April 2002 — By Capt.
The Tao of Power
|Mystical and somewhat magical by nature, batteries require down-to-earth care for trouble-free operation.|
What is this fascination we have with electricity? As kids we delighted in that little static spark as it jumped from our fingers to a friend’s. And who hasn’t been absolutely awed at the unleashed power of a massive thunderstorm’s lightning flashes that can momentarily turn darkness into bright daylight?
Maybe it has something to do with the electrolytes coursing through our bodies that happen to have the same mineral proportions as sea water. Or that everything we do–whether it be walking, thinking, sleeping, eating–is controlled by biochemically produced electrical messages zipping along the synaptic wiring of our bodies.
Well, before I crawl too far out on some metaphysical limb, it’s probably a good idea to secure my lines to a more solid, parallel-thinking dock that you can all get your bearings on: battery maintenance. Batteries form the core of your boat’s electrical system. It all starts there, in that compartment where the two, four, eight, or however many of them you have aboard sit and wait patiently until called upon to unleash their power. Today’s lead-acid and gel-cell batteries are efficient, well-designed, and precisely manufactured pieces of equipment that, if cared for in the proper way, will deliver trouble-free power for years. But to keep them working properly and ready to deliver the energy you need, regular maintenance is essential.
Battery maintenance is a year-round activity, and you need to pay careful attention to it whether your boat is in full-time operation, seasonally stored, or just out of the water for repairs or painting. With that in mind, let’s begin by discussing battery storage.
If your boat was up on the hard for the winter season, you should have removed your batteries and stored them in a cool, dry place where the temperature never went below freezing or got too hot. (Heat is highly detrimental to a battery because the rate of corrosion, solubility of metal components, and self-discharge all increase with an increase in temperature.)
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.