Generator Install

In preparation for our trip we installed a 5KW Northern Lights generator.  There were several things we wanted to accomplish in choosing the location where we would put the unit.  Since it was heavy, we wanted to keep it as low as possible and centered.  In addition, we wanted to keep the garage space open, tuck it in space that was not well used, and still allow for good access for maintenance.  The generator was dropped in from the garage and slid into place through the bulkhead.  The hole in the bulkhead later becomes the maintenance access door.

The ideal spot turned out to be in the space
behind the main engine in the aft cabin.  This worked because the area behind the engine in a 2 cabin 473 was really not usable as a berth anyway and became largely a storage area.  In this photo you can see the double berth area and a little of the area behind the engine.

Here you can see the area just behind the engine.  One of the complications is that the hot water heater used to live in this spot.  We found a cylindrical shaped heater from Isotherm which was installed under the swim platform in the stern.  We installed a lee board along the length of the area to define the berth and separate out both the generator and the storage areas from the sleeping area.  The generator floor is lifted about 4 inches above the hull to leave space for the vent hoses.

While the berth floor was out we took the opportunity fabricate a new beam that would allow a place to store our gang plank under the berth



Here are the first couple of floor panels under the berth that cover the gang plank.  the plank is great for the occasional times we tie up stern to, but it was a real pain to store.



Since we had another engine now, we needed to have a separate fuel filter to protect it.  We took the old main engine filter and dedicated it to the generator.  For the main engine we installed a dual filter system so the if one engine filter plugs up we can instantly switch to the other.


On the garage side we wanted to leave the area as open as possible but still account for access to the working side of the generator.  The solution was to install doors in the floor and wall that were easy to open.



Slide back the hinged floor panels, open the hinged wall panel, and open up the generator sound shield.




All the common maintenance tasks like oil checking and filter changes are done from this side.  The opening floor and wall make access a breeze.


Here the sound shield is installed and we are starting to trim out.  Notice the hinged cover to allow easy access to the filters.


 The controls went in at the navigation station just below the D.C. panel.



Finished Product

7 Responses to Generator Install

  1. David says:

    has anyone installed a generator on a 3 cabin version ?

  2. Mike says:

    Looking for some advice. My wife and I are looking to purchase 473 on the west coast and sail it to the Caribbean. We want a/c/generator for the Caribbean. Should I get the 2 cabin with factory air/generator or get a 3 cabin a/c and add a generator like you did. Would you do anything different and what was your installation cost. Any other advice about the 473 will be appreciated .

    • Jeff says:

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the questions.

      We really liked the 2 cabin model for living aboard. The advantages are that the galley is bigger and, of course, the huge garage. That said, most 473s built were 3 cabin and owners are very happy with them too.

      I thought our generator install was pretty slick, but it was a pretty involved job. Because I did the work I could afford the labor cost 🙂 In 2 cabin models I have seen generators installed in the garage and it works well. Most installations are using compact units like Nextgen or Panda in the aft lockers. Installed cost would be somewhere north of 20k I think.

      I think many models came with factory air and, based on the complexity of installation, if you want air I would look for boats where it is already installed. We have found A/C to be a great comfort for the time we have spent times in hot marinas.

      The 473 is a great boat. Sails well, is very comfortable, and will generate more compliments than you can imagine. I would look for one with A/C at least and a genset if possible. I prefer Yanmar power and a bow thruster is desirable. We had in mast furling and had generally good experience with it. If you can find one with a inner forestay and staysail, that is great for the Caribbean too.

      One bit of advice…it is VERY difficult to move east in the Caribbean. You might want to consider an east coast (or especially fresh water Great Lakes) boat and make your way to the Caribbean from there. I think if I was a west coast sailor wanting to go the Caribbean, I would truck the boat to the east coast first.

      Thanks again and let me know your progress. Feel free to pose any follow up questions.


      • Mike says:

        My next question is about draft, Most boats are the 6’11” .Is that going to be a problem in the Caribbean.

        • Jeff says:

          Most of the boats are a little less than that Mike. I do think that Suzie Too is around 7′ and is our deepest. They (Suzie Too) have sailed all over the Caribbean, so, with care it can be done with deeper draft. We are 4 feet and it definitely makes things easier. That said, we are very rarely in water less than 10′

  3. Tom Clark says:

    Nice work! How is the noise level in the aft cabin with the generator on? Can you actually sleep in there with it running?

    • Jeff says:

      Thanks for the comments Tom. We don’t sleep with it running, but is is far quieter than the engine for sure. Northern Lights are very quiet just in the factory sound shield. The insulated box I built quiets it further. Huge impact on running noise that I used is an exhaust gas separator (Gen-Sep). You can hardly hear the thing run while sitting in the cockpit. So, could you sleep back there…I think so, hardly louder than an air conditioner with soothing vibrations:)

Leave a Comment Please