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keitha 12-22-2002 07:32 PM

Electrical Upgrade
I have a ’76 Balboa 27’. The boat is in great shape except for the electrical system. I have removed the whole rats nest of wiring and am starting over. It is a very simple system. Two 12V batteries with a OFF-1-2-BOTH switch, minimal electronics on board, old Lucas 15ACR alternator and a panel to control and fuse the accessories and lights. I am planning to do the following and would really appreciate any advice, as I am somewhat of a novice to all of this.

1. Replace the alternator with something more modern with an external voltage regulator. Any advice on something compatible hardware-wise with the old (1973) Lucas?
2. Replace the solenoid. The current is circa 1972.
3. Install a shore power plug in the cockpit simply to run a battery charger. I need to source the right charger as well. Is it a good plan to run everything off of the batteries while on the dock while simultaneously charging the batteries?
4. Replace all switches and fuses for accessories.
5. Replace the key switch (start and glow plug) with momentary switches to avoid using the key. The current key looks about ready to fail!
6. Provide the means to add a GPS/Radar at some point.

My goal here is to have a reliable system that won’t leave me stranded. Thanks in advance for the help.

lecomte38 12-24-2002 04:58 AM

Electrical Upgrade
buy Nigel Calder''s Mechanical & Electrical Manual.

FIRST DETERMINE YOUR NEEDS! start with a new circuit breaker panel with meters($350+) a house bank and starter battery($250+) 100 amp alternator ($250+) volt reg ($150+) tinned wire, cables, and connectors ($100) shore power with seperate panel ($350+), etc.

ABullard 01-02-2003 07:41 AM

Electrical Upgrade
I just rewired my Mariner 39 to current ABYC standards. It was expensive but after seeing what shape the 20 year old wiring was in and the potential fire hazards I prevented it was worth the cost. I hired a professional marine electrician to do the work. The total cost was $7,200. I went with only the best wiring and panels. The panels alone were $2,300.

Again expensive, but when you consider that most of your problems on a cruising boat are either engine or electrical, the cost was worth the peace of mind I know have.


bikersailor 01-03-2003 05:04 AM

Electrical Upgrade
I am in the process of rewiring my mid ''70s 31 footer as well. Just finished the AC side using a new Paneltronics board with polarity warning and dedicated breaker switches for outlets & charger. On the DC side, I have a good breaker panel, but am going to a battery combiner to make a starting and house set up instead of the 1-2-both switch. Also replacing all suspect wiring and connections and doing a diagram. Suggest no shortcuts on bringing shorepower aboard. Instal (if not there) a 30 amp plug receptacle with a circuit breaker and polarity light. As to charger, no problem running DC appliances while its keeping the batteries up. Suggest a 3 stage 2 bank chager of whatever capacity makes sense for you.

jbarros 01-03-2003 08:15 AM

Electrical Upgrade
oh this is gonna be bad....

I''m almost done rewiring my boat...

Whats the ABYC and where can I find their standards?

I used tinned wires, built my own switch and fuse box (breakers are EXPENSIVE!) and used liquid electrical tape on every connection, but I''d like to see what I need to now rip out and do over to get up to code (didnt know there was a code) I only used 14 gauge, but the longest run is 8 feet (20'' boat) so the loss isnt that bad. Blah..

-- James

ABullard 01-06-2003 08:59 AM

Electrical Upgrade
ABYC is the American Boating and Yachting Council, the organization that establishes construction and safety standards for all boats within the US (electrical, propane, lightning, refrigeration, etc. They do testing and make recommendations. Kind of like Underwriters Laboratory (ULL.

I am not sure where you can find a copy of their electrical standards. You might ask your yard or a marine electrician and see if they will let you read the standards.

I highly recommend you follow the standards. There are things in there that us untrained folks would never think about, but which could cause a real fire and shock hazard. To ease your mind most of the standards are fairly easy to follow and don''t cost big bucks.

Good luck.


Stormer 01-07-2003 08:43 PM

Electrical Upgrade
Ok Keith -

Here is the good news - I was COMPLETELY clueless about electrical stuff when I got my boat three years ago. In fact - I needed a friend who had some electrical background to do some very basic wiring! I have since learned and done a lot of electrical work on the boat including replacement of shore power plug, complete rewiring of the battery banks to the charger and alternator etc. It seems daunting - but it is NOT that hard!

Some general considerations:

Batteries: these are the heart of your electrical system and you want to size accordingly. So - you do need to estimate what your usage will be. Many books (I''m thinking particularly about Nigel Calder''s Boat and Electrical Systems) have tables that estimate what everything draws (lights, autopilots, etc.) You want to have capacity about 4 times your usage.

There are several different kinds of batteries. "Wet" batteries require you to check/top off the cells with distilled water on a fairly regular basis. Gel cell batteries are virtually maintenance free. If you can stand checking the fluid levels on the batteries - golf cart "wet" cells are your best bang for your buck.

Alternator: Think of installing a high output alternator with a charge regulator. When off the dock, this will be your main (only?) means of recharging.

Amp Meter: For about $200 bucks you can get a Heart Link ammeter/battery charge monitor. I highly recommend this. With this system you can tell EXACTLY what each electrical item on your boat draws (by turning off everything but the item you are measuring). You''ll know exactly what you are consuming and exactly the charge state of your batteries - indispensible!

Shore power: It''s easy enough to install a shore power plug. You then need to run it to your electrical pannel and from the pannel to a 3 step battery charger. It is fine to run your 12V stuff off the batteries when they charge.

It is also important to make sure you are using the appropriate wire/cable for the various run lengths from the alternator to the batteries to the switches and back to the engine block. Otherwise, you won''t get the most from your system.

If you want more information there is a book called "The 12 Volt Bible" that is pretty good and available on line or in most marine stores.

I HIGHLY recommend you contact Jack Rabbit Marine in Stamford CT to discuss your system. They are GREAT people and marine electrical systems is their specialty. They will know precisely the best equipment for your particular needs once they (and you) know what your needs are. If you provide the length of the various runs, they will prepare you wire lengths to order and finish the ends to marine standards.

By the way, don''t get all worried about the ABYC standards: it boils down to this: Various colored wire is used for various purposes to make sure you can identify the right wire when digging through your boat. Beyond that - use marine grade wire! You can use the cheaper THHN stuff from Home Depot (oil and water resistant) but the true marine grade stuff has the best coating and will stand up to the elements far better (You DO get what you pay for!). And when attaching ends (forks, but connectors etc.) to the end of the wire, make sure you use appropriate heat shrink tubing to prevent moisture from getting into the the connection and causing corrosion/shorting. Again - get the good heat shrink tubing from a marine store - it''s better than the cheap stuff from Home Depot. Do it right the first time and you will enjoy many, many more hours of a trouble free electrical system.

Good luck!


ABullard 01-08-2003 08:11 AM

Electrical Upgrade
I strongly disagree about ABYC code. There is a lot more to the standards than colored wire? Your description of how to set up your shore power is an example of not knowing about protection from cross polarization and the potential for AC/DC mixing in your circuit panel.

The standards are not complicated. Remember its the little things that kills people and starts boat fires.


Stormer 01-09-2003 11:37 AM

Electrical Upgrade
Tony -

I wouldn''t take my posting as a "description of how to set up shore power" or anything else. No - I didn''t go into cross polarization protection in my post but than again I didn''t go into circuit set up or proper grounding either.

Properly installing an electrical system is a somewhat complicated thing to do - but by no means beyond the capability of someone with little electrical experience when they have access to knowledgeable parties and a desire to learn.

I''m sure you had a top rate electrical system put in for $7,200. I''m also sure you had a reason for paying an electrician that amount of money to do the install. I just hope the reason wasn''t that you thought doing the work yourself was beyond you.

I agree the ABYC code is important. I just think emphasis on the Code as the first step in designing a system is as relevant as emphasis on Coast Guard regs as a first step when learning to sail. Important - yes. Main focus - no.

A properly designed electrical system - one with input/assistance from marine electrical systems experts - will be designed with ABYC standards in mind. That having been done - and appropriate equipment purchased (marine pannels,etc. - which are compliant)the installer must make sure his/her wiring is up to code. And that pretty much comes down to appropriate guage wiring for the loads, coloring, and connections.


peterpan2k 01-09-2003 07:25 PM

Electrical Upgrade
Boy oh boy! I must have gotten it all wrong. Here I''ve been an ASE Certified Master automotive electrician for over 30 years and had no idea that a boat could be so much more complicated. I was even and electrical apprentice for two years and worked for H.K Porter building high voltage power substation transformers with delta three phase configurations and multi voltage taps. With all that i still never saw anything like this.

You can go nuts if you want to, as for me I keep it simple.

Here''s some experience for ya.

High priced boat battery charges that claim to be fully automatic will still boil your batteries dry.

High priced replacement alternators are made the same as cheap ones. I earned a good living fixing new state of the art alternators. external regulators are no more reliable than internal ones and need more wiring.

Your talking about an old small sailboat not a 50 foot world cruiser.

If you want to spare your boat from being eat-up with electrolisis. Don''t connect the green wire to your dock plug or in your power panel. Never bond anything 12v to anything 110a/c and viseversa.

I''d use an extension cord thru the anchor line hole and a 10 amp automatic charger from Wal-mart. 16ga lamp cord will last at least 10 years. 4 30amp-glass fuse holder to split anchor light and running lights and any other 12 volt applications from a cigarlighter socket inside and a 45 amp marine alternator the cheaper the better because price doesn''t gaurantee reliabillity or longevity.

Oh yes! When ever possible, solder your terminal ends. Otherwise use lineman crimpers not the cheap solderless crimping tools that allow the wire to slip out. Never use wire nuts(Fire nuts).

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