Whilst the majority of the boat owners we help go solar have a cruising sailboat we also help smaller powerboats go solar too. Many of them want a solution to keep their battery topped off so that they can always start their motor.
Too often when having fun at the sand bar with a stereo playing, cell phones charging and a fridge running to keep the drinks cold you go to start the motor to head home and nothing!
Dead battery - top 5 reason for BoatUS & Sea Tow calls
We have seen it happen ourselves when we were recently anchored off Egg Island in the Bahamas. For cruising sailboats this is a beautiful anchorage on the very NW corner of Eleuthra that makes it a good stopover if you are headed to/from the Abacos or the Berry Islands like we were. For smaller dayboats it’s a great stop coming out of Spanish Wells and sure enough a charter dayboat that was anchored up at the beach and had been out snorkeling for a few hours came back and when it was time to leave...nada. Just a key turning and no action.
Nobody wants to end their day on the water with this view!
Fortunately, the guests aboard were in cell phone range and close enough to Spanish Wells that it was only ½ an hour or so of waiting before a support boat arrived to give them a boost and they were back underway.
Many dayboats are T-tops or have a bimini to create some shade aboard which is the perfect location for some solar panels. Often a SunPower 50W flexible solar panel or two will fit, or some SunPower 100W flex panels. Here’s an install of a Grady White 307 with 2x100W panels.
These solar panels connect to an MPPT charge controller which regulates the flow of power to the battery and prevents over-charging. Depending on the size of boat you may have just one battery for everything or you may have two batteries, one for the starter and one for the house loads (VHF, nav, stereo etc).
You can send the solar power to the house battery or to the starter battery. Many boats have a ‘1/2/both’ switch which can be used to combine the batteries in parallel and start the motor also. Depending on space another option is to use a Victron DC to DC battery charger, so your solar charges your house battery which in turn charges the starter battery.
Most installs are DIY and straightforward, there are just a few key components that need to come together and we are happy to chat this through with you over the phone or via emails. Should you have any doubts though it’s good to get eyes on it so be sure to consult with your local marine electrician.
With solar panels aboard it’s clean and quiet power that will keep the batteries topped up and happy so you can enjoy your time on the water.