Selkie, being a small and simple boat, has very little battery storage capacity. Luckily we live in the land of constant sun, and we have a large array of solar panels. When we arrived, we found two group 31 deep cycle batteries, with a total of 220 amp hours, to power everything on board. However, they were seven years old and at the end of their life span. We’ve recently replaced them with two new group 27 deep cycles for a total of 180 amp hours. Our solar panels keep them topped off with only occasional help from the engine.
We still use energy frugally, trying to treat our batteries gently so we can see them live a long and fruitful life. We can’t just plug things into the outlet whenever we want. In fact, our day revolves around the location of the sun. Midday, when the sun is strong and the battery light is on green, we recharge our computer and other electronics. If we get a few cloudy days in a row, we know we won’t be able to use the gadgets as much. It’s no big deal, and we are much more tuned into what a watt of power really requires to bring to fruition.
Before we left the states, we also decided to stock up on rechargeable AA and AAA batteries to power our small electronics. We don’t have a ton of gadgets, but by the time you add up all the power needs of headlamps, iPod player, SSB radio, LED puck lights, alarm clock, CO detector, and GPS unit, it turns out that we actually use quite a few batteries. Luckily, we also bought a Goal Zero portable solar panel (the Guide 10 Adventure Unit), which recharges batteries directly. Again, it’s a constant dance throughout the day to keep the portable panel in direct sun, but it keeps us from getting bored.
More work, yes. Pain in the ass, sometimes. But the panels and batteries allow us the freedom to live off the grid and explore the faraway places in some semblance of safety and comfort.