Sun, Wind, & Water: The Essential Guide to the Energy Efficient Cruising Boat
by Bill Morris
In all my miles as a cruising sailor, I’ve always been impressed by how well other cruisers could conserve things — money in particular. While my interest in dockside exchanges on savings generally perked up when liquor and wine were discussed, most other conservation-related topics got tedious fast.
Discussions about energy conservation, however, were — and still are — different. Increasing one’s energy independence is exciting; it is the combination of self-sufficiency, project management, being able to use new gadgetry and the prospect of getting a good return on your investment. And it goes directly to offset the operational costs and the maintenance duties demanded by the vessel.
To that end, author Bill Morris, who also wrote The Wind Vane Self-Steering Handbook, does an excellent job of acquainting the reader with all facets of onboard energy by clearly parsing out how energy on the boat can be harnessed, stored, used — and wasted. In doing so, he makes no secret of his inclinations toward being as energy-efficient as possible, nor in his belief that many onboard devices go beyond the absurd when it comes to the power and upkeep they demand. Nowhere is this clearer than his chapter on windlasses, where he advocates a manual unit.
But don’t be distracted by this subjectivity, because Morris’ book is a valuable reference that is designed to walk the average cruiser through each and every segment of energy production and use on a boat. Batteries, alternators, solar panels, diesel/gas/wind/hydro generators, control and monitoring — it’s all there, and it’s all (at least for now) up to date. Moreover, it’s entirely usable as a guide for either tweaking existing energy systems, or installing them for the first time. Morris even provides examples of relevant manufacturers and their models.
Personally, I’m in Morris’ camp: The onboard systems of boats have gotten to the point where they demand enormous energy input and constant maintenance. His observations on greater energy independence strike home when it comes to using wind vanes (versus autopilots), renewable resources (wind and solar) and cruising in an environmentally responsible manner. Every cruising sailor can get something of value from Sun, Wind, and Water.