of course, we don’t have a lot of electrical needs, which is really the key to being able to power our boat. Mostly, our fridge is our power monster, but it is small and efficient – it uses about 5 amps when it runs, which is about 30% of the time. We don’t have hot water, a freezer, a bread maker or panini press, hair dryers, or other energy-eating devices. When needed, we can power our pressure water shower, a little car vacuum, the hair clippers or the occasional power tool. That’s about it – pretty simple. Works for us.