Saturday, July 3, 2010

Power Full

by Ulli

You'd think a sailboat can do well without any electricity, and it sure can as long as you don't want to communicate with people on shore or on other boats.

The last days of the delivery had shown a shortcoming on Cirrus with respect to electricity generation. From the battery to the starter motor to the engine with its fuel pump, fuel injectors, cylinders, belts, valves, to the alternator, to the regulator, and back to the batteries, a single failure anywhere in that long chain of technology will result in a complete failure with respect to electricity generation. And once the batteries are empty, the radio is useless, and even the sat phone will not run. If an emergency occurred, you would be out of luck calling for help.

At least that hole has been plugged. We now have a flexible, roll-up solar panel on board (from West Marine, 60" by 14"), which delivers up to 21W and 1.35A, and fits nicely on top of the dodger. The picture shows Mike (on the left, our CEA, Chief Electrical Adviser) and me holding the solar panel, and, look closely, I have the working sat-phone in one hand and its battery in the other!

But can you actually make a call with only the solar panel connected? Uhm, no. The moment the phone starts transmitting, the power breaks down and the phone switches off. So you can use it only to accumulate charge in the battery, and the make a call. But that suffices.

We actually also have Plan C and D for power failure in the form of a 12V booster battery (its intended primary use is as a backup battery to start the engine) which is permanently trickle charged. It might even allow to use the radio for some time. And we have 2 jury rigged 6V batteries, which would also last for a while if used only for the sat phone.

All in all, we now seem to be prepared - and therefore probably will never need those resources ;-). Anyway, we have Power Full!

In the future I see a fuel cell on board, running on propane. Maybe next race.

I'd be interested in reader comments on emergency power. Anyone having experience with a propane powered generator? How good is a gasoline powered generator?

At last a picture of Bill hugging the mast top. He seems to like going up the mast; at least this is what I have to conclude, seeing him going up a half dozen times in the short period that I was here. Being up there in the cold, 15-20kn winds here in Richmond is nothing enjoyable. Note the fancy ladder! But, we now have a new wind meter installed, and a working tricolor light on the mast top. What a luxury, we will now know the wind speed, and we will not be light flooded from the stern light, when at the helm during the night! By the way, we will have a New moon in the middle of the race, promising some pitch black nights, and dark nights for the rest of the trip.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Dad,
    Sounds like you guys have everything under control. I will do my best to monitor the race but my laptop bit the big one and I am without a computer now. Wahhhhhhhhh! *sigh*
    So I am forced to go to the library or beg to use computers when I can.
    Don't know when I will be able to fix my problem but I will be cheering you on in spirit and checking on your race progress as often as humanly possible.
    All my love
    and hopes for fair winds