Gel batteries, solar panels and inverter - an experience


David Crisp
 

A lot of really helpful information has been written and shared about converting to lithium batteries and the benefits thereof (thank you all). Compared to my experience 20 years ago, when I lived aboard my SM for 3 years, lithium batteries with a large inverter and solar panels sounds like paradise.  In 2019 I was on the verge of going this route but delays caused by the Covid pandemic caused me to follow a compromise route and to drop the lithium battery element. 

 

My route has been to replace the old Dolphin 100A charger with a Victron 24V/3000/70A Multiplus inverter/charger along with 990W of solar panels (three LG Neon2Black (LG330N1K-V5)) managed by a Victron Smart Solar MPPT 100/50. A Victron VE Smart Bus provides voltage and temperature data to the MPPT. I also replaced the old battery monitor with a Victron BMV-712.  The solar panels are mounted above some Simpson electric davits I had installed at the same time.  This year the batteries that came with Wilna Grace gave up the ghost and I replaced them with Victron Gel 110AH instead of going over to Lithium.

 

My cruising plans are to remain in and explore the Mediterranean, spending ~6+months aboard each year. Consequently my demands, and the cost vs. benefit analysis, are perhaps not those of a live aboard round-the-world cruiser. 

After my first season aboard with the new setup I am very very happy. Thanks to the inverter I have good 220V power available on demand, from boiling a kettle (v important to the British) to running the microwave or coffee machine plus my partner can blow-dry/straighten her hair (unfortunately I lost the need to do that some years ago).  Aboard Wilna Grace we run two fridges and a freezer.  On a typical day the batteries are at 90% first thing in the morning and in absorption mode by early afternoon.  The only reason we run the generator is to cook (we have an electric stove (infra-red not induction) but on the plus side running the generator provides hot water.  

 

I’m hopeful that with such shallow cycling the Gel batteries should last 6+ years, not as good a Lithium but not bad.  I’ve only had one season’s experience with this setup, but at the moment the only reason I would change to lithium would be to run an induction stove or to run an air conditioner.  I’m not ruling out lithium, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind about the benefits; should my cruising plans/needs change I will install lithium in the blink of an eye.

 

For someone on a limited budget and with my type of cruising profile I would prioritise the key elements in the following order: (1) large solar array.  (2) large inverter.  (3) lithium batteries.

 

Attached are some photos of the installation on Wilna Grace and drawings of the solar panel array. From this installation I have had two learnings: -

  1. Make sure you buy a long enough RIB otherwise the spacing of the davits is too long.  I have a Highfield C290 with a Honda 15HP outboard and wish I had bought a longer dinghy.
  2. My panels are completely horizontal so the rain pools on them (assuming we are not rolling at anchor).  In future I would having them slope backwards by ~5 degrees towards the stern. The rain will run off and maybe also wash off dust!


Final share:

We had two other mini-projects this year which have also delivered big benefits. 
(a) Replaced all the halogen bulbs aboard WG with LED (wow does that save power!).
(b) Installed a Caframo Sirocco 2 fan above the aft berth – it provides wonderful relief on a hot August night in Greece, removes the need to run a/c. This fan consumes very little power and is much quieter than other fans I have used.

 

 

Hope it is helpful.

 

David Crisp
SV Wilna Grace
Amel 54 #58


Danny and Yvonne SIMMS
 

Hi David, for your cruising profile it sounds really good. Then I looked at your photo. In my opinion don't ever get caught in a major oceanic storm with that lot up there. Until you have experienced huge waves breaking over your boat you cannot imagine the forces involved. Deck and rail mounted life rafts are often ripped off. A tall solar arch such as yours looks really vulnerable. But for med cruising and inshore/  Perfect.

Kind Regards

Danny

SM 299

Ocean Pearl

On 21 October 2021 at 05:20 David Crisp <david@...> wrote:

A lot of really helpful information has been written and shared about converting to lithium batteries and the benefits thereof (thank you all). Compared to my experience 20 years ago, when I lived aboard my SM for 3 years, lithium batteries with a large inverter and solar panels sounds like paradise.  In 2019 I was on the verge of going this route but delays caused by the Covid pandemic caused me to follow a compromise route and to drop the lithium battery element. 

 

My route has been to replace the old Dolphin 100A charger with a Victron 24V/3000/70A Multiplus inverter/charger along with 990W of solar panels (three LG Neon2Black (LG330N1K-V5)) managed by a Victron Smart Solar MPPT 100/50. A Victron VE Smart Bus provides voltage and temperature data to the MPPT. I also replaced the old battery monitor with a Victron BMV-712.  The solar panels are mounted above some Simpson electric davits I had installed at the same time.  This year the batteries that came with Wilna Grace gave up the ghost and I replaced them with Victron Gel 110AH instead of going over to Lithium.

 

My cruising plans are to remain in and explore the Mediterranean, spending ~6+months aboard each year. Consequently my demands, and the cost vs. benefit analysis, are perhaps not those of a live aboard round-the-world cruiser. 

After my first season aboard with the new setup I am very very happy. Thanks to the inverter I have good 220V power available on demand, from boiling a kettle (v important to the British) to running the microwave or coffee machine plus my partner can blow-dry/straighten her hair (unfortunately I lost the need to do that some years ago).  Aboard Wilna Grace we run two fridges and a freezer.  On a typical day the batteries are at 90% first thing in the morning and in absorption mode by early afternoon.  The only reason we run the generator is to cook (we have an electric stove (infra-red not induction) but on the plus side running the generator provides hot water.  

 

I’m hopeful that with such shallow cycling the Gel batteries should last 6+ years, not as good a Lithium but not bad.  I’ve only had one season’s experience with this setup, but at the moment the only reason I would change to lithium would be to run an induction stove or to run an air conditioner.  I’m not ruling out lithium, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind about the benefits; should my cruising plans/needs change I will install lithium in the blink of an eye.

 

For someone on a limited budget and with my type of cruising profile I would prioritise the key elements in the following order: (1) large solar array.  (2) large inverter.  (3) lithium batteries.

 

Attached are some photos of the installation on Wilna Grace and drawings of the solar panel array. From this installation I have had two learnings: -

  1. Make sure you buy a long enough RIB otherwise the spacing of the davits is too long.  I have a Highfield C290 with a Honda 15HP outboard and wish I had bought a longer dinghy.
  2. My panels are completely horizontal so the rain pools on them (assuming we are not rolling at anchor).  In future I would having them slope backwards by ~5 degrees towards the stern. The rain will run off and maybe also wash off dust!


Final share:

We had two other mini-projects this year which have also delivered big benefits. 
(a) Replaced all the halogen bulbs aboard WG with LED (wow does that save power!).
(b) Installed a Caframo Sirocco 2 fan above the aft berth – it provides wonderful relief on a hot August night in Greece, removes the need to run a/c. This fan consumes very little power and is much quieter than other fans I have used.

 

 

Hope it is helpful.

 

David Crisp
SV Wilna Grace
Amel 54 #58


Scott SV Tengah
 

Your setup sounds perfect for your intended use! I agree with your prioritization, too.

And if you ever decide to go lithium, all you really need to do is buy Victron smart lithium batteries and add a ve.bus BMS. Can you run the washing machine? I can't remember who, but another Amel could not run their washing machine with a 3kw inverter, which was surprising.

We went through a lot of brain damage with our dinghy too. We have the CL310 with a 20hp 4 stroke Suzuki. The dinghy will fit, albeit not perfectly, on the davits. A 340 would be better for the davits but we always keep the dinghy on the aft deck on passage and sized it to fit perfectly on the deck so we're happy we got the 310. Some will optimize for davit use and in that case, they should get a 340. 

By the way, definitely change your davit fall (aka lifting lines) to dyneema if you haven't already. Very easy to do and makes them so much nicer to use. Don't pay Simpson 4000gbp or whatever they want for the "conversion kit" - you can do it yourself for much cheaper.

Regarding Danny's concerns about arches and weather, I've attached a photo of our arch shortly after we installed it and here are a few situations we've found ourselves in since then:

- 45 knots in the Gulf of Lyon with short and steep breaking waves
- Mid November passage from Virginia, though the Gulf Stream, to the Caribbean, with up to 60 knot winds
- A very unpleasant 2800nm upwind/up current passage from Hawaii to French Polynesia. A fellow Amel owner felt the passage tough enough that he had his rigging inspected afterwards. A non-Amel lost their mast and another boat had their keel come loose. 

I haven't been in hurricane force winds, but given what we've experienced so far and given my risk tolerance, the benefits are definitely worth it. Of course, by saying that, we're going to have it ripped off the next time we go on passage!

--
Scott 
2007 A54 #69
SV Tengah
http://www.svtengah.com


Slavko Despotovic
 

So, Multiplus is connected to 220V output of Amel 220 Switch that switches between shore power and generator? 

Regards
--
Slavko
SM 2000
#279 Bonne Anse in Umag


Brent Cameron
 

I’m curious if anyone has had huge breaking waves across the stern of an Amel that would be high enough to get at the panels on an arch. I’ve been out in some (for me at least) boisterous conditions in the North Atlantic but nothing that even remotely looked like it would come aboard despite following seas higher than the arch and the boat surfing down the steep waves under minimal sails.   I’ve seen the bow and the cockpit take breaking waves a few times but never the stern.  That said I’m a complete Newb so I certainly don’t look at my extremely limited experience as indicative.  

It seems to me that you’d have to have massive breaking waves over the stern to do real damage assuming that the arch design can handle the wind loads (the forces do go up with the square of the wind velocity though so the difference between 45 knots which I’ve seen and 90 knots Is 400%  more force).  I wouldn’t trivialize the forces involved as we know of at least one Amel that looks to have been lost in part because their “arch” setup came apart in the very high winds and the panel(s) became vertical (which weather cocked the boat so it became unmanageable in severe  conditions - there were other contributing issues but as I’ve learned from my flying days, these things quickly add up and can overwhelm the crew and result in tragedy). 

The other scenario where it comes to mind that the boat could take breaking waves would be when using a Jordan Series Drogue.  I know that Eric has had good experience with using these in survival conditions  (I also know that Kimberlite doesn’t have an arch!) but don’t know if it results in the stern getting submerged by breaking waves or not so I guess we should factor that scenario in as well. 

Wouldn’t the enclosed cockpit also be an issue in those conditions? I seem to remember Eric saying that he had his full enclosure up when Kimberlite was swamped.   I know how wonderful it is to be “inside” in boisterous conditions so would be very reluctant to take it down as long as I could safely be at the helm. 

Danny, I know you have your solar panels mounted on the lifeline rails. Wouldn’t they also take as much or even more of a load too (assuming that you don’t take them down before hand of course)?  I guess they have quite a bit less surface area than panels on an arch but they are lower so I’d think more likely to get dunked. I’d be interested in knowing if your panels have ever been an issue as I know that you have faced some very significant conditions. Do you leave them in perpendicular position as long as they are up?  I certainly like the look of the boat without an arch better. 

I also see a lot of Amel’s out there with Paddleboards, wind surfers, engines, fuel and scuba tanks (and life rafts) mounted on the rails. Those would seem to me to be even more risky as they are lower down and perpendicular to the forces involved (surface area is directly proportional to the forces - double the surface area and double the forces).  An arch has the panels mostly parallel to the potential forces so the horizontally mounted solar panels would have MUCH less drag than say a paddle board).  

Force is 1/2 times Density of the fluid (air can be considered to be such) times Surface Area times Co-efficient of Drag times Velocity squared.  You can adjust the surface area by adjusting the orientation of the object but everything else is more or less constant except of course for the wind velocity so it  behoves us to keep this in mind as we add stuff to the outside of our boats. (The Cd is different for a paddle board on edge versus on the perpendicular but for a solar panel, it would be considered as 1 in either case as they aren’t really aerodynamic in any specific orientation). 

Another factor to consider is the weight out at the ends of the boat (this isn’t just an arch issue). Adding weight whether on decks or in the lockers will change the design handling of the boat.  

Perhaps a good compromise would be to have an easy way to quickly disconnect the panels and put them below in severe conditions.  That would obviously entail foreknowledge of upcoming conditions as you wouldn’t be able to remove them in much more than mild breezes but I suspect that lifeline mounted panels would face the same problem (although to be fair, I’d much rather be standing on deck than climbing an arch at sea!). I’m sure a tilting/sliding rail mounted system could be devised so that the panels could be easily disconnected at deck level as well with a bit of forethought. 

I’m not second guessing ANYONE  about their decisions here - sailboats are a compromise by their very nature but I’m genuinely curious about the pros and cons so that I can make my own risk/reward evaluation when the time comes. I know that most of us would never plan to be out there in those sorts of conditions but as Forest Gump says “$h.t happens!”   I like Amel’s new hardtops with solar panels.  

Brent

On Oct 21, 2021, 5:22 AM -0400, Scott SV Tengah <Scott.nguyen@...>, wrote:
Your setup sounds perfect for your intended use! I agree with your prioritization, too.

And if you ever decide to go lithium, all you really need to do is buy Victron smart lithium batteries and add a ve.bus BMS. Can you run the washing machine? I can't remember who, but another Amel could not run their washing machine with a 3kw inverter, which was surprising.

We went through a lot of brain damage with our dinghy too. We have the CL310 with a 20hp 4 stroke Suzuki. The dinghy will fit, albeit not perfectly, on the davits. A 340 would be better for the davits but we always keep the dinghy on the aft deck on passage and sized it to fit perfectly on the deck so we're happy we got the 310. Some will optimize for davit use and in that case, they should get a 340. 

By the way, definitely change your davit fall (aka lifting lines) to dyneema if you haven't already. Very easy to do and makes them so much nicer to use. Don't pay Simpson 4000gbp or whatever they want for the "conversion kit" - you can do it yourself for much cheaper.

Regarding Danny's concerns about arches and weather, I've attached a photo of our arch shortly after we installed it and here are a few situations we've found ourselves in since then:

- 45 knots in the Gulf of Lyon with short and steep breaking waves
- Mid November passage from Virginia, though the Gulf Stream, to the Caribbean, with up to 60 knot winds
- A very unpleasant 2800nm upwind/up current passage from Hawaii to French Polynesia. A fellow Amel owner felt the passage tough enough that he had his rigging inspected afterwards. A non-Amel lost their mast and another boat had their keel come loose. 

I haven't been in hurricane force winds, but given what we've experienced so far and given my risk tolerance, the benefits are definitely worth it. Of course, by saying that, we're going to have it ripped off the next time we go on passage!

--
Scott 
2007 A54 #69
SV Tengah
http://www.svtengah.com

--
Brent Cameron

Future Amel Owner & Amel Owner Registry Moderator

Oro-Medonte, Ontario, Canada


Danny and Yvonne SIMMS
 

Hi Brent et al,

You can sail incredible miles off shore and never experience life threatening conditions. In all my miles, 50,000 plus in Ocean Pearl, I have not. But in my previous boat once on a return from Vanuatu to New Zealand. When that "once" happens you want to be ready.

In my once the seas were noticeably taller than our 14 meter mast. They were incredibly steep. We were fore reaching under half a storm jib. Going up the face of the waves the crests were breaking down on us. Every so often three waves would climb on top of each other and break like a huge wave on a surf beach. They were the killers. Only two hit us. One hit the stern with a whump that spun the stern sideways 45 degrees. The other broke right over us more than 2 meters deep. We had prepared the boat well. The decks were clear, our life raft was lashed down at the back of the cockpit with quick release lashing. And importantly the companionway was only ever briefly opened (very briefly) on the change of helmsman or the passing of food

A Bavaria that had circumnavigated met its "once" recently with then same skipper, only a few mile out from NZ. Swamped by a wave and sunk in 20 minutes. Thousands of yachts designed for the inshore charter market cross oceans and circumnavigate. So long as they don't meet that "once" weather all is well

Because of Henri's design, purposed for oceanic voyaging Amel yachts can take conditions in their stride that would be life threatening on others. One of those design features is monumental storage so the decks can be clear.

I was concerned when I mounted the solar on the life rails. I intended to change but they have never been an issue. They are clamped and strong wind gusts can swivel them, no brace. If I had weather coming like my "once" I could remove them in 5 minutes. Likewise, the deck stowed dinghy. Deflate and store below. I hope I never meet another "once". But if I do I want to be ready

Kind Regards

Danny

SM 299

Ocean Pearl

On 22 October 2021 at 00:54 "Brent Cameron via groups.io" <brentcameron61@...> wrote:

I’m curious if anyone has had huge breaking waves across the stern of an Amel that would be high enough to get at the panels on an arch. I’ve been out in some (for me at least) boisterous conditions in the North Atlantic but nothing that even remotely looked like it would come aboard despite following seas higher than the arch and the boat surfing down the steep waves under minimal sails.   I’ve seen the bow and the cockpit take breaking waves a few times but never the stern.  That said I’m a complete Newb so I certainly don’t look at my extremely limited experience as indicative.  

It seems to me that you’d have to have massive breaking waves over the stern to do real damage assuming that the arch design can handle the wind loads (the forces do go up with the square of the wind velocity though so the difference between 45 knots which I’ve seen and 90 knots Is 400%  more force).  I wouldn’t trivialize the forces involved as we know of at least one Amel that looks to have been lost in part because their “arch” setup came apart in the very high winds and the panel(s) became vertical (which weather cocked the boat so it became unmanageable in severe  conditions - there were other contributing issues but as I’ve learned from my flying days, these things quickly add up and can overwhelm the crew and result in tragedy). 

The other scenario where it comes to mind that the boat could take breaking waves would be when using a Jordan Series Drogue.  I know that Eric has had good experience with using these in survival conditions  (I also know that Kimberlite doesn’t have an arch!) but don’t know if it results in the stern getting submerged by breaking waves or not so I guess we should factor that scenario in as well. 

Wouldn’t the enclosed cockpit also be an issue in those conditions? I seem to remember Eric saying that he had his full enclosure up when Kimberlite was swamped.   I know how wonderful it is to be “inside” in boisterous conditions so would be very reluctant to take it down as long as I could safely be at the helm. 

Danny, I know you have your solar panels mounted on the lifeline rails. Wouldn’t they also take as much or even more of a load too (assuming that you don’t take them down before hand of course)?  I guess they have quite a bit less surface area than panels on an arch but they are lower so I’d think more likely to get dunked. I’d be interested in knowing if your panels have ever been an issue as I know that you have faced some very significant conditions. Do you leave them in perpendicular position as long as they are up?  I certainly like the look of the boat without an arch better. 

I also see a lot of Amel’s out there with Paddleboards, wind surfers, engines, fuel and scuba tanks (and life rafts) mounted on the rails. Those would seem to me to be even more risky as they are lower down and perpendicular to the forces involved (surface area is directly proportional to the forces - double the surface area and double the forces).  An arch has the panels mostly parallel to the potential forces so the horizontally mounted solar panels would have MUCH less drag than say a paddle board).  

Force is 1/2 times Density of the fluid (air can be considered to be such) times Surface Area times Co-efficient of Drag times Velocity squared.  You can adjust the surface area by adjusting the orientation of the object but everything else is more or less constant except of course for the wind velocity so it  behoves us to keep this in mind as we add stuff to the outside of our boats. (The Cd is different for a paddle board on edge versus on the perpendicular but for a solar panel, it would be considered as 1 in either case as they aren’t really aerodynamic in any specific orientation). 

Another factor to consider is the weight out at the ends of the boat (this isn’t just an arch issue). Adding weight whether on decks or in the lockers will change the design handling of the boat.  

Perhaps a good compromise would be to have an easy way to quickly disconnect the panels and put them below in severe conditions.  That would obviously entail foreknowledge of upcoming conditions as you wouldn’t be able to remove them in much more than mild breezes but I suspect that lifeline mounted panels would face the same problem (although to be fair, I’d much rather be standing on deck than climbing an arch at sea!). I’m sure a tilting/sliding rail mounted system could be devised so that the panels could be easily disconnected at deck level as well with a bit of forethought. 

I’m not second guessing ANYONE  about their decisions here - sailboats are a compromise by their very nature but I’m genuinely curious about the pros and cons so that I can make my own risk/reward evaluation when the time comes. I know that most of us would never plan to be out there in those sorts of conditions but as Forest Gump says “$h.t happens!”   I like Amel’s new hardtops with solar panels.  

Brent
On Oct 21, 2021, 5:22 AM -0400, Scott SV Tengah <Scott.nguyen@...>, wrote:
Your setup sounds perfect for your intended use! I agree with your prioritization, too.

And if you ever decide to go lithium, all you really need to do is buy Victron smart lithium batteries and add a ve.bus BMS. Can you run the washing machine? I can't remember who, but another Amel could not run their washing machine with a 3kw inverter, which was surprising.

We went through a lot of brain damage with our dinghy too. We have the CL310 with a 20hp 4 stroke Suzuki. The dinghy will fit, albeit not perfectly, on the davits. A 340 would be better for the davits but we always keep the dinghy on the aft deck on passage and sized it to fit perfectly on the deck so we're happy we got the 310. Some will optimize for davit use and in that case, they should get a 340. 

By the way, definitely change your davit fall (aka lifting lines) to dyneema if you haven't already. Very easy to do and makes them so much nicer to use. Don't pay Simpson 4000gbp or whatever they want for the "conversion kit" - you can do it yourself for much cheaper.

Regarding Danny's concerns about arches and weather, I've attached a photo of our arch shortly after we installed it and here are a few situations we've found ourselves in since then:

- 45 knots in the Gulf of Lyon with short and steep breaking waves
- Mid November passage from Virginia, though the Gulf Stream, to the Caribbean, with up to 60 knot winds
- A very unpleasant 2800nm upwind/up current passage from Hawaii to French Polynesia. A fellow Amel owner felt the passage tough enough that he had his rigging inspected afterwards. A non-Amel lost their mast and another boat had their keel come loose. 

I haven't been in hurricane force winds, but given what we've experienced so far and given my risk tolerance, the benefits are definitely worth it. Of course, by saying that, we're going to have it ripped off the next time we go on passage!

--
Scott 
2007 A54 #69
SV Tengah
http://www.svtengah.com


 


--
Brent Cameron

Future Amel Owner & Amel Owner Registry Moderator

Oro-Medonte, Ontario, Canada


 


Brent Cameron
 

Good advice as always Danny.  Thanks.

Brent Cameron
Future Amel owner & Amel Owner's Registry Moderator

On Oct 21, 2021, 2:49 PM -0400, Danny and Yvonne SIMMS <simms@...>, wrote:

Hi Brent et al,

You can sail incredible miles off shore and never experience life threatening conditions. In all my miles, 50,000 plus in Ocean Pearl, I have not. But in my previous boat once on a return from Vanuatu to New Zealand. When that "once" happens you want to be ready.

In my once the seas were noticeably taller than our 14 meter mast. They were incredibly steep. We were fore reaching under half a storm jib. Going up the face of the waves the crests were breaking down on us. Every so often three waves would climb on top of each other and break like a huge wave on a surf beach. They were the killers. Only two hit us. One hit the stern with a whump that spun the stern sideways 45 degrees. The other broke right over us more than 2 meters deep. We had prepared the boat well. The decks were clear, our life raft was lashed down at the back of the cockpit with quick release lashing. And importantly the companionway was only ever briefly opened (very briefly) on the change of helmsman or the passing of food

A Bavaria that had circumnavigated met its "once" recently with then same skipper, only a few mile out from NZ. Swamped by a wave and sunk in 20 minutes. Thousands of yachts designed for the inshore charter market cross oceans and circumnavigate. So long as they don't meet that "once" weather all is well

Because of Henri's design, purposed for oceanic voyaging Amel yachts can take conditions in their stride that would be life threatening on others. One of those design features is monumental storage so the decks can be clear.

I was concerned when I mounted the solar on the life rails. I intended to change but they have never been an issue. They are clamped and strong wind gusts can swivel them, no brace. If I had weather coming like my "once" I could remove them in 5 minutes. Likewise, the deck stowed dinghy. Deflate and store below. I hope I never meet another "once". But if I do I want to be ready

Kind Regards

Danny

SM 299

Ocean Pearl

On 22 October 2021 at 00:54 "Brent Cameron via groups.io" <brentcameron61@...> wrote:

I’m curious if anyone has had huge breaking waves across the stern of an Amel that would be high enough to get at the panels on an arch. I’ve been out in some (for me at least) boisterous conditions in the North Atlantic but nothing that even remotely looked like it would come aboard despite following seas higher than the arch and the boat surfing down the steep waves under minimal sails.   I’ve seen the bow and the cockpit take breaking waves a few times but never the stern.  That said I’m a complete Newb so I certainly don’t look at my extremely limited experience as indicative.  

It seems to me that you’d have to have massive breaking waves over the stern to do real damage assuming that the arch design can handle the wind loads (the forces do go up with the square of the wind velocity though so the difference between 45 knots which I’ve seen and 90 knots Is 400%  more force).  I wouldn’t trivialize the forces involved as we know of at least one Amel that looks to have been lost in part because their “arch” setup came apart in the very high winds and the panel(s) became vertical (which weather cocked the boat so it became unmanageable in severe  conditions - there were other contributing issues but as I’ve learned from my flying days, these things quickly add up and can overwhelm the crew and result in tragedy). 

The other scenario where it comes to mind that the boat could take breaking waves would be when using a Jordan Series Drogue.  I know that Eric has had good experience with using these in survival conditions  (I also know that Kimberlite doesn’t have an arch!) but don’t know if it results in the stern getting submerged by breaking waves or not so I guess we should factor that scenario in as well. 

Wouldn’t the enclosed cockpit also be an issue in those conditions? I seem to remember Eric saying that he had his full enclosure up when Kimberlite was swamped.   I know how wonderful it is to be “inside” in boisterous conditions so would be very reluctant to take it down as long as I could safely be at the helm. 

Danny, I know you have your solar panels mounted on the lifeline rails. Wouldn’t they also take as much or even more of a load too (assuming that you don’t take them down before hand of course)?  I guess they have quite a bit less surface area than panels on an arch but they are lower so I’d think more likely to get dunked. I’d be interested in knowing if your panels have ever been an issue as I know that you have faced some very significant conditions. Do you leave them in perpendicular position as long as they are up?  I certainly like the look of the boat without an arch better. 

I also see a lot of Amel’s out there with Paddleboards, wind surfers, engines, fuel and scuba tanks (and life rafts) mounted on the rails. Those would seem to me to be even more risky as they are lower down and perpendicular to the forces involved (surface area is directly proportional to the forces - double the surface area and double the forces).  An arch has the panels mostly parallel to the potential forces so the horizontally mounted solar panels would have MUCH less drag than say a paddle board).  

Force is 1/2 times Density of the fluid (air can be considered to be such) times Surface Area times Co-efficient of Drag times Velocity squared.  You can adjust the surface area by adjusting the orientation of the object but everything else is more or less constant except of course for the wind velocity so it  behoves us to keep this in mind as we add stuff to the outside of our boats. (The Cd is different for a paddle board on edge versus on the perpendicular but for a solar panel, it would be considered as 1 in either case as they aren’t really aerodynamic in any specific orientation). 

Another factor to consider is the weight out at the ends of the boat (this isn’t just an arch issue). Adding weight whether on decks or in the lockers will change the design handling of the boat.  

Perhaps a good compromise would be to have an easy way to quickly disconnect the panels and put them below in severe conditions.  That would obviously entail foreknowledge of upcoming conditions as you wouldn’t be able to remove them in much more than mild breezes but I suspect that lifeline mounted panels would face the same problem (although to be fair, I’d much rather be standing on deck than climbing an arch at sea!). I’m sure a tilting/sliding rail mounted system could be devised so that the panels could be easily disconnected at deck level as well with a bit of forethought. 

I’m not second guessing ANYONE  about their decisions here - sailboats are a compromise by their very nature but I’m genuinely curious about the pros and cons so that I can make my own risk/reward evaluation when the time comes. I know that most of us would never plan to be out there in those sorts of conditions but as Forest Gump says “$h.t happens!”   I like Amel’s new hardtops with solar panels.  

Brent
On Oct 21, 2021, 5:22 AM -0400, Scott SV Tengah <Scott.nguyen@...>, wrote:
Your setup sounds perfect for your intended use! I agree with your prioritization, too.

And if you ever decide to go lithium, all you really need to do is buy Victron smart lithium batteries and add a ve.bus BMS. Can you run the washing machine? I can't remember who, but another Amel could not run their washing machine with a 3kw inverter, which was surprising.

We went through a lot of brain damage with our dinghy too. We have the CL310 with a 20hp 4 stroke Suzuki. The dinghy will fit, albeit not perfectly, on the davits. A 340 would be better for the davits but we always keep the dinghy on the aft deck on passage and sized it to fit perfectly on the deck so we're happy we got the 310. Some will optimize for davit use and in that case, they should get a 340. 

By the way, definitely change your davit fall (aka lifting lines) to dyneema if you haven't already. Very easy to do and makes them so much nicer to use. Don't pay Simpson 4000gbp or whatever they want for the "conversion kit" - you can do it yourself for much cheaper.

Regarding Danny's concerns about arches and weather, I've attached a photo of our arch shortly after we installed it and here are a few situations we've found ourselves in since then:

- 45 knots in the Gulf of Lyon with short and steep breaking waves
- Mid November passage from Virginia, though the Gulf Stream, to the Caribbean, with up to 60 knot winds
- A very unpleasant 2800nm upwind/up current passage from Hawaii to French Polynesia. A fellow Amel owner felt the passage tough enough that he had his rigging inspected afterwards. A non-Amel lost their mast and another boat had their keel come loose. 

I haven't been in hurricane force winds, but given what we've experienced so far and given my risk tolerance, the benefits are definitely worth it. Of course, by saying that, we're going to have it ripped off the next time we go on passage!

--
Scott 
2007 A54 #69
SV Tengah
http://www.svtengah.com



--
Brent Cameron

Future Amel Owner & Amel Owner Registry Moderator

Oro-Medonte, Ontario, Canada



--
Brent Cameron

Future Amel Owner & Amel Owner Registry Moderator

Oro-Medonte, Ontario, Canada