Practical Sailor tested two small solar-powered bilge pumps: the Easy Bailer (500 gallons per hour) and the SeaJoule Solar Bilge Pump (360 gallons per hour). Each self-contained unit has a small re-chargeable 12-volt battery, a fused low-capacity electric pump, and a pump switch, all housed in a plastic box with a 3/4-inch discharge hose and a remote solar panel. Testers evaluated each product’s performance and its components' quality of construction, features, how easily the unit could be maintained, and how well the electrical bits were wired and protected.
S/V Balaena Skipper Andy O’Grady has taken his double-ended cutter rig to every climate between the Southern Ocean and the Artic. O’Grady explains that imperative to onboard power management and extending battery life is keeping batteries charged and avoiding deep discharges. His tips for long-lasting batteries include keeping the discharge above 50 percent, tracking sulfation, and equalizing the battery bank. Equipment O’Grady uses are Trojan 6-volt T105 batteries, Xantrex XAR Smart alternator regulator, 85-amp Bosch alternator, BEP voltage sensing relay, a Solarex 55-watt solar panel, 75-watt Shell solar panel, and a Rutland wind generator.
First sailed in 1978, the Singlehanded TransPac (SHTP) crosses 2,120 miles of Pacific Ocean from San Francisco Bay, Calif., to Hanalei Bay, Kauai. Practical Sailor contributor and SHTP competitor Skip Allan took time out from his race preparations onboard Wildflower—his Thomas Wylie-designed 27.5-foot sloop/cutter—to open his notes on solo sailing. Last month, the veteran offshore racer and singlehanded cruiser discussed his gear, sail inventory, storm tactics, and his approach to provisioning. This month, Allan focuses on the electronics, safety gear, and routing tactics he employs when racing alone. Allan’s onboard systems include two deep-cycle wet-cell batteries that total 165 amp hours, two solar panels, and a 35-amp alternator on Wildflower’s10-horsepower Yanmar single-cylinder diesel. He has a fixed and handheld VHF, an Icom SSB radio, a Pactor modem for weather charts and weather faxes, and Winlink email. Other electronics include handheld GPS, LED lighting, and a small portable radio.
Battery manufacturers want their batteries recharged to 100-percent state of charge after each discharge. In reality, few cruising boats (or any boats kept on a mooring) return their batteries to 100-percent state of charge after each cycle. If this partial state of charge operation continues, your very expensive AGM battery will soon perform no better, if not worse, than a common deep-cycle flooded battery bank. To keep that from happening, we have a few tips.