In the realm of dig­i­tal out­boards, trolling mo­tors and amp-sen­si­tive elec­tron­ics, power is ev­ery­thing. We ex­pect things to work, and when they don’t, not only could the trip be ru­ined, but you and your loved ones could also sud­denly find your­selves in an

Saltwater Sportsman - - Float Plan / Boat Talk - By Capt. Dave Lear

There are three types of marine bat­ter­ies: crank­ing, deep-cy­cle and du­alpur­pose. Each out­board should have a ded­i­cated crank­ing bat­tery, and the en­gine man­ual will list the crank­ing amps re­quired for proper op­er­a­tion. Choose a bat­tery that meets or ex­ceeds that spec­i­fied out­put to keep out­board com­put­ers and sen­sors happy.

Deep-cy­cle bat­ter­ies, which re­lease en­ergy at a slower pace and can be dis­charged to lower lev­els for longer pe­ri­ods, are de­signed to power trolling mo­tors and ac­ces­sories, and made to han­dle hun­dreds of cy­cles over their life span. Re­serve ca­pac­ity, the time a bat­tery can carry a load be­fore recharg­ing, is the key des­ig­na­tion with this type.

Dual-pur­pose bat­ter­ies of­fer both crank­ing power and some deep-cy­cle ca­pa­bil­ity, but pro­vide nei­ther the start­ing jolt of a ded­i­cated crank­ing bat­tery nor the pro­longed re­serve power of a deep-cy­cle type. If space is tight, they serve the pur­pose. But sep­a­rate, ded­i­cated crank­ing and deep-cy­cle bat­ter­ies (or sys­tem bat­ter­ies for elec­tron­ics, livewell pumps and other com­po­nents) are the best setup.

Bat­ter­ies are also dis­tin­guished by the charg­ing ma­te­ri­als used in con­struc­tion. Wet cell — or flooded lead-acid plates — is the most com­mon. They are the least ex­pen­sive and last sev­eral sea­sons if prop­erly main­tained. AGM (ab­sorbent glass mat­ting) bat­ter­ies use mat­ting soaked with acid elec­trolyte be­tween the plates for in­ter­nal re­plen­ish­ment. They are main­te­nance-free, can be mounted at any an­gle, don’t re­quire vent­ing of haz­ardous gases, and have a low self­dis­charge rate. AGM bat­ter­ies, how­ever, are heavy and cost con­sid­er­ably more than their lead-acid coun­ter­parts. Gel bat­ter­ies, priced com­pa­ra­bly to AGMS, use a liq­uid gel that pro­vides a low self-dis­charge rate and re­sists vi­bra­tion and over­charg­ing.

Lithium bat­ter­ies, the lat­est en­try in the marine mar­ket, of­fer sev­eral ad­van­tages, al­beit with steep price tags. The lithium pro­duces more crank­ing power, faster recharg­ing times, and weighs sub­stan­tially less. Such bat­ter­ies are also ex­tremely ef­fi­cient, long-last­ing and main­te­nance-free. Their size is of­ten larger, how­ever, re­quir­ing more space, and prices for a 12-volt crank­ing model run more than $1,500, yet it weighs only about 28 pounds.

With so many op­tions, bat­tery se­lec­tion usu­ally comes down to ap­pli­ca­tion, bud­get and spe­cific boat re­quire­ments, but I turned to some ex­perts for ad­vice.

“Most of our cus­tomers don’t re­ally know which bat­ter­ies they want or need,” ex­plains Peter Wright Jr. of the Ship’s Chan­dler, a dealer in Destin, Florida, for Pathfinder, Mav­er­ick, Hewes, Black­jack, Fron­tier and Jupiter boats. Wright says most of the bat­ter­ies they in­stall are In­ter­state lead-acid and Op­tima gel bat­ter­ies, although they have added some lithium mod­els. “We make rec­om­men­da­tions and al­ways try to use the best bat­tery for the ap­pli­ca­tion. But the foot­print is very im­por­tant. If pos­si­ble, we like to group all the bat­ter­ies in­side the con­sole so ev­ery­thing is pro­tected. We can get three Op­tima Group 34

bat­ter­ies in­side the con­sole of an 18-foot Mav­er­ick, or up to five on a 26-foot Pathfinder. That frees up space in other com­part­ments for stor­age, keeps the elec­tri­cal sys­tem out of the el­e­ments, and main­tains the cen­ter of grav­ity near mid­ship.

“The trend is def­i­nitely go­ing to­ward main­te­nance-free mod­els,” he ex­plains. “A crank­ing bat­tery lasts up to six years, while trolling­mo­tor bat­ter­ies of­ten last half that. But they all like a full charge. If you draw them down all the way, they’re never the same again.” Wright stresses that main­tain­ing bat­ter­ies in­creases their longevity, and he rec­om­mends us­ing 2- or 4-gauge wire for crank­ing bat­tery con­nec­tions, and 6-gauge for trolling mo­tors.

Wright adds that they have in­stalled a few lithium bat­ter­ies in the bows of skiffs to bal­ance the load. “They are great as far as weight, but the ac­tual size some­times lim­its where they can be in­stalled.”

Lighter weight, longevity, high out­put, and re­place­ment ver­sa­til­ity are the qual­i­ties that set the lithium-ion bat­ter­ies apart, says Jeff Mull with Lithium Pros, a maker of marine bat­ter­ies that has used lithium iron phos­phate for the past six years, the chem­i­cally safest and same type used in Tesla elec­tric cars.

“Our bat­ter­ies are 96 per­cent ef­fi­cient at con­vert­ing en­ergy, and they de­liver more crank­ing power for faster starts,” Mull ex­plains. “They also recharge faster and last up to 2,500 cy­cles. So these are eight- to 10-year bat­ter­ies.” Lithium Pros of­fers a full four-year war­ranty and has a grow­ing num­ber of salt­wa­ter cus­tomers. Lithium’s lighter weight can im­pact draft and bal­ance, plus the power op­tions re­duce the num­ber of bat­ter­ies re­quired in some ap­pli­ca­tions.

“One of our 36-volt M3140 bat­ter­ies, which weighs 27 pounds, does the same as three Group 27 12-volt bat­ter­ies weigh­ing 75 pounds each,” Mull says. “We have pro­fes­sional an­glers who had to re­place trolling-mo­tor bat­ter­ies ev­ery year. Now those same guys are on their fifth year with ours pro­duc­ing the same en­ergy out­put.”

De­pend­able power is a crit­i­cal need for to­day’s sport-fish­ing boats. Choose the right bat­ter­ies, in­stall and main­tain them prop­erly, and you’ll keep the juice flow­ing for years. Then you’ll al­ways have power when you need it most — when you go fish­ing.

TOP SHAPE: Pro­tected ac­ces­si­bil­ity en­sures top per­for­mance.

SE­CU­RITY: Fas­ten boat bat­ter­ies so they won’t budge.

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