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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electrical Systems
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  #1  
Old 04-20-2010
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Ideas for running mast lights into cabin

I'm fixing the mast lights on my new to me boat. The only lights on the mast are the steaming light and anchor light. The cables, 18/2 for steaming and 16/2 for anchor, exit the mast through two small holes on the side of the mast about 6" from the deck. There's about of foot of wire left after they exit. There are two holes drilled through the deck right at the edge of the mast step and the wire are lead through there. Some pictures:


And the inside:


The mast light has a new 16/2 cable running loose above the settee from the fuse panel, out through the hole in the deck at the base of the mast (filled with silicon sealant, which has failed), and then to a pair of "bullet connectors" to the wire coming out of the mast. The connectors were wrapped in some electrical tape. The connectors were all corroded and there is corrosion running up the conductors in the mast wires. Nothing was sealed with heat shrink.

The steaming light uses some of the original 31 year old wiring to get from the panel to the mast and looks to be 18 or 20 gauge. The conductors are stiff and black. It was joined with crimp connectors inside the boat to the mast cable, which exited through a hole in the deck and goes up the mast.

Both lights were connected to the same switch on the panel, which doesn't make any sense, since you'd never want steaming and anchor to be on at the same time. Rather than get a new panel (all switches in use), I was going to add a double throw switch after the panel's "Mast Lights" switch. One position would turn on anchor and the other steaming. I'd run a single 16/3 cable from the panel to near the mast. Common ground and two hots coming from the double throw switch. Any flaws in that plan?

But now the question is how do I join this 16/3 cable to the two 2-conductor cables exiting the mast? Join them inside the boat or outside the boat?

Inside would be more weather proof, but then how do I disconnect them to drop the mast? It's not a trailered boat so that won't be happening often, but I'd like to be possible without having to do extensive exectrical work. Especially anything that would involve cutting wires and making them shorter each time I need to disconnect. The deck holes the wires go though are pretty small. I can't put much of a connector at all on the end of the wires and still fit them through. Maybe a spade terminal on each conductor would fit.

If I join the two cables the one 16/3 outside with just a straight splice the butt connectors and heat shrink it should seal well. I'll only have one cable going through the deck. But if I ever need to run the wires through the mast I need to break my splice.

I'm aware of cable clams. But I'd have to make a new hole in the deck near the mast and that worries me a little. Is it possible to run two cables though the same clam? The cables aren't round either, would that be a problem? The 16/3 cable is pretty flat in fact.
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Old 04-20-2010
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Wow. That looks really bad to me with the wire exposed and the opportunity for chafing not to mention the hole in the deck.

What is that little access plate on the foot and aft side of you mast? Your wires should be run inside the mast.
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Old 04-20-2010
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I would recommend a small terminal strip attached inside near where the cables enter. You can just disconnect the two cable if you ever need to unship the mast.

Re-do the silicone sealant where the cables penetrate the deck. Use a grommet or something for chafe protection at the hole in the mast. I would seal those holes as well, the less water in the step the better...


Best Regards,

e

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Old 04-20-2010
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While this is not ideal it is not a disaster. Put chafe gear on the wire and it's protected from chafe problem solved. As for the connections I personaly would do heat shrink butt connectors inside the cabin. If you want to seal the deck off for the last time then I would consider a junction box at he base od the mast. Make sure it is a really good one. What concerns me most is the wire size. While it may be sufficient to power the fixtures it is not exactly a tough wire. At the very least I would step up to a 12 3 in the cabin run, but I would rerun bigger wire up the mast next tome it is unstepped. Hope that helps. Good luck.
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Old 04-20-2010
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I'm not sure what the plate on the mast base in the first picture is for. I don't think it comes off. That's the forward side of the mast. The aft side of the mast step has some sheaves in it from the orignal halyard exits as the mast base. You can see the leftwards exit portal in the second picture. The halyards are now run the more common manner, existing the sides of the mast about 6' up and then running to turning blocks. Maybe having the cables exit where the sheaves are would be better than the holes they're in now?

I've re-run the steaming light since taking that picture. There's a grommet in the hole now. I put some strain relief on the cable, using some wire ties to attach the cable to the light base. Haven't run the anchor light yet, it's about 25' higher up. Hole is not entirely round either so it's hard to find a grommet that fits.

The cabin cable run is only about 10' and the 16 gauge wire is better than what's been in there for the last 30 years.
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Old 04-20-2010
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It would be a lot neater if you used an electrical connector that passed through the hull. Something like this is only about $15 and is much more secure and less likely to leak or have problems than running the wire through a bunch of silicone goop... it is also going to be far easier to maintain.


Cable clams are not a good option with FLAT DUPLEX WIRE, as shown in the photos, since they won't seal properly around them.
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Old 04-21-2010
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I take it the cable clam on flat triplex wire would be right out then?

Every solution has an annoying problems with it. The connector on the deck would mean drilling a new hole in the deck. There is also the problem of where to put it so it doesn't interfere with control lines. Just behind the mast would be ok on the outside of the boat, but inside it wouldn't be as good of a location. Where the wires enter now comes out in the corner behind a bulkhead and the mast compression post.

Ideal solution would have:
No exposed non-weatherproof connections
Ability to unstep mast without cutting wires
No new holes in the deck
No leaks in the deck
Ability to run wires back through mast without cutting them
Wires go through cabin top in out of the way location

I could get some inline weather proof connectors, like this and then run cables through the existing holes, perhaps filled with something more permanent than silicon.
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Old 04-21-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tap View Post
... The connector on the deck would mean drilling a new hole in the deck...
Can you use Dog's suggestion with the current hole?

Regards,
Brad
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Old 04-21-2010
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I haven't seen a mast like this before where it did not have wires running down into the cabin without having to drill holes into the side of it. I'm not knocking anything Tap, I'm just gathering information.

Is this typical for this kind of boat?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tap View Post
I take it the cable clam on flat triplex wire would be right out then?
Yes, unless you like dripping water in the cabin.

Quote:
Every solution has an annoying problems with it.
Whine, whine whine...

Quote:
The connector on the deck would mean drilling a new hole in the deck. There is also the problem of where to put it so it doesn't interfere with control lines. Just behind the mast would be ok on the outside of the boat, but inside it wouldn't be as good of a location. Where the wires enter now comes out in the corner behind a bulkhead and the mast compression post.
Most solutions on a boat, much like the boat itself, are compromises. You just have to pick the ones you can live with.

Quote:
Ideal solution would have:
No exposed non-weatherproof connections
Ability to unstep mast without cutting wires
No new holes in the deck
No leaks in the deck
Ability to run wires back through mast without cutting them
Wires go through cabin top in out of the way location

I could get some inline weather proof connectors, like this and then run cables through the existing holes, perhaps filled with something more permanent than silicon.
I'd point out that silicone is a horrible material and has no legitimate use on a boat other than covering cotter pin ends and bedding ports with a specialty silicone like Dow 795. It leaves behind contaminants that are very pernicious and very difficult to remove.

Using a through-deck connector is generally the simplest solution to an issue such as yours, with a deck stepped mast. Picking the prop location for the connector is kind of key though. Mine is forward of the mast, since most lines are lead aft to the cockpit, it isn't in the way of the lines there. It also comes out into the cabin ahead of the mast and is hidden from view from most of the cabin that way.

Having a through-deck connector like the one I posted earlier makes diagnosing problems a lot simpler. Either the circuit is live at the deck or not... if it is good to the deck connector, then any problems are going to be in the mast itself.

It makes stepping/unstepping the mast a lot simpler. Just disconnect the connecter and then the shrouds and stays, and you're ready to drop the mast...

Properly installed, bedded with butyl tape and through-bolted, the connecter won't leak.

I'd point out that the holes you're currently using are probably letting water into the deck at the mast step. Many boats were built with a plywood core in the deck at the mast step, and if your wiring is passing through that core, it is probably rotting...and will lead to a nice PITA deck recore job shortly. By filling those holes with thickened epoxy and moving the connecter away from the edge of the mast, you're likely to have fewer problems with the deck under the mast step.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 04-21-2010 at 09:59 AM.
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