Finding the SUN in Sneek, Fryslan

Even on rainy days, the sun shines at AquaSolar; just what one might expect at a company that specializes in solar energy and wind energy for boats, caravans, and homes.  After a tip from fellow, live-aboard sailors whom we’d met aboard Zanzibar while in Lememr, we scouted AquaSolar’s website and thought it might be worth our while to take the boat to the store.  Thanks for the tip, Henk & Tineke; this was a one-stop-shop!  At AquaSolar’s showroom, we met with Wim during a morning visit, and that same afternoon docked Detour at AquaSolar’s back door.  Plans were underway to get Detour fully equipped with solar energy.IMG_2352IMG_2477AquaSolar is located in town of Sneek, in the northwestern province of Fryslan, Netherlands.  During the summer, Sneek is the water-sport mecca of Fryslan.  It is a popular tourist town; streets are lined with restaurants and shops and at the center of town there is a maritime museum.  Although downtown was aproximately 2 miles away from AquaSolar, we ventured into Sneek often to peruse the streets and for the usual grocery shopping.

Waterpoort - 16th century water gate remains from Sneek's perimeter defense wall.

Waterpoort – 16th century water gate remains from Sneek’s perimeter defense wall.

Back at AquaSolar we felt right at home while work was in progress.  Coffee hour was eagerly anticipated each morning when we’d join the crew in the showroom for coffee and good conversation.  It was an international affair with Dutch, Frisian, English, and sometimes a bit of German spoken ’round the table!

AquaSolar had arranged for an aluminum frame to be built to custom fit our stern arch.  The frame would hold three 100W high-efficiency solar panels.  The frame looked great but was raw, unfinished aluminum.  You could easily spot where the welds had been ground off around the edges.  Brian and I took turns sanding the frame’s exterior and bottom edges to achieve an even, polished finish.  The frame included side mounts for re-mounting antennas which had been previously mounted atop the stern arch.IMG_2365 We were ready for wiring.  AquaSolar’s technician had no difficulty attaching wires to Brian’s already prepped runs to pull the wires through the stern arch into the boat’s interior.  A Victron MPPT 100V-30AMP charge controller was mounted inside the navigation station closet, which provided great access for a short wire run to the house batteries.

Next, the aluminium frame was positioned on the stern arch.  Once centered and level, the frame was bolted into place with a hearty coating of Sikaflex between frame and arch which would provide an insulating barrier between the aluminium and stainless bolts as well as additional adhesion for stability.  IMG_2476The solar panels were set into the frame.  Everything was in place, ready for final touches!IMG_2480IMG_2482The solar panels were wired, and the stern navigation light was re-mounted at the back of the panel frame.  Brian re-mounted the GPS antenna on the side of the frame.  He also ran wiring for a cockpit light to later be installed on the stern arch.  All the wires were tidied beneath the arch.  IMG_2483We were all laughing at the thought of using rabbits to secure the solar panels to the frame, the actual term for the hardware had been lost in translation.  Rivets, not rabbits,secured the panels exterior edges to the aluminium frame. Along the edges of the topsides, Sikaflex filled the gaps between the panels and frame to keep the panels secure and watertight.  It made a sleek finish all around! IMG_2485In addition to solar installation, while at AquaSolar, we tested the bow thruster/windlass batteries.  We’d several recent experiences where we thought the bow thruster was not getting enough power, and so we could not rely on it. AquaSolar’s testing confirmed the batteries were not up to snuff, and so the batteries were replaced with new ones.  We could almost feel the ultimate power circulating through the air aboard Detour!

We’re now un-plugged and looking forward to sunny days!  A BIG THANK YOU to the knowledgeable and incredibly hospitable team at AquaSolar!