The Captain Rob Cozen
Certified Marine Surveyor NewsLetter
November 1997 Archive

Seapower Electrical Generating Systems

I really hate to discuss commercial products, but I just had this system installed on my 1977 Morgan Out Island 41' Ketch and its the answer to all of my cruising problems; (at least from an energy standpoint. For any of you with power or sailboats with limited space in the engine compartment and the need for a generator, this may be the way to go. NOTE: Portions of this month's newsletter comes from an article written in the Great Lakes Cronicle. The success of cruising today is also its biggest problem. More and more people are taking up our Just pack up and go philosophy and hitting the open waters for ports unknown. The traditional image of the traditional cruising craft, be it power or sail, is rapidly fading as Cruisers take to the waves in many smaller and "less-than-conventional" vessels. The problem is one of space. To be a safe and comfortable Cruiser, there are certain things you must have on board. The down-sized and affordable cruising boats of today only have so much space. Many manufacturers have invested heavily to meet this market with low-drain electronics for limited battery capacities, miniature navigation computers that can fit in a drinking cup, and anything else that can be folded, stowed or deflated to fit under a seat somewhere. This has made "pocket cruising" possible. There were still some limits that couldn't be met to make it downright comfortable... until now. The biggest difference between the traditional cruising yacht (best pronounced with one's nose in the air and pinkies extended) and the average family cruiser has been (besides the blue-chip stock portfolio) the option of a diesel generator commonly known as the genset. This handy device is nothing more than a small diesel engine hooked up to an AC generator, but it allows you to have full, 120 volt AC electricity without the need for a shore power plug. That's right, all your equipment and creature comforts that could only be run while at shore. . . your air conditioning, your microwave, your coffee pot and your curling iron, can be run while underway or enjoying the solitude of a wilderness anchorage. That is, if you have a genset. There are two problems with gensets. First, the engine that powers them is about the size of the engine that powers your average 30 foot sailboat. I don't know about you, but I don't have room for two of those things down there. Even in the newer, wide-body power boats in the thirty- to thirty-five foot class, the weight of the genset can throw off your trim, big time. If you have successfully cleared a spot and purchased lead ballast to offset your genset, you will then run into the second problem: They cost about $8,000 to $10,000. Yes, that stopped my wife cold too. Making cheese sandwiches in the microwave wasn't that important. Of course you realize I wouldn't raise these problems without a possible solution. There is a company called Power Technology that makes a product called Seapower. What it is, is a system of much smaller components that completely replaces the standard genset and uses your current engine for power. Here's how it works. They will install (yes, this one is best left to a professional) an additional alternator device on your engine. Since this system is designed for use on all sorts of smaller boats, both power and sail, the company also manufactures a wide range of installation brackets to fit just about any situation, from the relatively roomy engine compartment of a twin-engine, Sea Ray Express Cruiser to the cramped engine space on most smaller auxiliary sailboats. In fact, the company's demonstration video shows the system's installation and performance on an Island Packet 35 because of the difficulty of that particular installation. The message is: "If they can do it there..." Their special alternator feeds a computer-controlled output unit that is best likened to an inverter... but it's not. This black box, a mere 14'' x 10'' x 7.25'', is then connected into your shorepower system through a transfer switch. The switch is in line so that you may select shorepower or the output of the Seapower unit, but not both. Once the unit is installed, start the engine, throw the switch, and enjoy up to 41 amps of pure AC power wherever your captain takes you! The output performance of the unit is most impressive. At installation, your dealer will select what size pulleys and belts will best suit your cruising needs, that is, your range of operational RPM. The system is then geared to give you all the power possible within your desired range. As an example, the system can be geared to produce 30 amps of output power at as little as 700 RPMs with full output at 1,000 RPMs on boats with huskier engines of at least 150hp. On smaller boats with hp ratings of about 25, the ratio is controlled so as not to cause too much of a drag on the engine at idle speeds. On my own boat, The Gutsy Gal, I have a 55hp, four cylinder diesel. It idles around 750, I chug up and down my channel at no more than 1,200 and cruise between 1,800 and 2,200. The system they have specified for my boat will produce 30 amps (that's all I can use) at 1,200 and full output at anything over 1,800. That's what I mean when I say they can custom tailor the installation to fit your cruising needs! In all honesty, the system opens up generator capability to a whole class of boats and pocketbooks that could never have it before. It delivers what it promises and can greatly change your style of cruising. But such luxury still does not come cheap. Complete Seapower systems start at about $3,500 and can go higher depending on the specialized mounting brackets your installation may require. But even at that price, it is less than half the cost of a new diesel generator and requires none of the maintenance and installation headaches those units are famous for.
If you would like further info on this system,
Contact me: Capt. Rob Cozen 609-429-5508 or rcozen@marine-surveyor.com,
Also Chris Hanaran at TEKRIS@aol.com

 

Email us: rcozen@marine-surveyor.com

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Captain Rob Cozen
Master Marine Surveyor
P.O. Box 220
Somers Point, NJ 08244
Office: (609) 926-4949 - Cell: (609) 335-1500
(Outside South Jersey) (800) 64SURVEY - Toll Free!

copyright 1997, Captain Rob Cozen, all rights reserved.