As usual sailingdog gave you good advice and many more specifics than I did. I gave you a quick overview; there are many more details to work out.
Maybe someone else can confirm this, but I believe the American Boat and Yacht (ABYC) standard is that you must have a main disconnect. Only the bilge pump and possibly the radio may be direct wired. There are many more standards regarding fuse locations, wire gauges, connection methods, etc. I don't know if there is a Canadian equivalent or not.
It seems to my that you may want to have a marine electrician go through the boat wiring with you so he can check that the wiring meets at least his standards, if not a published standard. Also, I think you will learn about your boat during the process.
One more thing...adding a Link Xantrex battery monitor is a good investment for proper battery care. (Unless you spend mostly travel from one shore power connection to the next).
I'll try to answer your specific questions...
This is pretty much how my set up is since I can shut off the entire panel from the panel directly. Just to confirm my understanding:
1. It is normal then that the 1/2/both/off switch serves only to select the battery to ventilate and start the engine?
- Yes. Having one large single house bank with an on / off switch and a 1/2/both/off switch for the engine start selections is a modern approach and the best arrangement I have seen. However, there are many more options.
You could have a 1/2/both/off switch for the house system if you have multiple house banks, but these days unless you are talking about a really big yacht, a single house bank is the way to go. Generally, the days have alternating days between two banks are over. It's much easier on the batteries to draw all house batteries down a small amount, rather than hit one bank hard one day and the other hard the next day.
I would label your house bank, Bank 1 and your cranking battery Bank 2. Your starting selector always is switched to Bank 2 under normal conditions. If your starting Bank has problems, you can switch to Bank 1 if needed.
2. The wiring of the other appliances is completely independant of the 1/2/both/off switch (all wired to the house bank via panel and fuses)
- Yes, but you need a main disconnect in my opinion.
3. radio and bilge pump bypass both the panel and the switch with in-line fuses
4. the charger is directly wired to the batteries
- That's okay, but sailingdog's advice is better (adding an isolator). The starting battery could be charged via an echo charger. (Your charger may have a built in echo port, or you can add an external one.)
Thanks again so much for your help. Everything seems to be working fine but I am far from an expert with electricity
- A while back I took a few short courses on marine electrical systems. It was one of the best investments in my boat that I made.