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New to Annapolis and just settling in I want to address my eletrical system on my boat this summer / fall. Nothing is wrong and everything works wonderfully but I feel uneasy not having a full grip on how the systems work and where to start if something breaks down in the future.

This is part of my 2 year plan to get ready for early retirement and start full time crusing in the summer of 2011.

While I am hoping, to make new friends here in Annapolis, I also hope to find someone who might be willing to spend some hours with me on the boat to talk me through a couple of things and explains what happens and how it is connected.

I read Nigel Calders book and there is a lot of information and I can make sense of a lot but not all.

Odyssey's system:
2 AGM for House bank
1 AGM for Starter
2 AGM (bow) for bow thruster
Heart 2000 R monitor system (biggest mystery for me!)
Xantrex Freedom 20 charger/inverter
Echo-charger
Alternator on engine (no paperwork)

I am not quite sure about the best setup for charging while on shorewoer (Bank 1 / bank 2 / booth).
Right now I am not plugged in and the batteries are holding quite well with just the occasional daysail on the weekend.
I want to add Solar/Wind in the future and I think I should fully undersand what I have before adding to it.

With so many sailors around here in Annapolis perhaps someone who knows more than I do is willing to help (Dinner in a nice restaurant provided afterwards).

Anyone (with the neccessary experience) willing to spend a couple of hours with me to go through it?

Thanks for reading my post.
 

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Too bad you won't be able to be at the raftup, we'd be glad to go over it then. Our time is pretty limited as we're getting ready to leave in Sept, but maybe we can go over at least some generalities. We're just at the next marina downstream from you - it would have to be a week night - PM me or email (my email is my screen name, @att.net). The West Marine here in town has a nice 3-evening boat electrical course (free) every winter. And if you haven't discovered the margaritas at the Mexican Cafe yet, we'll introduce you to that, too! -e.
 

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  • Check out the local US Power Squadron: they may offer the USPS Marine Electronics course -- USPS Squadrons & Districts. Don't let the "Power Squadron" name mislead: many individual squadrons are adopting the name "Power and Sail Squadron" since members are both sailors and powerboaters.
  • Draw a schematic of the boat's electronics, starting with charging system and main engine and house supply cables, and then working through the lesser circuits.
  • There is now a ton of useful information on the web at major marine electrical suppliers like Blue Sea and othes, and on various forum archives -- make it a habit to prowl them, and build a personal reference notes system on the computer. Takes a lot of time to sort wheat from chaffe, but worth it in the long run.
  • Get Nigel Calder's Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual and Wing's Boatowner's Illustrated Electrical Handbook.
 

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Making new friends in Annapolis shouldn't be hard...there are lotsa nice folks there. Just hang out in the sailor's favorite watering holes!

RE: demystifying your electrical system, beware: there are lotsa nice folks out there with lotsa good experience and lotsa incomplete understanding and misleading information to share.

I'd suggest you get a qualified marine electrician to spend an hour or two with you, going over your system and questions with you. This won't cost a lot, and I believe you'll find it helpful down the road into retirement aboard.

Bill
 

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I know this might sound like a strange suggestion, but how about going to radio shack and get yourself an electronics experimenters kit and just fool around with the components for a while. Things you'll want to learn about include diodes, batteries, resistors, rectifiers, capacitors, solar cells, and various other components. Get yourself an inexpensive multi-meter and have at it, total investment probably 100$us.

One thing that helped me early on was working with miniature systems like 6 watt solar panels, small 12vdc lead acid batteries (about the size of your fist), and things like that. It all makes a lot more sense if you can hook a volt meter up to a solar panel and see the voltage under various lighting conditions, then measure it while you are charging a battery, etc.

These days you can get a scope that hooks to a computer for a few hundred $us, a multi-meter for easily less than 50$us, etc. Using those to build a few simple circuits can really do most people a world of good.
 

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Another suggestion, if you haven't already done it, search the Internet looking for the PDF versions of all the manuals for the equipment you have on your boat, that usually goes a long ways towards demystifying a piece of gear. It'll probably give you a detailed explanation of what each connection is, what the buttons and knobs do, etc.
 

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Peter Kennedy

in Annapolis was very helpful to me (in New England) last winter when making up new breaker panels for my Pearson 34. I got to him through Google & he had the best prices on Blue Sea panels etc. He also reviewed my wiring plan & suggested improvements. Could be worth buying an hour or two of his time.
Also Charlie Wing's book, for me, was a little clearer than Calder's, but Calder's is a great reference to have re: engines.
 

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Peter Kennedy is shyster and a liar... Her personally guaranteed that he'd supervise the work his company was doing, and the quality of the work his company does is crap.

This is the $40 mounting bracket his company installed:





Notice, that two of the screws holding the masthead light in place are held in place using silicone sealant and don't even pass through the aluminum "mounting bracket".

This is the work he did on the GPS mounting bracket, where he only installed two of the four screws and drilled into the bearing surface for the GPS mount, damaging the delrin bearing.

 

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That's putting it mildly... out of all the stuff Peter Kennedy installed, I've had to either repair or upgrade almost all of it.
 

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I will second Peter Kennedy. I have had nothing but good experiences with him as well as several people in my marina. I liked working with him because he takes the time to help you with your system design, has the best prices I could find on Blue Sea products, and is willing (at least for locals) to sell less than an entire spool of wire at the same price per foot as a full spool. He even stopped by one Saturday while I was rewiring my boat to see how the project was going and to offer advice.

Sailingdog is the only person I have heard of who had problems with him. The other side of the story is very different than what is being shared here. Not that I expect the sides to agree, but there is more to this story.

You will see sailingdog and myself going back and forth about Peter on this site. I hate to see a good person's reputation trashed by one incomplete story that is constantly repeated.
________
Melanyass
 

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Nick—

I'd point out that his work for you may well have been done to a better standard since you are based in Annapolis...and can confront him without having to drive 400 miles to do so. Many vendors are often far more careful to treat local customers better than ones who are farther away, since they have far greater access in the case of trouble. I can name a dozen other people who have had issues with the quality of the work done by Mr. Kennedy's company.

The photos I've posted speak for themselves... It is crap quality work, and there is no excuse for it.
 

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Jerr - Shipwright, rigger
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Boat Odyssey -
I do these all the time and Bill's advice is invaluable. Get someone who really, really knows their stuff, though. Some brief pointers:
* Bond everything metal (assuming a glass boat) to eventually a zinc, with clean connections. The majority of faults are on ground, rather than hot sides.
* An isolation transformer just inside shore power will do your boat's electrolysis wonders.
* While AGMs are terrific for cranking amps, don't leak or need filling, are vibration proof and can be mounted on edge, they are highly sensitive to low voltage and thus do not make good house batteries.
* A good gel cell can be brought down very low 500 times without damage but can not deliver or receive high amps without damage, so they're ideal house batteries but will die quickly as starters.
* Gel and AGMs take different charging regimens, so the most efficient method is to have a separate charger for each. Obviously, this is not a good solution for budgets but it's awesome and pays many times over, in the long run. I'm still running my two 8D gels for my house bank, installed in 1994.
* A good 3 or even 5 stage charger isn't expensive and really worth its weight in gold - Check out the capabilities and doublecheck with the wholesale battery salesperson (Make sure you're talking to a senior person!).
* Buy from a battery wholeseller and take time to ask questions about quality - There's a ton of different purposes and you'll find vast differences in amp-hours, life-cycles and cost. An AGM I commonly install is Trojan - They're terrific value and come with a 5 year guarantee. Whatever you do, don't buy "boat" batteries - They're just marked-up and usually the cheapest in their class.
* Proper busses work wonders - Think the system through and leave 50% capacity. You'll probably use half of that and be glad for it.
* I label every end, 8" from the end, of every wire and match my busses + & - side by side, with labels in between, in the same order as the switch panel.
* I also leave workman's loops (loose) so I can later pull wire. I know I differ from tradition here but no one's ever had a complaint and I've had lots of compliments when customers later run wires or replace equipment.
I'd also check to see all ends are sealed in exposed areas and tell the boat electrician you're going to look for proper sealed terminals everywhere. If you bring these points up, I'm sure you'll be taken seriously. Best wishes!
 

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SD is NOT the only one with quality concerns about PK's work....just ask around in more places...I ran in to his work while looking at 105Mc Cats...his "forte"...

No quality and no warranty, once it is done, you now own it. No drawings, no directions and no support - this on a a new Gemini...used ones even worse. things like forgetting to make access to critical connections in permanently mounted fridge and stoves, RV gear that has to be level installed in a boat, won't work unless the boat is absolutely flat..

best of luck
 
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