(NB: After careful research, we approached Rolls for sponsorship. We only work with companies whose products we would use regardless of sponsorship.)
We’re thrilled that Rolls Battery Engineering (Surrette Battery Co.) has agreed to sponsor our voyage! Ever since we first learned of the company, we’ve been drawn to both their reputation for long-lasting marine batteries and their consciousness of the environment. They’ve innovated a ‘closed loop’ recycling process whereby their old batteries become new ones: each Rolls battery is made of at least 60% recycled lead. Equally good for the planet (and great for customers!) is that a Rolls battery takes longer to be completely spent: the designers have created a unique ‘resistitox’ plate to guarantee one of the longest life expectancies in the industry. But why are batteries so important?
Imagine living your normal life—turning on electric lights at night, keeping food cold in a fridge, listening to music, using your computer, taking showers—but without the power grid. A boat is her own little world, generating, storing, and using energy for her crew’s daily life. This makes Seth and me especially careful about how much energy we do use: our battery monitor (telling us how many amps we’re drawing or generating and how much we’ve discharged or charged the batteries) is prominently displayed over the chart table.
We have methods to reduce our power consumption: low-draw items such as LED bulbs, a magnetically driven fridge compressor (that uses only 48 watts, less than a household lightbulb, for the hour or so it runs each day), and an equally low-draw Katadyn desalinator. While showering, we turn off the water to shampoo and soap. We use a gas stove, not electric, and we avoid items such as freezers, hair dryers, microwaves, air conditioning, or washing machines that use a lot of electricity (and that, believe it or not, appear with some frequency on modern boats!).
To generate our power, we experimented with both wind and solar and have ultimately gone with hard polycrystalline solar panels: we’ll have almost 200 watts on Celeste when she’s ready to go. We had 100 (possibly 120, we weren’t sure if one of them worked) on Heretic, but we’ve upgraded Celeste with more technology than we had aboard Heretic. Almost all of the new items are safety precautions: the Katadyn desalinator, a chart plotter on which we can overlay radar images in fog and iceberg-strewn waters, and daily ice and weather reports through MVS’s satellite phone and OCENS’s weather and e-mail services.
The 200 watts of solar panels wouldn’t be enough in and of themselves, though. The energy needs to be stored somewhere, which is where Rolls comes in. We’re carrying two S12-230 AGM marine batteries, storing 460 amp hours. That sounds like a lot—and it is!—but we still have to make sure not to discharge our batteries by more than 25% or we’ll lose the advantage of their longevity. We’re very pleased to have Rolls batteries on board: with their reliability, ruggedness, and superior cycling, we’re convinced they’re the best we could have for the voyage ahead!
Learn more at http://www.rollsbattery.com!
UPDATE, November 2015: A complete article about our electrical system is out in Cruising World magazine’s December 2015 issue: Luxury on 120 Amp Hours.