Kiss Your Generator Goodbye

Are generators on boats about to go obsolete? Hold back the laughter, because the day may be coming. 

We anglers love our generators. They provide the power we need for goodies like air conditioning, galley appliances, and gyroscopic stabilizers. But that power comes at a price. Generators add quite a bit of expense and maintenance to a boat, and many models also tend to produce annoying noises and vibrations. So, much as we love our generators it’s also awfully easy to hate them. And truth be told, their days may be numbered. 

Power to the People 

Generators have always been necessary because potent accessories require too much juice for batteries to power. Inverters might bridge the gap a bit and allow you to use a microwave for a moment or run a small refrigerator for the afternoon, but the big stuff takes too much oomph. At least, it does for lead-acid systems. But the latest and greatest lithium-ion systems are changing the game. 

Production boat manufacturers have dabbled with the idea of powering a boat’s complete suite of systems via lithium-ion for a few years now, with Sea Ray pioneering the idea to a great degree when the launched the SLX-R 400e in 2020. The boat had the initial Fathom lithium-ion power system, with enough potency to run all of the 40-footer’s systems for up to eight hours. Recharging took just six hours via triple Mercury Marine V8 outboards. And no generator was necessary. Of course, it was still a Sea Ray — not exactly a boat of interest to those of us who get aboard to swing rods as opposed to cocktail glasses. But it was a trailblazer. 

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Fathom the Fathom 

Sea Ray is, of course, a Brunswick company. Brunswick builds an awful lot of boats, including plenty of fishboats, and has always been rather awesome at working the whole vertical integration thing. Instead of buying outboards they buy the outboard manufacturer, and instead of buying MFDs they buy the electronics company. Recently they restructured the Navico brand umbrella to include a suite of companies making everything related to power and control systems, including such players as Mastervolt, Relion, CZone, BEP, and Blue Seas Systems. 

A combination of power from the propulsion, lithium-ion batteries, and advanced switching and power distribution makes the Fathom system possible. And, it can make that generator go away.

Boom — the Fathom system is born. After being introduced on that Sea Ray in 2020, Fathom has already undergone multiple generations and is now available in customized and preconfigured kits for boats under 27 feet, 27 to 34 feet, and 35 feet and over. It’s is a complete system including the lithium-ion power packs for energy storage, switching and distribution of that energy, and control and monitoring of it as well. 

And its sole intention is to make that generator obsolete. 

Harvesting Energy from the Outboard 

To keep the Fathom running you need a constant supply of power. Outboards have never been used for this sort of purpose since their alternators are generally designed for 12-volt systems. But, remember that whole vertical integration thing? Mercury Marine is also a Brunswick company. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that when Mercury introduced its new V10 350 and 400 hp outboards this past winter, at the same time, they announced it was available with a new 12/48 dual-voltage alternator — and that this unusual alternator was designed specifically to power a Fathom system. 

The new Mercury V10 Verados can carry a 12/48 dual-voltage alternator designed to charge up the Fathom. 

The latest from Yamaha, the F450, comes equipped with a phase angle control charging system that can make a generator unnecessary. 

Net result? For the 2023 model year you can get a Brunswick boat like the Boston Whaler 360 Outrage with air conditioning and a gyro, but no generator. And never one to get left behind the tech eight-ball, Yamaha marine recently announced that their newly upgraded F450 XTO outboard now features a phase angle control charging system that blasts out a whopping 96 amps of net charging power at idle, which according to Yamaha, is enough juice that it can eliminate the need for a generator. 

So, do you love to hate your generator? Stay tuned, because the way the tech is progressing, at some point in the future that question will be moot. 

Lenny Rudow …has been a writer and editor in the marine field for over two decades, and has authored seven books. He is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow's FishTalk Magazine, is Electronics and Fishing Editor for BoatUS Magazine, and is a contributing editor to several other publications. His...