October 4, 2016 Hours spent building to date: 2,919
Pictures of wiring are usually about as interesting as pictures of white paint going on to white primer. But the backlighting system Blue Seas Systems now puts into its panels is actually pretty cool.
I made a lot of progress on the wiring this week, installing the batteries, building the main switch box (which also houses the main system fuses) and getting all the single DC circuits run — water pump, refrigerator, stereo, etc. Didn’t think I would get to the sub circuits for breakers that protect more than one device (lighting, instruments, etc.), but managed to finish them up late this afternoon.
By tomorrow I should be just about as far as I can go on the electric, since the lights and speakers all run through cable raceways that should be installed on a painted surface and can themselves be turned Mayonnaise White. Those wires will all connect to the sub circuit panel, so should go in pretty quickly once the paint is on.
I have been thinking about and researching batteries for two years now, and finally decided to go with a medium-grade flooded cell rather than anything exotic like absorbed glass mat, thin plate lead or even lithium-ion. The motor is going to be charging away all the time and I can’t see us spending weeks on anchor. I still tend to think in sailboat terms, and have to remember that powerboat charging is a different animal. For a boat her size, however, Tardis has a pretty big battery bank — two Group 31s, a Group 24 starting battery and eventually a Group 24 for the bow thruster and windlass. “Big bilge pumps, big batteries” — the wooden boat equivalent of “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”
There has only been one scare so far in the wiring. I spent a long time installing a remote LED light for my fancy Automatic Charging Relay using impossibly small connectors designed for Leprechaun-sized fingers. This light indicates when the batteries are combined for charging versus running independently to keep one charged battery available at all times. I hooked a small automotive charger onto the new batteries, and no green light came on. Checked everything, still no light. I pulled out the manual and by chance my eye went exactly to the right phrase: “At low charging voltages, ACR may take a few minutes to combine as batteries begin to accept charge.” I heard a click and on came the light.
For any followers who thinking about wiring projects on your boat, you should really get an hydraulic crimper for the battery terminals. Hand tools or the cheap crimpers activated by a hammer don’t work. Northern Tool or Harbor Freight have them for about $50. Mine says “Central Hydraulics,” but the same plant in China makes them all. Also, for working with heat-shrink terminals I got an Ancor ratcheting SINGLE crimp terminal connection tool. I have always used a professional double crimper (much more expensive) and once in a while I would really blow a crimp because I simply couldn’t see exactly see where the terminal and wire met with the heavy crimper flopping around in awkward spaces . The single crimper is much lighter, easier to use and I am getting great results.