“Watsonizing” – Let the Sun Shine!

We love solar power. There is something quite appealing about using the free energy of the sun for power. We spend a lot of time on a mooring or at anchor so solar panels have always been a necessity for us. With solar power, there is less need to run a noisy engine or generator to charge the batteries. And let’s face it, we all have electronic devices, refrigeration, lights, etc that we want to use, even out on a boat.

We added solar panels to both the Morgan sailboat and the Mariner. Before sharing Al’s work on the Kadey Krogen, we will take a brief trip through his various solar panel adventures over the years.

Al mounted the Morgan Center Cockpit’s panels on the hardtop he built over the cockpit. Each panel was 75 watts for a total of 150 watts. It was a great location for the panels.

A view of our Morgan 43 Center Cockpit from the top of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse in HopeTown (center boat). The solar panels mounted on the hard top.
A closer view of the solar panels.

For the Mariner Orient 38, Al went with two 135 watt panels for 270 watts total. Interestingly, in the ten years since the installation of the sailboat’s solar panels, the efficiency of solar panels increased for the size, and the price decreased. Win-win! The location for the solar panels on the Mariner Orient 38 went through several iterations.

The best location for solar panels was on the flybridge. Al built a box to hold one panel and to use for storage inside.  We left for the Bahamas with the panels in this location.

In Vero Beach, Florida, Al decided the panels were getting too much shade from the bimini. While we enjoyed the conveniences of Vero Beach, he decided to change things up. The man just has to have a project at all times!

One of Al’s prototype experiments using deck chairs to test his idea of raising the box for better access to sunlight.
He attached one panel to the back rail to raise and tilt it. Next step was a trip to Walmart to purchase a folding table to raise the boxed panel up higher. The legs were cut down to a more reasonable height. Al would actually push, pull and tilt that table around to get the best sun exposure.

Finally, it was mutually decided that this table configuration, although it had made it across the Gulf Stream and back to CT was somewhat unstable. The final Mariner solar configuration was to mount both panels on the back rail of the flybridge.

The final solution! Out of the way, better exposure, and tiltable. And a whole lot better looking.

This year’s question was “where to put the solar on the Kadey Krogen 39?? The priorities were:

1) a safe location with sun exposure, 

2) find enough space for adequately sized panels, 

3) and to not be in the way.  

Top of pilot house looked like a good spot, but first Al had to remove the large 3-foot diameter satellite dome. No loss there – it had not been used in 10 years and was not functioning.

Over the winter, Al removed the satellite tv dome from the pilot house roof while under the shrink wrap

Next, Al researched solar panels for size and wattage. He made cardboard templates (of course!) to see how panels could fit on the pilot house roof without interfering with the two opening hatches.

In this photo, he is preparing to climb from the flybridge onto the pilot house roof under the shrink wrap, dragging a cardboard template.
Only one panel met the size requirements. Two 160-watt panels would fit, exactly, for a total of 320 watts. Over to the right are two flexible solar panels on loan from Magnolia to keep the batteries charged over the winter.

I try to understand the basic concepts of the mechanical and technical aspects of our boats. Al is really good at answering my questions, even when they are repeated again and again.

Let me see if I can get technical about how solar panels work. After mounting the solar panels they are wired to the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) solar charge controller and connected to the batteries. Our MPPT is located down in the engine room. Its job is to connect the solar panels and the batteries, regulating the battery charging process to ensure the battery is charged correctly, or more importantly, not over-charged.  The MPPT converts the higher voltage of the panels to the acceptable charge voltage of the batteries.

Down in the engine room, the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) solar controller is wired and connected to the batteries.
Diagram of how solar panels are connected to the solar charge controller and the batteries. In real life it is NEVER that simple.

Al added the MT50 remote screen in the pilot house so that we can view instant information about the solar panels without making a trip down to the engine room. The first thing I noticed was that this monitoring screen looked, hmmm, how do I say this? A lot “cuter” than our old ones? It has a smiley face!

The MT50 remote screen is mounted in the pilot house for easy monitoring of the system.
This is just what I needed! A little chart to explain the MT50’s icons. I hope I never see the sad face.
And there it is! 320 watts of solar panel neatly mounted, and fits perfectly between the two opening hatches.

Let the sun shine!

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