By dthompson ~ December 28th, 2012. Filed under: Current Issue.
Joe Charles, President & CEO
Charles Industries, Ltd.
Innovative products, philanthropy
By Doug Thompson
cornerstone of Charles’ success
in the recreational marine industry
Joe Charles is a man constantly on the move and one who has found a way to combine business with pleasure. When he is not at Charles Industries’ corporate office in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, he is driving between his River Forest Yachting Centers in Stuart and LaBelle with a quick stop to knock down sporting clays at his OK Corral Gun Club in Okeechobee, Florida. The next day you may find him cruising in the Florida Keys aboard his aptly named boat, C-Charger, equipped with his latest Charles Marine products, while on a conference call discussing the performance of his chargers on the U.S. Armed Forces M1A1 Abrams tanks.
Charles, 73, founded Charles Industries in 1968. The company has four additional U.S.-based manufacturing centers that serve the telecommunications, wireless, cable TV, utility, U.S. Government, marine, and industrial markets.
“All our Charles Marine products have been designed by boating enthusiasts for fellow enthusiasts, either from personal cruising experiences or those learned from others,” Charles explained. “Over the years, our product offering has grown as many of our employees enjoy boating.”
In April, the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) recognized Charles with the presentation of the organization’s Service Award. The ABYC Service Award is presented each year to an ABYC member who has served the Council over a long period of time through active participation on committees, boards or other volunteer venues, in a manner that materially benefits the goals of the ABYC.
“This year’s winner represents both the marine accessories business in a most even-handed, objective way with respect to the development and application of the ABYC mission,” said Thomas Markhevko of the ABYC.
Southern Boating magazine interviewed Charles about boating and what Charles Industries has planned for the upcoming boating season.
SB: Charles Industries has done a lot of work for the military. How does this research and manufacturing help recreational boat owners and the battery chargers and inverters you make for them?
JC: Innovative solutions are the cornerstone of Charles Industries and what has enabled us to remain a viable and trusted supplier to the telecommunications, utility, government, marine, and industrial markets worldwide for over 44 years. Charles Marine & Industrial Group defines industry standards with our SOLID POWER solutions. SOLID POWER is more than a marketing slogan; it’s a corporate philosophy within our Marine & Industrial Group. SOLID POWER is embodied in our strict adherence to manufacturing standards of excellence; our dedication to supplying electrical systems and electronics that deliver safe, reliable power; our passion for innovation; and our commitment to offer the industry’s best customer service before and after the sale. SOLID POWER is who we are, what we do and what we strive to provide to our customers each and every day.
Our market research, development, and engineering teams are continually focused on listening to the “voice of the customer” and identifying and developing new products, with unique and advanced feature sets, that offer best-in-class reliability and quality at a competitive price. The same product reliability that made Charles Industries the field-proven choice for our military and commercial customers is what also makes our solutions ideally suited for recreational boating enthusiasts. Whether the power needs are AC or DC, all Charles Industries electrical solutions are suited to withstand the rigors of the marine environments. When the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army requisition equipment for their fleets, they don’t do it blindly; their testing protocols require that crucial components won’t fail and systems will remain operational in the most demanding conditions. We are proud to be the battery charger of choice onboard the Army’s M1 Abrams Tanks and the Coast Guard’s 87’ Coastal Patrol Boats.
We take this responsibility very seriously when supplying mission-critical equipment to the luxury yacht market (35 to 120 feet), commercial marine (offshore supply vessels, tugs, ships) and Government/Military (U.S. Navy and foreign navies, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Homeland Security), just as we do for all of our customers.
On the industrial side, Charles is a major supplier of transformers to the industrial standby power market for various applications including emergency and strobe lighting (runway and commercial building) as well as command and control vehicle applications. As an ISO 9001:2008 registered company, we hold several industry certifications and invest heavily in maintaining stringent quality and manufacturing standards. Our SOLID POWER solutions meet a variety of standards including: FCC (Federal Communications Commission) Certification, ABS (American Bureau of Shipping) Type Approval, Marine UL Listing and CE Certification. We are a proud supporter of “Buy American” initiatives with all Charles products produced from our four U.S.-based manufacturing facilities.
SB: What’s new with Charles Marine for the 2013 boating season?
JC: Electrical systems tend to be bulky and take up a lot of room in the engine room. Boat owners have a keen interest in equipment that offers multiple functions in a limited amount of space. Our IMC (Intelligent Marine Charger) Series is a perfect example of rethinking battery charging from the ground up, and building the most technologically advanced battery charger in a single, space-saving, easy-to-install housing.
We launched the new IMC Series Battery Chargers in October 2011 and won the International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition & Conference (IBEX) Innovation Award in the Electrical Systems category. The IMC Series completed UL Marine listing in 2012. Offered in 20 Amp increments (20A, 40A, 60A, 80A, 100A and 120A), the IMC features universal AC input with automatic configuration accepting 50Hz or 60Hz input frequencies and a large input voltage range (90 VAC to 265 VAC); and programmable, independent 4 bank DC output (12 or 24 volts), battery type (AGM, Gel, Lead Acid, NiCad) and charging profile per battery bank.
For boat owners, that means the ability to charge multiple battery types simultaneously and the option of changing battery types in the future without changing your charger – a situation many boating enthusiasts are currently facing with the growing popularity of NiCad batteries. Other advanced features include a Limp Home Mode (40 amp units and above) allowing power flow to continue operation at a lower output level if one power module fails, and smart alarm packages with optional remote displays.
The IMC Series is setting a new standard for battery charging and will continue to gain popularity as boat manufacturers and boat owners alike learn more about the vast product features and how they apply to current and future battery technologies. The IMC is a sophisticated multi-tasking system that saves customers space in the engine room and money in the budget.
SB: What are some of the common misconceptions that boat owners have regarding AC and DC marine power solutions?
JC: AC/DC power systems are not “infinite” power sources. Energy balancing is the key to less problems and longer life of on-board electrical equipment and systems. It all starts with an understanding of the power source supplied at the dock. In addition, I don’t believe many fully understand or appreciate the difference between UL Listed and Marine UL Listed. The additional “shock and vibration” testing, among other requirements, assures the product can safely withstand operation in the marine environment.
You certainly wouldn’t hold an electric toaster while sitting in a bathtub full of water. The same rationale should keep a person from swimming off the back of a boat in a marina with many “toasters” plugged into the dockside shore power (AC). Although there are safe methods that assure AC power can be brought onboard, marine grade shoreline “isolation” transformers are arguably the safest means to provide AC power from shore to ship. A properly installed shoreline isolation transformer will guarantee that no potentially lethal AC power leaks into the water. An isolation transformer is also the best known means to stop “stray current” also known as galvanic corrosion, as it completely severs the actual wire connection to the shore power, instead using magnetic energy to create power onboard. If every yacht connected to AC shore power had a properly installed shoreline isolation transformer, we could all safely have toast after a morning swim.
As for an AC power misconception, many boating enthusiasts are not aware that the 250/125 VAC dockside outlet is rarely 250/125 VAC. Often, the voltage is not even at 240/120 VAC like at one’s home. Rather, it is usually 208/120 VAC, meaning it has been supplied from an industrial “3-phase” transformer on shore. This 208 VAC will cause higher current (ampere) draw on the larger AC power equipment onboard a boat or yacht, such as your air conditioning system or cooking appliance, causing them to operate “hotter” which can reduce their lifespan, effectively aging them. A shoreline isolation transformer can give a vessel the ability to raise the voltage to a proper, more compatible level, reducing the heat and aging on these items.
If you’ve ever been at the outer end of a long pier full of boats in extreme weather, you know that line voltage can vary significantly with the amount of load on the wiring you share with your neighbors at the dock. You may not have access to the voltage you need to run your onboard AC equipment. In this situation, an ISO Boost transformer is an ideal solution, overcoming the problem by boosting shore voltage by 15 percent.
For larger vessels, Charles Marine’s PM3 line is a modular AC power management system that makes it possible to evenly load share the maximum rated amount of AC electrical equipment. Built for vessels 50 feet or longer, PM3 and PM3-100 provide boatbuilders with greater freedom in managing onboard loads and harnesses dual input voltages to supply either a 100-amp breaker panel or a 200-amp breaker panel. Yacht owners gain the ability to operate the maximum rated amount of AC electrical equipment without the worry of exceeding load capacity. Built into the PM3 are (2) 12KVA voltage boosting isolation transformers and microprocessor-controlled electronics that check for shore-side anomalies such as incorrect phasing, low/high voltage, loss of shore-side input as well as prevent against galvanic corrosion. The PM3 provides yacht owners with the ability to operate the maximum rated amount of AC electrical equipment, similar to the way they use electricity at home. The PM3-100 is an identical microprocessor controlled system, but larger with (2) 24 KVA voltage boosting isolation transformers and a total output of 200 amps.
Battery chargers can, and often do, act as the DC power supply for onboard DC-powered equipment. So long as the DC voltage is 13.0/26.0 or greater, nothing will be drawn from the battery or batteries. Most boat owners are aware of this, but what many may not realize is how critical it is to have a well-designed marine-grade battery charger. The battery charger is a nexus of AC and DC power onboard. A poorly designed battery charger, or a battery charger simply not designed for the marine environment, can create a potentially lethal electrical hazard onboard. Be sure the battery charger, as well as any other critical electrical product, brought onboard is designed for the marine environment. All Charles IMC Series Battery Chargers are Marine UL Listed.
As for a DC power misconception: DC to AC Inverters do not make power for free and powering a battery charger from the inverter will not effectively return some of the power used. DC to AC inverters can draw a significant amount of DC power when operating at their higher rated output. For example, a 1500 watt DC to AC inverter supplying power to a 1200-watt hair dryer will draw approximately 120 amperes of current at 12 volts. This would consume a “GRP31” battery in less than one hour. A rule of thumb is to divide the DC to AC inverter’s watts by 10 for a 12 volt model and by 20 for a 24 volt model.
SB: You travel extensively and probably have a lot of chances to go boating. Tell our readers about your own recreational boating excursions and what you enjoy.
JC: While my wife Barbara and I absolutely love our boating—whether it is along the coasts of Florida, around the Florida Keys or up on Lake Michigan—“free time” to go boating is always in short supply but greatly cherished. I have my 100-ton U.S. Coast Guard license, as does my son. Our new Sales Manager, Fred Kolacki, is also a boating enthusiast so we always look at the design and operation of our products from the boat owner’s perspective. Our engineers all have a thorough understanding of marine requirements and applications.
I am deeply committed to the marine industry and marine education. I am currently chairman of the Foundation Board of the ABYC and have been very involved with Broward College’s Marine Technology Center of Excellence. The College has the distinction of being the first in Florida to offer a two-year accredited degree in marine engineering and seamanship and was chosen by ABYC as one of their five national marine league schools.
Outside of Charles Industries, I opened two marine storage facilities in Florida that are very unique in being the state’s first climate-controlled storage facilities built to hurricane construction standards. River Forest Yachting Centers are located in Stuart and LaBelle, Florida. We’re on both sides of Lake Okeechobee and we have almost 200,000 square feet of climate-controlled storage in addition to non-climate-controlled storage for vessels from 20 to 90 feet in length.
As an additional advantage and convenience to ensure the complete care of one’s boat, we offer a full array of repair, maintenance and special services performed by trained technicians with areas of expertise including bottom coatings, running gear, mechanical, detailing, fiberglass, electrical, paint, and varnish.
In addition, I built and continue to develop the OK Corral Gun Club in Okeechobee, Florida. We now have over 300 acres on which we offer SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) Cowboy Action (10 Scenario Stages), Sporting Clays (29-Shooting Stations, 5-Stand Deck, Wobble Deck), Pistol Range, Rifle Range, and 3D Archery. We have a clubhouse and barn available for private parties and are finalizing the construction plans for a new event center for private and corporate functions.
So as I started to say, “free time” to go boating is always in short supply but I’ve been blessed in being able to crossover my passion for business with my sporting endeavors, especially boating and shooting sports.