Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Three Weeks Living Aboard - How Did We Power It?

I have previously described the electrical specification of K-L as being suitable only for weekends away or for short holiday use, as the previous owner to us, the first, I believe only intended to use the boat as a temporary home on permanent moorings with shore power, selling on when a more permanent address had been found. As such, he didn't invest in a large cruising battery bank or charger when the boat was originally fitted. When we bought the boat, (on a very limited budget), we considered it to be the youngest, least used, and in the best condition for the price that we had seen, even with this slight disadvantage, which, to be fair, can be easily rectified. The boat is fitted in other areas as 'live-aboard', for example the black water tank will last over 4 weeks of constant use, and we can get a week out of the fresh water tank, depending on how long you linger in the shower. See my specification page for full details. As we too only use the boat mainly for weekends away from home, usually on her home mooring with shore power, this suits us fine, and wouldn't justify the cost of re-fitting a large leisure battery bank complete with suitable mains charging systems. But, when we wanted to take the boat out this summer for 3 weeks or more, how did it cope?

K-L is fitted with only 2 X 110ah leisure batteries, and 1 X engine battery, charged by the usual twin alternator set-up found on a Barrus Shire engine, 1 X 70ah and 1 X 50ah, working through a Sterling Pro Digital Advanced Regulator. A Sterling 1800 watt inverter converts this to mains as required, and we also have a small Suzuki mains generator from the 1980's with a (small by modern standards) 330 watt output, (it only cost me £50). There are 16 X 15 watt filament lights, which are not used while out and about, other than when getting into bed and using the bathroom. We use a stand light with 3 X 9 watt low energy mains bulbs, that provide ample light for both the galley and lounge area during the evening. From using this, I have found it to be our best option, for light value, even though it is using the inverter to convert 12 V to mains to run it. There is also an Electrolux 12 / 24 volt compressor fridge, that can also be operated on mains via its own specialist local inverter, with an auto change-over. We don't use our normal 26" flat screen mains TV while cruising, instead standing in front of it a small 10" flat screen TV intended for motor home use, working directly on 12 Volts. This also has the benefit of a high gain tuner, so TV reception is never a problem.

So the daily routine. If the boat engine is used for 6+ hours cruising, then all systems, TV, stand light, water pumps, Tecma lavatory etc. will happily last for the whole evening, although the fridge has to be turned off overnight. There is also ample power left for the morning after to watch TV etc. over breakfast before setting off, but best to wait until the engine is running until flushing the Tecma the morning after ;-) The macerator uses a lot of power, and runs slow on a less than full battery supply!

If the engine is used for less than this, i.e. a short day's cruising, then I will find a suitable mooring where the Suzuki generator can be run. While this is running, it will support all systems, including the fridge and the C-Tek M-100 charger, which boosts the batteries up to float level. A tank of fuel (about 1.5 ltrs) will run for 5 hours, which is sufficient to take us into the evening, where we will again be self sufficient overnight.

On two occasions on this cruise we chose not to move on the following day. In these circumstances, the main engine is run for a couple of hours the next day to bulk charge the batteries, followed by the generator to take them to float, while at the same time running the fridge and all other systems. By evening we are again self sufficient.

Heating. We have Webasto diesel heating, which could be used while cruising, but would use too much power while idle. We do however, have the benefit of the Squirrel solid fuel stove, which heats the whole of the living space. On this cruise, no heating was required.

This has all worked well for us, and although by no means perfect, and certainly unacceptable for live-aboard use, we have enjoyed a trouble free time away from base, with not a single outage of electrical power. At some stage in the future I will change the low energy mains bulbs in the stand fitting for LED, which will equate to running 3 lamps using the energy of just one of the current ones. If, one day, I am allowed to invest the cost, I might just fit K-L with a more normal battery bank and multi-stage charger of suitable size. Until then, as with even the most highly energized and electrically equipped live-aboard, we will have to tailor our electrical equipment use to fit what energy we have available.

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