In order to be ‘off the dock’ for a few days, we typically turn our fridge off and put a block of ice in it to save on power consumption. Our fridge is by far our biggest power consumer, as we do not have a freezer. So, it was decided to put some solar panels onboard Bloom in order to keep our batteries topped up, or at least close to it. The first decision was where the panels would go. This would also dictate what type of panels we would get.
After much consideration, it was decided that installing the panels on top of our bimini top would make the most sense. The only thing that would occasionally shade them would be our backstay mounted radar dome (as opposed to the boom, if we’d installed them on top of our dodger). Flexible solar panels are light enough that they could easily be installed on top of the bimini without adding too much weight. They would be out of site there and wouldn’t be taking up any more space. We reinforced our bimini frame with a couple more stainless bars to strengthen it and installed two 100-watt flexible solar panels by ‘Go Power’ out of Victoria, BC. Here is a link to read more about their flexible solar panels. We purchased them from Trotac Marine in Victoria, BC after learning about Carmanah (Go Power)’s products and recommendations that they stand behind their products should there be any issues at all.
The panels were fairly easy to install- a positive and negative cable come off each panel, through the aft clam cable hole (that was already used for our radar cable) and into the stern of the boat. It then funnels through a bus installed under our nav station bench, before running to a solar controller. From the controller, the power cables then run directly to our house batteries with a fuse in between. Overall, the installation was easy- the bulk of the install being wire pulling. We also had our canvas worker sew velcro onto the top of the bimini canvas as well as velcro panels around three sides of each panel.
Overall we’ve been completely satisfied with our solar panels- they do their job and keep our batteries topped up! This summer, when we were off the dock for 7 days, the panels topped our batteries up every single morning when the sun came up. Amazing. No more ice in the fridge. We do not run an inverter while off the dock, but use our Goal Zero Yeti, so our fridge and lights (all LED) are the biggest power hogs when unplugged. We recommend calculating your power consumption and finding a solar set up that is right for you and your boat’s consumption. It is certainly nice to have the freedom that these panels bring as well!