When live-aboard cruisers meet each other and discuss boats, they tend to discuss one thing more than any other. Electrics. How much of it you can generate and store and how much of it that you need. A little surprising maybe. But we want to make use of all the fairly recently developed technical aids that have made our life at sea safer and more relaxing. I am thinking of autopilot, electronic navigation equipment, wind instruments, depth sounders, satellite phones and equipment that tells the world where you are.
On top of this, we also find it hard to give up all the things that used to make our land-based homes more comfortable. Things that keep ourselves and what we consume at the right temperature, hot and cold running water whenever we need it, things to keep us entertained and maybe even a machine that washes what we wear.
This all requires a lot of electrical power, some of it supplied at low voltage but more and more at the voltage that we are used to from our previous home. We therefore need to be able to ‘make’ lots of it, store it for when we need it and convert it to the right ‘type’ of electricity. Short of creating an atomic reaction, we can essentially generate electrical power in the same ways that power is produced by your local municipality. We can use sun, wind and water, and we can burn things. In my case I use the sun and I burn diesel. I obviously prefer solar energy. Not just to please Greta. It is also free of charge and it is a totally quiet process. And my immediate plan is to sail in areas where it tends to be a lot of sunshine.
I could install a wind turbine but I have couple of concerns with this. First of all, I think most of them are noisy. And it is a constant noise whenever they are useful. Secondly, I plan to sail downwind as much as I can and when you sail with the wind the turbine will be less effective. Or in sailing jargon, the apparent wind will be less than the true wind. I could also install a hydro generator but the space available at the back of the boat is limited by Saoirse’s swimming platform. So solar it is. And I have to say I am very happy with my installation.
I am writing this as I am approaching Lanzarote after a five-day sail. A really good test of how much power that I need under sails. I have a bunch of equipment that consumes a lot of power but that is not in constant use. Stuff like the windlass (anchor) and the bow thruster (for handling the boat in tight spaces) and the watermaker. But what really draws power is the fridge and the autopilot. The fridge is obviously in constant use and as a short-handed sailor, I use the autopilot all the time that I am on the move.
I have not had a problem with power consumption during my past summer in the Mediterranean. Not even when I had a full crew onboard and made water every other day. But that is because we stayed a lot at anchor and used the engine more. My lithium batteries were almost always fully charged as the sun set at night. But now that I have sailed constantly for several days I find that I can just about generate as much power as I consume. Which is great, but it has been sunshine most days and I can not rely on that going forward. In other words, the Sims will complain when it gets cloudy for a few days and the mayor will have to build another power station. Particularly as I plan to add a freezer before I cross the Atlantic. I will unfortunately have to go for a high efficiency generator that burns fossil fuel and makes noise. One that I will use as rarely as I can. Sorry Greta!
4 thoughts on “31. Being Your Own Mayor”
Hello! I recently came across your blog and am enjoying your posts! Hope you’re able to chronicle your passage across the Atlantic on your blog — I’d love to follow along! Fair winds! ~ Chelle & SV Sunny
Thank you Chelle. I certainly plan to document the crossing. Probably with daily posts on the GPS tracker page. Hope to set off late November/early December. In the meantime it will be boat projects in the Canaries. All the best. Tomas
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Thank you so much for your reply, Tomas! I am happy to learn that you will likely post daily on the GPS tracker page — would that be PredictWind that you’ll use? I’ve seen a couple of other sailors use it for ocean passages (Sam Holmes and Sailor James/SV Triteia). Your Saoirse is such a stunning sailboat; I was just writing about her and you on my own blog; specifically, remarking that I hope you’re able to capture drone video footage under sail on the Atlantic! I am considering a drone, but first, I need to figure out how to use the GoPro action cam I just purchased. 😀 Looking forward to catching up on some posts from your past adventures as well as continuing to follow along on your current ones! Fair winds! ~ Chelle & SV Sunny
Thank Chelle. I am indeed using PredictWind for weather routing and GPS tracking. I would love to try the drone while sailing but I guess that comes with a pretty high risk of losing it. I am sure I will though when I get my new white sails in a month or so. I may post something on past adventures but right now I am looking ahead. In the meantime, I will check out your blog. All the best. Tomas