Dave explained that before starting any project, you need to think through what can go wrong and how you would fix it, especially before putting a hole in your boat or through anything. Also, he feels it is important to do the installations himself. When we are cruising, if something needs to be repaired, he wants to be able to handle it himself. Dave usually finds that companies don't want you to do your own installations. They would prefer you hire a professional. I suppose it has to do with liability.
Dave did a lot of research online last summer (and I thought he was just playing games). He read forums about what other sailors use, pros and cons, ease of connection, etc. His electronics training came in handy.
Choice: 2 Kyocera panels that are 140 watts each, 5'x2'2"x 2". He ordered them through Northern Arizona Wind and Sun. The person Dave talked to was very helpful. He talked through all the parts that were needed and made sure he had everything. Their website also had great diagrams and technical support.
Dave decided to place ours on top of our cloth bimini which is supported by a metal framework custom made for our boat. The SP framework is designed for mounting, but it would need more support. Dave researched and found another company, eMarine Systems, that made metal crossbars to assist in mounting. BUT, Dave had to figure out where to attach the framework of the panels to the framework supporting our bimini using the crossbars for support. That included where to punch holes through our bimini and how to seal it afterwards. He likes a good puzzle. He had one panel mounted before his hernia surgery in September.
Steps: 1) plan best placement & mount panels 2) remove and store in suburban 3) repair bimini 4) remount panels 5) patch bimini again 6) run wiring to a solar panel charge controller 7) connect to batteries.
During this process, we determined that our bimini needed to be replaced. As holes were punched through it, it began to tear or shred. It's not unusual to have to replace them over time, we just weren't planning that right now. We decided to repair ours and have a new one made elsewhere. Florida has many businesses to choose from compared to the Mobile area. Luckily, we found a great patch kit called Tear-Aid made by Sail-rite. They make marine grade sewing machines , strong enough to patch sails.
The last step, hooking them to the batteries, will be done tomorrow. Most the projects are winding down. The next few days will be spent sorting and storing what was still in our storage unit, provisioning the boat and making a sail plan AND taking our car to a used car lot. Leon said he'd give us a ride back to the marina. Then when the weather is right, we will leave Mobile Bay and head to Cape Coral, FL. Can't predict a time line. But Dave promised to have me on shore somewhere to be able to go to church on Christmas. I recently read that sailing plans should be written in the sand at low tide.
Underside of solar panel
Tear-aid patch over sewn area of canvas.