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Old 09-18-2008, 01:18 PM   #1
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Cruisers,

I would really like some advice. I am almost done restoring my Mega30. It is a light racer but has a large cabin. I am wanting to go to the abacos with my family. I have a wife and a 3yr old daughter and a 11 year old daughter. We are planning to trailer the boat to Florida in with my friends and sail it to the abacos. I will fly the family in later to Marsh Harbor I believe. I plan on having the family there as soon as school lets out in late May.

The question I have is how should I equip the boat, mainly electrical power concerns. Do I want a generator, a wind generator, solar panels or just shore power? I have none of those items. I will be installing a 9.9 or 15hp outboard that will put out 6 to 15 amps depending on brand and model. I have a lift keel that is electric and draws 100 amps @12v, runs for 3 to 5 minutes to lift. This will reduce my draft to 3 feet or 2 foot for trailering. I have a kick up rudder so I can get in shallow. Anyway I also have a vhf, cd player, plenty of lights, electric water pump, bilge pump, fans, depth finder and knot meter all new. Other than that I would like to power a laptop occasionally. I dont have a shower, or a real head. I wonder if I should just get some good batteries and shore power and check in at the marinas, or should I try to be more power independant. I should have around 5k to put towards the trip (including motor). I will also need a dinghy but have a motor for it.

All comments welcome.

Mike
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Old 09-18-2008, 11:27 PM   #2
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First thing put a hand crank winch on that keel board. Although once down there is really little reason to raise it in the Bahamas. There is plenty of water depth everywhere. And after a few weeks with it down you will have to take a tree saw underwater to get all the barnacles and sea growth out of the board well before you can raise it.

Onboard electricity is like a can of Pringles - you just cannot stop eating more. You end up with huge battery banks and mega thousands of dollars with of support equipment. So try to keep things simple. Without any refrigeration and only using normal electrical items like lights, bilge, navigation, etc. you will probably only consume 50 amp-hours per day or less. So solar panels are a good bet - a couple of 120watt panels mounted on the outboard lifelines with mechanism for tilting and stowing should work. Two 120 watt panels should give you about 30-40 amp-hours back into your batteries - don't forget only during the couple of hours before and after local noon do you get max output from the panels.

So thinking 50 amp-hours consumed each day multiplied by 4 and you need about 200 amp hours of batteries. Shop around and see what will fit into your boat size /shape of the batteries. The Trojan T-105's are the most popular and have 105-110 amp hours in a pair. So 4 of them will suffice. For other batteries just add up their amp-hour capacities to see how many you need to get and install.

Water tank capacity is the next big item. With 4 people on board you will go through water faster than the tube of Pringles. Learning water conservation has wrecked most families as water can be US$0.40/gallon plus or minus in the Bahamas. Learning not to shower every 3 hours is quite difficult for the American female and children. So bring lots of garlic to put in the food.

Other than than the Bahamas have the world's best waters and islands for gunkholing and learning to enjoy cruising and still be within reasonable distance of the USA. But you might consider heading further south to Miami and crossing there. It is only 40 nm across and the southern islands of the Bahamas are more beautiful and a lot less populated than the "Fort Lauderdale East" atmosphere of the Abacos. One man's opinion. . .
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Old 09-19-2008, 01:55 AM   #3
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Thank you for your response! I already have a hand crank for the keel, but never tried it. I was under the impression that shallow draft was the way to go in the bahamas. Why do you multiply the daily amp hours times 4? Is that a ballpark formula for designing electrical systems? Thanks for that info. I will see what I can do to improve the water situation, maybe catch rain. I plan on visiting marinas, they will let you shower wont they? Whats the garlic for? LOL I like the idea of a shorter trip to bimini.

Thanks!
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Old 09-19-2008, 02:35 AM   #4
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Check out this website/log:

http://www.tendervittles.net/

They have been cruising between the SouthEast US and Bahamas for the past few years and are a wealth of information. They are very energy-independent and seem to know the best place for grabbing a cold beer
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Old 09-19-2008, 04:11 AM   #5
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mike, i think you've made a wise choice. with only a month of free time, the abacos will give you a taste of the bahamas and keep the wife and kids happy too. it's an area with a combination of unspoiled beaches and uninhabited islands within a day's sail of modern towns and quaint villages. i would recommend that you cross to west end from some convenient spot between west palm beach and fort lauderdale. also a good idea to make the crossing with sailing friends; the wife and kids may not enjoy being so far out of sight of land, and especially if you make the crossing overnight.

i wouldn't count on staying in marinas. they can be expensive even if they have space available, and they will be hot at night. at anchor, you're boat swings into the wind so you get a nice breeze down the forward hatch.

additionally, you will find supplies easy to get (although at twice the stateside price) so you won't have to carry so much with you. for instance, my wife insists on bottled water for drinking, although we use tank water for everything else. we have a bit larger boat and were able to carry enough bottled water but we also bought more along the way. all of the villages have restaraunts which the wife and kids will appreciate and will allow you to carry less with you (but bring extra money). by the way, bring your atm card.

ok, here's some specifics;

navigation; you will need a ship's compass (be sure to compensate it before leaving), binoculars, hand bearing compass (or binoculars with built in compass) gps (battery powered handheld is best), and charts. buy the explorer charts for the bahamas published by sara and monty lewis. they are the absolute best charts of the bahamas and will provide you with all the waypoints you will need for crossing the gulf stream and the sea of abaco. they are without equal - don't leave home without them. you will only need to buy the chartbook for the northern bahamas, about 40 or 50 dollars. although i've got built in gps i much prefer my hand held battery powered garmin. actually i have two of them - one for backup. bring extra batteries - they're pretty expensive in the bahamas.

water. fill your tanks before leaving. have at least one 5 gallon water jug (blue color) for jerry jugging. stuff bottled water in every available nook and cranny that won't upset your boat's balance. get more water every chance you can. nothing worse than running out of water in the bahamas.

cooking. if you don't have a fitted stove may i recommend a coleman two burner camping stove. friends of our did the bahamas in a smaller boat than yours and used that setup with great success. they had a 20 pound tank that they connected and disconnected before and after each use, which seemed like a lot of work to me; you might want to consider the small disposable bottles.

food. don't overdo it. we do and wind up bringing back nearly as much as we left with. i've found that a lot of the 'convenience' meals that you wouldn't eat at home taste really good when you're out there. you didn't mention refrigeration and that's good. it really sucks up electric power and if you can talk your family out of it you'll find you don't miss it that much.

electric power. someday i'm going to fit solar panels to my boat. probably won't do wind power. but until then i charge my batteries two ways. first, when we're on the engine, the alternator charges my batteries. second, when we're in an anchorage or sailing or otherwise not using the engine we use a honda 1000 watt portable generator and an automotive battery charger. the charger is the 'stepping' variety that starts at 35 amps and works it's way down; i bought it at walmart for 70 bucks. start the generator, connect the battery charger. we use about 60 amps a day and two hours running brings the batteries right back up.

with your usage you might run it one or two hours every other day. don't try to use the 12 volt charger that comes with the honda generator - it only puts out 8 amps (unless you really have very low electric consumption).

engine power. i would recommend a four stroke for you. it gets much better mileage than a two stroke so you won't have to carry as much fuel. if you buy new, see if the dealer will allow you to try different props. i've found that the so called 'sailor' prop is pitched way too low and won't allow you to get the boat up to speed. if it has an alternator all the better but you might want to spend the extra money on the honda generator i mentioned above.

shower. get a 'solar shower' or a garden pressure sprayer.

head. i may catch a lot of grief about this but i'm going to say it anyway. fit a toilet seat to a five gallon bucket. that's your head. if you screw some blocks to the underside of the seat it will keep it from sliding around when in use. dip it over the side and fill with six inches of water. use it. dump it over the side and clean it out. a long rope attached to the bucket helps a lot. i used one for years when i owned a smaller boat. it never clogged up.

cruising guides. don't need one - the explorer chart contains sufficient information. but there are some good abaco guides available if you must have one.

and now for the most important piece of gear. a full power vhf with a masthead mounted antenna. you will be able to pick up vhf weather channels during your crossing and probably well into the abacos. you will also be able to pick up weather chatter from the big megayachts with all their expensive electronics. and you will be able to call the coast guard all the way across the gulf stream if you get in trouble. a handheld vhf can be a nice convenience but should not replace the main vhf.

did i mention mosquito screens on all the ports and hatches?
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Old 09-19-2008, 08:17 AM   #6
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Also see what information is available for this region on the Cruising Wiki.

Good luck.
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Old 09-19-2008, 05:40 PM   #7
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You guys are awesome! Better responses than I hoped for. I have a garmin handheld map gps, and a vhf with mast mount antenna. I have been looking at the honda generators. Thanks!
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Old 09-19-2008, 07:00 PM   #8
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mike, disregard the 'map' on the mapping gps. don't waste your money on buying a map chipset for it either. GET THE EXPLORER CHARTS BY MONTY AND SARA LEWIS. did i say that loud enough??

also should have mentioned games and books and such for the kids. sometimes you may be kept aboard by weather and the kids will need something to do. also could be your chance to finally getting around to reading 'war and peace'....
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Old 09-21-2008, 03:37 PM   #9
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I noticed that you mentioned that you have a VHF radio. If you have never been outside the USA remember that you must have a FCC ship's radio license certificate for the boat and also a "Restricted Radio Telephone Operators Permit" . These are available online from the FCC website:

http://wireless.fcc.gov/commoperators/rr.html

http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/index.htm?job=...erators/rr.html

It is a bit complicated to wend your way thru this process but you must have the licenses to cruise outside the continental USA.

- - - -

Checking in at West End might not be a good idea. I don't have current reports but older reports have the marina and check-in officals as not very friendly and with very high surcharges for the "privilege" of check-in there. Myself and my other fellow cruisers enter the banks at the Explorer Charts waypoints at Memory Rocks N26 - 55.00' W079 - 03.00' or I like Little Bahama Bank waypoint N27 - 06.50' W079 - 10.00' where there is plenty of depth. Then we head to Great Sale Cay and anchor at the bay at the south end of the island. Next morning up anchor and sail to Treasure Cay to check into the Bahamas. Very nice folks there and you can request the full, allowable 6 mos in the Bahamas - - even though you will not be there that long - - it still is nice to have the "max" so if something happens you are covered.

- - - -

But you must have the Explorer Charts as mentioned above to safety plan and navigate the Bahamas.
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Old 09-21-2008, 06:16 PM   #10
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You've had some great responses here already...

some extra input--

You can actually get by on very, very little power for long periods of time at anchor but when you're moving any electronics/autopilot you use do end up taking power. A couple things--don't bother installing or using that "pressure water" use a hand or foot pump. First, you'll conserve energy and more importantly you'll conserve water We've had both on board and exclusively use the hand/foot pump rather than pressure water.

The solar shower is GREAT for good hot showers. We're using a 4 gallon one right now (living aboard in the boatyard while finishing a major rebuild); my husband and I only use about 1/2 of the bag each day (so 1 gallon each) taking a long shower. I have thick (and currently long) hair and wash it in a bucket rather than waste shower water rinsing forever.

You can pick up some really cheap solar powered LED yard lights at Harbor Freight, Walmart, etc (about $5.00 each) that are great "extra" lighting. We used them for two years on a Rawson 30. We call them our "cheapie Tiki" lights--the yard bases (that go into the ground) are perfect for fitting into the winch sockets and providing general illumination to the cockpit area (great when eating on deck at night, etc.) I also used to hang one in the galley where it shed lots of light and we used them to read (in bed) by at night. We had 4 and we'd put them on deck to get their daily dose of sun and use them at night--Two in the winch handle sockets and two for "roving use" each night.

We also used a Honda 2000 generator on that small boat w/o genset. We had a shore power extension cord hooking the Honda into the shorepower socket. That enabled us to use the Xantrex (40 amp) charger we had for shore power. Works great on very little fuel. Also, if you have 120V ac appliances you can run them on the Honda (for example hand tools or air compressor). We have a 120VAC oil-less air compressor, air tools, and a diving Hooka set-up that runs off the air compressor (great for use while you're hull cleaning or checking the anchor set, etc).

We had a small solar panel that simply supplied a trickle charge to the batteries (say 2 amps trickle charge to our two approx 100 amp hr AGM batteries) and this is fine when you're NOT using a lot of power (at anchor, for example) else, more solar panels are needed.

I'd also suggest an inboard engine if you have room for it--but the goal here is to sail, so if you've got an outboard to work with, fine.

Water, water, water. Find ways to carry as much as you can! You'll be glad you did.

Head/toilet. Using a bucket and "chucking it" is something some folks do. I find it reasonable when offshore passage making but don't think you'd want that to be your ONLY system especially when coastal or at anchor. In the USA, 3 miles out and you can direct discharge, else you must retain waste--and technically, inside that 3 miles, you can throw a bucket of waste overboard (except in no-discharge zones) but do you really want to do that??? You may have a hard time finding pump out stations and really need to consider the logistics of having a marine head and holding tank. You can plan your time so that you are able to pump out your holding tank at sea, but you'll have to have it set up properly to do this via gravity rather than a costly and electricity using pumping system aboard. I believe one of the Nigel Calder books goes into this is some detail. Don't trust the kids to not accidentally fill the tank with salt water by flushing too much--or to not leave the hand pump in the wrong position risking sinking the boat-- instead, flush for them. In our current boat, we're re-installing a marine toilet w/tank but also have an "air head" composting toilet--its small and cheap compared to a holding tank system. It separates solid and liquid waste and works great for two adults full time. For more people, you'd likely have to have an "extra" base container to swap out and "finish" the composting with the swapped out container secured on deck for an extra couple weeks.

Can't overemphasize GOOD Binoculars. Get ones with a mil-scale and compass--you'll be glad you did. Charts, charts, charts. If you don't know how to navigate w/o the GPS, learn. There are some great classes offered via the US Power Squadrons, sometimes the Coast Guard auxiliary, and Boat US. Don't rely on the GPS

We'll look forward to hearing about your boat and your efforts to prepare for your fun adventure next summer!
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Old 10-01-2008, 06:20 PM   #11
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Thanks to all who have taken the time to help me. I am getting a better and better idea of my requirements! I will be looking for binoculars with the compass feature. The solar shower will be part of my equipment. Still not sure about the toilet. I think a good mounted porta potty for when in port, and a bucket for out at sea might work for us. I have done weekends with the porta potty with out much trouble. I am currently re gelcoating my boat and installing lazy jacks. I have decided on an outboard, a 9.9 yamaha high thrust with dual prop (good for reverse).

Thanks again and more later.

Mike
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Old 10-02-2008, 03:22 AM   #12
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With a 30 ft boat go for the 15hp outboard if you can swing the money. Unless you have an outboard mount already as a permanent part of the boat - - the swing up and down mounts are really good as they get the outboard motor's lower portion completely out of the water so as to prevent the electrolysis problem and also prevent sea growth on the motor and prop.

There are some strong current areas in the Bahamas and the 15hp will better allow you to transit these difficult areas with much more safety.

Also it is good idea to mount a small fold-down step or platform next to the outboard motor mount so you can stand next to the motor for servicing and other purposes. Also it makes a great mini-swim platform for getting off and back onto the boat from swimming.
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Old 10-02-2008, 02:45 PM   #13
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Waste. Our holding tank had a Whale Gusher manual pump for pumping it out. Worked very well until we needed to replace a part in the Baltic and couldn't find one, so put an electric pump on (which, really, is much easier for Peter to use nowadays). But a manual pump is a reasonable option, especially if you have a diverter valve (we don't) so that you can directly flush to the outside when on passage.

Osirissailing reminded me that the currents in the Bahamas can be very strong and in places unavoidable, so you want a reliable motor. It's these reversing currents that were the impetus for Bahamian mooring - two anchors, one upstream, one downstream, of the current flow.
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Old 10-04-2008, 09:43 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by osirissailing View Post
With a 30 ft boat go for the 15hp outboard if you can swing the money. Unless you have an outboard mount already as a permanent part of the boat - - the swing up and down mounts are really good as they get the outboard motor's lower portion completely out of the water so as to prevent the electrolysis problem and also prevent sea growth on the motor and prop.

There are some strong current areas in the Bahamas and the 15hp will better allow you to transit these difficult areas with much more safety.

Also it is good idea to mount a small fold-down step or platform next to the outboard motor mount so you can stand next to the motor for servicing and other purposes. Also it makes a great mini-swim platform for getting off and back onto the boat from swimming.
Can't help but disagree on the 15 HP. With his Mega 30, it's way overkill. We push a Rhodes Meridian at hull speed with an 8 HP Yamaha 4 stroke, running at UNDER the start setting- a high idle. In 2 round trips from Texas to Florida and return we've NEVER had a situation where we ran at more than half throttle.

Our boat is deep keeled and 7000+ pounds loaded- his is lighter.

Go with the 9.9 or even an 8 HP as long as it's a four stroke.

Speaking of fuel consumption- we used to use a 9.9 Evinrude 2 stroke. Running at hull speed, a 3 gallon tank would last 2 hours and 40 minutes, to 2 hours and 50 minutes. With the 4 stroke, the same tank running at the same speed lasts 7 1/2 to 8 hours, and even more if we throttle back to about 4.8 or so on speed. The difference is amazing.
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