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Author Topic:   Navigation lights, Pull start motor, No battery
Boatplans posted 07-02-2006 11:19 PM ET (US)   Profile for Boatplans   Send Email to Boatplans  
Jimh posted 09-10-2004
In part …“If you allow yourself to think as if it were 1959, you will realize that back then most small outboard motors did not have electric start, nor did they provide battery charging. It was not a foregone conclusion that every 13-foot Boston Whaler would have a large lead-acid wet-cell battery in it, just as it was not a foregone conclusion every hull would have a console.

I believe it was quite common for operators of small boats like a 13-foot Boston Whaler to employ a pull-start motor, and to not carry the weight of a large battery aboard. If the operator needed to use navigation lights, they might be powered by a small dry-cell lantern battery for the few times they were needed.” …

I was happy to find with a Search that Jimh had already addressed a problem I am confronting. Currently, Jimh is correct, yet technology is already making obsolete our assumptions based electric start systems. Very shortly we will return, in part, to the practice prior to 1959 Jimh writes about. Higher fuel costs should drive the power of outboard motors down, returning boaters to smaller more fuel efficient sizes. That, plus more sophisticated electronic ignitions, obviates manual start. Without electric start, boats need not be equipped with high amperage 12 volt charging systems. Large heavy batteries will be out of place. Subtracting further from the need for electrical power will be highly efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) navigation lighting. AA flashlight batteries are likely to become the power source because they are common whereas thumb nut dry cell batteries are not.

If dry cell lantern batteries were common today, the pressing need to update small boat navigation lighting would be less. Yet, a shopping trip to the battery store reveals the absence from the shelves of dry cell lantern batteries such as those Jimh referred to above. They are nearly gone from the market place and when found they are expensive and unreliable due to shelf age. Heavy batteries from our automobiles are presently the more practical way to power incandescent navigation lights on small boats, even with a manual start engine. (I have read in CW an excellent post that addresses using the magneto of manual start outboards for electricity production. Knowledgeable authors did not like the idea.)

There are other market forces at work in addition to increasing fuel costs and solid state electronics. For the small boat operator, cellular telephones are ubiquitous and probably more reliable than marine radio systems, eliminating another power requirement aboard. We could proceed with a discussion about the same evolutionary process effecting radar, depth finders, television sets, long line winches, and every other system on our boats but this writer has no environmentalist need to deprive boaters of the joy of gadgets. Men boaters will always need gadget electricity, even though they hate to spend money on hull upkeep.

Another market force pressing for reduced electrical power aboard our small craft will be the advantage of not having to worry as much about electrolysis if we can reduce the amperage of electricity running through our boats. Any restoration project of a classic Boston Whaler reveals the destructive properties of electricity. In the future, our wiring need not be designed to serve man’s eyes and muscles, but to better conserve the boat hull through properly bonding the fittings against destructive electrolysis. Boats will last longer and be less expensive to keep. Wouldn’t it be something to have permanent fittings on a boat? I don’t know the damage electricity does to fiberglass, but it is probably considerable, based on every other expensive need levied on boat owners. Filling that hole in the water with money is as certain for a boat owner as taxes are for a landsman. We are all sensitive to the economics of keeping out boats nicer and longer.

We might continue with more philosophical ideas about electricity but my most pressing electrical problem is my pull start motor and no lantern batteries. Jimh will like the fact that in Michigan during Summer, it does not become dark until quite late. Whereas, here in Alabama, the sun goes down earlier in Summer and stays up later in Winter when, without ice, boating is perfectly fine. Furthermore, in Summer, we like to boat at night in the South because it is cooler and more comfortable, especially when the mosquitoes go to bed after astronomical full night. Actually, boating is quite wonderful drifting on the Tennessee River late at night in Summer, a time to settle all the world’s problems. There is a real need for navigation lights powered by something better than 12 volt batteries. It will come.


crabby posted 07-03-2006 11:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for crabby  Send Email to crabby     
Have you looked into sealed rechargable batteries of the type used in motorcycles or ATV's? These can be small but capable of powering nav lights for an evening, and can be recharged with a conventional (or any sort of high tech) charger while the boat is back at the dock.
Speedo66 posted 07-03-2006 02:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for Speedo66  Send Email to Speedo66     
In the same vein, a little larger but much less expensive, are lawn tractor batteries. I'm still using the same six year old one, albeit with off season charging.


Boatplans posted 07-03-2006 04:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for Boatplans  Send Email to Boatplans     
Radio Shack has a variety of 12 volt high amp rechargeable batteries. The old style dry cell batteries with thumb nuts are also sold at Radio Shack. They are expensive, high maintenance, and relatively unreliable next to disposable batteries that can power LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology.

Two ubiquitous double “A” batteries, AA size, cost less than a U.S. dollar and will power a LED navigation light system for a week. Seamen carry AA battery powered MagLites on our belts which provide a set of backup batteries for a boat’s navigation lights. This adds a lot of reliability.

I am insisting on a complete break with the old 12 volt starter/generator technology. Boaters are at a point when we should be moving on to simpler fuel efficient motors and electronics with almost no loss in convenience but an increase in safety and efficiency.

As Boston Whaler 13 footer fanatics (other sizes too with flatter bottoms) we are able to move to this easily because our hulls are designed to plane with smaller outboards. Speed oriented boaters out of the Yacht “Moppie” school point to the faster smoother riding “V” hulls without acknowledging their appetite for fuel. These hatchet hull brute force boats are power hungry. To save gasoline, we can choose to return to the classic 13 footer style hull. It might seem unnecessary to migrate away from conventional 12 volt electronics if it did not save so much money and, potentially, fuel.

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