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Cruiser Boating Tips | Using Nature's Power Advantage with Solar

Posted By Michael Hall On March 08, 2017
solar_panels_on_boat_bimini

In my last Blog entry I wrote about how to make sure you have adequate electrical storage capacity for your boating for those long summer weekends out on anchor. And what about going that one step further and being off hook but still being able to charge your batteries? I am passionate about cruisers and getting the most out of your investment.

Solar technology has moved on rapidly the last few years and many relatively affordable options are now available for both RV and Boaters. Panels now come in high capacity roll away flex panels to more solid permanent structure panels. I was very impressed with two of my close boating buddies set ups this last year and the amount of power they both got from their systems. So this year I have embarked on a process of research to come up with the best possible option to provide the ultimate natural charging source for our boats and the best installation method.

In my research the first thing to look at was the least amount of panels to the highest amount of output. My research led me to Solar Wholesalers (please note this is not an endorsement of their product and neither have we purchased from them, there are numerous companies out there). Available on this site are 520 watt kits that claimed by the supplier will charge 4 x golf cart batteries to capacity in one full sunny day. That’s quite the claim which I intend to pursue this coming season. This company sells complete kits (minus mounting rails for your boat) with various options. To get 520watts of power you are provided with two panels.

 solar panels.jpg

A solar set up must include for safety the following items other than the panels.

  • Solar charge controller
  • Suitably sized supply cable, minimum 10AWG
  • Resettable breaker (for 520w they recommend you need a 50 amp breaker)
  • Optional control display to show how much electricity is being generated)

Mounting

The best place for both “out of the way” and efficiency is on top of your cruiser's bimini (not resting on it as this could cause mold issues), or your hard top. Typically on a 10’ beam boat with a fly bridge you should be able to mount two panels alongside each other with minimal overhang, I measured our 11’ 6” beam boat last fall and found the panels fitted within 6” of the width of the Bimini.

Our mounting plan is to use stainless steel boat canvass support rails, these are sturdy enough for the weight of the panels and also bend easy enough to create quality looking components, they do not rust and look pleasing to the eye. The method of attack will be to have the leading edge of the panels mounted via the fly bridge and the trail edge having brackets coming off of the rear stays of the cockpit canvass supports. This is a permanent installation.

To mount the front we will employ 4 x 45 degree angled mounts that will bolt through the fly bridge. From here a short piece of bar will be inserted and then two T pieces to allow for the placement of the front cross member. (imagine a hand rail.) The front of the panels will be clamped with U clamps to the front support cross member. For the rear a similar cross member will be made but this time the support arms will connect through am entrance point in the canvass to the rear support struts. The two mounting cross members will be slightly Torsioned upwards to create rigidity and accommodate panel weight and remove negative droop or flex.  Wiring will be fed through the bridge down to the bilge and wired accordingly to the supplied instructions.

Of course not everyone wants to take on such a complex mounting job and I would strongly suggest talking to Len's Cove Marina on Big Rideau Lake about doing this important job for you. They have access to all the mounting hardware as it is standard boat canvas' rigging.

This spring we will be embarking on this project and I will blog the installation process for everyone to see.

So if you are serious about going off hook and want to be really enviro and boater friendly and avoid running that generator, maybe look into solar as an option, the technology is now there and mounting options do not have to look messy.

Happy boating!

Michael Hall

(Hall Of Dreams)

Check Out out Len's Cove Marina on Big Rideau Lake!