Power is Critical on Boats, How Did we Install an Inverter….45

In 2016 & 2017 we were hunting for a new boat, we had sold our Grand Banks and were looking for the perfect boat for our adventures.  We purchased a 1980 Hatteras named Sheer Luck, which we knew needed quite a bit of Remodeling & Upgrading  before our adventures began. We spent the next 16 months working on all of our listed improvements which included adding an inverter system. I asked Dan to help write a more detailed overview of the decisions and steps included in the complicated process.

WarningPLEASE DO NOT attempt this effort yourself, unless you are a strongly skilled Electrical Engineer. Dan has the skills & took multiple precautions to not hurt himself. It can be deadly if you are not aware of what you are doing.

~~~~~~~ Here is Dan’s Story ~~~~~~~

When we bought our Hatteras, it had lived most of its life as an East Coast charter yacht. It was set up to run with 3 crew and 6 guests.  That is a heavy hotel load. She was being operated in the Florida and Bahamas area which included heavy use of the air conditioners. With that many persons on board, the water maker, galley, and hot water heater were in frequent use. Thus, when we bought the boat, it was equipped with 2 Northern Lights 32KW Generator sets for power. It had no inverter.

Why is an inverter important to us? An inverter converts battery power to AC line voltage silently.  IMG_1871When at anchor, which for us is frequently, we like the generator off as much as possible, but still want our conveniences to keep going. Key loads the inverter runs all the time are refrigerators and freezer, the freshwater system, toilets, and lighting, as well as battery chargers for the 12V systems around the boat. The inverter can only run for 8-12 hours before we must start the generator and recharge the house battery.

So getting to where we wanted to be, with a nice inverter system, was not easy. The boat was built in 1980 and not designed to include an inverter. You had shore power or the generators, period.  Also, this boat uses a lot of power. It has two main 50 Amp 240/120 Volt, split phase shore power cables, 12KW, and one more auxiliary cable for good measure. The generators can deliver 80 Amps of 240V/120V, at 20 KW. We had to decide how much inverter, and how large a battery, what would it power, and how would we integrate it. At this point I must mention that I am a USNA Graduate with a BSEE in Electrical Engineering, and a Rickover trained Navy Nuclear Submarine officer. I was the Electrical Officer for 2 years. I know a few things.

I did a lot of research. I had inverters in 2 prior boats. One of which, I had installed new. But it was tiny, and only made 120V. I tried to see if a simple small system could be used on this boat. It turned out some of the key loads were 240V loads, so that eliminated many choices.

About this same time my friend Ron Micjan was facing a similar problem on his big Zephyr, (an 86′ research vessel).

zephyrnw.com

Only he needed a 3-phase inverter.  I learned a lot during his installation, with my many conversations with him, along the way. It was to power all the panels but control the loads so as not to overload the inverters. Yes plural. He settled on using 3 Victron 5KW Quattro inverters, wired for 3 phase AC. It was at this point I learned I could wire 2 of them for 240/120V split phase AC, one for each phase.

These inverters have 2 AC inputs (shore power and generator) and 2 AC outputs (pass through or inverting from the battery). So, I could pick one of the shore cables as an input and one of the generators as an input.  I decided to make the output go through one of the shore power supply breakers. This would limit the current to 50A max and made the boat act like it was on one shore cable when we were on the inverter, which is a common practice. I also thought I would need solar or wind as an additional power source for the house battery, so I added a very flexible solar charge controller into the design.

I talked all of this over with Ron, and even stole his bus bar design for the Victron Telecom batteries. I designed the installation to go in the “doghouse” area behind the main deck helm, as it was low, dry, and not in the engine room or under a bed. Inverters have fans that make noise and batteries can smell sometimes.  With his help, I ordered up over $10,000 worth of stuff, which included a pair of 5KW inverters, solar controller, lots of heavy wire, batteries, special fuses, connectors and battery boxes.

Inverter diagram from Dan

In the cold winter in Portland, in a big boat house, the electrical surgery commenced. First was mounting the inverter boxes – had to do some woodwork for good mounting.  Then install the batteries in their boxes in a cramped doghouse. Wow!  img_1550_originalThat was tight heavy work, but Angela pitched in and we got them in and arranged and clamped down. Then I could make measurements for cutting and drilling the giant heavy custom copper bus bars to connect the 8 batteries into an evenly wired bank of 4 pairs for storing 800 Amp-Hours of energy at 24 Volts.  Now measure, make, and install all the battery cables and ground cables.  DC side is done. Inverters power up fine, then are secured.

It was time for the AC side. A careful review of the Hatteras drawings and physically inspecting the switchboards front, back, inside and out was first. I had to ID what wires to cut, where to connect new wires etc. I also had to make some new labels.  A lot of pulling, snaking, measuring, cutting, crimping and insulating occurred. Double checked every wire to the drawings and the inverter manuals.

Then it was time for some tech support. I had to program the inverters to know they were a split phase pair. The Victron rep sold me some computer to Victron adapters and taught me how to use them. Plugged that setup into USB on my laptop and boom, they were setup. That actually took quite a while to complete this.

img_6977I started it up and it worked great. Adjusted a few things and learned what to turn off and what not to do while running on inverters.  We do not run the water heater, dishwasher, 32V battery charger or the crane on the inverters. No big loads. We can run one burner on the stove, and it runs all those important background items mentioned earlier. And we have lights at night without running the generator. It can run a quiet boat for about a day if the shore power goes out. At anchor, the system usually discharges the battery to 65-70% level by morning when we get up and we start the generator to recharge it and run other heavy loads.

What about solar? The sun shines when we don’t need the extra power.  Never built a wind generator, but that is still an option. Extra Amps come best at 12-5 and 10pm to 7am. But I had that fancy controller which was looking for 32-48V DC.  Ah Ha! On my main engines I have huge 1600-Watt alternators that put out up to 37 Volts.  I had one extra 30 Amp circuit breaker on my main 32V(nominal) panel. I decided to wire from that breaker to the solar controller.  When the engines are running when we are cruising, I set up the system to pull 28 Amps off the alternator to charge the house bank and run the inverters. This turned out brilliantly.  We have over 800 Watts of power we can convert into running the light hotel loads while cruising and keep the house battery charged.  We no longer run the genset while underway. Only for charging, making water, heavy cooking or extra heavy loads etc…

So that project was KEY to enabling how we like to cruise, and to keeping the lights on and freezers cold all the time.

What is the moral of the story? The next boat we buy will already have the inverters installed!!

~~~~~~ Hope you enjoyed Dan’s Inverter story~~~~

We did do some cruising without an inverter, up into the San Juan Islands in 2017. It was a bit comical having guests aboard while anchored out & no inverter. When the generator was turned off for the night, we would make sure everyone was in their stateroom with flashlights because when it when off, so did all the non-essential power for the guests. No lights, charging your phone or even flushing the toilet, as the water pump was not working either. Needless to say, it was kind of a “good night John boy” event when the lights went out. We were certainly not feeling comfortable in this situation as hosts with our guests.

Dan and I are both much happier with the inverter running our boat 70% of the time while at anchor. It makes the days and nights perfect, quiet and enjoyable. And you  know the saying… Happy Wife, Happy Life!

I hope you are all staying safe!

Please let us know if you have questions or an ideas for a blog. I might be able to pin Dan down for another technical overview if a request is given!

Take Care! 

 

 

 

Anyone Can Live This life! Let me Walk you Through it….#44

I can’t tell you how many times we hear or read comments about our blog….. “I wish I could do that, I’m not rich” or “I don’t have enough money do to what you do” or any of the other types of comments.

We meet so many other people living on their boat and traveling to cool places. They are doing what we are doing with their own slightly different tweak on it. These folks are from all over the world with totally different backgrounds, boating experience & living preferences, they are “living their dream on a boat!”

Well, anyone can do this, let me share how!

img_1839Everything in life is a choice…. It was hard to see all the choices before we started this adventure, but we see sail boaters living this life with very minimal income. NOW… it isn’t free, but it isn’t more expensive than just living how you live today. AND you can choose where to go, how long to stay and how to plan it financially.

There are so many choices that it is important to get ideas and opinions from others too! Here is how you can do this too…. I’ve outlined some choices below  ⇓⇓⇓ 

Boat Type

  • Sailboat – Don’t use as much fuel, you obviously can sail to put miles behind you. Lots of sail boaters still motor quite a bit, but their small engines just don’t suck the fuel like a faster larger motor yacht
  • Motorboat – More space, bit more comfort, but more expensive to run, more engine maintenance along with bigger fuel bill.

img_6411

Size of Boat

  • Big, Small or Someplace in Between – You want enough space to live comfortable & store provisions etc.  Some people can live in much tighter quarters than others. If you are planning on going far from your home port, you will need room for crew, friends, guests. If you are social, you will need this room too. The bigger the boat the more expensive it is to run & maintain and more costly in a marina. If you get too small of a boat you will struggle with ocean cruising when it is rough. We find it is easier in the open ocean with a larger boat. We have an 80′ boat.

Boat Age

  • Older is cheaper, but more repairs. Newer still has repairs (don’t ever think they don’t), but things aren’t as worn out. You can get a bigger, older boat for less money or a smaller, newer for more money. PLEASE do a boat and engine survey before buying on either choice, because there are 100+ more things they didn’t find.

Supporting Features on Boat

All these options are Cost versus Convenience

  • Laundry – Tons of sailboats only do laundry by hand or at the marina laundry facilities. We on the other hand have laundry on board.
  • Water Maker & Fresh Water Tanks – If you are traveling to foreign countries or long trips, a water maker will be an important feature. You are able to make pure water on demand and keep your tanks full of good fresh water. The size of your water tanks are also important. Consider this when also looking at the number of people and the services you have aboard. You will use more water than you think you will. You can get water in marinas, but some foreign countries don’t have potable water, so be aware of that. You need a purification strategy for all water usage and water sources.
  • Power choices (generator, solar, wind, inverter & shore power capacity) – You will need some type, or multiple types of power to keep your boat working. Sailboats need less, they have less demand for the power. Lots of choices; more power is more money, and maintenance work, less is cheaper but not as convenient. The benefits and drawbacks for each of these choices will be a different blog, coming soon.
  • Stabilizers – This is a motorboat option and we HIGHLY recommend this if you are going in the ocean for long periods of time or more frequently. We can’t imagine not having ours.
  • Fuel Storage – This is important for both sail and motor yachts. Sail boaters don’t need as much and sometimes bring jerry cans with them. In a motorboat you need to consider your range, how far, fast you will be going and how much fuel you will burn on any given trip. Knowing this number for your tank’s size will keep you from calling for a tow!
  • Waste Holding Tanks – You need holding tanks of some size, how frequently you use it, is up to you. We estimate 20 person-days per 117 gallons of tank space. This is our estimate and usage. If you go into marinas, you can use their facilities (restroom/shower/etc) on shore and lots of sail boaters do this. You can also empty your tanks with their sewage pump out service. Another option is to consider adding a treatment system for close shore cruising.
  • Dinghy – Either type of boat (sail/motor) you need a dinghy. We suggest a small inflatable dinghy. If you have a larger motorboat, you can consider two. A larger one that holds more people/stuff and could be used for fishing, snorkeling, scuba, etc. The small inflatable dinghy is important so you can drag it up on shore. Very large ones (e.g. 19′) are too heavy.
  • Bow thruster – This is a convenience, but we find it a necessity. There will be many times you need this when arriving in a marina, the wind, waves, and current are large and/or competing with each other. We highly recommend it. Hydraulic ones powered by the generator or engine are best – battery ones are weak and run out of thrust in bad conditions when you really need them.
  • Engine Type, Quantity and Quality – If you have a motorboat with no bow thruster, we recommend two engines as a must. We really think you should have two engines and a bow thruster. We found cruisers use diesel engines for main power. Gasoline is for outboards and toys. Which brand of diesel is best? The well maintained and cared for diesel! Boat and engine maintenance is work though, and being physically fit is necessary, unless you hire it out, which can be challenging and expensive. Carry important spare parts, they are not at the far-flung cool spots unless you bring them.  It is slow, inconvenient, and expensive to have them shipped. Sailboats are usually single diesel engine, so a bow thruster on a medium/large one is a must. That Diesel is your 2nd engine! The sails are engine #1.

Choices to Reduce your Financial Risk

  • House on land – You have 3 choices, 1) Keep the house and pay mortgage while you are gone 2) Rent the house 3) Sell the house. These are choices YOU need to make based on your income flow and/or reserve cash. I’ve talked to many of our boat friends and most have either rented or sold their house. We rented ours.
  •  Your belongings – You have similar choices here, sell, store or some of both. This again is a personal decision. Most folks we have talked to does “some of both”. Sell or give away what they can and store what is important to them.
  • Cars – Again similar choices, sell or keep. Our feedback here is that cars depreciate, SO SELL them. Buy new when you are done cruising. If you return for a visit, rent or borrow. You are tossing money away if you keep them.

Ways to Reduce Cost

  • Anchor More Often – This will for sure reduce your cost. This is considerably cheaper, BUT, you need a dinghy to go into shore for provisions, laundry, use the internet, restaurants, visit sights/town etc. Some marinas have “pay for dinghy dock services” Also hauling water or fuel if you picked a less expensive way to live. We enjoy the safety & convenience of being in a locked marina (most foreign marinas are gated). It is wear and tear on your generator though.
  • Don’t go to as Many Far Away Locations – Start small. If you live on the USA West Coast, do Mexico, “Baja Ha Ha” rally or “Cubar”. On the East Coast,  do “Salty Dawg” to Caribbean Islands. My point is do something small to see how it goes. Maybe a trial run and not sell your house. Just do the winter away.
  • Don’t Stop Learning – This saves you money for sure! Read and ask lots of questions and learn from those that have done it. There are tons of blogs, books, Facebook groups, Instagram and articles you can read about liveaboards and those that spend a good deal of time aboard their boat.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most folks are happy to help out. Also join a boating rally as mentioned above gives you tons information and fellow boaters to ask questions and get assistance.
  • Use your Points – Gather up your frequent flyer miles, hotel, car & credit card points. Use AAA, Military, Boat US for discounts and use them whenever possible and/or when you fly home.
  • Boat Work – Find trusted recommended contractors to use before and during your cruise. Ask friends/fellow boaters who they used etc. Don’t just go to someone that isn’t recommended unless you can’t move, and you are stuck. Our Puerto Vallarta boat work #26A Shipyard Story #24Shipyard Work for the Boys #23

    Able to do Some of your Own Repairs/Maintenance – This is a must at some level because you could be at sea when something fails or in port where no help exist. You need to know at least your own maintenance schedule and ability to do the engine maintenance; oil changes, filter changes (be aware that there are filters that you might not see or be aware of) water system maintenance, battery maintenance, & general plumbing. Boats have leaks!!

Income Generating

  • Work Aboard – Some folks are able to work while on board. We found internet is very hard to find and poor quality in foreign countries.
  • Write a blog – You can do advertising on your blog, I don’t do this, I may at some point. You need a big following and YouTube video blog gathers more followers. If you pick this, plan on spend a lot of time writing, filming, editing & publishing etc. on a regular schedule.
  • Retirement or Social Security Payments – If you are old enough this is important income to consider.
  • Business Income – If you are lucky enough to have a business that you can leave and it generates income, I don’t think you are reading “My Blog” and how nice for you! Sell your business is also another option.
  • Investments – It is very hard to manage your investments while cruising. Get a financial advisor and discuss a low risk financial plan, and possible income streams.

Stuff to Do

Find Meaningful Stuff to Do

  • Dan does tons of projects making the boat better and safer. ALL maintenance, repairs, upgrades, improvements etc, etc, etc…. He does so much and keeps everything in tip top shape.
  • I do some boat projects, sewing repairs, sewing projects, all cooking and dishes, all cleaning and of course, picture taking and blog writing!
  • Also, a small warning… You will be with your partner almost 100% of the time. Expect challenging times, just work through them and learn.

Above All….. 

  • Have Fun, enjoy your stops, learn about the locations, research the cities, anchorages, communities, and countries you are visiting so you can have the best time ever!

Enjoy your time, invite friends, family to join you.. they will be forever grateful. Walk the docks and meet fellow boaters and listen to their stories!

Feel free to connect with me on Instagram, I have a public site @adventures_on_angelique Add your email to my distribution list on this blog site, so you never miss a blog! – Need help with adding email? Let me know and I will walk you through it.

Ask me any questions, I am eager to help you live your dream by answering all your questions.  email me – ang.enloe@gmail.com

I really hope, if this is what you want to do… you do it,

we have NO REGRETS!!  

Adios, until next time!

Motor Vessel Angelique Takes on Water? … #15

This is a scary thought for boaters to see they are taking on water, unless it is in your water tanks for drinking. Dan tells me… “Keep the sea water out of the people tank!!” Meaning… keeping it out of the bilges of Angelique.

Did I wake you up yet? Good, because safety is #1 priority, and this could easily have happened to us. Dan and I talk a lot about “what if’s” and safety around those items. So much can go wrong and you can die if you are thinking the risks aren’t real.

“People we know; one had a fire and they jumped overboard, the other took on water and was able to stay afloat, but came close to sinking”

So, if we were to take on water that was more than our normal Bilge Pumps could handle. We have portable pumps that can assist with the incoming water. But determining what the cause of the leak as soon as possible and stopping it is critical, otherwise we will be abandoning ship.

If we have to jump in the water an Immersion/exposure suit would be a good thing, which we have.  It is a waterproof dry suit that will increase our odds of surviving hypothermia while exposed to the water and elements.

The other option is to deploy our Life Raft and get in, if we have enough time to do that.  Once we are inside the raft we need supplies. We have to survive (food, water and protection from elements) and attempt to communicate what happened and where we are at. Which is where the  Sea Ditch Bags, EPIRB, (emergency position-indicating radio beacon station) & our Garmin InReach  satellite communicator come in to play.

We work hard to stay safe and not use our safety gear, but if we did, we will be grateful for our planning. I spent one full day early September refreshing, organizing, and putting in new items in our Ditch Bags. When was the last time you reviewed yours? Is it time? Have you done your planning and prep for safety?

One day while we were in Sausalito CA I saw a Chandlery (shop selling nautical items). We love going to these types of shops.

“It is the hunt for what we didn’t know they had, that we need”

As we walked in, we could smell the salty, nautical, items waiting for us to snap them up and have a new home. The owner asked as we browsed the shelf’s “what are you looking for” One of the items was a sea anchor, but the likely hood of them having the right size was extremely rare. Shop owner said “I have one, but it is really big”… that’s what we need, really big. It ended up being the exact right size for us and we purchased it. It had never been used. We felt very lucky as it was an item that we didn’t have before leaving Portland.

Sea Anchor  is parachute shaped and is used in rough weather and/or if we had to stop for some reason in the ocean and couldn’t put down a real anchor. When deployed, it keeps us facing in the direction of the waves and almost completely stopped, about 1 mile a day.

 

 

 

 

If you are a boater you know how important safety is… and I’m guessing that most non-boaters would say safety is really important part of boat life too. Everyone needs a reminder once in a while. Whether you are a boater or just a home owner, take time to checkout your safety gear, smoke detectors/extinguishers etc. Don’t assume it won’t happen to you.  Make Safety First and make it a habit and it won’t be hard.

Wear your PFD/Life Vest! There are so many varieties today, you don’t have an excuse. Do your safety checks and refresh your safety gear not just for big trips for your weekend and river trips.

I’m glad this was just an article about safety and I wasn’t telling you about something bad that happened. Hope you didn’t mind me starting off the article with a scare. It is sometimes needed to get the attention. Please also don’t assume that these are the only safety items. There are so many safety items. Do your own analysis and update what is right for you and your boat, trip, size and risk.

Thank you all for being safe!

STAY TUNED for our upcoming articles; ** Angela called “Repel Boarders @ 4am and Dan responds” (true story)  and ** The Dinghy Saga Continues