Cruising Tips

Solar Panel Lifelines

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Finding a place to locate solar panels on a small boat is a challenge. We wanted our two 50-watt panels to be adjustable, but secure. Ultimately, we were able to meet both criteria by mounting them on the lifelines of Eurisko, our Creekmore 34.

Our panels were not as wide as the distance between our top lifeline and the toerail, so we knew we could stow them there vertically without the panels being crushed. To mount them, we put cushion clamps around the lifelines and screwed them to the panel frames. To make them adjustable, we installed a cockpit dodger hinge in the middle of each frame. On these hinges we mounted short telescoping poles that are also used in boat-canvas installations. The other ends of the poles we secured to dodger hinges with removable pins that we mounted on deck. We had to cut down one end of the poles so we could lower the panels without pulling the pins, but the poles are still long enough that the panels can be angled up when the sun is on the other side of the boat.

When the sun is very low, or when we want to secure a panel inside the rail, we remove the deck pin, releasing one end of the pole, lay the pole flat against the panel, and then lower the panel to a vertical position, hanging from the lifelines. If the wind starts blowing, we use a line to secure the panel to the rail so it doesn’t flip up from its vertical position. 

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