Self-sufficiency… really?

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Rest assured, we’re not going to go into all the minutae of a comparison between solar panels and which one produces the most power, or which lightbulbs consume the least.  No, this time, the editorial team has decided to raise the debate to a philosophical level…  Or almost!  The idea came to us, I believe, having seen in recent years, two or three videos of rescues.  I say rescues. I really mean boats that have been abandoned.  These were “just” dismasted, and/or had a rope around the propeller.  However,  far from the coast, having pushed the SOS button on the EPIRB, one can sit and wait for the Coastguard helicopter, while having a cup of tea and then smiling at the camera as the winch cable hauls us up into the helicopter.  So rather than get into a massive argument with grumpy old men on the subject of “in my day, we would have got the boat back to port at any cost”, we preferred to reflect a little on the concept of blue water self-sufficiency.  Do you follow?

But to begin with if you like, let’s briefly put aside the purely technical aspects, which are discussed at length (and width and depth) here in your favorite magazine, including by my good self, your humble servant.  When you have been sailing for 30 years with power-hungry bulbs for lighting, and autopilots which try and steer a figure eight downwind whenever the wind and waves are anything over a slight chop, you get the feeling today that you don’t know what to do with all the energy produced by the solar panels, the wind generator, the alternator, the hydro-generator, or even the diesel generator!  Whether it’s down below or on deck, LEDs have replaced 99% of our bulbs.  Whenever we pay a bit of attention to trimming the sails, a few minutes regularly at the helm are a good test for this, the pilot usually hasn’t used too much power.  And if you have splashed out on lithium batteries, you might as well leave the lights on!  So now I understand the owner who previously seemed a bit crazy when he chose to install an induction stovetop on his boat!  He was telling me he could leave it on for several hours without starting the generator.  But not only does this mean he not only doesn’t need to carry propane on board, something which is always a cause for concern,   but also doesn’t have the hassle of all the different standards in different stopover countries.  The nature of the gas itself, the bottle, the adaptors…  If we add up all the time lost on searching out and buying multiple regulators which might only be used once, or even very risky transfers of gas, being able to be free of our dependence on gas takes self-sufficiency to a new level, something which is both unexpected and certainly welcome!  As for water, the reliability and simplicity of watermakers has changed the game.  Knowing that the best way of maintaining them is to run them every day, we can now offer water to those who might be lacking.  So other than running out of diesel if we’ve overdone it, the ...

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