The 18-Wire Solution

September 24, 2017  Hours spent building to date:  3,945

Finished two big electrical projects last week that pretty much wrapped up the systems end of the Tardis project.

The first one was boat electrics 101 simple:  connect the battery charger to the bow thruster battery.  The thruster will probably get a solar panel when its battery also powers a windlass, but that is a far-in-the-future project since we haven’t even anchored out once yet.  I had been lugging a car charger down to the boat while deciding what to do, but with solar power put on hold, the boat charger (which has the ability to charge three banks) seemed like a good alternative.  The charging system requires that all grounds be connected, so I had to run one big black wire from the panel to the battery.  Not easy, now that all the cabinetry is in, but it all works fine and the charger connection was straightforward.

The second project was a bear.  The radio, AIS (automatic identification system that tells me exactly where other boats are), depth sounder, GPS/chart plotter, autopilot and engine (through the steering monitor) all have separate readouts.  That’s good.  But even better is to have all information from all systems available through the chart plotter (now called a multi-function device MFD).  So you are basically looking at a chart of where you are, but surrounding it in the margins is all essential ships information. Without even knowing it, you tend to absorb it and wake up to any problems.

Atlantic Outboard interfaced the steering, autopilot and engine readouts, and I got a converter bus from Raymarine for way too much money to bring in the depth sounder.  But bringing AIS and distress signals from the AIS/radio to the MFD was a problem:  the AIS is made in New Zealand, the MFD in the U.S.  The radio and AIS transmit at different (baud) rates, but the MFD has two ports that will handle different rates.  But that requires hooking everything to everything:  6 colored wires coming from the AIS/radio, six DIFFERENT colored wires coming out of the MFD, and since the wires aren’t long enough to reach six MORE wires of different colors to connect them.

So over the course of an afternoon, I hooked everything up and booted all systems:  no go.  AIS was showing as “on” via the MFD, I was getting good test signals going back and forth, but the little symbols that say “HEY, there is a SUPERTANKER  bearing down on you and it’s going to hit you in TWO MINUTES AND 54 SECONDS  if you don’t turn” were not on the MFD screen. I rerouted and rebooted over and over, but no luck.  Then I got on my phone and hit the Cruisers Net forum: “What’s going on?”  Answer:  “Raymarine doesn’t want to confuse you.  It doesn’t turn on the AIS chart symbols and AIS controls until it sees an AIS connected.”  I thought I knew every menu on my MFD, so I hadn’t even been looking for AIS options.  But when I did, it took about 30 seconds to set the whole beautiful system up.  Everything talks to everything, all systems back each other up.

I am so glad Raymarine didn’t want to confuse me.

The final electrical subpanel all buttoned up.

Final control wiring. I know MY wires, but Atlantic’s are a mystery.


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