Boat Modifications for Cruising European Waters

Shore Power

One of the biggest issues facing North American boats heading to Europe is shore power. We use 110 volt 60 hertz; they use 220/240 volt 50 hertz. Libertyís electrical system is typical of many US and Canadian cruising boats: electronics, radios, navigation lights, interior lighting, bilge pumps, and watermaker are all 12 volt DC; but heavy house loads like refrigeration, hot water heater, heating, and air conditioning are 110 volt, 60 hertz AC. A ProSine 3000 watt inverter/charger allows our 1000 amp battery bank (10 Trojan 6 volt golf cart batteries, paired in series and the pairs connected in parallel) to provide 110 volt 60 hz AC power for the microwave and AC outlets all over the boat for the myriad of electrical appliances and gadgets that we canít do without: power tools, heat gun, toaster, hair dryer, computers, printer, vacuum cleaner, etc. It also accepts 110 volts (either 60 or 50 hertz) for battery charging purposes. This was fortunate, because several friends had to replace their older, 60 hz only, battery chargers/inverters with newer models that would take 50 hz input.

transformer 1

Our New Portable 220V - 110V Transformer

Unfortunately, we did not have an isolation transformer that would accept 220/240 volt AC 50 hz shore power and convert it to 110 volt 50 hz (transformers will reduce the voltage, but youíre stuck with 50 hertz input in Europe). So we ordered a weatherproof 4 kvh portable tool transformer from Taylor Transformers in England, and had it shipped to Gibraltar.

transformer 2

Taylorís was very professional and accommodating. The transformer measures 10 inches by 11 inches by 11 inches and weighs 84 pounds, but fits nicely in the cockpit locker while underway. The photos here show it on the pier, locked to the power outlet, but we have since made up a long extension cord and now keep the transformer in the cockpit. We cut the male end off of one of our yellow shore power cables and installed a European marina 3-prong fitting (provided by Taylorís) that would mate up with the 110 volt outlet on the transformer. The transformer is fitted with a 17 amp circuit breaker on the 220/240 side, giving it a nominal 34 amp rating on the 110 side. It reality, we rarely put more than 20-25 amps (110 volt) load on it at a time, the heaviest load being the refrigeration at start-up. The portable transformer cost 240 pounds Sterling (about $420) (that amount included Fedex shipping from UK to Gibraltar), considerably less expensive than the $2,000-$4,000 quotes we got from several US firms for marine-rated permanent transformers that were twice the size and had to be installed below deck.

Skinny Hoses

hose 1

Hoses come with different sized adaptors

Our standard American hose fittings were too large for European faucets, so we bought a new one once we got to the Azores. Because hose fittings arenít standardized even in coutries within the EU, hoses come with several fittings so you can adapt the hose to whatever country youíre in. The photo on the left shows the end that tightens onto a plain hose and two different threaded connections for marina fittings.

hose 2

Hoses are skinnier with different nozzles


All Aboard!

Most Mediterranean marinas donít have finger piers or pilings. Boats simply line up alonside each other with either bow or stern against a long pier. Our winter berth in Rome is no different. Because of the way our dinghy davits hang, we canít get on or off at the stern, so bow-to is our only choice. If we pull the boat close enough, the stepís not too bad, but we donít like having the boat so close to the pier. The solution is the passarelle which you see in the photo at the left. Many European boats have fancy passarelles that slip into a fitting on deck. Our home-made plank works just fine.

We also invested in four large, round fenders to supplement the four standard boat fenders we already had. Now weíre cushioned very nicely between the boats on either side.

Finally, if you look closely to the right of Tyís legs, youíll see one of four foot-long dock line springs that Ty bought. Almost every boat in the marina has them, and theyíre such good shock absorbers that we decided to get some for Liberty. Theyíre attached to the dock line with a large shackle that goes through a metal thimble in the eye of the mooring line.