Re: All that stuff hanging off the stern-- Gel batteries, solar panels and inverter - an experience

Brent Cameron

It seems to me that one could rather easily (and without much more weight) build in or retrofit a rapid disconnect system to detach the solar panels mounted on an arch by connecting them to rails (most are already mounted on rails to fasten to the top arch frame as is) that would then slide into other rails (sort of like drawer slides) mounted to the top of the arch.  These would then be secured by locking pins in order to keep them firmly locked in place otherwise.  You could very quickly lose the whole panel setup or even set it up so that each panel could slide out independently (and presumably be stored below rather than pitched over the side - which would make it more likely that the owner would take the preventative action early as you don’t need the panels when it’s stormy anyway).  

As Nick says, I doubt that even large waves would take out the arch itself (unless it was one of those fibreglass “wing” shaped arches) so detaching the panels seems the quickest way to deal with the potential forces involved in a large storm.    With good forecasting available now with satellite pretty much anywhere in the world, I’m guessing you’d have at least 12 hours notice of anything big enough to threaten the panels no matter where you were.   

I also guess that you could also build in tubes within tubes with locking pins to easily completely detach the arch from their mounting brackets but I strongly suspect that the (presumably well braced) arch itself wouldn’t be much more problematic than the masts or stanchions and could easily survive the 15-20 big waves that Eric suffered in his horrific survival conditions.  Amel seemed happy enough with the mounting system for the Simpson Davits on some SM’s and about half of the Amel 54’s and they have a lot more “windage” and leverage than most arches. Of course, you could just weigh the odds and use a spanner and a screw driver to disconnect the entire thing and throw it over the side too…. But I’m guessing the more work/bigger loss, the less likely that someone will make the right decision when the limited time window arrises.   

In any case, I’m sure this kind of a system could be put together in an afternoon with the right materials at hand and it wouldn’t cost a lot either.  Good insurance to get the best of both worlds.  I’m with both of you on storing the dingy on davits while passaging…. NFW.   


On Oct 22, 2021, 12:45 AM -0400, Bill Kinney <cruisingconsulting@...>, wrote:

I have read your article several times, and it is really a touchstone for me. The conditions you went through are worse than I have ever had to sail in, although I did get pounded pretty hard (for many days) on a trip back across from Hawaii to California. I saw several times the "submarine boat" you described. It was an educational experience.  Especially the time I was working to sort out a problem with the furling gear at the bow when the boat disappeared... We had rail mounted solar panels (folded down) that took a hit from waves hard enough to break stanchions. Fortunately just broken metal, not ripped fiberglass. Another lesson learned.

I once expressed an opinion that I thought having a dinghy on davits was a hazard offshore. We have seen a boat limping back to harbor with totally twisted and mangled davits when a wave filled the dinghy hanging there. A very popular internet guru responded that he had an Island Packet 38 with REALLY high freeboard and just could not image a wave large enough to poop his dinghy while it was hanging on davits... I was kind of flabbergasted. As if the ocean cares how good your imagination is...

We have decided that an intermediate approach fits our risk/benefit equation.  A simple arch with only solar panels.  No davits, no other attachments.  If we ever really expected to be in serious survival conditions offshore, I'd cut the whole thing away without a second thought.  Total cost of replacement, about $8K.  Peace of mind:  Priceless.  

I don't worry about it at all with wind, it had no issue with winds of 70 knots in Hurricane Dorian.  Waves: A totally different story.  If we were ever in a situation where waves were large enough to impact the solar panels in any way I KNOW the structure would be compromised.

I know and understand that our choice is not the best from all perspectives.  But I know that the value of having a solar system that supplies half of our power needs is significant.  Not just from a cost perspective but extending our self sufficiency, and off grid fuel independence is really a major addition to our boat's capabilities.

Bill Kinney
Sm160,  Harmonie
Annapolis, MD, USA

Brent Cameron

Future Amel Owner & Amel Owner Registry Moderator

Oro-Medonte, Ontario, Canada

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