Using a Honda Generator


Member II
Hi all,
My wife and I are planning a vacation on the boat and have considered taking a friend's Honda 2000 watt generator along with us. We would buy/build an adaptor from the generator to the shore power cord to plug into our shore power outlet. We are planning on anchoring out as much as possible and want to ensure that our batteries remain charged as well as running a laptop.
My question(s). Will this work? Are there any concerns with this, other than
having a portable gas generator on board. I have an Atomic 4, and a gas tank for my inflatable's outboard, so I already deal with the gas thing.
Any problems with my electronics, ie, running my GPS for an anchor alarm while the generator is running?
Any advice would be most appreciated.


Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
One potential problem you don't mention is that running a generator at anchor (or at the dock) will alienate any other boaters in the area. There is nothing more frustrating than having just anchored in a beautiful bay, sitting in the cockpit enjoying a glass of wine and some quiet jazz music in the background, and having a nearby boater start their engine or generator just to charge their batteries.

I have not hesitated to ask these folks to shut it down or leave the anchorage if necessary--I am of the view that no one has the right to infringe on the space/peace of mind of others, especially when it is avoidable and in a setting intended to be peaceful.

Now that I've got that off my chest :) many of us who anchor out alot have to deal with the problem of keeping batteries charged. We address that by being as frugal as reasonably possible with our electrical use, especially the high use items, and then take opportunities to recharge the batteries where that can be done reasonably--ie some motoring when underway rather than raising sails immediately (its also better for the engine to ensure it has reached operating temp before shutting it down to get rid of condensation, soot, etc.), staying at marinas periodically to recharge with shore power and support marinas that need our business to stay afloat, and keeping our batteries in good condition.

I'll be interested in what others suggest.


Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
No personal genset experience, but we have been at a dock quite a number of times where someone had a small Honda "suitcase" genset going, about a hundred feet away. Inside the boat we could not hear it, and the soft purr that was audible down the dock was not objectionable.
Internal gensets vary quite a bit in their "objectionable" level. :rolleyes:
Some of the cheapie powerboats like the B__liners have poor installations with above-water exhaust and are quite noisy. Other power boats further up the quality chain seem to have underwater exhaust and much better insulation. Much less noticeable.

One problem with them all is that they are internal combustion engines and running them can imperil your own boat and your neighbor's with CO poisoning.

Our experiences may not be too germane to yours since we often tie to docks (built along the river with our boating registration $$, by our state marine board) because sheltered anchorages are not too common along much of the Columbia channel. With most boaters, power and sail, using those docks, it can sometimes be a bit crowded.

Sidebar: It's interesting that it's always been cheaper for the OEM powerboat builders to install an all-electric galley with a genset than it would be to go with the quieter LPG galley and larger battery capacity for everything else.
Note B: most of the trawlers in our club, even the older less-expensive ones, have a their galley based on the "sailboat" method rather than the electric genset concept. Since almost all of these couples are former sailors, they much prefer the quiet! :)

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Member III
Charging and other anchoring issues

I general I agree with Frank. Some generators are just too noisy in an anchorage. That said the Honda is darn quiet and may not bother anyone much if you are far enough away.
And if it was me I'd rather hear the generator than Frank's jazz:cool: but that's just me. :rolleyes:

We do have a guy on our pier that uses a Honda generator and loves it, it's quiet and he can use it in he evenings (we don't have power on our pier) to conserve power. It is quiet enough that it doesn't bother me and I'm only 1 boat over (in a marina which is no where near as quite as an anchorage tho).
I don't know if it will run his battery charger.

Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC

Please note that I said "quiet jazz" in my post above (and sometimes it's quiet classical or older 60s/70s rock and roll), but the key is that it is quiet--ie. I can hear it in the cockpit coming from the cabin below, but I always check to ensure I can't hear it on the bow or on the cabin top. The point is to not disturb any others in the anchorage. If in doubt, I'll ask others in the area if they can hear it, and if so (rarely), I'll turn it down further or off altogether.

Unless it's a very large anchorage, any motor running continuously would be unacceptable in my opinion--especially where we sail, one can often only fit a handful of boats in a small bay anchorage, sometimes stern tied to make room for everyone. In these conditions, respecting everyone's privacy and avoiding disturbing the peace is even more important.

I don't usually have such set opinions, but others creating noise in a peaceful anchorage is a pet peeve and unforgiveable. :mad:



Member II
Thanks for the infor. I appreciate the advice about running a generator and anchoring. Most of the times that my wife and I have gone on vacations and anchored out, we were generally the only boat anchored. There are many places to anchor along the east coast of Lake Michigan. We have many small lakes that have channels that open to Lake Michigan. About the only place we would be 'close' to someone or a possible nuisance would be in Arcadia, which has a very small anchorage. Otherwise the anchorages in most locations are fairly large and allow for alot of space between boats.

My general concern was/is what if anything it would do to the electronics, but, I would not be running the generator all night. I could leave the electronics, generally just the GPS off while running the generator as I would be on the boat while it was running. If I left the boat, the generator would be off.
We are not large users of power on board. Generally we do run the motor far enough out to drop sails, allow the motor to get to operating temp, etc. So the batteries should get a fair charge. We run cabin lights for a while if we read, otherwise we are in the cockpit, unless the weather is inclement. At night we have on our anchor light and the GPS to use as an anchor alarm.

Thanks again


Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC
Hi Len,

Thanks for the additional information. I'm a bit puzzled though, as it sounds as if you use very little electricity--most cabin lights use about 1 amp per hour, as does an anchor light, and GPS also doesn't use alot of power, so unless you are operating a refrigerator or other heavy use item, it sounds as if you may only be using about 10 amps or so a day. If that's the case, you could stay several days and still not have trouble starting your engine. Have you done a calculation of how much you might use in a 24 hour period? You may find that you will be fine on vacation without the need for a generator.



Contributing Partner
I would second Frank's question about your power consumption. The killer is running the fridge, and if you are not doing that, you probably won't have any problem at all keeping your batteries topped off. We used ice for the fridge and never had to top off our batteries other than by the motoring we did every few days or so.

As for using a generator, don't worry about the electronics, as the current your GPS sees will be a function of your battery charger, not the power source for the charger.

But I would second a concern about the noise. I cruised for many years in the North Channel not too far from you, and I HATED it when someone would park a noisy small generator on their deck to top off their batteries, and then row ashore for a hike to get away from the noise. Give it a try in the marina. If you are not willing to sit in the cockpit reading while the thing is running, then please do not subject others to the noise.


Member II
Hi again,
Thanks for all the information. We do not have a fridge, so indeed, our power consumption is relatively low.
I will try the generator at our marina and see what it sounds like. I would NOT subject someone to running a generator, then leave the boat while it was running. I would also not run the generator if we were in a close anchoring environment. This was and will be more of a test to determine the 'ins and outs' of taking one along on an extended Great Lakes cruise. My friend has an almost new 'suitcase' style Honda 2000w generator that he no longer needs as his new motor home has a 15kw generator. I want to see what it is like with it on the boat, using it etc, as my wife and I are planning for a May - Oct Great Lakes cruise in a couple of years when we retire.

Glyn Judson

Generator location.

Len, The preferred placement of your generator will have you at crossed purposes as the customary location for them out here on the west coast is at the bow secured to the pulpit or at least on the deck toward the bow. This location assures that the deadly exhaust is least likely to go below and remain there for folks to breathe. The only problem is that it's at the prime location to be a disturbance to others around. The moorings there (please see this link and click and drag to work the panorama are such that a generator can easily become a nuisance with the sound able to travel at its optimum to surrounding boats. The rule is rather loose in that one could conceivably run a generator from 8AM to 10PM and remain within the Cove rules and trust me, there are folks that get pretty close to that time table, uggh!! Regards, Glyn Judson, E31 hull #55, Marina del Rey, CA


Member III
There is a great deal of very good input here. The one item that I would stress is safety. Be more than certain that the exhaust gases cannot enter your or anyone else's cabin. Shifting winds and even a gentle breeze can carry carbon monoxide more distance than you think. And its still deadly.
And I have to say that as long as it stays on the boat that its being played on, a little cool jazz turned down low never hurt a darn thing.



Innocent Bystander
1 - it will absolutely work. However, if the generator has a 12V output, don't plan on using it to charge your batteries very quickly. The 12V output isn't designed for high-current use. The 120V output is, so the size of your AC battery charger (or your alternator) will govern how quickly you can juice up.

2 - I own an extremely loud gasoline generator and I know exactly what everyone's talking about below. It's a damn nuisance. However, the newer suitcase Honda generators like you're talking about are amazingly quiet. They are not likely to disrupt anyone you aren't rafted up to.

3 - I have an Atomic Four too. I don't have a friend with an extra Honda generator like you do, so my solution to the need you've got was to install a 2000 watt inverter and upsize my alternator to 120 amps. I picked up the inverter from Harbor Freight for $150, made my own cables, and scooped up the alternator from somebody who was parting out an A4 so the whole setup ended up running less than $400. Probably half the cost of a 2000W Honda generator but it makes the boat more robust.
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Sustaining Partner
I was on a mooring for 4 years and so the Honda 2000 watt generator was the only way to top off the batteries or run power tools for maintenance. Using the Honda is a very easy, just get an adapter that allows you to use a standard extension cord to your shore power socket on the boat. Fire up the Honda, turn on the AC panel and thats it.

Regarding the noise levels. With the Honda on the bow of my E38 you just hear a gentle hum in the cockpit. Not objectionable at all and less noisy than the engine for sure. You cannot hear it at 100ft, maybe at 50ft but just barely and its a gentle hum, not what you expect from a gas generator.

The key to the Honda is the "eco throttle" control. This controls the generator engine speed based on load. Charging the house batteries happens at IDLE with a 20amp battery charger running. It sips fuel with this sort of use, maybe 8hrs on less than a gallon.

I've used mine and NEVER had a complaint or even a dirty look from any other boater. Most actually want to know how I like it and where to get one! The best part is it will run the water heater too. Yes, its noisier when running the water heater as that pulls 1500watts but it only takes 12-15minutes to do it.

I think they are great. You see many boaters using them now as they are quieter that most any "traditional" genset, cheaper to buy and cheaper to run. I wish Honda would build a permanent mount, watercooled version, as installed below and insulated you would be hard pressed to hear it at all.



Nothing personal. If I had my motor running to charge my batteries and someone asked me to leave because of the noise, I would come totally in glued.

There are enough sailors out there that can't even get their halyards from slapping the mast. The guy next to us likes BB King, I like Pantera, I listen to his music all night long and would never say a word to him about moving, much less turning it down or even off. I guess I am just lucky enough to be out on the water and enjoying everything around me even if it's a genset or a diesel.


Junior Member
my 2cnt

i use Honda 1000, very minimal noise (i keep it at the bow on pad)... run it only when need to charge the batteries.
honda 1000 was $700 the quality priceless:)
i was looking at the 2000 but it was bigger and much nosier

Jeff Asbury

Principal Partner


Here are some other things that I have come up with to conserve my 12 volt (2 80 amp hour batteries) house supply on a mooring or at anchor.

1) Inexpensive Solar garden lights that I charge during the day and use in the cockpit and salon at night. Harbor Freight sells 2 pack Stainless Solar Lamps for about $14. bucks. I was amazed on my last trip to Catalina. I kept one of these in the salon all weekend, out of the direct sunlight and it never ran out of juice. Granted they are not the brightest, but my next recommendation made up for it. They fit great in fishing rod holders. (Thanks Sven for the idea!!)

2) Battery powered Coleman lamps in the salon. Harbor Freight sells LED flash light bulbs that fit them perfectly for $10. bucks.

3) 12 Volt Jump Starter / Power Pack to recharge my Laptop or even run my TV / DVD player. Again I bought it at Harbor Freight for $50. bucks.

4) I also hook up a 5 watt trickle charge solar panel to my house bank. I mounted it to a plastic cutting board that has rail clamps so I can attach it to the stern pulpit.

The only thing that I use my house bank for is the boat stereo and I use it pretty conservatively. I can get by with my hand crank AM/FM Weather Shortwave radio from Radio Shack, $50. bucks.

As far as generators are concerned, personally I have never had the desire for one. The rule at the Catalina coves is that they must be off by 10 pm. Not soon enough as far as I am concerned.

If my house bank gets low I just run the engine for 15 min to a half hour. (usually late morning so all have a chance to sleep in).

Now back to my job as a PR person for Harbor Freight. :egrin:


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Member III
Honda 200i - Use it a lot

I've read through all the posts and you can probably see, like with most things, you need to use some common sense when using a generator. We own an E32-III and have two big house batteries and one smaller starter battery, like the size of a car battery. When we anchor someplace on the Chesapeake Bay, and we do that a lot, our batteries will last for the day and overnight. We have a frig and all the other typical electrical loads. Sometimes I'll just start up the engine and run it for awhile to charge up the house batteries.

One thing we have learn to do is to turn off the starting battery. We ran that down one time when we had house batteries on they're last legs and had to get a jump from Boat US to start the engine. And we also used a Honda 2000i generator too but we're careful when and where. We don't use it too close to sunset because most people are relaxing with some wine and music in an anchorage. And I wait till after 9 AM to charge in the morning. The rest of the time the Honda 2000i is so quiet most people in their boats don't even know we're using it. I usually place it on the fore deck and run the power cord back to the connector using a shore power pigtail adapter to connect it to the generator. Sometimes I'll even put it in the cockpit but noise can be an issue if the companion way is open.

We don't aways take it with us but on long trips I store either under the table below or in the quarter berth. I've even turned on the AC to see if it would power it and it did but the generator ran at high speed and of course was much louder. We only tried that once to see if it would work but we don't make it a habit at all.

I'm also a freelance photographer and use the Honda 2000i on the job sometimes when I'm shooting out doors. It does a great job and really was the main reason for it's purchase. If I were buying a Honda generator for just charging batteries on the the boat I'd go with the smaller Honda 1000.

We'll be taking the Honda 2000i on our week long sailing vacation at the end of the month. ;)


Sustaining Partner
The problem is never the generator, the stereo, or any other inanimate object. Its the a$$hole operating it. I spent 3 days in Cuttyhunk last weekend and sure enough there was a powerboater next to me that decided to run his Honda 2000 FULL BORE starting at 9pm for 1.5hours one night. When he finally shut it down most of the boats around him, sail and power applauded loudly. Maybe he got the point. I like my Honda but I use it with consideration for others around me. I can't blame the machine for the idiots operating them at inappropriate times. Its still a great piece of kit that increases the ease and comfort of an extended stop when used correctly.