Meeting onboard power demands can be a challenge
5/3/2021

As boat owners demand ever more power-hungry equipment on their vessels, everyone from boat builders and boat retailers to equipment manufacturers and marine electronics dealers are under the gun to deliver. Below is part one of an article veteran journalist Zuzana Prochazka wrote for Marine Electronics Journal. It lays out some of the challenges to supplying adequate power needed to keep electronics and other equipment operating properly. The article also advises boaters about the consequences of over-equipping their vessels.

By Zuzana Prochazka


I always tell my charter guests that a boat is a self-sustaining city that must manage its own waste, water and power. I usually get a few nods or maybe just a blank stare and then they’re off—taking 20-minute showers, cranking the stereo, leaving the lights and fans on, and opening the fridge for long inspections of what might make a good snack. But it’s not just the newbies whose expectations of staying aboard mirror those of life at home. Seasoned boaters are increasingly subject to bouts of "buttonitis,”a unique malady that overcame Jane Jetson from the 1960s TV cartoon show of what life would be like in the future. Our push-button lives feed on power, so our self-sustaining cities are being asked to do more and that leads to hurdles at various points in the value chain.

Adequate onboard power is necessary for marine electronics and electrics and substantially increased needs are popping up everywhere: 16-inch MFDs, 4kW radars, 2kW fishfinders, deep-drop reels, autopilots, underwater lighting, 12-speaker stereos with three amplifiers, air conditioning, desalinators, galley refrigeration, electric winches and heads, powered window screens, spotlights, hatches and doors, joystick controls, and thrusters along with security and geo-fencing systems and a whole lot more. Today, you’ll find gyrostabilizers on boats down to 30 feet and heavy hull sides and transoms that lower electrically. TVs in every cabin and satellite communications and entertainment have crept down to mid-sized cruisers that are now being asked to do what was once the realm of superyachts powered by multiple gensets. Even tow boats today are sporting some sort of digital switching system where everything is commanded with touches and swipes on a screen. The result is a power-strained vessel where equipment sometimes works sub-optimally or not at all—and that can be beyond inconvenient, it can be dangerous.

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