The running lights have never worked since I have had the boat and currently dont still after fiddling with them today.
Could they just be burned out? If it's just the lights on the mast: There will probably be a connector in the wiring to allow for mast removal. That could be defective. If it's all of them, perhaps the switch controlling them is defective? You can determine all these things with a multimeter.
My FM/CD player was hooked up straight to the battery so I rewired it to my control panel(this was the first thing that I have done correctly in my vast trials with electricity).
Yeah, the PO of our boat did that, too. There actually is a reason for doing that. Many of the newer "car radios" retain their settings only while connected to a 12VDC source. Some of them, like the one in my car, lose all their settings and/or lock up in a security mode, if the 12VDC is taken away. (Anti-theft provision.)
My wiring system (I think) is not normal. The + and - coming off of the battery run directly to an approximatly 4x12 peice of thick plexiglass with 2 narrow copper sheets running parrell down it lengthwise (one is for + and one for -). This has about 4 seperate + and - studs on it for various items. From one of them is wire leading to my control panel. Also off of it are wires leading to my bilge switch and bilge, and my VHF radio. I dont think this is a good thing but I am not sure. Do my bilge and radio need to be ran to my control panel? If anyhting what is so bad about my switch and fusesless plexiglass control panel?
Working in reverse: What do you mean by "fuseless plexiglass control panel?" As to whether the VHF should be run to your control panel: There are two schools of thought on that. One of them is that the VHF radio should be on a switch, others apply the same thinking to it is to the bilge pump(s). Our PO had the VHF connected directly to one of the batteries. My feeling is when I turn the master switch "OFF," "OFF" is what I mean. Our VHF doesn't go through a switch on the control panel, but it is
on the load side of the battery switch, now. As for the bilge pump: Do you ever want to turn that off? I'm thinking not.
The main panel works and I wired my FM/CD to it today and it works well. I have a total of four ummmm... switches? to wire different applications too. BUT there is only a place for ONE ground????? I dont get it, shouldnt it have 4 different places to ground things?????? A freind and home electrician told me to splice wires together and ground all the applications on the one ground. Is this correct?
Why do you need four separate screws? It would be convenient, but it's not necessary. Ground is ground is ground. Use good ring terminals, properly
crimped, and put 'em all on the same ground point. I wouldn't splice unless I had to. (Careful of the advice of home electricians. Home wiring and marine wiring have different requirements.)
On my control panel, the ground is a copper strip with a ground wire attached that runs to the - point on my battery. I guess that being so then everything that I ground (on the panel and the plexiglass panel) is then grounded to my battery. Is this alright?
Sounds about right. I'm surprised that, in a marine application, those busses aren't plated, tho.
Should I make a ground that is on my swing keel winch or something?
I don't know as that's going to do anything for you. It is
generally regarded as a sign of superior construction and attention to detail when all the metal bits on a sailboat are bonded together, tho.
Do I need a master battery switch for only one battery? My assumption is that the master switch is only there to eliminate anything that may use the battery even when it is not turned on. For example, a VCR still draws a little power when switched off for the clock. Is this needed?
I would have a minimum of two group 24 batteries and an off-1-both-2 switch, even for just day-sailing or short races. More/bigger batteries for cruising. You're going to want a proper intelligent charger that operates off of shore power, too.
Have plenty of battery and take care of them. Running out of battery out in the middle of the water is not fun. Particularly if it's nighttime.
I have a good freind who is an home electrician by trade and good at what he does but I am not sure what he knows about boats.
He probably doesn't.