By Estelle Cockcroft, Catamaran Guru
For many couples worldwide, the dream of leaving land life behind and embracing the open seas is becoming a reality. The liveaboard lifestyle — a perfect mix of tranquility, adventure, and constant discovery — has captivated the hearts of many. As this trend grows, attention to the specific requirements of marine living has intensified, emphasizing a vital component of the liveaboard vessel: the electrical system.
This system, responsible for handling everything from safety to comfort, is the lifeblood of any boat and a huge consideration for any liveaboard couple. As experts in yacht ownership consultation, Catamaran Guru advises on the importance of maintaining and upgrading these systems. A comprehensive and well-serviced electrical system doesn’t just ensure a safer and more comfortable voyage. It improves a vessel’s sustainability and increases the enjoyment of the liveaboard experience.
Powering the liveaboard dream
Being self-sufficient on the open seas requires reliable power, often for extended periods without access to shore-based utilities. Combining traditional generators with renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines, hybrid power systems have thus become a mainstay for liveaboard couples.
While requiring substantial upfront investment, these renewable energy systems offer major long-term savings, providing uninterrupted power even in the most remote locations. Also importantly, integrating these eco-friendly power solutions aligns perfectly with the world’s broader shift towards sustainable living. Catamaran Guru notes the value of these green solutions, which are cost-effective in the long run and contribute to preserving the very marine environments liveaboard couples hold dear.
Essential lighting upgrades
Proper lighting is an aspect of life at sea that often gets overlooked. However, lighting should always be a major consideration because it is essential for safety and adds to the boat’s ambience. Ideally, you want the right lights where you need them most. Since the introduction of LED technology, these energy-efficient and long-lasting lights have become the perfect choice for liveaboards. They offer various lighting options, from warm, cozy tones for quiet evenings to bright, clear light for performing necessary tasks.
Catamaran Guru recommends marine-grade LED systems designed specifically to withstand harsh sea life conditions, including saltwater, humidity, and continuous vibration. Exterior lighting is especially important for ensuring you can move safely around the deck in low light conditions and for signaling other vessels.
The new era of electronic navigation
The traditional art of navigation has changed significantly in recent years due to the enhanced technology available today. Modern liveaboard couples are increasingly tech-savvy, embracing advanced electronic systems into their voyages. Alongside conventional compasses, charts, and binoculars it is now clear that GPS, digital chart plotters, and electronic compasses are heavily relied upon.
They provide more precise and reliable navigation data, ensuring safe passage even in unfamiliar waters. Stephen Cockcroft from Catamaran Guru certainly understands the need to adopt such technologies, explaining that advanced navigation systems are not just about convenience. They offer a safety net, ensuring that regardless of the conditions, your position, course, and destination are always just a few clicks away.
Reliable communication systems
With many liveaboard couples working remotely or needing to stay in touch with family and friends, communication systems have become integral to the boat’s electrical setup. The best and safest communication setup includes a combination of VHF radios, satellite phones, and WiFi boosters to ensure consistent and reliable connectivity.
While a comprehensive communication setup might be viewed as a luxury, it’s actually an investment in safety, allowing for immediate assistance in emergencies. More importantly, maintaining a reliable internet connection is one of the most important considerations for those running businesses or working remotely. It also can’t be understated that your communication system lets you access real-time weather updates and other essential navigational data, a vital part of safe sailing.
Climate control systems
Living on a boat often means dealing with extreme weather conditions. Marine air conditioning and heating systems are always worthwhile investments to stay comfortable out on the seas. Modern systems offer energy-efficient operation, which is crucial for vessels relying on limited power supplies.
When advising clients on electrical upgrades, Catamaran Guru emphasizes the value of such systems because they don’t just improve comfort – they can also extend the amount of time you can stay away at sea. However, these systems do require proper maintenance to ensure optimal performance. Regular cleaning, filter replacement, and professional servicing are a must.
Regular maintenance and inspections
While on the topic of system maintenance, looking after your electrical gear properly is just as important as buying the right products in the first place. This maintenance includes regular checks, cleaning, and professional inspections to prevent issues before they become major problems. An appropriately maintained electrical system ensures efficient power consumption and can save considerable repair costs.
Perhaps more importantly, though, maintenance underpins the safety and longevity of the boat’s entire system. These measures, coupled with a smart choice of upgrades and energy-efficient solutions, ensure a seamless, sustainable, and enjoyable liveaboard experience. With these insights, liveaboard couples can set sail confidently, knowing they’re well equipped for life on the open seas.
An electrical upgrade example
Jay and his partner, one liveaboard couple, offer a terrific example of the electrical upgrade process. Their 2018 Bali 4.1 was similar to many popular ‘condomarans’ in charter fleets, designed to rely on a generator for significant 110V or 230V power. But Jay and his partner sought greater independence from the generator and more freedom in their power use.
Their refit included increasing inverter capability, adding more air conditioning, adding a solar rack with 1050W additional solar panels, and replacing the house and start batteries with 1200 Amp hours of Lithium batteries. These upgrades allowed them to run their air conditioners, microwave, water heater, and other electrical appliances without turning the generator on, and simplified dock connection with just a single shore power cable.
Most importantly, they wanted to monitor the system while both on and off the boat. The upgrades greatly impacted their cruising lifestyle, significantly reducing generator use and providing remote monitoring and control of their system. As Jay put it, their new setup was a “game changer,” exemplifying the potential that electrical upgrades hold for enhancing the liveaboard lifestyle. ■
Estelle Cockcroft is one of the foremost experts on large catamaran sailing, living, buying, and selling in the world. She has traveled more than 70,000 nautical miles of remote waterways, explored 45 incredible countries, and as Catamaran Guru Co-Founder, Co-Owner, and President brokers dozens of catamaran transactions each year and manages the company’s $40M+ annual revenue. Estelle shares her passion for sailing through her blog on the Catamaran Guru website (catamaranguru.com), and as a qualified Royal Yachting Association captain and American Sailing Association instructor.