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Sailboat Electricity – Our Complete Off The Grid System

We run a lot of electronics, in fact you might say we’re power hungry compared to many sailors.  Our system allows us to live off the grid while rarely having to run the generator or engines to charge up our system.  In a normal day we power our computers, run our electric cooking devices, keep our cameras and phones topped up and occasionally run our Air Conditioner or our Water Heater.  Considering this is our home, our travel vessel and our office, we think investing in a good power setup is the most important part of our day-to-day sailboat life.

  • Solar Arch & Dinghy Davits – The davit system from the factory left the dinghy susceptible to damage from waves.  Our new davit system not only holds our solar panels but it gets our dinghy up 5 feet higher which makes sailing in seas much safer for us and the dinghy.  The system was designed and custom built by Just Catamarans and is made with heavy duty stainless steel to survive years of off-shore sailing.  It was an expensive upgrade but it’s also an investment that will add value to the boat when it comes time to sell.
  • 1400 Watts of Solar – We’ve been using GoPower! for years and their Customer Service, product quality and warranty is top notch.  They aren’t the cheapest, nor are they the most expensive, but the products are solid.  We have 4 – 160 watt rigid panels on our Solar Arch.  The boat came with 3 panels on the hardtop that we replaced with flex 6 panels.
  • 1200ah of ReLIon lithium batteries – Lithium is worth every penny when it powers everything.  Lighter weight, no off-gassing, more compact and way more power.  Yes they’re expensive, but in the long run they are the best bang for the buck: gonewiththewynns.com/product/lithium-batteries
  • Inverter –  Go Power! 2000 Watt:  gonewiththewynns.com/product/2000-watt-inverter
  • Generator – Our boat came with this Northern Lights 6kw generator.  It’s quiet, works well and is considered the industry standard for marine.  That said, it’s big!  I am looking into a smaller, lighter and more efficient (for Lithium) system which I hope to have more information about mid-2017.
  • M4 LED Lights throughout  – LED’s are 1000x better than the halogens that came with the boat (no heat, 90% less power, etc).  The brand we use is affordable, great quality and killer customer service.  I prefer the color of the Elite bulbs in “Natural White”: gonewiththewynns.com/product/m4-led-lights

We never recommend anything we don’t personally use and love. If you decide to purchase any of these items, please consider clicking through the links here on our website.  The links are affiliate links which simply means that if you click through and purchase (costs you nothing extra) we get a few pennies too. If you enjoy what we do here, shopping through these links are a great way to help keep us creating and sharing.

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Reviews

  1. Steve C.

    I love your YouTube channel and have turned many friends onto it. I will be embarking on the catamaran shopping adventure next year. I know it will vary greatly from boat to boat, but I was curious if you would share what you paid for the dinghy davit system that also holds your solar panels. When I am shopping and comparing boats, it would be very helpful to know the range of value this adds to a boat. If I need to add it after purchase, and I know the general ballpark of cost, I can compare boats appropriately. If you don’t want to post publicly, but are willing to share privately, please email me. Thank you and I look forward to many more YouTube adventures from you!

  2. Cyndi

    Generator – Our boat came with this Northern Lights 6kw generator. It’s quiet, works well and is considered the industry standard for marine. That said, it’s big! I am looking into a smaller, lighter and more efficient (for Lithium) system which I hope to have more information about mid-2017.

    We are looking for a generator. Did you find a replacement for the Northern Lights yet?

    Thanks

  3. Patrick St-Onge

    Hi Jason and Nikki 🙂

    I am currently looking at a L43 from Just Catamaran!

    How much was the expensive Solar Arch/Davit addon?

    I guess you inspect comments before they are posted here, so please feel free to reply to my email…!

    Thanks for being there 😀

  4. Igor

    Congratulations on your excellent site! I like your batteries, LIFEPO4…did you do anything to your alternators to be able to charge the batteries without burning the alternators? Keep up the great website

    • Curious Minion

      If you’ve got a good alternator it shouldn’t bother it.

  5. Nicholas

    for your hydro generator, there exist ones that require no fitting, you just throw it over the back of the boat and tow them, they dont produce as much power as the fitted ones but are very cheap. RAN sailing uses a very old design one.

  6. Rex Jackson

    Is the MAGNUM Hybrid Series Inverter/Charger you removed from the RV for sale?

    • Curious Minion

      That was over a year ago – everything is long gone. Sorry!

  7. Jason

    So are you guys running the air conditioner off of the battery bank? Seems like this is what you are doing. How is that working out? Also, have you considered this type of generator? Seems pretty damn light for the power output. They have both 3.5kw and 5.5kw. Can’t wait for the next tech video.

    • Nikki Wynn

      As stated, yes we are occasionally running our AC off of the battery bank. We can do so because of this device: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/product/air-conditioning-off-grid I don’t know what generator you are talking about (I think you forgot to mention the name) but honestly, we would like to eventually get rid of the generator all together. With a good battery bank, solar and good alternators on the engine, the generator wouldn’t be necessary.

  8. Jeff

    Disregard my last comment – I found it, you guys are awesome. Thanks 🙂

  9. Jeff

    Hi Nikki,
    I was interested in finding out some more about the “Soft Start” solution that you use to run your AC off of your Batteries – I could not find any detail here, do you have a link that you could share or perhaps I have overlooked it somewhere. Thanks……Jeff

  10. Clive

    Hugely informative and helpful – thank you for going to so much trouble to make this information available.

    This might be a bit of a silly question [sorry if so] but I wondered about the different power requirements that you might expect between being at sea [say a long passage] and being moored up somewhere [or in a marina and not liking the look of local electricity prices]. One obvious challenge with solar panels is going to be keeping panels in direct sunlight as much as possible. I watched that amazing video you made where you showed that even a small amount of panel coverage leads to a precipitous drop in output… So I wondered… if you were “at anchor”, is it worth thinking about having 2-3 flexi panels stowed in a locker, but connected on “trailing leads” that you could literally just pull out and position on board to catch some rays? You know, like maybe on the trampoline or the mainsail cover?

    It occurred to me that when you are “at anchor” that you might be wanting to use appliances that little bit more, so a couple of hundred extra watts might come in handy?

    • Nikki Wynn

      We have 1200 watts of solar and 1200 amp hours of lithium battery. We find it is sufficient. Once we are anchored, we make sure to move the boom all the way over though so our panels don’t get any shading. Aside from that, they only thing we wished we had was a hydrogenerator for while sailing. But, sadly there isn’t a good place to mount it on our boat.

  11. Eldon Montgomery

    Love you guys! How are you running your panels, series or parallel or both? How does your system deal with shadowing. I’m now looking for a controller for a 2 panel 765w total rv system and dry camp in shadowing.

  12. M K

    What ever happened with the “hybrid inverter?” Do recommend that still, for landlubber, RV Full-timer computer/tech geek, web-designer in a 37′ Motorhome, who plans to make boondocking his “occupation?”

  13. Daniel Weston

    Have you considered converting your dingy to electric. You can use the dingy Li-on batteries to add capacity to your system when needed. I have an extra dingy battery in my battery box that I can swap out or double up in the Dingy if needed. I have another use for the Torqeedo (lake that doesn’t allow gas outboards) so the cost wasn’t a factor in my case.

  14. Bob Fomenko

    Northern lights generator is pretty much the cream of the crop. The main use for a genset is for air conditioning, which while you can do with your lithium setup, why would you want to? They don’t have a unlimited life span. Also with a good charger you can bulk charge the Lipo4 bank. I say go with Victron. IMO, they have the best products. Haven’t heard any bad about their customer service. When I installed a 3000 watt inverter charger by victron I did have some issues with the size of the wire, and they did answer my questions, but the fact remained that I oversized the wire for safety and had a difficult time getting it in the connector. Still would go with Victron.
    Curious how much your solar bank actually produces on a clear sunny day. Since they are very susceptalbe to shadowing and its almost impossible to not have some shadows on a boat, hows that going? How much do you say you get from solar, and how much do you have to get from engine or genset?
    Thanks.

    • Curious Minion

      All that will be coming in the tech video. Stay tuned!

  15. Jack Patteeuw

    A smaller generator will likely be gasoline, which means you will have to carry a second liquid fuel on board. There are several different inverter generators out there in the 3000W range. That is NOT large enough to run both of your A/C units. They are not truly “marine” units so they may cut out from the low oil sensor being tripped when the boat is rocking.

  16. Russell Gray

    Great video’s and articles. When you say the custom stainless solar panel arch and davit were expensive, can you give me an idea on the cost?? We will add the soloar to our boat after the first year of two and I would like a custom setup.
    We are having a FP Lucia 40 delivered to Fort Lauderdale end of this year for commissioning and Just Cat’s will be doing the bulk of the work. Sounds like you have had nothing but good luck with them and would highly recommend them??

  17. Christopher Young

    This is utterly fascinating. You have the most technologically advanced boat of any sailing vlogger! Some questions:
    1. Not to quibble, but your Mastervolt is not just an inverter. It is also a charger. Do you use it to charge the batteries when on shore power?
    2. What exactly is wrong with the Mastervolt? They appear to be the gold standard for power management on a boat. I wish I could afford Mastervolt! I have Xantrex, which is cheap and gets the job done, but it is not suitable for charging lithium batteries. What brand of inverter/charger are you going to go with?
    3. Why are you considering replacing your generator? You have such a vast abundance of power from your solar/battery setup you almost never will have to use it, so it seems like a waste of money.

    • Jason Wynn

      I am well aware the features of the MV system as we’ve been living off battery power for 6 years now. Xantrex is a fine company that makes affordable products. We have used Magnum and GoPower! products in the past and the customer service is impossible to beat. We are having a major issue with our MV system but I cannot reach the company, only distributors who wish to sell me a new inverter and that is unacceptable in my opinion.
      The Gene is heavy and bulky, we need a system that will bulk charge the batteries, that is all we need. It is necessary, no matter how much solar and battery it is impossible to have enough power.

  18. Doug Montgomery

    Instead of the Go Power Flexibles, look at the Lensun panels. They are ETFE coated (wont fade, get hazy from sun) an have a grippy texture.

    https://www.amazon.com/Lensun-Fiberglass-Semi-Flexible-Monocrystalline-Motorhomes/dp/B01NCKXLTF

    • Jason Wynn

      I have looked into some Italian solar panels with the grip texture however they are so overpriced there’s no way! I’ll have to check these out, thanks.

  19. @TheJollyShiba

    Awesome video guys.. So, what are your plans for the next month? And about your generator, I think you should look at the EFOY, it’s a bit pricey, but man they can generate power without propane. http://www.efoy-comfort.com/ (COMPACT, LIGHT!) I have been doing loads of research for off grid systems, and I think it is something to look at!

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