WHICH TYPE IS RIGHT FOR YOU? batteries to charge fast so they buy four 70-watt Solarland rigid-frame solar panels mounted on the pushpit, plus a Blue Sky regulator. They also consider a wind generator, but the Sea’s notoriously light air and warm temps lead them to put that budget item toward a Norcold 45-liter portable electric cooler. Alex and Tara’s tally? $1,400 (not including the cooler) Cruising Boat 2 Retirees Jim and Betty are lifelong sailors with thousands of sea miles under their keel. They’re sailing off into the sunset in their new-to-them Catalina 42 and want all the comforts of home — microwave, AC appliances, power tools, big screen TV, robust sound system, and
Because Alex and Tara want to be as off-grid as possible, they need their batteries to charge fast.
rate and potential for off-gassing, there are better options for a house bank. Gel: This is a fancy flooded battery. Instead of liquid sloshing around, the electrolyte is suspended in gel and the battery is sealed. They’re safer than their predecessors, have a higher discharge rate (up to 50%) and last longer. These are a good, low-maintenance option if you want to upgrade from flooded, but AGMs might be a more economical choice in the long run. AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat): Essentially, fiberglass mat is saturated with electrolyte liquid and compressed
between the plates. They offer a much deeper discharge rate (up to 50%), are very low-maintenance, charge much faster than the previous types and, if charged correctly, can last much longer. An excellent, economical choice for a house bank. Carbon Foam: Similar to AGMs but with carbon foam replacing much of the lead, thus tripling the life of the battery. While costing a couple hundred bucks more, they can be discharged 80-100% without damage and charge very quickly. Plus they’re direct replacements for Group 31s, doubling capacity in the
same footprint. They boast many of the advantages of lithium, only without the weight savings. Lithium (LFP or LiFePo4): This ain’t your laptop’s battery. It’s also nothing like the previous types of batteries. Instead of using lead and sulfuric acid, these use a more stable lithium and iron phosphate combo. Ultralight lithium battery systems are more compact than the others, can be discharged 80-90% without damage and can last — are you sitting down? — more than ten times as long as AGMs. They’re also pretty expensive.
comforts — all-LED lighting inside and out, power water, VHF, personal electronics, and a laptop. A windvane will steer the boat, instead of an autopilot, and an icebox will keep their food cold… until the ice melts. With a meager budget, they’re watching every penny they spend, so when an old-timer on the dock suggests cheap
golf cart batteries, they’re tempted. A little research, however, convinces them to invest in two West Marine Group 27 AGMs because they charge faster, last longer and won’t leak. A West Marine high-CCA lead-acid starting battery will take care of starting the engine, and a new Blue Seas automatic charge relay will replace the ancient 1-2-ALL battery switch to keep the two banks separate. Because Alex and Tara want to be as off-grid as possible, they need their
all the nav electronics money can buy. No boat-camping for these folks! Money is no object, so they yank out the four 4Ds that came with the boat and go all out for a Lithionics OPE-Li Never-Die dual-channel battery management system. This super-high-capacity system, designed by Bruce Schwab with Lithionics, is the ultimate plug-and-play setup for boats. Jim and Betty effectively quadrupled their usable amp hours in the same footprint with a safe and reliable system that should last the life of the boat. While their 50-hp Yanmar is in great shape, they upgrade to a high-output Balmar alternator for charging. The addition of five 125-watt Solbian solar panels — with a Genasun MPPT controller for each — on a custom radar arch might
A typical mid-size cruising boat heads south with the Baja Ha-Ha rally. The budgets of ﬂeet members vary wildly.
June, 2016 •
• Page 81
The June 2016 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.