I was thinking earlier about refitting a boat and how it comes in waves.  Its sort of like any major project (one that requires over 500 hrs) in that you have little cycles of activity.  There isn’t any way we could swallow the whale in one bite so instead we take it in little pieces.  I try very hard to avoid thinking about the bites that I’ll have to deal with “later.”  Later is a safe place.  Some ambiguous point in the future that isn’t NOW.   Breaking the big project into workable bites makes it palatable.

Each little bite is its own cycle.  Once you know what the next bite is, it tends to go like this:

  • Identify problem
  • Find solution
  • Make a parts list
  • Collect the parts
  • Begin labor
  • Complete what needed to be done
  • Test
  • Revise
  • Rest

Well its been a while since we had our last bite.  The wedding and the winter both sort of got in the way of “boat fixin’.”  And since I didn’t blow myself up with the engine last Summer, I decided I’d have to find more creative ways to inflict bodily injury to myself.  The next project is the electrical system!  So hopefully I make it out of this one without toasting myself.

Keeping with my idea of bite cycles.  Or boat cycles.  Or whatever the hell it is that I’m actually doing…  I’ve identified our problem.  Our boat’s electrical system appears to be some sort of mutant tentacle beast made of corroded wires and failed batteries.

I mean honestly, what do you do with a rats nest like that?  We’re going to do exactly what we did with the engine.  CUT IT OUT.

And that leaves me with… Researching the solution for, “gutting your entire electrical system”.  Joy.   I know you’re all stoked about another huge series of long winded highly detailed technical posts.  😉

Anyway.  I began the steep learning curve involved with electrical systems about 2 years ago when we bought Sundowner.  I knew this day was coming and I’ve been reading about DC power ever since then.

I knew that I wanted a starting battery bank and a house bank.  I knew I wanted to connect all the charge sources to the house bank.  Oops.  Already an issue.  As it turns out, the stock alternator on our Beta Marine engine has a weird clip off of the B+ instead of a wire lead.  And whats worse, it connects to the starter + post.  For you less technically inclined readers, that means I’ve got to cut and splice wires on the motor itself even though it came prewired.  2 steps forward, 1 back.

This is the bizarre alternator we have.

Another reason I want to do this is so that there is no possibility of blowing the alternator diodes due to people flipping switches when they shouldn’t.  If you disconnect an alternator from its battery it will blow it up.  Even if it is only a second.  But you all knew that right?  I’m a newcomer to this DC stuff.

So anyway, how to charge the starter battery you might ask?  I’ll connect it to the house bank via an ACR or an Echo charger.  This is my preliminary wiring diagram.

One of the biggest problems in any boat electrical system is complexity for the crew.  If the starter battery fails what do you do?  If the house bank is low, what do you do?  How do you make the system fool proof.  This is my proposed solution.

The primary ON/OFF switch will isolate the house bank.  So when getting on and getting off the boat between use we’ll just flip this switch.   The 1/2/B switch will be set to 1 and pretty much live there unless there is a problem.  No need to ever touch it unless something goes wrong.  We could think of it is as the “emergency switch”.

The emergency scenarios I can see are thus:

1)  The starter battery has failed.

If the start bank failed we’d turn the “emergency switch” to the #2 position and crank off the house bank.

2) The house bank has failed.

If the house bank failed we’d turn it off then  we’d turn the emergency switch to the “Both” position to power the house off the starter bank.

I can relabel the 1/2/B switch we have to look like this:

Hopefully it will be simple to use and understand.  Anyway, thanks for putting up with my midnight musings.  Feedback on this system setup welcome.  Peace!

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