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Old 12-23-2021, 07:08 AM   #1
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Remove flybridge, add solar

I've had it in my head for a while that when my generator dies, I will replace it with a ton of solar. Thing is, for my Bristol 42 tri-cabin, there just isn't any real-estate for the square-footage of solar I'd need or want. But if I remove my flybridge and free-up my entire main cabin roof it wouldn't be a problem. I am also interested in rigging a more substantial headsail as well as paravanes, eventually. Removing the flybridge makes this a lot more feasible. I will surely miss the flybridge - it's where all the guests congregate when we're underway, but I'm willing to make the sacrifice for added energy independence, lower C.G., and easier fitting of headsail and paravanes.

The general roof set-up could be something like 6x320W panels (1920W total). Combined with around 1000AHr (call it 13,000WHr) of LiFePO4, I should be able to generate, on average, about half of the battery bank capacity each day. My daily loads are around 3,000WHr. Anyways, without boring you with the details, after running an energy budget analysis, I should have 2-3,000WHr of spare capacity each day for a water maker, air con, hot water heater, etc. Use any more than that and I start entering an energy deficit and will slowly drain the batteries faster than I can replenish.

So all in all, with an almost 2000W solar array, I think this project makes sense. Less than that, say, if I could only fit 1000W, and I don't think it would be worth the effort and loss of outdoor living space.

Thoughts?

Edit: I should add that I'm not entirely should I would net a reduction in C.G. Solar panel weight would amount to about 240lbs. Flush with the roof, of course, but still not an insignificant amount...
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Old 12-23-2021, 08:11 AM   #2
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People either love flybridges, or hate them. I'm in the former camp, just so you know my bias. As you say, it's the place to gather with guests, underway or in port, and that's where I always run the boat from so I have good sight lines all around.

I wouldn't remove it. My long-term plan is to instead add a "solar bimini" over my aft trunk cabin. Basically a hard-top made of solar panels fitted into an aluminum frame. I'd leave a slot down the center to lower the mast.

A headsail isn't all that practical on most trawler hulls. I understand the appeal, but the gain isn't worth the effort for coastal cruisers.
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Old 12-23-2021, 08:44 AM   #3
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Thanks for your opinion. I'm really torn. The idea of 2000W gets me giddy, and I have to think about how seldom I have a boat full of guests (not often). But the visibility up there is incredible.

About the headsail - you're probably right, but if I could get 1/2 - 1 knot increase in SOG, that would increase my range by 150-300nmi (not that I really think I'd be in a situation where I'd need the extra range) and perhaps dampen roll oscillations a bit. The plan is to add a compression post beneath my mast and beef up the rigging anyways, so wouldn't be much more to add a sail.
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Old 12-23-2021, 08:57 AM   #4
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A friend with a Monk designed Roughwater 37 removed his flybridge. He informs Monk originally had the design without FB but it was added during production for marketing purposes. I personally think the boat looks great without. Boat handles better without, though is a bit snappier as it carries quite a bit of ballast. It's also a sedan and likely looks a bit more normal without a FB.

Really depends on your location. PNW is fine without. Florida would be a loss to lose the FB. I'd guess you would take a slight ding in resale if that's important to you. But the solar may attract some. Location would also drive how well solar works for you. As long as you don't need/want A/C.

Personally, I'd do whatever works for you. As long as workmanship is decent.

Good luck.

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Old 12-23-2021, 09:35 AM   #5
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Do take into consideration that the 1920w total rating of your planned solar array is a theoretical maximum. It assumes the sun is 90 degrees overhead, which can only happen at the equator. Any angle less than 90 degrees will yield less output than the rated wattage.



My Solar array (6x300w) is rated at 1800w. In Sweden, at 55 degrees north latitude, I may see 1200-1300w output on a clear day for the hours when the sun IS AT THE HIGHEST angle in the sky (i.e. hours around noon). In the northern Mediterranean, this number is ~1400w. I was hoping it would be more, but some solar panel efficiency is lost once the panels start getting very hot -- which they tend to do in the Mediterranean.



For home solar installations, you can read about solutions that will allow the panels to "follow the sun" in an attempt to keep the sun's angle as close to the optimal 90 degrees as possible. Such a solution would not be practical on a boat, however.



Solar is still nice to have, but getting rid of your fly bridge will be a rather significant and costly change and you must have a good understanding of the potential benefit before you make this decision. The benefit will not be 1920w!
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Old 12-23-2021, 09:43 AM   #6
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I think I’d look hard at making a solar Bimini and keeping the flybridge. You should be able to get the same size/area, and you could keep the fly bridge.

Keep in mind that if you have good weather for solar, you also have good weather for a flybridge. So they kind of go hand in hand. And I think removing the flybridge would reduce that marketability of your boat come resale time.
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Old 12-23-2021, 10:19 AM   #7
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"I think I’d look hard at making a solar Bimini and keeping the flybridge. You should be able to get the same size/area, and you could keep the fly bridge"
I thought the same. It seems it would be less expense than removing flybridge,control,nav equipment etc. Have you considered this?
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Old 12-23-2021, 10:26 AM   #8
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This is precisely why I posted my idea to this forum. Excellent suggestions. I am very intrigued by the bimini idea. I had considered it briefly, but didn't think it all the way through. Panels would have to be flexible, but that's OK. Alright, back to the drawing board.
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Old 12-23-2021, 10:35 AM   #9
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I second the idea of solar panels ON the Bimini.

The newer generation of plastic solar panels are just a few % less power than the aluminium framed glass panels. The difference in power is almost negligible between the two. But the plastic panels are very light and well suited to a bimini.
You can also add fold-out panels to the railing on the sides of your flybridge. You can fold them out when you need them and fold them flat against the rail when you are docked. Correction- I just noticed yours does not have railings, but you can still have flip-put panels on the side of your flybridge brow to add more panels.

Also, don't forget to use separate MPPT controllers for the panels where it makes sense. The idea here is to separate those that are not getting any sun from those that are so that they do not bring down the output power of the ones that are in the sun.
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Old 12-23-2021, 10:56 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Max1 View Post
I second the idea of solar panels ON the Bimini.

The newer generation of plastic solar panels are just a few % less power than the aluminium framed glass panels. The difference in power is almost negligible between the two. But the plastic panels are very light and well suited to a bimini.
You can also add fold-out panels to the railing on the sides of your flybridge. You can fold them out when you need them and fold them flat against the rail when you are docked. Correction- I just noticed yours does not have railings, but you can still have flip-put panels on the side of your flybridge brow to add more panels.

Also, don't forget to use separate MPPT controllers for the panels where it makes sense. The idea here is to separate those that are not getting any sun from those that are so that they do not bring down the output power of the ones that are in the sun.
is that really a thing? separate controllers? i thought total power output would be whatever the panels put out. haven't studied up on the topic though.
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Old 12-23-2021, 11:07 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Bmarler View Post
is that really a thing? separate controllers? i thought total power output would be whatever the panels put out. haven't studied up on the topic though.
It depends. If the array is organized such that each panel is connected to the next in series, shading on one panel will have a significant impact on output. So it would be best to split the array into smaller clusters of panels in series each with their own controller. But if the panels are all connected in parallel, you need but one charge controller for the lot, as shading on one panel will not negatively affect the rest of the array. That's my understanding, at least. But I think people tend to just say "use as many charge controllers as possible" without understanding the particular array configuration.
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Old 12-23-2021, 11:14 AM   #12
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is that really a thing? separate controllers? i thought total power output would be whatever the panels put out. haven't studied up on the topic though.
My recent installation was on the advice of the supplier. He agreed with your interpretation. I have 2 panels, both going to the same controller.
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Old 12-23-2021, 11:14 AM   #13
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I did this on my 32’ Grand Banks. If you look at the thread Transformation Continues on the Grand Banks tab it will show what I did.

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Old 12-23-2021, 11:40 AM   #14
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This is entirely unrelated to my original post, but I think I'm allowed to hi-jack my own thread - Has anyone experimented with a kite for propulsion with a tailwind?
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Old 12-23-2021, 12:03 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dashash View Post
It depends. If the array is organized such that each panel is connected to the next in series, shading on one panel will have a significant impact on output. So it would be best to split the array into smaller clusters of panels in series each with their own controller. But if the panels are all connected in parallel, you need but one charge controller for the lot, as shading on one panel will not negatively affect the rest of the array. That's my understanding, at least. But I think people tend to just say "use as many charge controllers as possible" without understanding the particular array configuration.
What he said.

Quote:
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My recent installation was on the advice of the supplier. He agreed with your interpretation. I have 2 panels, both going to the same controller.
You are correct, but to be clear, you have only 2 panels and in parallel. If you have them in series, or had more panels throughout the boat, you should use separate charge controllers
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Old 12-23-2021, 12:05 PM   #16
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This is entirely unrelated to my original post, but I think I'm allowed to hi-jack my own thread - Has anyone experimented with a kite for propulsion with a tailwind?
I think you should start a new thread for this. It would be easy to do with a large kiteboarding kite, but someone would have to control the kite toggles the whole time.
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Old 12-23-2021, 12:21 PM   #17
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I would love to have a trawler without a flying bridge. We previously had a Monk sedan cruiser and never needed/missed having a FB in the PNW. I looked for a Camano Gnome (the Troll without the FB) this time around. They are the right size but rare. A FB's extra maintenance, electrical, cushions, windage, etc. just isn't worth the 6 days a year when we sit on our FB for an hour. But as Mick sang, "you don't always get what you want."

I'm not sure I'd remove a FB just to be rid of it. If the upper deck was soft and needed replacing, okay. Ours was, but the PO removed the FB, replaced the deck, including an extension that covers the aft cockpit, and put the FB back on. So that ship has sailed.

Removing a FB to make a sedan might be like the goofy modification to a VW beetle by cutting the roof off and making it into a "convertible." They never look quite right.
Much more difficult than it seems (in fact impossible with the VW).

Adding a bimini to support solar panels is another nonstarter for me. More windage/weight right where I don't want it. More cost/maintenance. Plus, they look like an ugly inflatable greenhouse stuck on top of a boat (personal preference).

Painful as it sounds, after all is said and done it might have been easier and cheaper to trade in and buy the boat that meets your desires.
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Old 12-23-2021, 02:10 PM   #18
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This is entirely unrelated to my original post, but I think I'm allowed to hi-jack my own thread - Has anyone experimented with a kite for propulsion with a tailwind?

I've never tried it. Seems to me it could be quite a bit of hassle on a pleasure boat. However, others seem to be considering it in a BIG way...
https://newatlas.com/marine/airseas-...rgo-ship-kite/
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Old 12-23-2021, 03:35 PM   #19
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Here's a photo from my collection of solar bimini ideas. Not sure where I stole it from, and of course my boat is a LOT smaller. Imagine this reversed and located behind the mast. Any more effort than this and it seems like you're in an area of diminishing returns. You can always pack a 2KW portable Honda generator for those rare occasions when your solar and batteries can't keep up with the demand.


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Old 12-24-2021, 08:57 AM   #20
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Good advice all around. I think the answer may be to sell this boat and get one that fits better with my plans. I suppose I have always fancied the single-level work boat type of look. Seems practical with low C.G., abundant roof space, and low windage.
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