September 23, 2016 Hours spent building to date: 2,884
Energized (pun intended) by my trip West, I came back and tackled the wiring. I had only planned to do the AC circuits, but the way things worked out I was able to get all the circuits on the port side run to the panel and the GFCI outlets tested and operational.
I think some followers are surprised that I’m doing the electrical myself, since that’s not the kind of thing most DIY folks tackle even at home. But boat electrical offers instant gratification — hook up the circuit, turn the switch and (most of the time) it works. By contrast, it will have been almost three years before we know for sure whether Tardis is a floater or a sinker.
Boat electrical is not hard. On a small boat virtually every DC circuit is a “home run” — positive wire out from the panel to the device, negative back, next circuit. I have never done from scratch AC wiring, but it isn’t too bad so far. I bought commercial-grade GFCI outlets with a very robust connection system that are wired such that if you make a mistake, they simply won’t work. To keep my body from being the path from a voltage source to ground, I am rigorously following all the rules on “Safety Grounding” by two experts, Don Casey (Sailboat Electrics Simplified) and Nigel Calder (Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual). To keep the boat from burning up during a malfunction, in addition to circuit protection, I am using heavy-gauge wire throughout (14 on the DC side, 12 AC, 10 for the refrigeration, macerator pump and battery charger, 10 into the panel on the AC side). The diagrams and instructions that came with the Blue Sea Systems panel are excellent.
I got a lot of wiring practice and instructions on what NOT to do on Memsahib, my motorsailer. After she was built in Hong Kong in 1961, a Chinese electrician came aboard with a giant coil of untinned, 12-gauge red wire and went at it. Positive, negative, safety — everything was red. This made circuits impossible to trace. A previous owner had given up and simply cut wires off whenever a change was made. So there were dangerous “wires to nowhere” coming off the panel in all directions, waiting for a short from a water leak or a dropped wrench to blow the boat to kingdom come in the days of its gas engine. Needless to say, I ended up rewiring virtually the whole boat.
In other action, because some of the wiring runs would interfere with the tank vents, I went ahead and installed them. It is an encouraging sign that what would have been an all-day fight with bedding compound and wrenches two years ago was a drama-free two-hour job today.