Beginning Our Lithium Conversion

A Week Aboard S/V Sabado: 2/12/2023 – 2/19/2023

Hello and Happy Sunday! Let’s jump right in-

Our latest YouTube video is out, and it’s a long one!

We spent last Sunday preparing for our pending boat work. If you’ve missed our last few posts, we’ve been gearing up to make a big change to our power system on Sabado! We are finally making the switch to lithium batteries, something we’ve been considering for years. After plenty of research, we decided to hire professionals to perform the installation, and having technicians on the boat makes both of us nervous. So, we wanted to do as much as we could ahead of time to help things run smoothly. Since our new batteries will be installed under our bed, we cleared out our cabin (mattress and all!) and moved a few of our things into the guest cabin, where we’ll stay for the project’s duration.

We’re also planning on removing our wind turbines to make room for more solar, so Ray climbed into the engine compartment and did some preemptive work disconnecting them so the removal process would be quicker. Monday morning, the STT Marine Services team showed up bright and early and got straight to work. Within minutes, our boat was covered in equipment!

We’re very grateful to be working with STT Marine Services. They’re a unique company based in St. Thomas specializing in marine off-grid operations. They focus on lithium conversions, solar upgrades, and watermaker installs. Their team is comprised of full-time liveaboard sailors who live on their boats while working on others. You can see the influence their lifestyles have on their work: there is a clear emphasis on safety, redundancy, and longevity. When we first reached out to them inquiring about this project, they sent us a questionnaire to get a better understanding of our boat’s needs and, specifically, what we were looking to get out of switching to lithium. Some boats undergo other significant changes when they make the switch. It’s not uncommon to want a fully electric galley, more refrigeration, or to run your AC off your batteries. We have relatively basic desires: to use what we already have on the boat whenever we want and buy an electric oven- no AC, no full galley conversion. We just want to be able to run our watermaker and turn on more than one of our refrigerators!😩 From there, they sent over an estimate with a custom wiring diagram that outlined everything they recommended to create a power system that would meet our needs and support our new batteries. 

For us, this included a solar upgrade. They began by removing our wind turbines right away and sending the support poles off to be shortened, making more room for our new, bigger solar panels. The carpenter also immediately got to work modifying the compartment under our bed to accommodate 3 KiloVault HLX+ 3600Wh Lithium Deep Cycle Batteries. These batteries will nearly double our capacity! 

Ray and I hung out for a bit before deciding it was in everyone’s best interest if we got off the boat and out of the way. We walked to the nearby restaurant for breakfast, then stopped by the grocery store on the way home. We were planning on spending the afternoon on a friend’s boat anchored nearby, but once we dinghied outside of the marina, we realized it was too windy to make the trip, so we turned around and shut ourselves in the guest cabin for a few hours. When we emerged, the boat had transformed! Our old solar panels were gone, the arch was supported by our halyard and a couple of pieces of wood, and the compartment under our bed had been expanded. 

We watched the sunset from our cockpit and headed to bed, excited for the project we’d been dreaming about for ages to continue. 

Tuesday was mainly a delivery day. People came and went, bringing along with them 4 new solar panels, more tools, and various other supplies. Ray and I stayed downstairs, reading reviews for electric kettles and air fryers to lower our propane usage since we’ll finally have enough power to do so! That evening we went to the marina bar for “just one drink” before we were meant to meet up with friends for Valentine’s Day dinner. We ended up having more than one drink while enjoying the live music and decided to stay put for dinner, then went home and had a movie night instead. This is the only photo I got…😂

Every day is Valentine’s Day with you, Ray! ❤️  

I was happy to see our newly shortened poles get reinstalled on Wednesday. I’m sure it was fine, but you can’t convince me that two pieces of wood + a strap attached to our halyard were an adequate replacement for two hefty, stainless steel poles… The modified storage space under our bed was also completed, and the carpenter did an excellent job. The goal with modifications like this is to make it look like that’s how it came from the factory, and I’d say he nailed it! 

That evening we got drinks with a couple from the boat docked across from us. They ran charters on a beautiful (and HUGE) catamaran that had pulled into the marina because of battery and generator issues. It always amazes me to hear that no matter how expensive or new the boat is, we all seem to deal with the same problems. 😂 That night was open mic night at the bar, so we got to listen (and dance) to various local artists! My favorite part of the evening was asking the older gentleman sitting next to us how he was doing today, and his response was, “good, I guess, another day upright.” 😂

Our new solar panels were supposed to be installed on Thursday, but there were some delays caused by a wiring job we had done in Trinidad years ago. To make a long story short: our stern light had been wired in a way that made it unserviceable. So, the STT Marine Services team spent most of the day troubleshooting since our new solar panels would intrude upon where our stern light was mounted. They ultimately decided to saw off the current setting of the light, install the panels, and replace the entire light later. 

This was my view Friday afternoon while editing this week’s video (note the balancing contortionist with the power tool and the wires hanging down from multiple holes in the ceiling😅):

Once the solar arch was completed, we all had a margarita to celebrate and chatted about their plans for the next week. We’re hoping to be out of the marina next weekend, which seems feasible (pending any surprise delays). 🤞🏼 Once the workers left, Ray and I finished our YouTube video, hosed down the outside of the boat, and wiped off the thick layer of sawdust that had accumulated on the interior surfaces. We grabbed an early dinner and went straight to bed. 

We spent the first part of the day yesterday struggling to get our video to upload… longer videos always seem to crash while uploading, voiding my attempt to have it process overnight. 🙄 In this week’s video, we take you along on the hectic adventure that is living aboard during a major project, and Ray sits down with a professional to talk about why we aren’t doing this install ourselves, his professional opinion of the KiloVault batteries, and some of the details of our design.

Once we got it uploaded and published, I went back to bed. I don’t sleep very well on the dock… there are lots of strange noises, and I’m always nervous about how easy it would be for someone to board us (no matter how unlikely it may be), and I haven’t been feeling good as a result. This was the first day in a while that we were alone, so I took the opportunity to relax in my pajamas all day. Ray ran a few errands before joining me. 🫶🏼

Today I hope to finish some chores before another week of boat work begins. I hope you had a great week! ❤️

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