To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising

Week 41: Family Time II: "Alone"

We're off Red Ranger, vacationing in New York and Texas.

I'm blogging from my mother's basement. How appropriate.

I've been left alone to tackle two major waves of purchasing: Solar Panels and Engine Parts. This is proving far, far more difficult than I would have thought.

I should also be looking into some minor stuff like new shoes and sunglasses. My favorite pair of SunCloud "Tailwind" sunglasses have scratches on the lenses. And my ratty old walking shoes aren't doing my knees any favors. But the solar panel problem has given me brain cramps.

The Solar Panels are a big deal because of the number of alternatives available. If you google "marine solar panel," you'll see a huge collection of products. We're looking for 80-100W panels, which doesn't simplify much.

Defender, in particular, has a broad selection of largish marine panels. The solar panel list is equally varied. This makes final product selection very complex. I like to go with "major" retailers: Grainger is very influential; so is Sears for that matter.

I call these panels "largish" because real solar panels for buildings are (by comparison) huge. On the roof of a building, you'll have panels that are 240 watts, 64″×40″; the kind of thing that would completely dominate our 34″×72″ dodger.

The Size Question

One large 240 W panel, while appealing from an energy production standpoint, would present some issues because of the boom. I don't think it's wise to mount the panel directly under the boom where shadows are guaranteed. Yes, we can park the boom off to the side, but I think that two smaller panels off to each side gives us good (not great) power levels with less worry about having the boom rub against a panel while sailing.

We're avoiding the high-tech flexible panels. They're expensive and not really necessary for the dodger installation. It would be fun to cover the dodger with thin, flexible solar panels. But I think it would cost too much. Also, the current generation of flexible panels have a shorter service life.

There appear to be two common physical sizes for these 80W-100W panels: 47″×22″ and 41″×27″. We'd prefer to have the 41″×27″ because the dodger is only about 34″ deep; we'd like to avoid too much unsupported overhang. However, we'd like to maximize the power production, so bigger may turn out to be better.

SunForce, SunWize, SolarTech, SolarLand are some vendors that I had found last year some time. Every time I search, however, I find something new. Today it's Aleko, Talco, SolarWorld and HQRP.

Ultimately, there can't too many manufacturers of the panels. Can there? I found these sorts of lists

Eleven or so vendors, only two of which I had found before. Highly competitive marketplaces mean that there are complicated deals, and promotional pricing. Worse, the technology keeps advancing and changing. As soon as I buy something, it will be obsolete. Time to pull my Luddite hat down over my eyes and just sulk in the corner until it all becomes simpler.

The Sinbad Solution


We've got a similar dodger to Sinbad. Made by Canvas Creations.

Sinbad has long 140W panels (60″×27″) from the dodger over the bimini.

The state of the art appears to be 158W panels in this shape. Interesting.

That might be just the ticket. As long as we're going to have an overhang, why not 18″ aft of the dodger (over the bimini) and 6″ for'r'd of the dodger?

158 W of panel exceeds my wildest dreams. And the price isn't unreasonable.

Half the cost of this installation appears to be things like MC-4 connectors and UV-resistant outdoor wiring. Our foredeck panels use indoor wire. Good for a year or so, but it should be replaced to proper outdoor wires using proper waterproof MC-4 connectors.

Family Visit Checklist


What The Commodore has been doing with her father:

  • Hearing stories from Dad

  • Cleaning her sister and dad's house, washing windows, etc.

  • Walking her sister's dog, feeding cats, turtle and mouse

  • Power shopping [With her dad's credit cards? It appears not]

  • No cooking

  • Making jigsaw puzzles

Sounds like she's having a busy, busy vacation.

Since my mother went to Europe, I'm living in her basement. Alone. I'm driving over to my father's from time to time for item 1 on the above list. The rest? Not for me.

Even the "No Cooking" doesn't apply here. I'm cooking so that paying for the slip in Deltaville doesn't cut into my beer money. Priorities. Beer and a slip to work on the boat are good. Eating my way around the Union Street dining in Schenectady is a little too pricey.