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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Electric sailboat

As most of you know, my lovely wife and I lost our boat in a shipwreck. That doesn't mean we won't be sailing. Once the ice is off the lake our Oday 19 will be back in the water. While it doesn't have the creature comforts the Ranger 23 had, we've made it work for us in the past.

Last year I did away with the gas engine and switched to a 55 pound thrust trolling motor. Since it's a sailing boat, the motor isn't needed all that much anyway. Mostly, we used it for leaving our anchorage. Once last year the wind totally died and we came back using the electric trolling motor. We traveled about 4.5 miles and there was still plenty of charge left in the battery.

It was nice to not have to deal with a heavy gas motor and gas cans. Because we used the motor so little, a small 30 watt solar panel was able to keep the battery charged.

That was great for the type of boating we did, but what if we use the boat for days or weeks at at a time? One thing I'd like to do is to convert the home made gas can box into a battery box. There's plenty of room for two heavy duty deep cycle batteries. That's great, but how to keep them charged up?

The little 30 watt solar panel would probably not be up to the job. Since we occasionally stay at marinas, it would make sense to be able to charge the batteries at the marina. About 6 years ago I converted a regular heavy duty outdoor extension cord into a 30 amp marine cord. I already had the extension cord it was easy to just purchase a 30 amp male plug and wire it myself.

That was great but this past winter I noticed a lot of marinas have done away with the 30 amp power poles and completely replaced them with 50 amp. In fact, plenty of boats were tied into two 50 amp power outlets at the same time. What the heck where they doing that they needed so much electricity? Arc welding?

Probably not. Live aboard power “needs” have increased to the point where 100 amps barely does the job. Air conditioning is a big power hog, but things like freezers, ice makers, and a whole host of appliances really increases the power draw.

The simple solution would be to buy a 50 to 30 amp adapter. The problem is that they run for over $100. Sure, I could buy one, but If I solved all my issues by throwing money at them, we'd never be able to afford to sail at all.

One good thing now about marinas is that for many of them electric power is not included. How is that good? That means a guy like me who uses very little power isn't paying the same price as a guy who's got the AC turned so high they could use their boat as a meat locker. Once the 100 watt solar panel was in operation we never connected to marina power. The sun provided all the energy we needed.

The solar panel was one of the few things salvaged from the wreck. If it was installed on the Oday it should be able to do a good job of charging the trolling motor batteries. I could even keep the 30 watt panel charging the ship battery that runs the lights.

The best part is that outside of the batteries themselves the project could be done with materials already on hand.



  1. Just remember 2 heavy duty batteries are just that HEAVY. It will be a trade off to think about. I would use both 100 and 30 watt panels on the motor batteries with the charge controller set so when full the other battery can top up.

    1. They are heavy, but I can put them where they'll balance out. At least I don't have a heavy motor hanging off one side of the stern. That's awkward and had to be balanced out as best as possible.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you. It was a set back, not the end of the adventures.

  3. I'm looking at new car options and I'm wondering how your Nissan Versa is working out now you've had a chance to put some miles on it?

    1. We've over 20,000 miles on it. Had it loaded heavily, including a huge pile of stuff on the roof racks. Took it all over the place and did a lot more highway miles in it than we had originally planned.

      No problems at all with it. It's just good basic transportation that's easy on the budget.

    2. I like they have room for us hefty fellows inside. Surprising for a car its size.

    3. I've been told I wear the car well.