Battery Ballet

I was well off soundings one stormy night

when the sea jumped up and gave me a fright.

The waves were much higher than anything around,

and my soul longed to see some terra firma ground.

My frail vessel did rock and alternately roll

and staggered out of some very deep holes.

From below decks came a terrible racket,

like a mad woodsman with a very dull hatchet.

With crunches and crashes that sent my heart pounding

and urged be below decks in leaps I went bounding.

I spied the culprits, those ominous black foes;

my 8D’s had escaped and the lights started to go.

Placed on a shelf with great loving care,

I had been deluded that they would stay there.

My logic was simple or so I thought so,

Gravity would hold them, they never would go.

But that had been in a much calmer place,

and now those black monsters were unleashed in my face.

They had already crashed through raised panel doors,

and were arcing and sparking, a hellish noise.

They strained at their tethers and Pounced on the sole,

then on to the bilge they were out of control.

My nose told the story of spilled electrolyte,

and I sailed on in a very dark night.

I sincerely hope that this has never happened to you, but I do hope the scenario described gives you fresh respect for these wondrous things. Most of us who have ever attempted to pick up a 4D or his big brother the 8D battery assume that anything this heavy will stay put when r1aced on a shelf with minimal cleating. I don’t care what you are into, flooded, gel, glass matt, 81), 41), 6 volt, 12 volt, 24 volt, 32 volt, golf cart, car, elevator, motorcycle, they all need to be very well secured to the boat mon. You wouldn’t attempt to secure a cow with a kite string, so what do we do to keep these boys from dancing about.

Code of Federal Regulations 33 183.420 Batteries:

  • Each installed battery must not move more than one inch in any direction when a pulling force of 90 pounds or twice the battery weight, whichever is less, is applied through the center of gravity of the battery as follows:
    1. Vertically for a duration of one minute.
    2. Horizontally and parallel to the boat’s center line for a duration of one minute fore and one minute aft
    3. Horizontally and perpendicular to the boat’s center line for a duration of one minute to starboard and one minute to port.
  • Each battery must be installed so that metallic objects cannot come in contact with the ungrounded battery terminals. Each metallic fuel line Page 3 and fuel system component within 12 inches and above the horizontal plane of the battery top surface as installed must be shielded with dielectric material. Each battery must not be directly above or below a fuel tank, fuel filter, or fitting in a fuel line. A vent system or other means must be provided to permit the discharge from the boat of hydrogen gas released by the battery. Each battery terminal connector must not depend on spring tension for its mechanical connection to the terminal.

This is the federal law concerning batteries. To go a step further and a little better, here are some applicable excerpts from The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) Standards and recommended practices for small craft. E- 10 Storage batteries: If the mounting surfaces of components of the boat in the immediate vicinity of the battery are of a material attacked by the electrolyte, a mounting means shall lie provided that is made of material that is not damaged by electrolyte. Provision shall be made to contain leakage and spillage of electrolyte. Fasteners for the attachment of battery boxes or trays shall be isolated from areas intended to collect spilled electrolyte. Batteries shall not be installed directly below battery chargers or invertors. Cover the ungrounded battery terminal with a boot or non-conductive shield, or installing the battery in a covered battery box. Battery boxes, whose cover forms a pocket over the battery, shall be vented at the uppermost portion of the cover.

I have seen some interesting battery arrangements in my day and also some dangerous ones. There are patent battery boxes available ranging from $ 10.00 for the smaller ones to $ 80.00 for the larger ones. For you handy persons simply build a veneer box and line the interior with a skin of light boat cloth and polyester or epoxy resin. Make a vented top and you are in business. For those of you contemplating a serious offshore passage provide a means for securing the top just in case things get upside down. We could talk a lot about batteries but a good foundation is a great beginning. Oh! I forgot to remind you, give those flooded boys a regular check and drink of distilled water. They’ll love you for it. More power to the people and remember The Lord loves sailors.

© Neil K. Haynes January 3, 1998

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