As anyone that has been following this project knows, we have very few systems on the boat. Right now there is no electrical system--which means no radar, depth sounder, mechanical pumps, water maker, radios, refrigeration, electric running lights, wiring, control panels, etc. Having said that, I think the boat will be very comfortable for sailing and cruising. It just depends on what you need and what your idea is of comfort.
We have been homeschooling for six years. Until this year we did it all with text books, etc. However, this year we transitioned to a computer based program for algebra. We started using Teaching Textbooks which we like a lot. But, it means that we need the capability to recharge at least a laptop or tablet since the program runs on a computer. I discussed the issue with Teaching Textbooks and they told me they are working on a program, to be released soon, that will run on a tablet vice the current requirement to run off at least a laptop. A tablet would be more rugged than a laptop since it has a flash drive not a spinning hard drive. A tablet would also be much easier to recharge.
I suspect that over time we will add some systems to the boat but we want those decisions to be based on what we determine we need not what the boating industry tries to convince us we need. I have looked into solar systems and of course there is no end to what you can install to generate power or the money you can spend to create it or effort and expense to maintain it. As we have done all along, our motto remains the same: simple but elegant. There is no doubt in my mind that solar systems are a fantastic way to meet one's electrical requirements. But, right now, I don't want to add any brackets, towers, or arches to support the panels or add any unnecessary complexity or expense. I have been looking into flexible panels that can be rolled up and put away . . . or moved about the boat to stay in the sun. However, they are very inefficient compared to glass panels. The Pardey's have given me a few tips and shared with me some ideas about how I might approach it. Their ideas sound interesting and of course they are a very simple and fairly inexpensive solution. I will be considering what our needs are and how we want to approach this new requirement.
The 12 Volt Distribution Panel
For the past couple of days I have been working on the 12 volt distribution panel. This is a new skill for me. My mentor says I am over thinking it . . . and he is probably right. So, with some guidance from him I plunged ahead and ordered all the parts last week. A key part of this project has been to build a nice panel box but install it where it is not visible yet still assessable. The best location (truly a major compromise) was to install it on the inboard side of the quarter berth. You can't see it unless you stick your head part way down in the quarterberth cubby hole. I took the measurements of the small available space and came home and sketched out a design. Then I rooting through the scrap wood bin in the shop. I found some mahogany ply left over from the cabin sides and walnut scraps from the cabin sole and work bench top that seem to just meet the requirements. I also found a set of solid brass hinges left over from when I built the cabinets. I made the latch from a piece of teak scrap.
A plywood and mahogany electrical box built from scraps in the shop.
I'll install the negative buss bar on the plywood the box is attached to but inside the box. The battery switch will be located outside the box but next to it.
I have been very reluctant to add a 12 volt system because I don't want the complexity and I don't think it really does anything for us that we can't accomplish in other ways. I think the 12volt system can potentially distract me from the enjoyment I get from sailing in a simple basic manner. And I am no different than anyone else when it comes to technology, let it get a hold of you and you can find yourself spending way to much time looking at an LCD screen rather than at all the beauty and wonder around us. The driving requirement for a 12volt system has been the need to charge a laptop for the kids math program we use for homeschool--Teaching Textbooks. Were it not for that, I would not be spending my time on money on a 12 volt system--at least not now. On the other hand, I do enjoy learning and I have already learned a lot. The system will be built around a 30 amp semi flexible solar panel that will be on a 20' cord. The cord has a detachable deck connector so we can stow the panel when desired and yet move it around to keep it in the sun. The panel will run through a Genasun GV-5 MPPT controller and then to the battery. The distribution panel is made by Blue Seas as is the mini 300 AMP battery switch. The battery monitor is a Victron BMV 700. The battery is a Group 31 100 Ah Lifeline AGM. The wire is Anchor 12 gauge Duplex black and yellow marine safety wire.
I'll test fit the panel box in the next day or so then bring it home and start applying varnish. At the same time, I'll install the platform for the battery under the foot of the quarter berth and start running wire. For now the only requirement is to for a lap top/cell phone charging station at the forward end of the port settee and a separate run for the compass with a detachable duplex polarized connector. I'm sure we will come up with some other "requirements" in due time.
Installing the battery platform. I needed to chose a spot for the battery to be located and then build a platform for the battery to sit on. The AGM can be installed upright, on it's side or, I have read, even upside down. The best use of space was to install the battery under the foot of the quarter-berth. It was out of the way and yet assessable if I needed to access it. I also wanted to add some weight aft and a little to starboard to offset the outboard engine and the 20 gallon water tank in the starboard cockpit locker.
Regardless, the platform had to be strong enough and secure enough to hold the 65lb battery in place even under severe rolling or heeling. The photo gallery below depicts how I fabricated the platform and then installed it. Click on the photos for a pop up text that provides additional detail. I'll add some additional photos as I complete this project.
10 Oct 15
With Hurricane Joaquin nothing but a memory, I spent the last few days working on the solar system. I installed the panel box and the Blue Seas breaker panel. I completed the construction of the battery box, painted, and installed it. It is through-bolted with SS quarter inch bolts and nyloc nuts and I believe it to be very secure. Happily, the battery fuse clears the underside of the bunk board. I also spent some time developing a plan for the routing of the few wires needed operate the 12 volt system. I am very reluctant to drill holes to run the wires without a very good idea of the overall wiring plan. I also need to install a hold down strap to contain the battery in the box in the event we ever suffer a knock down. Installing the wiring will be the focus of my efforts for the next several days.
The battery box is installed. It is through bolted and is very secure.
The 300amp battery fuse just clears the bunk board installed above it.
22 Oct 15: Keep on Keeping On.
The past week has been all about the solar system. Truth be told, right now, I somewhat regret installing it. I loved how simple the Far Reach was. The very thing I was trying to avoid, working on complex systems, I am now doing. And this system has absolutly nothing to do with sailing the boat. Its true, this is a very simple system--a singe 100ah AGM battery with a 30 watt flex panel that is on a 10' cord and can be moved around to keep it in the sun. But, I should be sailing and not wasting my time working on a system that I think, in the big scheme of things, is not really necessary. However, it is the only way I could come up with to charge a laptop, which we need for the kid's school work. So be it. This project is 90 percent of the way complete. I suspect I'll be happy with it once its up and running. I ran a drop to the area of the compass with a quick connect fitting so I can plug the compass lighting in when needed. I ran a drop to the forward end of the port settee for charging the lap top and cell phone. I ran a drop to the chart table area for plugging in whatever additional equipment I might want to power--a small fan, or a vacuum. At this point, I have no immediate plan for lights, GPS, or radios. Just a bare bones system. I went to a lot of trouble to hide everything to include the distribution panel and all the wiring, so nothing is visible.
I still need to install the wire from the deck fitting, down the inside of the brass stanchion that supports the saloon table, under the cabin sole, and to the solar controller. And, I need to crimp the battery cable lugs in place. That should complete the install. I sent the original Solar Flexx panel back to the company I bought it from. It was not set up for a single duplex power cord and required two cords, one for the positive and one for the negative. It was not what I thought I was getting--way to complicated. I just ordered a Gantz 30 watt semi flex panel from eMarine Inc that I think will be a better fit for this project. I'll post more on this project when it's complete.
I wired the the Blue Seas distribution panel is wired up incorrectly. But, my mentor caught it. The red wires need to go to the otherside of the breakers otherwise the the positive side of the distribution panel will always be hot. It was a foolish mistake but fortunatly no harm was done. Compare it to the photo below.
Despite nearly a week of nonstop rain, I completed the solar panel install a few days ago when I wired in the MPPT controller and attached the solar panel. It was a long slow project as I carefully reviewed the wiring protocols for each component (battery, distribution panel, solar panel, and accessory runs) which required that I figure out what I needed and then order the parts. I did not want anything to show in the boat so I had to think about how to hid the wire as well as the 12 volt receptacles which are on pigtails that are hidden when not needed. I charged my phone yesterday and it worked fine. The battery is topped off and the 30 watt solar panel seems to be doing it's job. I'll know more about the system after I have used it a bit. The info I used was a combination of RC Collins' excellent descriptions at his Compass Marine website and my trusted mentor who really guided me along pointing me in the right direction.
I recently ordered a 12 volt adapter and hope that it will do the job of keeping our laptop PC charged so the kids can continue using the CD based math program they have been using for the last few years. I'd like to purchase an Apple Mac Air laptop but the budget won't support it right now. We will work with what we have and see how it goes and adjust accordingly.