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Old 08-29-2013, 10:33 AM   #1
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Possible to forego genset?

Good morning. My search for a first boat seems to be narrowing to older Grand Banks in the 32'-36' size range. I'm looking to buy in California, but will eventually move the boat to the PNW. Once the boat moves north, I can foresee anchoring out for periods of at least a week.

What I'm finding is that many boats in California do not have generators. My question is whether I will need one to anchor out as long as I intend to, or whether it might be possible to forego one.

For example, one boat I'm looking at states as follows with respect to its electrical system:

Battery charger - Xantrex 22
Xantrex 2 kW inverter
6x6v house batteries giving 1005 amp hours
1x8d start battery
All batteries and cables new in 2008

I know that the answer to my question is heavily dependent on my consumption, but assuming that I am stingy with my use at anchor how long will this set-up last me more or less? (I promise not to use the microwave, and the stove is propane.)

Are there any "tricks" to achieving greater energy independence without a generator? More/better batteries?

And finally, if it appears that I do have to install a modestly sized genset, how much could I expect to spend?

Cheers guys!

Steve
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Old 08-29-2013, 10:48 AM   #2
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Lets take the exact boat in your example and consider it.

You have a 1000 amp hour battery bank, and no way to charge it away from the dock except for the engines alternator. Lets assume for this discussion that you plan on anchoring out for a week at a time and that you'll need to recharge your house bank once every other day, which BTW is a very conservative recharge interval.

If, you discharge the bank by 1/2 its capacity, or 500 amp hours then you need to replace those amp hours somehow. In this case you'll need to replace them with the engines alternator. If your engine has a "standard" 60 amp alternator, and if you're house loads are drawing 10 amps of that, then you'll need probably 15 hours of full RPM engine time every other day to recharge the house bank.

I know you (and others) might think that my math is wrong because 500 amp hours divided by 50 amps is 10 hours of engine run time but it doesnt work like that. Without starting an argument about smart charger regulators, just accept that 10 hours won't fully recharge the bank. My 15 hours estimate is a estimate, based on experience, not theory.

Some other considerations about a boat in the PACNW is that you'll probably end up with a diesel heater, which will further increase your loads.

If it were me, I'd only consider boats with a good, working generator.
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Old 08-29-2013, 10:58 AM   #3
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We live in a world of anchoring out with almost all the boats being sailboats. About 1 in 5 does not have a generator. They survive on solar panels windgenerators and running their auxiliary engines to charge the battery. However, they are in the Caribbean with lots of sun and wind.

At this stage I agree with Kevin that you should be looking at boats with a generator or adding in the cost of putting in at least a 4 kw unit to charge the batteries.

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Old 08-29-2013, 11:27 AM   #4
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Thanks. Unfortunately, not what I wanted to hear but it seems it breaks that way more or less often in my search for a well maintained boat I can afford. For what it's worth (apparently not much!), the broker claims that the battery pack is good for 5-6 days at anchor without running the engine. Go figure.

More or less, how much is purchase and installation of a 4kW generator going to set me back?
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Old 08-29-2013, 11:38 AM   #5
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Thanks. Unfortunately, not what I wanted to hear but it seems it breaks that way more or less often in my search for a well maintained boat I can afford. For what it's worth (apparently not much!), the broker claims that the battery pack is good for 5-6 days at anchor without running the engine. Go figure.

More or less, how much is purchase and installation of a 4kW generator going to set me back?
First, as you already know, brokers will often tell you what they think you want to hear.

If you do the installation yourself, depending on the brand of generator you can get away for <$10,000

If you do not have the mechanical and electrical skills, or if you have the skills but not the time figure on another 50 man hours or so to do the job. that many man hours might seem like allot, but its not considering all the work that needs to be done for a virgin installation.

Two years ago we replaced our aging westerbeke with a new Northern Lights 9KW. Including running new wire from the generator to the panel, etc... the total bill was $17,000. The labor part was around $5K or 50 hours.
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Old 08-29-2013, 11:50 AM   #6
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I anchored out for 5 or 6 days at a time once or twice a year in the Tampa Bay area on my sailboat w/o a generator during the winter and spring only. I had an alcohol stove coleman coffee maker and 2 100 AH batteries. Last year we took our Carver 355 ACMY to the Bahamas for 3 weeks and used the genny once. We did however stay at marinas about a third of the time.

If you can do w/o air cond and heat and have a good cooler it's doable. Perhaps the reason Calif boats don't have genny's is they don't need them. Ice in a good cooler in 60-70 degree weather will last several days.
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Old 08-29-2013, 11:52 AM   #7
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When we bought our 36' NOVA sundeck in 1999 it did not have a gen set. As soon as we got it back into our home slip, we bought a new 5K Westebeke at the "boat show" price of $5625.82 gen set and I installed it myself.
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Old 08-29-2013, 12:04 PM   #8
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Once the boat moves north, I can foresee anchoring out for periods of at least a week.
This is the key. When I'm underway every day, I never run the genset. But when I'm not, the genset is critical. Refrigeration is a big consumer of power, especially if you want an icemaker. Plus, the genset is also required on most boats if you want hot water, and a daily shower is high on the list of "must haves" for some of your shipmates.

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Old 08-29-2013, 12:26 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Kawini View Post
For example, one boat I'm looking at states as follows with respect to its electrical system:

Battery charger - Xantrex 22
Xantrex 2 kW inverter
6x6v house batteries giving 1005 amp hours
1x8d start battery
All batteries and cables new in 2008
There are a lot of boats out there cruising without a diesel generator and they get along just fine. There are tons of sail boaters in the Sea of Cortez cruising with Honda 2000 & 3000 gas generators. There are members of this forum that often cruise a week or two with nothing other than a Honda 2000 EU as a backup. Yes, If I were cruising full time, I'd have a diesel generator. (No need to carry gasoline)

For the occasional cruiser who's doing it on a budget, the small gas generators are hard to beat.

Honda EU2000i Super Quiet Generator (EU2000iA) 2000 watt | Wise Sales
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Old 08-29-2013, 12:57 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Kawini View Post
Good morning. My search for a first boat seems to be narrowing to older Grand Banks in the 32'-36' size range. I'm looking to buy in California, but will eventually move the boat to the PNW. Once the boat moves north, I can foresee anchoring out for periods of at least a week.

What I'm finding is that many boats in California do not have generators. My question is whether I will need one to anchor out as long as I intend to, or whether it might be possible to forego one.

For example, one boat I'm looking at states as follows with respect to its electrical system:

Battery charger - Xantrex 22
Xantrex 2 kW inverter
6x6v house batteries giving 1005 amp hours
1x8d start battery
All batteries and cables new in 2008

I know that the answer to my question is heavily dependent on my consumption, but assuming that I am stingy with my use at anchor how long will this set-up last me more or less? (I promise not to use the microwave, and the stove is propane.)

Are there any "tricks" to achieving greater energy independence without a generator? More/better batteries?

And finally, if it appears that I do have to install a modestly sized genset, how much could I expect to spend?

Cheers guys!

Steve
What loads will you require at night? How many Amps do they draw? If you convert house lights to LEDs you will save a ton of Amp-Hours. Run as much stuff on DC to avoid the inefficiency of the Inverter. Load shed and be aware of your loads and battery state of charge.

DC pumps, run your Helm on DC, do not use DC to make AC to make DC.
Same with Wall chargers, purchase a DC-DC power adapter for PC and such.

Propane refer, Propane heat and cooking.

A large and good quality Photovoltaic panel and a wind generator could yield many, many Amp-Hours, they could at least prevent you from going under 50% SOC.
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Old 08-29-2013, 01:11 PM   #11
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Well, I don't agree with some of what has been said before.

First, if the boat your are talking about really does have 6 golf cart batteries, then your amphour capacity AT 12 VOLTS is 660 amphours.

Secondly, if you are frugal and use DC power for just refrigeration and lights in the evening, then your 24 hour amp hour consumption will be about 80, maybe less with an efficient refrigeration system.

So, accepting that you don't want to discharge below 50% (discharging to 85% wont kill them BTW if only once a month), then you can last .5*660/80 = 4 days.

And if you are willing to accept maybe a 1% reduction in battery life everytime you do it, you can go for a full week and discharge to 85%.

One of the cheapest solutions to get to a week is to add a 200+ watt solar panel. The panel, controller and wiring will cost about $700-800. You can up it to 400 watts for another $300-400.

That 200 watt panel will put out about 70 amphours on a good, sunny day. I recognize that this is not always the case in the PNW, so count on 40 amphours.

That is just enough to make it through a full week. If you up to 400+ watts, you can just about anchor out forever.

The other solution which is more costly is to buy a Honda, Yamaha or similar 2000 watt EU generator. But you will have to upgrade your battery charger to take advantage of the full power of the generator. Upgrade to at least 50 amps. That is much more money than the solar solution, not to mention the noise running 2-3 hours each day, gasoline storage, etc.

And of course the final solution is a diesel, installed genset (and a larger battery charger to go with it). Figure $6,500 for a low cost 3.5 KW NextGen with sound shield or $12,000 for a top of the line Northern Lights. Plus $1000, for muffler, hose, strainer and thruhull. Plus another $5000 for someone to install it.
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Old 08-29-2013, 01:22 PM   #12
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We consider boating to be more like camping (as in tent) and have no desire or need for the genset. Never have had one .... never will. We eat perishable foods from our ice box (a good one) and if we're out away from stores more than 4 days we just eat canned and dried food. We eat in way more luxury than hikers or kayakers but way different than home. We eat stir-fry a lot. But we're not often out for more than 4 days.

The only reason I'd ever consider a generator is for a get home system.

Also I'm among those that think that if your genset can be heard by someone you shouldn't be running it. In Alaska that would be easy but here in WA state almost impossible. But I have a low tolerance for noise of that type. If you're near me in a marina and have a loud ballgame on your radio you're on my dung list. In our culture it seems most people think others are like them. Mothers say "what screaming child?". So gensets are annoying enough to enough people that I wouldn't have one just on that score. Just one opinion expressed here. But there are many others.
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Old 08-29-2013, 02:23 PM   #13
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I notice the larger boat owners are saying it's important and the smaller boat owners are saying it's not. As a smaller boat owner a generator would be "nice to have" but not important. My boat is wired and plumbed for one but I like not having it.

Personally, much past 38' and it would be important to me but under that I won't miss it. Larger boats tend to have more complex systems. We like our smaller boat because as Eric says its more like camping. We camped with tents and RV's prior to boating and preferred tents. Perhaps explains why we like smaller boats. If you camped before in a tent and liked it you'll adjust, if you hotel and resort hopped before you had better get a generator.
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Old 08-29-2013, 02:23 PM   #14
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There are a lot of boats out there cruising without a diesel generator and they get along just fine. There are tons of sail boaters in the Sea of Cortez cruising with Honda 2000 & 3000 gas generators. There are members of this forum that often cruise a week or two with nothing other than a Honda 2000 EU as a backup. Yes, If I were cruising full time, I'd have a diesel generator. (No need to carry gasoline)

For the occasional cruiser who's doing it on a budget, the small gas generators are hard to beat.

Honda EU2000i Super Quiet Generator (EU2000iA) 2000 watt | Wise Sales

I second the Honda EU2000i. You don't need a generator in the Pacific Northwest. We don't have AC on our boats up here generally. What you will need is some form of heat if you want to anchor out in the winter. Rather than worry about generators, look for boats that have some form of diesel heat. Much more important IMO. I also use a small solar panel to lesson the impact of my refrigerator..... I can stay out as long as I want with my EU2000i running on the fly bridge for a couple hours (every other day) while my batteries recharge.
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Old 08-29-2013, 02:41 PM   #15
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If you camped before in a tent and liked it you'll adjust, if you hotel and resort hopped before you had better get a generator.


Like Eric, I find generators in anchorages (or campgrounds) annoying to the max!
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Old 08-29-2013, 02:48 PM   #16
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I notice the larger boat owners are saying it's important and the smaller boat owners are saying it's not. We like our smaller boat because as Eric says its more like camping. We camped with tents and RV's prior to boating and preferred tents.
-----------

I like this explanation, Craig you're spot on!!

Having also come from a family who while growing up tent camped and owned small trailers, I loved it. My first boat was a 28' Glasply and we didn't need a generator, never even thought about it. But the boat was setup with an Ice box and propane stove and yes it was like trailer camping. Ice became the limiting factor.

But time and needs change. Current boat is all electric, life and enjoyment without the generator would be impractical. Generator usually runs about 2 hours per day when at anchor and less when underway.

So my advice is to buy a boat to begin with, that is already setup for your style of boating and which will meet your needs.

IMHO
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Old 08-29-2013, 02:52 PM   #17
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Like Eric, I find generators in anchorages (or campgrounds) annoying to the max!
Ditto.

No genset then or now.

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Old 08-29-2013, 03:04 PM   #18
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For what it's worth (apparently not much!), the broker claims that the battery pack is good for 5-6 days at anchor without running the engine. Go figure.
I would not be too quick to dismiss what the broker is saying because how long the bank will last depends on the loads placed on it.

Both my boats are on moorings and have never been dockside to charge. I always have cold beer and light to read and play cards by. But after 4-5 days I usually move on letting my 120A alternator & 3 step regulator recharge my batteries (6-105's)

I have a friend, also on a mooring that regularly anchors for a week at a time. He is a TV watcher and runs a fridge larger than mine. He says he is also never w/o cold beer & food, lights, & TV. He also has 6-105's, a 245 watt panel, & a MPPT controller. Also after he motors home, usually 3 hrs, he leaves his boat with the fridge on and has charged batteries when he returns days later. He does not have a marine regulator but I don't know the amperage of his alternator. This on cloudy Cape Cod.

PS: We both have LED interior lights and anchor lights.
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Old 08-29-2013, 03:14 PM   #19
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I notice the larger boat owners are saying it's important and the smaller boat owners are saying it's not. As a smaller boat owner a generator would be "nice to have" but not important. My boat is wired and plumbed for one but I like not having it.
We had a honda 1KW generator on both our 24 and 28' boats and loved it.

The issue is that here in Alaska you run the diesel heater all night long most nights. This takes more power than folks imagine. For example on our 24 and 28' boats I ran a approx 220AH house bank, and it would be depleted by morning.

On my 47' boat we have an 840AH bank and overnight it will drain down to 50%. Thats with LED lights. As you indicated there are just more systems. Large fridge, icemaker, Satellite internet & telephone, TV, DVD, the list goes on and on.

This is our first boat with a built in diesel generator and I can say that I do not know how I lived without it on our other boats. It is so quiet that you cannot hear it from the fairway at the end of our slip. Even Eric couldn't hear it in a anchorage.
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Old 08-29-2013, 03:35 PM   #20
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The issue is that here in Alaska you run the diesel heater all night long most nights. This takes more power than folks imagine. For example on our 24 and 28' boats I ran a approx 220AH house bank, and it would be depleted by morning.
That reminds me, my downeast boat did have a diesel furnace in it when I got it. Wow, did it eat up power. It had a glow plug in it which ran all the time in addition to the motor. I took it in for service thinking something was wrong with the control. No so, that Bosch glow plug was on even after the flame was established for some reason. Deep sixed it. Cape Cod is not Alaska. There are good heaters that don't use power. They are heaters not furnaces tho.
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