TAMPA, Fla. — Consumers continue to add gadgets, equipment and electronics to their boat — everything from LED underwater lights to inverters to video cameras to stern thrusters to 22-inch multifunction helm displays. And, of course, they’re armed with their mobile devices when they come aboard. Can’t leave those at home.
In response, Blue Sea Systems has been busy developing products to meet those demands, coming to the market with rugged practical equipment that makes sense.
Last week at the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference, Blue Sea Systems held a press luncheon where the company introduced journalists to about 10 of their latest products. Senior vice president David C. Johnson gave me the rundown on two pieces of electrical equipment — one big and one small, and both aimed at meeting growing power needs.
The first is the Battery Terminal Mount Fuse Block (with cover), which has four fused circuits and mounts on a battery terminal stud. “It’s a way to tap into your wire harness,” Johnson said. “Almost every boater has some electrical device that they want to add. Unless they’re pretty handy, it’s not obvious where to tap into the power.”
The second is the PowerBar, a high-amperage bus bar with a cover that can consolidate large-gauge battery cables and small-gauge wires. “On one end of the spectrum you have an inverter charger or bow thruster, and on the other end you have high-amp stereos, GPS and navigation systems,” he said. “The size of the wires among these varies dramatically. The PowerBar gives you one central collection point for all of these various-sized wires.”
Johnson, who came to Blue Sea 12 years ago, has witnessed the steady growth of electrical components on boats. The need for power comes from an ever-growing diverse group of devices and equipment, he said.
“You have the explosion of mobile devices, which calls for dual USB chargers,” he said. “Every boat should have several of them — operators have devices that need to be charged while under way. And you look at bow thrusters. They’re getting installed on 26-foot boats now.”
That demand for more power prompted the advancement of batteries — both battery chemistry and the number and size of batteries, Johnson said. “When you couple the need for power with the nuances of batteries you need more capability to manage that power and to monitor those batteries as well.”
Fifteen years ago it was common for boats to have only a single battery, Johnson said. “Almost every boat had lead-acid batteries, so it was much simpler to handle and manage the power because the batteries were similar and the loads more predictable,” he said. “You had a VHF radio, a depth finder and/or a GPS, cabin lights and running lights. That was about it.”
The growth of inverters has been significant, too, he said.
“People want to have access to AC power and want all the conveniences of their home on their boat,” Johnson said. “To do that, they need either an inverter or a generator. If they have the space to add an inverter, they will also want to increase the size of the battery bank and may consider one of the new battery chemistries that will increase their power-versus-weight ratio.”
Once the move to an AGM, TTPL or lithium-ion battery is made, a battery charger upgrade may follow.
“These trends keep them coming back to Blue Sea Systems for innovative solutions,” Johnson said.