Re: Lack of Confidence
These people are giving you advice that is good but not great because you are already confused and uncertain. You need to be told in Barney style steps that a 5 year old could not mix up. I will help you with what I THINK is your biggest immediate concern which is electrical since you need lights, music is nice, and batteries ran down are very expensive to replace on a small budget.
Step 1. buy a 10$ volt meter tester. It has an analog rectangular plastic piece with a series of lights from red red yellow to green green. It has a black alligator clip and a red pointy thingy piece like what you insert into corn on the cob ends.
step 2: look at your solar panel. find the fuse box. open the fuse box. Touch the volt meter to the black and red terminal points (where the black and red (negative and positive) wires are connected to the actual circuit panel breaker. Touch the volt meter to these terminal points (metal on metal) and check the reading. If yellow or red it means the problem is your solar panel. Since you have three- I think this will not be the issue but test them anyway.
Step 3: trace with your hand the wires from the solar panel down to where they reach your batteries. YOU SHOULD have a regulator (a small box that you plug in the black and red wires from the solar panel to the regulator) the regulator is what then transfers via another set of black and red wires to your batteries to prevent over charging. If you DO HAVE a regulator- check again with the volt meter where the wires from the solar panel plug into the regulator box. If all good next follow the wires from the regulator down to the first battery they are attached to since you said you have three batteries.
So- right now you have solar panels with wires going to a regulator or directly to the first battery in series since a parallel series will jump your voltage up to 36- series keeps voltage at 12 while allowing equal consumption of power across all three batteries.
So touch with your new 10$ volt meter the first battery where the regulator output wires are attached (if you have a regulator) if green then proceed. If not then you have your culprit.
Assuming your green or have no regulator then your batteries should each be tested one at a time by touching the black alligator to the NEG terminal post and the red pin to the POS post. if even one of the batteries is reading below 12.5 it needs to be replaced because it will ruin the other two batteries in months. If you get two good batteries and one red or yellow this is probably your problem. Disconnect the bad battery and go with two until you can afford a third.
If all green so far move on- You mentioned no inverter but Im inclined to think you have one if your running a CD player. If you do repeat steps for the regulator to make sure inverter is inverting properly. If green proceed. If no inverter proceed.
Step 4: trace the red and black wires from the THIRD battery in series to inside the boat cabin. The black and red wires will MOST LIKELY read to an ON/OFF switch which acts like a master breaker for a house. Flip on house has power. Flip off house has no power even though the house is STILL HOOKED UP to the electrical grid (in your case the batteries). Touch the volt meter like all the other steps to the backside of this on/off switch and make sure you are green. If you are not this is your problem. Replace. If green proceed.
Step 5: Now you will have the red POS wire leading from the on off switch to either an amp/voltage meter (just like a fuel gauge showing empty or full) or it will go to the circuit breaker or panel w.e. you call it. If you have a volt or amp meter test exactly like you did the on/off switch. if green proceed. If not replace or for now simply disconnect and proceed to step 6.
Step 6: The red POS wire will not go to the top or bottom depending on your setup of the first fuse of the circuit breaker. This is the thing with tons of wires coming in and out crossing over and looks like a jumbled mess to anyone not familiar with it. The black wire should go to the first hole of the TERMINAL bar which is a strip where each NEG wire will be plugged in to. So fir instance you have one light in your system. Well starting at step 6 you will have one red wire going INTO the circuit breaker plugging into a fuse. Then it will be connected ACROSS to the other side of the breaker (usually breakers are labeled like cabin lights, running lights, bilge pump, blower, ect.) so you will have one red wire going in to the fuse and one small wire going across to the other side and then another red POS wire LEAVING THE BREAKER going to the ONE light bulb.
You need to test each side of this breaker panel by touching the red pin to the metal point where you plugged in the red wire, and touch the terminal bar which is always near by with the black alligator to make sure you have current running through. If you do test the other side. If you do not take out the fuse which is push in and replace it. Then retest. You should be green if you were not before. now test the other side where the red wire is LEAVING and make sure you get a reading which you should since the fuse is working it will at least be carrying current TO THE LIGHT. the next culprit will be the light its self.
Step 7: trace the red wire going to the light bulb and look at the light bulb- the bulb itself has a tiny resistor inside and at the top has a filament which glows when current is passing through it which causes light. If the filament is burned or broken the light bulb needs to be replaced. If the bulb test good then the positive end of the system is GOOD.
Now the black wire will be leaving the other side of the bulb. Red goes in, black goes out. Trace black back to the TERMINAL BAR and touch the bar with black and the blub with red and check your reading. If all good- proceed to light two.
Repeat this SAME process on every light, fan, electronic equipment connected to the terminal bar and circuit panel until you find the short in the system.
If it IS the mast light it should not be shorting your system like this. However I recommend you hire a rigger to climb up the mast the first time or better yet- take down the mast and rewire the whole thing, anchor light, mast light, spreader lights- this also gives you a chance to inspect the upper rigging and make sure it is all good to go- this is what I would do. Its really not a big deal and not very expensive.
Hope this helps.