Onboard Electricity System
Electricity or energy production is one of the limiting factors aboard a sailing yacht. To many of us, it is not the first thing we think about when chartering a yacht. However, experience showed that it happens to be one of the most important things before casting off, especially in recent times when the majority most of population is addicted to mobile communication devices. “How can I charge my smartphone?” has become one of the most frequently asked questions, right after “How much more to get there?” and “What is the top speed of your sailing yacht?”
Although the level of comfort of modern sailing yachts is constantly being increased, the source of electric power is still the onboard battery system. On the majority of sailing yachts offered by charter companies, the AC 220/240 V power is only possible if the yacht is plugged on the shore power system when docked in a marina or port. Even though the engine is running, it is not possible to use standard AC sockets, usually placed on the control panel, at the galley and in every room.
12 V ‘Car Lighter’ Adapter
Underway there is only 12 V available, delivered from the boat’s battery system. The most common way to use that source of power would be via 12 V ‘car lighter’ adapter. Modern models of such adapters are equipped with a standard USB socket, so a large part of the problem with charging the mobile device batteries is solved. On classic boats, there is only one 12 V ‘car lighter’ socket, usually placed on the control panel just above the chart table.
Portable AC converters can be helpful, but are not adored by sailors due to their size and weight. They used to be popular at the time because one end would be plugged to the ‘car lighter’ socket, while the other end could produce 220 V for low consumers – not stronger than battery charger or laptop computer. Some boats are equipped with several ‘car lighter’ sockets. Recently, the built-in USB sockets can be found in every room (apart the control panel) as the standard. Some more sophisticated yachts are equipped with built-in AC converters, so one (rarely all) standard AC 220 V socket can be used, but once again, for low consumers only.
Electric generator is also one of the options for providing AC 220 V constantly. Still, it is not as easy as it seems. Such a device is not a standard equipment, so it is needed to demand a yacht equipped with it from your charter agent. Do not forget that generators not only produce power, but consume diesel and are relatively noisy. This part reminds me of one anecdote from last season.
My clients have chartered a nice Lagoon 400 catamaran for their first sailing experience. They did not know anything about sailing and equipment, so they rented a portable AC converter. It is a 25-kilos box about 1.5 m x 1 m in size – and not to mention the noise. As soon as I wanted to ask them what they need it for, the answer just appeared. They purchased electric pancake fryer just before they embarked, so they wanted to test it during the sailing trip. I installed the converter on the bow, spread the cables to the cockpit and engaged the machine. A few moments later, I found my clients apologizing for being noisy to other boats’ crews anchored around our catamaran. Pancakes were done classic way (and were super delicious, by the way), but my clients could not stop laughing about their idea to take that portable devil’s product.
At the end of the day, AC 220 V aboard a sailing yacht is not as needed as it seems. Small size solar chargers for mobile devices are available and cheap, as well as power banks if other sockets are already taken by other crew members. Devices such as hair dryers, kitchen mixers and blenders or microwave ovens are neither popular nor necessary aboard a sailing yacht. If you disagree, then you should either plan to be provided by the shore power, or pay extra for the yacht equipped with the generator.
Read more tips about water supplies onboard here.
I wish you calm seas, fair winds and a strong mast!