For first-time boat owners, the rules and regulations of getting your vessel sea-worthyâ€”and learning how to be your own captainâ€”can sometimes be overwhelming. There is a lot of information to digest all at once, and you'll quickly find that everyone is an expert. But one small, easily overlooked condition for a smooth ride on the water is your motorboat's batteries.
First, unless you're a sailor, you're going to need a way to start your boat's engine. Second, most boats need to power a host of electronic equipmentâ€”some absolutely essential (like proper lights, a bilge, and a radio for calling in emergencies) and some just for pleasure (like the stereos, laptops, and hair dryers you'd want when spending any extended period of time at sea). Since you're not going to be hooked up to the shore power connector all summer, let's look at the basics of boat batteries and why every vessel needs a proper set-up!
There are two types of applications for the batteries on your boat. The first is your starting battery, which will get your engine humming in a powerful surge of up to 400 amperes (much like a car battery, essential for any engine). The alternator then recharges the starting battery for its next use. The second type is what's called a "deep cycle" battery, which is housed in your boat's battery bank. These are used to power all electrical items on your boat as a sort of standing reserve of energy. Deep cycles have a larger storage capacity and are capable of much deeper discharges than a simple starting battery. Remember this distinction! A deep cycle battery cannot be used for starting a motor, and a starter battery can't be used for things like running lights and pumps for long periods of time. There is a third optionâ€”using dual-purpose batteries, a compromise between a starter and a deep cycleâ€”but they should generally only be used for little powerboats and some sailboats.
How many deep cycle batteriesâ€”their size, function, reserve capacity, cycle life, cold cranking amperes, voltage, and so forthâ€”depends on the size and requirements of your boat. Batteries are not interchangeable, so make sure you anticipate all the electronic equipment you'll be using on the water and how long you'll be away from shore power. It is important to use more powerful batteriesâ€”or smaller batteries wired togetherâ€”if you are planning for overnight anchorage, or if you're heading toward open water where it's possible to become stranded. It's a good idea to carry a spare set, just in case of damage, leakage, or other malfunctions that will leave you without power. As a recommendation, choose a deep cycle battery from Canadian Energy â€” they're a company known for providing quality products for Canadian weather.
It's also very important to make sure that the batteries are properly charged. One way to do so is to invest in solar panels for your boat. When the sun is shining, you generate your own energy, refilling your battery bank for those extra long journeys on the water. You can charge batteries using an alternator with enough amperage, or with an adapter that allows for the battery to be charged from an outlet. It is also important to remember that spent batteries used will wear out much more quickly. Don't let your batteries drop below half their charge before recharging, and never let them go below a quarter of their charge. Remember to keep old with old, and new with newâ€”don't mix refreshed and depleted batteries. Keep them clean of any sediment or grime, and always keep them in cool conditions (an overheated battery is a dead battery). Of course, you have to store batteries in temperatures above freezing, but if you're trying to go out on your boat in sub-zero temperatures, you may have more problems than deciding which batteries to buy!