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23' mini-trawler
by Schucker

Janice aboard Seaweed,
living the good life afloat...

Trawler life on a nickel budget is possible.
I'm doing it and you can too.

Janice Marois, nautical journalist.
Accredited member of Boat Writers International.

This is the fifth in a series about how I added power to Seaweed. The ability to live life off-grid is important to me. In these articles I will share what I did, the mistakes made, and those things I got correct too. Thank you for reading.


My mailing address is: Post Office Box 8284, Madeira Beach, FL 33738
15019 Madeira Way, Box 8284, Madeira Beach, FL  33708

Date: 22 October 2021. Solar on Cloudy Days (#5 in series)


This is becoming a multi-part series on power for an off-grid life afloat. It details the order in which I added power to Seaweed. In it I cover both the mistakes made, and the choices that were spot on. Feel free to learn from my mistakes.

For those with  slower connections I am splitting the series into smaller portions. It is far easier to download a smaller webpage especially when the connection is iffy at best. This is Part Five.

Of course any off-grid power set-up tends to be tweaked, improved, and upgraded over time. There are always more projects on a boat. We reach one plateau and promptly extend the goalposts a bit further with the next Great Idea. I started with two 100aH batteries, which doubled to four due to the gift from Mary and Christian. Over the years I have increased that to seven batteries in the bilge. That is a lot!

Being able to generate power is only one part of the off-grid solution. Having adequate storage for said power is critical too. Thus, batteries are a required element. And the more, the better.


For a synopsis about batteries aboard Seaweed,
please read the
Batteries Store Power article.

Chasing green water, I moved the
boat south to the St. Petersburg area.

I've been here meandering around for quite
some time. It is beautiful, albeit crowded.

Once I arrived in St. Petersburg I was gifted two more solar panels from Bucky. This pair made a Big Impact. Thank you again Cap'n Larry and Eva. Your panels put me over the top in power production.

The two 85 watt panels were installed
 outbound above my galley/dinette area.

The two Bucky panels increased the total wattage of my solar array to 445 watts. That sounds like a lot, and indeed it is. The five panels reliably provide 150aHs per day when it is sunny. This is sufficient for my decadent lifestyle. Excluding the air conditioner, there is zero difference between my life at the dock or while anchored. Those last two panels secured a relaxed off-grid life. I now really don't consider power at all, unless it is cloudy...



I currently use approximately 150 amp hours per day.


In total I have seven batteries, each with the potential to store 100aH. That means the when batt is fully charged, I have 700 amps. Nigel Calder in his Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual 4th Edition tome recommends that folks like me with Lead Acid batteries not take our batts down below 50% of full. Thus, though I have 700 amps of power it is unwise to use more than 350aH of said total.

Lead Acid batteries are the least expensive available. They require maintenance. Details on how I check my batteries is found in the Battery Check and Cheater Method article.


I am happiest when my batteries are above 12.4
though that is not usually possible until the
sun shines on my solar panels in the morning.



Cloudy Days Battery Bank Amps Daily Use
normally 150aH
*Charging Via Solar Percentage Available
Starting Amps 700aH Batts Full Normally on a sunny day the
batteries recharge to full via solar panels.

*Charging Via Solar ... even on a cloudy day I can generally get in 30 amps via my 445 watts of solar panels.

Day 1, start 700aH minus 150 = 550aH plus 30 = 580aH 83%
Day 2, start 580aH minus 150 = 430aH plus 30 = 460aH 66%
Due to batteries going down I
would now cut back to 100aH daily...
Day 3, start 460aH minus 100 = 360aH plus 30 = 390aH 55%
At this point, Day 4, the refrigerator has
to be shut down. I am in a difficult situation.

I do not want to use my Lead Acid batteries below the 50% mark. Although occasionally it is okay and the batts will recover, I prefer to be careful. That is why my batteries last from five to seven years on average.


I primarily rely on solar
to power my life off-grid.

With the reefer turned off, I can maintain a minimal lifestyle at anchor. Although I won't be nuking popcorn I can utilize propane for cooking. I will still be able to visit Trawler Forum online via the lovely tablet I was given. Thank you again Cap'n Gary for that. I never imagined how cool a tablet could be! And too, my Kindle beckons on these lazy days of autumn... I am indeed blessed.

The thing is, as long as I am having windy days I can manage to continue life as normal with the power generated by my Air-Breeze wind generator. It will supplement the lack of solar on cloudy days. Often times, if the sun is not shining there is some wind.

I will say that in Gulfport I found the
breezes I had missed since the east coast.

This Tidewater center console boat
is heading across the bay near Gulfport.

The Problem with Gulfport is that my boat is smaller than most. Gulfport has a great deal of fetch. I explained fetch in the
By the Shipyard article. Basically the danger occurs if there is a long distance between you and the shoreline combined with winds. Winds will cause the waves to increase.

For those of us with smaller vessels, it is wise to anchor in areas with nearby shorelines. This means I chose to be out of those winds. Therefore I rely on my solar system for power. Solar when combined with a hefty battery bank enables my life to be incredibly decadent. But there's more to it than that. The next article will conclude the series.

Thank you for reading. Happy boating.

Comments welcome and encouraged on the Solar on Cloudy Days (#5 in series) page.

Categories:  Boat Talk, Boats, Characters, Gear, Locations,


Announcement: Folks who want to be notified when I post are welcome to become subscribers. I email readers every time a new article goes up. That's usually once or twice per week. If you'd like to be included via BCC* simply drop me a line to janice@janice142.com and I'll add you. It's free.

*BCC - Blind Carbon Copy. Basically no one but me will have your email address and the list of subscribers is not available.

Now this is not fancy. Basically I copy off the top three items in my Archive file. That way you can catch up if life gets in the way of your reading fun.

Secret: If you want to know what's what, start in the Archive. It offers you the title, first paragraph and topics (Categories) covered in each article published on my website.

Something a new reader might not realize: Almost every picture on this website can be clicked. The photo will get larger when clicked. Do that a second time and the picture should be full size. Enjoy...

My Cruising Kitty earns money each time you buy on Amazon through my links found in the upper left corner of every page. This is a tangible way to support me and is greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your support, and heck, just for being here. I appreciate that more than you can imagine.

Paypal Tablet link:  *CRUISING KITTY
*for those who wish to donate direct to me via paypal.

Pet of the Week: Adderall
on S/V Spork

Submit your pet's photo.
Please email pictures of your crew!

More canine, feline and feathered crew members can be found on the The First Mate Gallery page.


The Archive holds a chronological list of every item published on my website. It includes a brief synopsis (not just the title) along with the topics covered in each article.

Click on the title and voila: you're there. Enjoy!

Skipper, First Mate extraordinaire

Of course every boat needs a Deck Swabbie. Mine, born in 2008, is a papillon mix. She weighs in at five pounds.

Coming soon ...


Topics of Interest:
You can achieve a simple satisfying life

Oh, a wondrous bird is the pelican!
His bill holds more than his belican.
He can take in his beak enough food for a week.
But I'm darned if I know how the helican.
(Poem by Dixon Lanier Merritt, 1879-1972.)


For years I've been collecting short pithy statements otherwise known as aphorisms. If you're like me and enjoy the weird, go ahead and CLICK!

These are previously posted at the bottom of each article -- for new, you'll have to come visit again.

Seaweed is in St. Pete right now.

The above chart (#411) can be a wish book of sorts as you look over your domain and wonder where to go next. And yes, I do have the originals (sans red arrow) as jpeg's for download should you desire your own for closer perusal. Enjoy!

The Writer's Block

It's my belief that other folks who boat are some of the most interesting in the world. Inside every boater is a story. Let yours out! I'd love to post short stories, vignettes, or even longer articles that focus on some aspect of our life on or near the water. Suggested topics include:

1. I Remember When...
2. My First Boat
3. Who inspired you to be a boater?
4. Fishing Trips or Tricks
5. Or another subject of your choosing

For the novice, here's how to write: Simply pretend you're sending a letter to a friend. Tell about an event or a memory from years ago that you still recall.

Life has changed so much on the water since I was born aboard. Personally I'd love to hear your memories of life when you were younger. Boats were smaller, narrower, and much slower. Kids were kids and our families often shaped the adult we have become. Here are my two aboard the tow boat my dad ran for a time:

Your pictures would be wonderful too. I posted one of Boot Key Harbor taken in 2001 that has gotten quite a few downloads and really, that's not so terribly long ago... Do you have any photos to share? Email me.

Do you want to help out?

Often an article for the website will be completely written yet lack photographs. I like pictures and am looking for some for up-coming pieces:

  • Pets afloat (include pet and boat name please)

  • Any picture of boats underway or at anchor

  • Photos of people enjoying life in or on the water

Size: a minimum of 1000 pixels across please. If that doesn't make sense think bigger versus resized for emailing. I prefer the full-size version. Also, the name you'd like me to use when I add the copyright stuff to your picture. And thanks bunches!

My email address is janice@janice142.com

Thanks for visiting. If you happen to see my boat along the
waterways, give a call on Channel 16. I'm always listening.

click picture to enlarge

My home is not fancy by any means, however you cannot imagine how wonderful it is to come back to her after an expedition on shore.

If I can live this life, why not you too?

Skipper, First Mate

Aphorism Alert: Begin doing what you want to now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake. Marie Beyon Ray.

Contributions to my Cruising Kitty
are always appreciated.

Every gift helps.

The Cruising Kitty is what boaters refer to as spending money. There's never enough aboard Seaweed!

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