New Electrical System Phase Three – Retrospective

It’s been more than a month since I’ve started the new electrical system project. In retrospect I have learned more than I expected. I have also solved several problems that could have come up later, perhaps much later, and caused unforeseen issues. When I think back at how I felt about programming each component and rewiring most of the entire boat, I thought it would be much more complicated than it is. The wiring harnesses are much bigger than before, but the capacity and longevity of the batteries will prove invaluable while in remote areas, where solar and wind may keep beer cold indefinitely. Each component had it’s quirks so I will give some thoughts on how I was able to install them.

Sailing wing on wing with the cruising spinnaker
Sailing wing on wing with the cruising spinnaker

The ProNautic-P AC battery charger allows for custom float and absorption voltages. It was not straightforward from their manual how to set these but I was able to talk to their technical support guy and sort it out. The very last option that you toggle through when selecting battery type will allow custom voltage setting. The remote display was quite expensive for being more limited in functionality than the interface on the charging unit. Even when I set the custom voltages, I was still not getting the exact units that I programmed and so I had to calculate the difference and set it from it’s ‘compensated’ voltage. I checked the voltage variance based on temperature and was not getting the same result so I used my best judgement and set it from what I think is correct. Basically following Mastervolt’s temperature compensated charging formula of –17mV/oF. The float voltage should still be 13.8, or at a maximum of 13.9, but I was getting consistent readings of 14.1 in standby so I dropped it to where I think it should be. It’s a very confusing formula and I doubt anyone can get it exact, except maybe the battery manufacturer. Regardless of the issues, the charger has been great and is very quick at charging the batteries because it is connected to both banks and can push 40 amps of AC current, distributed to both banks simultaneously.

New 400 amp hour bank and battery sensors
New 400 amp hour bank and battery sensors

I bought the Victron BMV-702  battery monitor for monitoring both battery banks. It seems to be the only product available that provides an API for logging data from the battery monitor to whatever computer interface that can accept the serial data stream. When I first bought it I was also misled a little bit about what it was capable of doing. I thought it would monitor both batteries, midpoint voltages and the battery temperature of both banks. I was completely wrong. Their product brochure states, “Additional input to measure voltage (of a second battery), temperature or midpoint voltage, and corresponding alarm and relay settings”. What this really means is you can only monitor one battery’s voltage and then with their additional input you can choose between another battery’s voltage or midpoint or battery temperature on the same bank. So in order to gain the benefits of midpoint, temperature and voltage you actually need two separate monitors. To have both midpoint, voltage and temperature isn’t possible with one battery monitor. Fortunately my battery charger can show the battery temperature for the house bank so I at least have one temperature reading. Unfortunately measuring midpoint voltage or battery temperature on the starting battery isn’t going to happen without spending another $200+ for another monitor. Victron offers a way to write your own software using their VE.Direct serial to USB interface cable. That’s great but the damn thing costs between $70 and $110. For a cable? Really? Well, I could have written some open source software that other people could use but I’m having a hell of a time justifying that kind of coin just to log battery field data. I’ve already dropped a lot of coin on this new upgrade so this will have to wait until the pains of this project has settled. This cable should be part of the package, not as an extra for an overpriced premium.

Negative bus fully loaded
Negative bus fully loaded

The circuit panels were also a little bit confusing when first tried to install them. The AC dual-pole GFCI breaker was a mess of wires and only had one green and one white cable that was obvious what they did. I could’t figure out where to put the AC charger black wire or the main bus black wire. Blue Sea systems has incomplete manuals for their products so I had to kind of wing it. It would’t be very difficult to add some instructions on what a typical installation would look like. Something as simple as how they expect to route the cables in their ‘360’ panels would be handy. After I had the whole thing wired up I realized that the panels could have been routed much better, and that I would need a common positive bus. I don’t know why the breaker load screws are so short. Maybe they want to prevent more than one ring terminal per breaker? I don’t know. With the 10 amp DC switch panel there were several issues. First was when you need to actually connect your load cable to the toggle, the switch pushes through the panel, so it’s a pain in the butt to get it connected when the panel is already mounted. Also the same panel did not come with a backlight so there is no indicator to know that the circuits are live. I guess now I need to dig around and figure out where to get one and pay large amounts of money to get it installed. Why wouldn’t they just sell the backlight kit as part of the package? Also, they offer a custom label service. For $5 per label I can get it printed with whatever I want. These things are stickers for christ sake, and shipping these little guys costs $5. So for two labels it cost me $17. Most of their labels in their panel kits are generic enough to handle 90 percent of the existing circuits, except for the NMEA/Seatalk bus. This is the one case where all of the boat sensors and the displays are all on the same communication and power circuit and nothing in the label kit is specific enough to handle this, so I chose to have “Seatalk” printed. Also the cockpit instrument and overhead lights are all on the same circuit and really did need it’s own custom, “Cockpit Lights” label. For the hundreds of dollars it cost for each of these panels I would expect a free service for the custom labels, or at least a break even price. Not something they would profit on, considering they already make a killing on their panels.

Port of Tacoma and Mt Rainier
Port of Tacoma and Mt Rainier

Something I discovered when rewiring the circuits on the boat was a ground fault that I actually caused myself. A couple of months ago I ended up replacing the fluorescent bulbs with LED replacements in the bathroom.  The LED replacements had both positive and negative wires red so I went ahead and wired both to the same switch and when it worked I assumed all was good. When I rewired the electrical panel I noticed there was an issue with the port side cabin light circuit. It wasn’t obvious at first that there was a ground fault. I think the diode in the LED circuit board finally burned out for some reason and then the ground fault caused some of the other LED lights to burn out. Half of the engine room lights also burned out. The ground fault that I caused ended up costing me about $100 in replacement lights. The good news is that there is no longer a fault in the circuit, and all of the circuits have been accounted for. Lesson learned. I will check all new installations with a multimeter from now on before assuming that I have it right. Also, lights are now on independent  fuses.

Satori anchored in Gig Harbor
Satori anchored in Gig Harbor

Installing the solar charge controller took the better part of a day. In the morning I spent a little bit of time discussing the installation of the MPPT 60 Tristar with a local guy, which is a little different than mine. I don’t have ethernet for networking the charge controller, which is disappointing because that would be a very nice addition to the package. Mine is also a PWM controller, which I think is suitable for a three to five panel array. There will likely be circumstances where an MPPT controller would be better suited but the install space is increased as is the cost. The only struggle I had was getting the serial to usb cable hooked up. I had to take it apart and bend it so it would plug in. The serial circuit board was exposed and there was risk of breaking a solder but I needed to plug in to set the thing. Another requirement is a Windows operating system and I’m running a Macintosh. I decided to upgrade my VMWare software license so I had a running instance of Windows for this very reason. Once I was able to run windows on a virtual machine I could install the serial to usb driver and connect to the charge controller using the software download on their website support page. Setting the controller wasn’t too complicated, except I did’t know what some of the settings were.

Tristar settings
Custom setpoints summary after setting

 

Some of the settings require a good understanding of 12 volt batteries and even after extensive research I didn’t understand it all. Like, “Transition to float when duty cycle is __ % or less”. To know what that percentage means assumes you understand the charging algorithm of the multi-stage charge profile for any given battery. I will do my homework and make sure I understand each of these settings. Fortunately I was able to set most of the variables with confidence without much concern about the battery life. I feel confident that the battery bank will cycle through discharged and completely charged often. There is also room to expand the battery bank another two to four hundred amp hours within the first year without too much compromise.

Balmar voltage regulator
Balmar voltage regulator

I’ll admit that my routing of cables is likely nothing compared to someone who does it for their job, although there are many levels of a professional job well done. In the future I can tweak as far as I am willing to put time into it. The amount of zip ties I cut off and replace is astonishing. Any new wire will follow a main route if possible and the entire route is opened for the new wire, then closed again until another will be added or removed. Often there is a first draft to see how it all plays out and then an entire redo just because of a single design error. For instance, I didn’t think too much about the high water line in which the entire electrical system from negative to positive can be engineered to stay above a certain point to prevent the electrical system from shorting out from water. Currently the short circuit line is about 18″ above the cabin sole. I don’t know how many gallons that is but I do know that if the boat took on that much water I would have bigger problems than just electrical shortages, but perhaps the bilge pumps could keep running. Anyways these hypotheticals can get creative so I’ll leave it alone.

Back of switch panel during installation of wiring
Back of switch panel during installation of wiring

The new voltage regulator for the alternator was a fun install. The wiring is relatively straightforward since it does not vary much from the previous setup, aside from an additional battery temperature sensor. There are up to seventeen different terminals to plug a wire into and the only thing truly required is understanding which input is needed and where the other end attaches to, and in which manner. There is a main harness to attach various ends to prescribed attachments on the alternator and then another set of wires that I ran out to the batteries for temperature and voltage sensing, and finally an ignition switch attachment for turning it on and off. Once everything was connected, programmed and wires secured I decided to take Satori out for a sail. The charge voltages were good and the voltage regulator worked as expected. The alternator was originally connected to the starting battery but I decided to move all of the charging components to the house bank positive bus. This way the house bank gets priority over the starting bank but the ACR is delegated the task of connecting the two banks once the voltage is high enough to give the starting bank a top off. The engine aboard Satori starts in less than two seconds so the starting battery gets little use, considering it’s capacity.

A couple of other things I didn’t think about until the very end was also resolved. Apparently it’s not necessary to protect the starting bank with a fuse. Some even believe that the starting bank shouldn’t have a fuse because of the amount of amps the starter draws but after doing a little research I discovered that it is a good idea after all. I also had a chance to fix the lights on the mast so those circuits are all worked out and now I have all of the lights working under a switch, plus completely fused. Also when I am running my space heater and either the blender or the vacuum, the breaker switches off. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means that the AC circuit is protected on all ends from over-current and ground fault. I still need to replace a few of the outlets to be GFCI but at least the main circuit is protected. Even the Smartplug shore power connection has a fuse that will prevent the plug from catching fire. Both banks are fused, as are all of the other circuits. There is a ton of redundancy from the battery all the way to the smallest gadget on the boat.

Installing the house bank using the boom for assistance
Installing the house bank using the boom for assistance

The new house bank installed perfectly, exactly where I was hoping it could go. I employed a fiddle block and becket block to rig a boom crane so I didn’t have to lift the batteries from the dock to inside of the engine compartment. I suppose I could have wrestled with them but I’ve always wanted to try the boom crane technique and it worked better than I expected. My dock neighbor offered to help but after observing he decided that he was not needed. I have the batteries strapped down at the moment but I plan on adding several other supports to ensure that the batteries move less than half a centimeter in all directions. Currently there are a couple of inches on all sides for clearance just to make sure there will never be any chafe. Combined they weigh just shy of 225 lbs and my initial estimation for materials to secure them was wrong. I’m going to need anchors to keep them from sliding fore and aft. Fortunately I have an idea that should prevent them from moving by anchoring them to the back wall of the engine compartment. The first sea trial proved that they are okay but still not quite bomber.

The ACR took quite a bit of wiring to get installed. There are five wires from the switch, two of which come from the ACR unit. There is an ignition relay wire that separates the batteries when starting the engine. I had to tap into the voltage regulator circuit that turns the regulator on from the starting switch, and came up with a creative way to join the three wires but make sure it’s more secure than a butt connector splice. I took a screw that goes to an old terminal block and attached a thread-locking nut to it with the wires terminated with ring connectors. Then once I joined the ring terminals to the screw and nut, I shrink-wrapped the connection to prevent accidental contact. It’s just as strong as the wires and utilizes a nice modification to accommodate two units that depend on the same circuit. I placed the ACR right in between both batteries so the positive cable run is minimal. Currently the ACR does not seem to be operating as I expected. The magnetic switch turns on and off every thirty seconds, which is annoying. I’ll call Blue Sea and figure out why it is not simply switching on when both batteries are above 13 volts. The float voltage for both batteries is about 13.6 volts but the usual voltage at 100 percent seems to be closer to 13.4 volts. Either way, neither have gone under 13 volts since I’ve installed the ACR due to either having solar keeping the house bank topped off or because I am using the AC charger to manage the batteries.

I’ve decided to keep the old AC wiring to the outlets for now. I bit off a pretty nice chunk of work this winter and still have more work to do soon on more rigging and . I will probably replace the outlets one at a time over a year or two. They work just fine and I’m not in a hurry to spend the money for new triplex 10 gauge wire and new outlets. I have some left over from wiring the hot water heater and battery charger so I can at least begin with the one used most often by high powered equipment and then replace each one over time. I also plan on wiring my pure sine wave inverter to allow me to switch from shore power to the inverter so I can plug AC appliances into the existing outlets. Currently the only AC requirements I have is charging the laptop. Otherwise, I have managed to setup the boat to charge everything else using 12 volt power.

I am calling the electrical system completed, even though there is still some tidying up of wiring and a little more work to tweak the charging system. I can move onto other projects like getting the staysail deck hardware installed and replacing the lifelines with Amsteel. I have more work to be done if I want to sail South this summer but at least I’m back to sailing Satori around the Sound until then.

The Waiting Game

I have another blog post about my electrical overhaul in draft but I decided not to post it until I am finished with installing the house bank, which has not been delivered yet. Likely they will not arrive for another week or two. At least, that is what I was told. What have I been up to since the last blog post? Well things have not slowed down much. Every few days I tick away at an endless list of things to do on the boat. I’ve managed to sell the old set of tanbark sails on eBay. Some wires are still in limbo, tied up temporarily and patiently waiting for the new house bank. In the interim there has been some progress in other areas and I am starting to see the light at the end of this dreary winter. Flowers are blooming already, birds are chirping and the days are getting longer.

Beating to weather with the new jib
Beating to weather with the new jib

I managed to replace all of the lighting on the mast with new bulbs. I did not go with LED this time around because sometime this summer I plan to replace all of the lighting fixtures with LED and rewire it, adding conduit to eliminate the internal noise that happens now from wires just dangling inside. The only light that does not work is a green navigation light on the mast. I tried to replace the bulbs but the lenses are welded to the mast from indifferent metal galvanic corrosion. These navigation lights are a backup to the side lights on the pulpit so they are not entirely necessary. They will be repaired when I take the mast down this summer.

The spreader light lenses, complete with a nice coat of lichen.
The spreader light lenses, complete with a nice coat of lichen.

At some point a couple of weeks ago I stripped the hot water mixer on the galley faucet. This was something that could not wait  since the issue is that the mixer would not keep water from flowing out under pressure. I took it apart, found the problem and realized that I could fix it if I could find the right part. But these parts are not common unless you know the model of faucet.  I couldn’t find a label from the manufacturer and I could not wait until I found the part because I couldn’t use the water until the faucet was repaired. Fortunately I was able to find a replacement and get it installed in just a few hours. The new faucet has been awesome, and no longer leaks or drips. Why didn’t I replace this sooner? The replacement required a slightly larger hole, and I was able to dig around the spare parts bins and find a plug for the second hole. It also seems to keep the overspray down and it’s much easier to conserve water.

New galley faucet with an improved hot/cold mixer
New galley faucet with an improved hot/cold mixer

 

I’m adding new tracks, winches, line clutches, cheek blocks, lead cars and new sheets for the staysail as my next project. This step will put the staysail back into commission and allow for sheeting on both tacks without needing the self-tending boom. The old club setup never really worked well and I’ve heard more than one person say it wasn’t really designed to tend the staysail properly.  It cluttered the foredeck, it kites and pumps dangerously in high winds, and interfered with the windlass when was time to raise or lower the anchor. The new staysail is ready but the hardware needs to be mounted. On top of this, I cannot simply drill holes into the cabin top and through-bolt the tracks and winches. I need to drill the holes oversized, then fill the holes with epoxy, tap threads into the holes and then I can use close-threaded bolts to mount the hardware. It will take some time and in order to do this I also need to get the deck hardware so I know what holes to drill. I have fiberglass experts coming next week to give me an estimate, tracks are in possession, and I’m nailing down the rest of the hardware with Bud Taplin. Bud is the living encyclopedia of Westsails and is still helping the owners with their repairs and replacements. I’ve seen several other Westsails with the same arrangement so I am confident that this will add quite a bit of versatility to the different sailing conditions.

Brand new staysail
Brand new staysail

 

The yankee jib was also completed this week. I was unsure of the size and a bit worried that it might be too small but after unfolding it at the loft and then later raising it on the new roller furler, it turned out to be a perfect size. It’s a full-hoist jib, meaning the head of the sail goes almost entirely to the top of the mast. There is some room for halyard and shackles but it is really a perfect fit. The protective canvas along the luff is also the same burgundy that is used on the rest of the boat so it looks great. The furling line is a little challenging to pull in because of the diameter of the line and the existing friction in the fairleads, but I will probably change the fairleads to something that will cause less friction to fix the problem. I also need a dedicated cleat to free up the jib sheet cleat but these issues will be much easier to work out than the staysail. Fortunately I can take Satori out sailing, hoist just the mainsail, and unfurl the jib now, and no longer need to wait to go sailing. My time will be limited to day trips since my only battery is currently the starting battery but there isn’t anything else stopping me from sailing.

New 100% yankee taking up the entire loft floor
New 100% yankee taking up the entire loft floor
The Schattauer brothers folding up the yankee after going over the massive list of features and improvements
The Schattauer brothers folding up the yankee after going over the massive list of features and improvements

Prior to 2015 and one of two reasons why I have not been sailing much is because my headstay was converted to a roller reefing, or furling jib. There were plusses and minuses with the old hanked-on jib. The size was quite small, at likely 70 percent from full. Adding a furler enables me to manage a larger sail but the added benefit of shortening it to a better balance of the helm. I did my homework and with the help of Northwest Rigging, installed it in a matter of a couple of hours. I hoisted the Mast-Mate to the top of the mast but Dean insisted on climbing the spreaders. I am grateful for having Andy and Dean from Northwest Rigging in Anacortes come out, put it together and help me with the install. I still have the spinnaker halyard to deal with, since it’s only rigged temporarily, but it can wait until I take the mast down. I love working at height but I think most of the remaining mast projects are better suited for while its laying horizontal on a half a dozen saw horses.

Andy and Dean from Northwest Rigging installing the new jib furler
Andy and Dean from Northwest Rigging installing the new jib furler

I have also managed to finish the weather cloths. They are a simple design and add both privacy and weather protection when the winds are on the beam. The design is actually very simple. Just fold some canvas in half, sew the piping around the edge and attach snaps and grommets to secure to the lifelines. I use zip ties to secure the bottom so they can rip out if I ever get a boarding sea. I still have a few more canvas projects to complete but I’m in no hurry. The mainsail and staysail can use the old canvas for a few more months. There is one more project I would like to complete but it isn’t just a matter of sewing. The sliding hatch could use additional protection from water coming over the cabin top and into the cabin, through the front. A flap was added to help keep the wind and water out but unfortunately it isn’t exactly water tight. I will need to add a steel tube frame similar to the dodger and then make sure the canvas extends up to the dodger, maybe even attaching to it. I could fix the hatch as a turtle and then add another sliding board underneath as some have done, but I think my idea might be a better solution. Plus I can take it off in nice weather and allow the wind to enter through the opening.

Satori in her red canvas. Still have the mainsail and staysail canvas to replace.
Satori in her red canvas. Still have the mainsail and staysail canvas to replace.

In another few weeks I expect to have all of the sails ready for sea trials, a brand new battery bank, and the final cleanup of the boat wiring. Once these two milestones are completed, I can simply kick back and wait for the warm weather to come with the perfect 15 knot winds that the Salish Sea is legendary for. There are plenty of other projects to do however. I was fortunate to pick up the stern pulpit from Westsail Harbinger in Olympia. I budgeted for a custom pulpit to support a wind turbine and higher stern light but my estimate was for a brand new pulpit. The Abrains gave me a killer deal on their old one, which I can pay to have modified.  I have running backstays and lifelines to rig using Amsteel and creative splicing. I am also going to learn how to properly sail with the Aries wind vane. It may require days where the winds are no less than 15 knots but I am willing to dedicate some time to make sure I have it figured out well enough to embrace it when I know it can be used instead of the tiller pilot. The engine is still in need of some additional work to help reduce the amount of corrosion that is on the engine block and even rusting the parts I installed last summer. This will be the biggest priority and I’m hoping that I can finish it before the weather warms up and everyone is anxious to go outside. Much progress was made this winter so now it’s time to learn how to sail effectively with the new rigging and sails.

Satori back on the water after taking a six week hiatus
Satori back on the water after taking a six week hiatus

New Electrical System Phase Two

I’ve been waiting for over a month for the new batteries to be delivered. It’s a good thing because it has given me more time to think about how to go about upgrading and modifying the entire electrical system. I like to call it a spaghetti factory but it isn’t really that bad. All of the DC components on board have inline fuses and are wired to a circuit breaker. The AC system is lacking it’s own independent breakers but there is one right at the end of the shore power cable on the dock. The existing system could keep working by just swapping out the golf cart batteries every couple of years. So why replace everything? Mainly because the cost of the replacement, the fact that I can do it myself with wisdom from several reliable sources, and also because it is winter and I have plenty of time to get it done right. Once it is completed I will be able to add several other components in the near distant future and the new electrical system will be ready for them. All of the components will be on a very safe and dependable circuit. I can live off the grid for potentially weeks at a time without ever starting the motor, enjoying comforts like refrigeration, hot water, push button toilet flushing and lots of fans circulating air in and out of the cabin.

New circuit panel before trim installed
New circuit panel before trim installed

At first I thought I would just start by replacing the existing charging components and that would be enough but once I began looking at the circuit, I decided to add it into the project mix and ‘Break Out Another Thousand’. Not only will I have a new charging system and electrical system but I can also accommodate the future components that I will be adding at a later time. Most of the remaining   components will require an independent circuit to it’s own breaker, like SSB, radar, possibly some high powered LED spotlights, and maybe even an electric windlass. These may even get their own dedicated battery bank. Extending a modern system will be considerably easier to do than to attempt extending a legacy system made back in the 1970’s. I have already gone through some growing pains by trying to run a lot more 12 volt powered components. I’ve added a chartplotter, new toilet, freshwater pump, fans, circulation pumps, forced air, drain pump, another bigger bilge pump and six more low powered network components. I’ve also added solar and an AC inverter so now it’s time to take it to the next phase. Here is a list of new charging components and batteries:

UPGRADE PHASE TWO

  • Morningstar Tristar solar charge controller 60 amp with remote battery temperature sensor
  • Balmar Max Charge MC-614 alternator voltage regulator with dual remote battery temperature sensors for both banks and alternator temperature sensor
  • ProNautic P Series AC charger 40 amp for three banks and remote battery temperature sensor
  • ProNautic  Remote Interface
  • 2 – Mastervolt Slimline 200 amp-hour 12 volt AGM batteries
  • 1 Mastervolt group 31 12 Volt AGM 1012 CCA starting battery
  • Blue Sea Systems ML-ACR automatic charging relay 500 amp
  • Blue Sea Systems panel with GFCI AC dual pole main breaker
  • Blue Sea Systems AC panel with 4 – 15 amp breakers
  • Blue Sea Systems DC  panel with 8 – 15 amp breakers
  • Blue Sea Systems DC panel with 8 – 10 amp breakers
  • Blue Sea Systems  DC panel with 8 switches
  • Bus bars, terminal blocks, and fuses
  • Ancor Duplex and Triplex wire
  • Ancor single strand wire of different colors from 10 – 16 gauge
  • Ancor heat shrink ring and receptacle terminals
  • 20 and 30 amp DC breakers
  • Smartplug
New charging components
New charging components

Every wire around the entire boat has been traced. Each one meticulously labeled with either a positive or negative and name, e.g.- “big bilge pump +”. Some components are removed and wires bundled away from the switch panel. Everything except what I need to continue living on the boat has been removed from the 12 volt panel. I need to first remove the starting battery and clean up the wiring so I am close to a clean slate as possible. The old ACR, battery monitor and voltage regulator can be removed and only the wiring for AC and charging the old bank will be left over so over a weekend I can install new AC and DC panels, then wire up the bare minimum for being able to live on the boat. Once the minimum components are installed, I’ll install the new batteries. Then each component will be meticulously programmed, tested and permanently installed. After everything is installed and working again I will replace any suspect AC and DC wiring and then secure the entire circuitry.  It’s difficult to tell how long this phase will take. It took a year and a half just to get to this point, where I know the boat inside and out. To understand an entire electrical system of your offshore cruiser is essential to being able to troubleshoot any issues quickly and easily. I built the system so now I know how to keep it tuned and working well.

Bus, fuse and terminal block collection
Bus, fuse and terminal block collection
Cutting mahogany plywood
Cutting mahogany plywood

There are two projects in parallel at the beginning of the project; one is removing old circuitry and replacing wires that can be replaced without compromising the cabin in any way, and the other is rewiring with duplex from the components back to the panel. Some old wiring cannot be replaced because they are located inside of the mast or headliner so where they are accessible is where new wire is spliced and led to the new panel. The wire is then bundled together using zip ties and tie holders against a surface to prevent dangling or movement and eventually chafe.

Stencil for new panel board
Stencil for new panel board

Another project that had me side tracked is getting the wiring out of the bilge. There was once a group of wires that ran under the cabin sole but since I’ve decided to upgrade the electrical system, I’ve also decided to reroute the new wiring a few feet from the cabin top and then bring it down to the DC components. I hope the bilge never fills enough to go above the cabin sole but if it does, having seawater contact the electrical circuit would be mitigated so to me it seems like a logical choice while undergoing such an endeavor. The replacement wiring will also handle much higher amperes than the previous install so voltage drop will be less of an issue and the system will run safer and more efficiently than ever before.

An important part of the new wiring for the stove and hot water system is a circuit that will automatically switch on the forced air heater and water pump in the event that the stove raises the glycol temperature above 200 degrees and bring it back down to 180 degrees. The normal hot water temperature usually ranges between 100 and 140 degrees so this is just a failsafe measure to prevent potential damage to the hot water tank and pipes. In order to allow the pump and stove to have their own independent bypass switch, they require a blocking diode so current can be fed through the thermostat to power the components but if one of the components is on using a bypass switch, current isn’t feeding back into the other component. I will post something later on this subject. It’s been fun designing this heating system.

A big challenge to this project has been living aboard while disassembling the electrical system. The batteries are removed and the circuit panel is down to the bare essentials to keep the important electronics operating. At one point I had to connect the battery charger directly to the DC panel and set the charger to constant float so I could remove the old battery bank. Not ideal as it does not provide much current to the toilet macerator, but it works for the time being until I have a new battery bank installed. When I ran the new wiring to the bathroom and forward berth I had to empty all of the port side lockers so I could feed wire without obstructions.   What was once an organized boat then became a storage place for all of the electrical wiring and components until they are all installed. The lockers had loose wiring until it was time to secure the entire bundles. Every day the amount of stuff cluttering the living space is reduced, based on what is accomplished that day. Plenty of incentive to keep working on whatever I can until this project is completed.

Once the new DC wiring was in place, I was able to move on to the panel installation. First I had to locate a suitable piece of plywood that matched the beautiful hardwood already on the boat. Luckily we have a place in South Seattle called Crosscut Hardwoods that has a great selection of exotic plywoods so I sourced a five-ply 6’x4′ of mahogany. Then I needed to cut and size the new piece to fit into the locker, which luckily a friend offered to help out using hit table saw. Finally I had to trace out each new panel, the main switches, the ACR override switch, bilge pump switches, battery monitor, and finally the remote display for the AC charger. I’ve graduated to the panel installation and routing wires to it through a series of harnesses. I’m not going to go OCD on the final routing but it will certainly be cleaner than the prior configuration and much easier to add another component. There are more important things to do than tweak the panel wires so they are all bundled perfectly. As long as chafe is minimized and it’s easy to navigate the wiring, that will be enough for me. Once I have the new house batteries on the boat I can complete the project and add the new charging components. Phase three is adding the new battery bank and charging components, plus programming them for the proper charging voltage at each stage. My final post will cover these important steps.