Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Power to the People

This is Vicki’s primer of power management for the uninitiated…

The boat can be powered (i.e. electricity provided) in four ways:

Shore power – When in a marina at a dock, the boat is plugged into electricity similar to what you have in a house. But, just as you can overload the electrical circuits in a house, that also happens on the boat. We have to stay within the constraints of 50 amps.

Large generator – When at anchor or on a mooring ball, the large generator will power the major heat-making appliances (stovetop, convection oven, dryer), more than one at a time but not all at the same time and will recharge the batteries.

Small generator – When at anchor or on a mooring ball, the small generator (Little Genny) will power everything except major heat-making appliances, usually one at a time, and will recharge the batteries.

Batteries –When underway or at anchor or mooring, we use the power stored in the batteries. The device that converts battery power to electricity we can use is called the Inverter. The inverter is our friend – it lets us use the microwave at any time to heat coffee or the all-important quiche for lunch.

All this means that we can’t just flip the switch like in a house! We very consciously practice power management. For example, if it’s been a while since we ran the engines (since the engines heat our hot water tank) and when using the small generator in the evening, our typical pattern is to turn on the hot water heater for showers before dinner, then turn it off before using the microwave for dinner, then after dinner run the dishwasher and the coffee maker. If the stovetop or oven is needed for dinner, then we use the large generator. It took us a while to figure out what we could use when – the learning curve was frustrating (it’s easy to feel defeated when all the power goes down), but we’re now pretty savvy power managers.

Lynnie made Clams with Linguine and got acquainted with the necessity of sequential cooking when the boat is being powered by generator. If we draw too much electricity, everything shuts down. So, when using the cooktop which draws big-time amps, we can’t use anything else that creates heat like the toaster, crock pot, or microwave/oven.
Making the linguine meal required heating the garlic bread in the oven first, turning off the oven, and then turning on the stovetop to cook the linguini first, and then the clam sauce.

Another power management accommodation…We carry two types of rice aboard – (1) the type you cook on the stovetop and (2) the pre-cooked shelf-stable version that you reheat in the microwave. The stovetop version is used when we’re plugged into shore power at dock or when the large generator is being used. The microwavable, more expensive type is used at other times – the microwave can be used on the small generator and on the inverter.
Poor Lynnie – twice she’s asked if she could use her blow dryer for a few seconds and Norm told her that we’d have to shut everything else down, so she’s given up! We seem to like her hair curly more than she does.