The Perils of 110VAC Tools!

I find myself sitting in a marina in Portugal where endless amounts of power are available in 220VAC at 50Hz. The United States runs on 110VAC at 60Hz. The short version to this problem is they are not convertible.

The long story is: The way you can convert 220 to 110 is with a converter that steps the voltage down but still keeps the lower Hz which means your tools will run but just a bit slower.

All of my tools are from the states where 110 is the standard and therefore that is how they are powered. Even the battery charger for my cordless tools is 110! The only way for me to power my tools is to crank up the generator which is from the United States and cranks out 110VAC at 60Hz. It’s like my mini American power plant!

All of this could have been avoided by being a little more selective when I was took shopping all those years ago. Tools do come convertible where you can plug them into 110 or 220 at 50 or 60 Hz. These tools can work anywhere and would negate this whole issue.

If you are planning on going cruising, be sure to buy tools that come convertible so that you don’t find yourself sitting at a marina pier surrounded by neighbors and having to ask them if it’s ok with them that you run a noisy generator on that peaceful day.

How Do We Power Our Yacht While Crossing an Ocean?

Having an electric motor means that we can't fire up the old diesel to charge up the batteries. When we crossed the Atlantic Ocean in July of 2018, we carried with us three methods of charging. The first is our solar panels. We have 200W on the deck and 100W on the stern as fold out wings. We also have a Honda Generator (EU2000i) and lastly we have the electric motor that functions as a hydro generator.

The solar panels started out as a great method of charging when we were anchored, but failed us on the ocean. The deck panels get stepped on accidentally, or things fall on them, or the salt finally kills them. Either way, both 100W flexible panels are dead and not producing any power.

The 100W on the stern is composed of two 50W rigid panels. One works fine, the other panel corroded away at its terminals, literally corroding away to the panel itself with no way of reworking it!

So, our 300W solar system is limping along at 50W.

Thankfully we have the generator! Right?

Actually, the electric motor functioning as a hydro generator has produced all the power we need and fully met our demands. We have yet to turn on the generator and are nearing land after 22 days at sea.

Right now, as I write this, the motor is producing 4.8amps @48vDC. When this is converted to 12vDC with a step down converter, it becomes 19.2amps @12vDC; silently!

Yes, the electric motor that has a very limited range of motoring offers unlimited and quiet electrical production for us as we sail across the vastness of the Atlantic.

We left Bermuda with 15 gallons of gasoline, and it appears that we will arrive with the same amount in the Azores.

LED Navigation Lights

While LED Navigation Lights are a bit pricier when compared to regular incandescent bulb navigation lights, they do boast some serious advantages.

The first and most obvious is that they consume very little power when compared to a bulb. An LED Red/Green combination light will consume less than 1 amp while a similar bulb would consume at least 4 amps! Our anchor light consumes 0.1 amps, and our stern light burns up 0.5 amps.

All in all, running a set of LED Navigation Lights can save you some serious amperage and that will help save your batteries for more important amp draws, such as your refrigerator!

Te next huge advantage of LED over bulb is the incredible lifespan of the light. A regular bulb will burn out in a few months of use, especially if it is subjected to heavy weather where it is pounding around. I used to have to carry spare bulbs because it always seemed to burn out in bad weather and necessitate me going up to the tip of the bow in a pitching sea to change the light bulb. LED lights boast a burn time of 50,000 hours. This equates roughly to 5.7 years of illumination!

The last major advantage of LED lights over bulbs is heat. LED lights just stay cooler than a bulb navigation light, and this means that you have less risk of a burn if you lean into the housing while you are working on the deck. I have only seared my forearm on the bow light once to learn that it should not be touched after being on for hours! LED lights, on the other hand, never get that hot, making them safe to be around at all times.

Lastly, the biggest advantage that comes from LED lights isn't really an advantage of one type over another, but more of a special feature you get when you are fully LED: you can leave your lights on for the entire voyage. Yes, we leave our lights on by day. It isn't that we think we are more visible or safer having the lights on by day, but more along the lines of "we forget to turn them off" by day. The sun comes up and we stop seeing the glow of the lights around the boat. Since there is no penalty for keeping them on, we don't pay it much mind. When the sun sets, we never have to worry about turning on the lights, because they are already there.

When we arrive somewhere, we switch the navigation lights off and turn on the anchor light. The same truth hold for it. If we find ourselves on shore later than we expected, we don't worry about our boat being dark in the anchorage, as the anchor light is always on!

I am not saying that you should turn your lights on and forget about them, but with LED, you can and not have any serious consequences as a result. It makes it so that you always have your lights on in the dark and you don't have to think about it to make it happen.