Carbon Footprints

Got involved in a discussion among US friends a while ago about alternative energy. The effort was a challenge since most folks involved had clearly chosen their positions, but the gist of it all was the cost of alternative energy and whether it is or is not competitive and viable. My assertion is that it is relative. While power flows freely and cheaply out of the outlet, the pollution in some far away state, alternative energy seems pretty expensive. Interrupt that flow for some reason; put the plant in our backyard and the cost/benefit ratio teeters, likely in another direction.

    Things also change here on the cruising sailboat. We by our choice of course, must produce all of our energy. There is no outlet to plug into when the batteries are low or filling station down the street with cheap, clean fuel to pump when the tank is down. But at the end of the day we want power in the battery bank, water in the tank and warm for a shower, clean clothes for tomorrow, ice for sundowners, a cool fridge, and some spare diesel in the tank for getting underway or emergencies. We do that with a small wind generator, one 85 watt solar panel, augmented by our engine when it is already running for another reason or when we absolutely have to. Before leaving we super insulated the fridge, built a highly efficient unit, big battery bank, kept electronics to a minimum, and replaced lights with LEDs trying our best to lean the balance in our favor.

    Some sailors sail more, some run the diesel more. Some produce large amounts of electricity with solar and wind, some have generators. A few are without refrigerators or watermakers and need little. We all have different “musts” among our cruising needs. For us the biggies are the watermaker and the fridge. But whatever our choices are, we have to power it. We have to get it and keep it in balance. Most things our moms taught us anyway: turn the lights off when you’re not using it, same for the fans, open the fridge one time for everything, and so many more. We’ve all been told…I hope.
    We last filled the tank in April in Puerto Rico where diesel was around $3.90/gallon. Everything before Puerto Rico since leaving the US was around $6/gallon or more, sometimes well over that since… the cost/benefit ratio teeters. So I decided to tally the data since that last fill: 85 gallons of diesel consumed in over four months. It has seen us through 740 nautical miles, 15 Countries, and 33 different anchorages. Coupled with our solar and wind…made all our water, cooled our fridge, froze our ice, heated the water heater, and powered all our computers/lights/electronics. Trying for a next fill in Tobago or Trinidad end of September.


Anonymous said...

Nice post Steve. IMHO, the best thing you did was to super insulate the fridge. Although I have yet to reap the benefits (still tied to shore power), I've also done that, and it pays off to bite the bullet, rebuild the icebox, and get that one out of the way. Congrats on your miserly amp/hour ways.

Linda said...

Let us try to tempt you some more: diesel for $1/gallon in Trini! Jerry-canning of course, but well worth the couple of hours and $23 for a rental car!
Anne and Chris