Power Inverter for my Sailboat or Generator? Why Not Both?

Sailboat Inverter

Power Inverter for my Sailboat or Generator? Why Not Both?

“I was deciding between a power inverter for my sailboat or a generator when I identified that they both fulfill different needs. So, I decided to go with both … and boy am I glad.”

-Claude G., Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico

As all seasoned sailors know (and most novice sailors for that matter), AC power on a sailboat originates from three main sources: plugging into “shore” power, using a generator or using a power inverter. When pulling into a marina or having your sailboat docked, you’re obviously going to use the supplied shore power. But, when you’re on the move, your options are limited to two sources: generator or power inverter.

I’ve used a generator on sailboats previously and I wanted to explore my options with my new boat, mostly because I wasn’t crazy about the smell of spent gasoline or the noise produced by the generator when I’m out under the stars. Given, I had quite an older generator and I’m sure they’re at least a little bit quieter (and less smelly, maybe).

As I began exploring my options, I identified two main power needs:
1. The need for continuous power to run my air conditioner and deep freezer.
2. The need for easy access to (silent) power not worth cranking the generator up for, such as blending a quick drink or running the toaster in the morning.

I began talking with other sailors who were quite happy having both on board. Most of the sailors commented on the generators being noisy, and even rattling obnoxiously, but they agreed they would rather have air conditioning on those unbearable days. Some also fished quite a bit and liked being able to keep their deep freezer going after cleaning and dividing the meat from a big catch. When it came to the power inverters, most of the sailors commented on the convenience. The quiet, clean power was nice to have any time they wanted to use electronic devices. Some even ran their TVs, laptops and DVD players via their power inverter.

So what did I do? I bought a power inverter for my sailboat … I also bought a generator.

Yes, the generator is noisy and it runs on gasoline, which means it smells like gasoline even though I have it well ventilated. I use my generator to run my air conditioning for long periods and also my deep freezer when it’s stocked. I even used my generator to charge my boat’s batteries a few times when I noticed they were low (I purchased a marine-rated AC battery charger for this very reason).

The power inverter is the real treat. It’s such an ease when I want to use electricity just for a moment when the generator is off. I can plug in my transistor radio, make a cup of coffee and plug in my space heater on chilly nights. It’s always available and it’s quiet, which is nice when I’m anchored in a serene harbor and want to listen to something other than a noisy gas engine.

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