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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electrical Systems
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  #1  
Old 01-11-2010
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Mast wiring - common ground?

My boat had only a steaming light on the mast. I plan to add an anchor light, a light to illuminate the windvane and potentially a foredeck light.

Is there anything wrong with using a common ground wire for all 4 lights, thus requiring only 5 wires total?

Also, how important is it to enclose the wire in a conduit up the mast? All of my halyards are external.
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Old 01-11-2010
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Common ground wire would probably be OK, but you'd have to be very careful how you connect the various devices to that wire to ensure strength, good electrical connection, waterproof integrity, etc. Of course, doing this runs the risk that if for any reason you lose the ground, you lose all the connected devices. In the end, you may find it easier -- and better though more expensive -- to just run the separate wire pairs.

Conduit is definitely to be preferred. Alternative means of securing the wires -- like staggered wire ties -- might be OK, too. Nothing's worse than having electrical wires slapping around inside the mast at anchor! Bad for the wires and bad for the nerves.

IMHO,

Bill

Last edited by btrayfors; 01-11-2010 at 06:19 AM.
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Old 01-11-2010
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Get LED's. I have a total of 6 yrs experience (2 differnet boats) with the Orca Green...Present one used every night for 2 yrs...

Orca Green Marine Technology - LED Lighting
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Old 01-18-2010
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All those "extra" lights, especially the foredeck light, substantially increases the total current draw on the circuit. That means your one little black wire is called upon to handle 4x-6x the current it was designed for. This is bad, in a fire-starting kind of way.

Pull some extra black wires up the mast and give each light its own return.

As someone mentioned, you could also go to all LEDs, which would reduce the amps, but a failure of the single black wire would still cause a failure of all your lights.

If you decide to go the LED route, be aware that automotive-type LEDs are not suitable for marine environments. I have LED lights for the masthead, anchor, steaming, and nav. - they are all Bebi lights, which you can buy here: Bebi Electronics-Home of the Finest Marine LED Lighting Products on Sea (or Earth)!.

Bebi lights are expensive, but they are worth it, unless you like climbing the mast in a seaway at 2 o:clock in the morning in October.

jm2c

Best Regards,

e

.::.
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Old 01-18-2010
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I find that my masthead tri-color (LED) lights up the windex quite well without the need for a dedicated windex light.

BTW, I don't have a separate ground for each light, but rather a separate ground for each fixture -- the steaming and foredeck light are in a combination fixture, as are the anchor and tri-color light.
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Old 01-18-2010
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IMHO..........do it right...do it once....a ground for each fixture....all in conduit
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Old 01-18-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catamount View Post
I find that my masthead tri-color (LED) lights up the windex quite well without the need for a dedicated windex light.

BTW, I don't have a separate ground for each light, but rather a separate ground for each fixture -- the steaming and foredeck light are in a combination fixture, as are the anchor and tri-color light.
This is a good compromise between minimizing wire aloft and minimizing single points of failure.
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Old 02-25-2010
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common ground

I prefer the one-ground-per-fixture approach myself, using a sheathed cable to each fixture, as much to avoid splices halfway up the mast as anything else. You could stretch that to consider anything at the masthead one "fixture" even if an anchor and windex lights are not one fixture per se.

But I have to add... unless your mast is wood, you could dispense with running *any* ground wires up, and use the mast itself as a return. It should be grounded anyway, and if you lose it, you have bigger problems than your lights going out.

On a related note, when the PO of my Sun Odyssey 45.2 took possession, I had to help him debug an interesting condition: turning on the anchor light lit both anchor and steaming lights. Turning on the steaming light lit only that light.

I could leave it as a puzzle, or just give the answer:



The local rigger who wired the boat (for a large local yard, surprisingly) apparently wasn't thinking of european colour codes... where blue is negative and brown is hot... he wired the mast "north american" and connected "ground" to the boat's brown... not exactly a missing ground, rather one fixture had ground, and you could apply power to the point between the two, lighting only the one, or to the far end of the series pair, lighting both.

I'd forgotten about that until about 4 years after I bought the boat, when I opened the access panel in the cabin ceiling and wondered about the wires labelled in... my handwriting.

All I can say is, it would not have happened if the mast had been the return. He might have blown a breaker trying to power the mast, but probably would have noticed that before delivering the boat. Probably.

Norman
s/v Redline
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Old 02-26-2010
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My mast is deck step and I do not think it is grounded.
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Old 02-26-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jhaley66 View Post
My mast is deck step and I do not think it is grounded.
Mine is also deck stepped, and to be honest I'm not sure whether it is grounded or not. So... cue a major digression into lightning protection and the pros and cons of mast grounding ;-)

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I bought this boat "pre-struck" - PO changed out most of the electronics after a strike at dockside, which apparently either hit the mast and grounded through the shore cable, or hit elsewhere in the marina and entered via the shore cable. Then again, the VHF antenna was missing entirely, the Freedom 25 inverter/charger was toast (and smelled it), and the rudder had to be rebuilt. Interesting stuff, lightning.).
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