Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Fixing our Electrical System (Part iv)

KUDOS to Blue Sea Systems 

Update on the Reverse Polarity Indication System.

I had contacted Blue Sea product tech support, asking if their LED panel lamps needed to have a resistor included inline.
Blue Seas 110v AC LED

Here's what I asked:-
Tech support query concerning PN 8034

Does this item require an inline resistor?

Just purchased two of these for use in my 110v electrical panel in my sailboat.

Do I need to include a resistor in series with these lamps?

They will be used #1 to show that the AC power is switched on
#2 to indicate if the shore power is reverse polarity.




They replied within less than 24 hours even though my question was asked on a Sunday. I probably would still be waiting if the manufacturer had been outside of the USA.

Here's their reply:-

Thank you for the question.


The 8034, and all of the LEDs that we sell, come with the appropriate resistor for the specified voltage in the 6” leads.  For the 8034 you’ll see a section of heat shrink in the white lead, that is the resistor.


Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.


Best regards,


Avery Stiles

Mechanical Engineer

ABYC Certified Marine Electrician



Blue Sea Systems

4600 Ryzex Way

Bellingham, WA  98226


Main Line 360.738.8230

Toll Free 800.222.7617


Following up on that question. Blue Sea confirmed that the resistance inline with the 110v LED lamp is 33KΩ.

Further reading, I found the clearest advice in Don Casey's 'Sailboat Electrics Simplified' 1999.

From that, I figured that the following diagram is correct.

110v AC and Reverse Polarity System

Finally, I'm close to completing the system layout. So the next step is to get to work doing the upgrade.

One of my objectives is to prevent electric shorts or electrocution because of the open nature of the AC circuit breakers. The concept that looks like it will work is a sheet of acrylic that is formed to cover the AC Circuit breakers which would prevent a tool accidently shorting the connections or shorting me to 110v. But that's the final part of this puzzle.

Still looking for a decent weather window so that we can take the boat out.

See you on the Water!


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Fixing our Electrical System (part iii)

Fixing our Electrical System (part iii)

Time to work on the layout of the AC segment of the Electrical Control Panel.

Two major objectives are 1) Update the wiring so that they have the correct terminations, correct wire size, only one terminal connected to the switched side of the Circuit Breakers. 2) Reduce the risk of short or electrical shocks by covering the AC Circuit Breakers.

The Neutral and Ground AC wires are currently positioned on terminal blocks that will be removed. The new terminal blocks will be on the new Terminal Box Bread Board that will be secured to where the existing terminal blocks are located.

Terminal Block Bread Board

The three horizontal 5 port terminal blocks on the left of the panel are for the 110v AC connections.
The top block will be home for the Neutrals (note the jumper that joins all of the 5 terminals)
The lower block will be home for the Earths (similar jumper joining all of the 5 terminals)

The middle block, lower connections will connect to the Circuit Breakers on the control panel. 
The middle block, upper connections will connect to the appropriate devices (Outlets Port & Stbd, Water Heater, Inverter Charger, and the Air Conditioning System.)  

The three 110v Terminal blocks have insulating covers (the existing blocks do not).

110v AC Terminal Block Schematic

Next I need to make sure I have enough Terminals, Wire, Heat Shrink, Labels etc. to start the project. I'm hoping that it will only take a couple of days to complete - but I'll make sure I have plenty of wiggle room as some of the wires will need to be changed from the blocks to their destination device. I would not be surprised to find that the '110v Outlets' have to be completely rewired and I will be installing GFCI's in each circuit (port and starboard). 

Still hoping we can go sailing before we start this - I say 'we' because it will save a lot of time if we can both get our heads around this project.

So, See you on the Water!


Friday, October 16, 2020

Fixing our Electrical System (part ii)


Fixing our Electrical System (Part ii)

Next step: Prepare the Terminal Block Bread Board.

The Electrical Panel is mounted to a wooden frame that had a hole cut into it that is pretty snug around the switches and circuit breakers in the panel. 

When completed, that panel will have some 'handles' on the front. That will allow the panel to be unscrewed from the supporting woodwork and pulled away to be laid flat with the front now facing down. That will expose all of the switches and breakers while keeping them elevated from the surface of the chart table. Hopefully, that would avoid accidentally operating any of those switches or breakers. The electrical connections from the switches and breakers will be via a loom that's long enough to facilitate pulling the panel away from it's supporting woodwork.

Oh, currently there is a hinge on the bottom edge of the panel, that is supposed to make it easier to get behind the panel, but it doesn't do it very well. Being able to pull the panel away will make it a lot easier to get both to the back of the panel and to all of the terminal blocks that will be mounted on the Terminal Breadboard attached to the hull brackets outboard of the electrical panel.

Cardboard template cutout. I was hoping to be able to make the breadboard 9" tall, but that's not going to fit. So I'll trim it to 7.5" tall.

Next time we're at the boat I'll check to see that it will go in through the gap when the electrical panel is open.

Like many boat owners, I watch a lot of YouTube videos on everything from Cruising stories to Boat repairs, from Rope splicing to Electrical how to's.  Watched one about a new boat on the market, and typically they have nicely done electrical systems. Because of one image, I got the idea of modifying the way that the Electrical Control Panel pulls out.

Right now the big issue is that the panel is only able to hinge out and down by about 50º and that restricts the access both to the wiring on the back of the panel and to the wiring that is on the bulkhead behind the panel.

Right now the big issue is that the panel is only able to hinge out and down by about 50º and that restricts the access both to the wiring on the back of the panel and to the wiring that is on the bulkhead behind the panel.

If I remove the lower hinge, then the entire panel could pull away from the bulkhead. To prevent the switches touching the Nav Table Surface when the panel is laid down, I could attach a few 'handles' that are deeper than the switches. So that's the plan. I would also clean up the edges of the hole in the bulkhead so that there is better clearance between the panel switches and the hole.

Next. Closer review of the wiring.

This photo shows the top most Circuit Breaker which is a double throw for the AC power. It connects the Hot and Neutral lines to the AC Distribution Breakers (A/C, Water Heater, Outlets and Inverter/Charger) 

The switch (back) in the foreground is the Reverse Polarity Test Switch and, just to the right, the Reverse Polarity Indicator Lamp.

If the Shore power Hot and Neutral lines were incorrect, ie. Reversed, then the lamp should light. 
The Test switch is simply to test the lamp.

The problem is that there is that missing connection on the left side of the switch! That switch should connect the lamp to Earth (the neutral and ground are connected on the boat) and the Neutral input at the main AC circuit breaker. If the Lamp illuminates, then that would mean the Neutral side of the breaker is actually a Hot connection! Wrong! Big time!  

Reverse Polarity Switch Circuit

Reverse Polarity Circuit Diagram
This picture shows what I believe is the correct wiring of the Reverse Polarity Indicator system.

Note. It does not show the additional parts of the boat shore power and Inverter power distribution nor does it show the Galvanic Isolator. The sole purpose of the image is to show the wiring of the Reverse Polarity indicator system.

The 'red' wire is not included in the current wiring on the boat (that's the empty tab on the Lamp Test Switch.)

And now the good news! While at the boat yesterday, the template for the Terminal Bread Board fits easily. So I can go ahead and cut the board then attach the Terminal and Fuse Blocks.

New Terminal Block Bread Board

 The New Terminal Block Bread Board is cut to size and the terminal blocks, fuse block and +ve Busbar are all a attached. I used 3/4" #6-32 S/S Dome headed screws and Captive nuts.

I'll drill the holes for the screws that will attach the bread board to the existing wooden fillet that is currently fiberglassed onto the inside of the hull.

Every little step is just that, a step forward. Right now, I'm working on the overall wiring diagram of the bread board. My intent is to get all of the wiring locations figured out before I start ripping into the existing panel wiring. 

This image will auto update if I make any changes.
We're hoping to get out on the water pretty soon, a few days of grumpy weather are already forecast. Looks like sometime next week. 

So, see you on the Water.


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Keeping track of Boat Work

Service Log

At our sailing club meeting this week (Yes, we are able to have a Socially distanced club meeting outside at a restaurant. ) a sailing friend mentioned how his boat's previous owner kept a log of just about everything he did on the boat. I showed him my online service history log.

Why do I keep it up especially as some of it is repetitive? Simple answer, I cannot remember what I had for breakfast last Sunday, let alone when I last did an oil change on the boat. Of course, it's not just recording the routine stuff like oil changes or filter changes. I try to record just about everything I do that might need to be considered at some future time.

At the top of my Blog Pages is a Tab Menu, it looks like this:-

Click on the 'Service History' tab. It's actually a Google Sheet that is embedded in the page setup, so it's automatically updated when I make a change to the Spreadsheet.
Here's the link:- Service History Link 

Oh, if you would like to receive an email whenever I post a new article in Sailing Eximius, just enter your email address in the 'Follow by Email' field on the side of the blog article pages.  I do not harvest, sell, giveaway or respond to your email, I use Feedburner to automatically send an email once a day if I have posted a new article to this blog. I rarely post more than one article, mostly it's one or two a week.


I often get comments from people that I know and occasionally from those that follow my blog. I always respond to those comments, even if it's just a 'Thanks for the Comment' but normally I'll respond considering the comment. Some of those comments have been really useful. It's always nice to hear from readers that have ideas not confined to my little world. So, please, leave a comment if you have one. The comment form is at the bottom of each post. (if there are no prior comments, just click on the 'No Comments' links.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Cabin Upgrades (Part ii)

Upgrading the Cabin Table.

Hit the first snag this morning, having a hard time finding 1/2" Marine Ply. Lowes - none and no idea when it will be available. Home Depot - none. Now looking at specialty stores. I considered using Coosa board but it's over $200 for a single board of 8'x4' so more online searches. 

Found a Dixie Plywood and Lumber Co near Fort Lauderdale. Reached out to them and awaiting a reply - not hopeful as I have tried that with two other companies and no reply after 3 days. We'll see.

Found a vendor in Fort Lauderdale, will contact them in the morning - Saturday.

Weather looks grotty for the next week, if they have the plywood in the morning, I'll check the weather and head down there. But first I'll stop at Lowes to see if they have any suitable ply in stock, it doesn't have to be Marine Grade Ply as it's going to be covered in resin, just has to be decent laminations and glue. If lowes has it, then I'll see if the Fort Lauderdale has anything in stock better, and consider driving down there to check it out.

Have to call the Ford dealer in the morning, I scratched our truck, very gently, but we can see the scratch. Not sure if it's covered by our 'Ding' warrantee.

It wasn't :(

No luck with the Fort Lauderdale vendor. Heading up to Lowes.

Well, Lowes came through! 1/2-4-8 TC BLONDEWOOD PLYWOOD $37.99 and they cut it so that I have two 26.5" x 41" panels, and some left overs that I'm sure will come in handy somewhere/someday.

Of course, I get 5% off that price using my Lowes Card :)

Here's the two pieces I'll use for the Table with the Template sitting in front of them.

The Template was about 1.5" on the narrow side when we test fitted it on the boat, so this shows the correction.

Time to glue and brad the two pieces together. Then I'll cut out the Mast relief.

Both panels sanded (for gluing) and the top panel marked up from the Template.

The mast relief is about 1/4" oversized to allow for the resin thickness. Not sure how  thick it will be around the edges, but 1/4" should be plenty. Ideally the table will not touch the mast.

Charged up my nail gun and loaded with 1" finish nails.

Clamps all ready.

Lunch then let the gluing begin.

Wood glue applied, pretty sure  it would be enough.

Used a spatula to spread it over the whole surface and ensuring that the surface edges were covered.

I have the AC unit running in the garage as it gets pretty hot and humid without it.

Glue takes 24 hours to cure.

Panels attached to each other. Every clamp I own was holding it together.

Then my DeWalt finish nailer easily set 1" brads at 45º from the vertical just to make sure they did not penetrate  the top surface.

Now to wait the 24 hours for it to cure. 

Next step is to clean up all of the edges and cut out the mast relief.

Removed all of the Clamps and turned the top over, minor goof. Even though I used the nailer at 45º, the nails just showed on the top side :(  I didn't check that the nailer power was not on high. No biggy, I just used the wrong end of a nail punch to knock them back down. Sanded up just fine :)

Started sanding the edges flat where the two pieces were about 1/64" different in size. Took about an hour to sand them down.

Next step is to cut out the Mast Relief. Jig Saw and Sander should get that done.

Well, the Admiral (Peggy) had an idea. She asked if I could make the gap between the table and the mast slightly bigger so that it's easy to wipe the table down, including between it and the mast. Good Idea! Consider that done!

TraLa! New Table top woodwork complete.

After cutting the Mast Relief (oversized as requested) all of the edges were chamfered with my router, did have a minor issue.

I have two routers, one I use for hand routing and the other is fitted to a really nice Bosche Router Table, however the Router Table takes a while to setup and I thought this was a job for the hand router. Would have been except that it had broken and I didn't realize it. The clamp that locks the depth of the router bit had cracked. I did a test cut on a scrap of wood and that was fine. As soon as I started the cut on the bottom edge of the table, the router bit depth loosened and instead of a 3/16 cut, it was more like a 1/2" cut! Grrrrr. Fortunately, or because of past experience, I had started the cut on the underside of the tabletop and on the edge opposite from the mast relief. No harm no foul. So I pulled out my router table and we completed the job using that. 
Once the routing was finished, I sanded the edges, filled the divots and any (very few) voids between the plys. Then, once the filler (spackle) was dry, I sanded the whole thing down, looks pretty good.

Next:- Base paint with an Alkid paint, I'll roll on a pale base paint, sand that and apply a second coat before a light sanding.

Selecting the Resin

I have been researching the resin options, methods and suppliers for several weeks. Final choice was to use TotalBoat Tabletop Resin. They have been around a while and are great suppliers of all types of resins. I watch a lot of Boatworks Today videos on YouTube and he promotes TotalBoat products (and several other vendors, but the Resins he promotes are nearly always TotalBoat) .

After watching a lot of videos I figured out the method to use.
  • Prep the table top (the primer should be fine)
  • Setup a workstation with a drip tray to catch the surplus resin run off
  • Make a Tape Dam around the edges of the tabletop
  • Mix batch #1 of resin and makeup 3 cups of colors and 1 of clear resin
  • Apply 1st layer of colors and clear and style (arty bit) the top
  • Remove the tape dam and wet the edges to allow for overflow to carry the art over the edges
  • Eliminate any bubbles with heat gun (my heat gun should do the trick)
  • Allow to dry before adding 2nd or final coat of resin
  • Allow to cure for about 72 hours more is better.
I enquired about issues doing this in South Florida. TotalBoat responded: The resin work time would be reduced to about 10 minutes !!! 

That's Doable, but time really flies when it's fun. We would be better off waiting until the weather cools. The average low temp in South Florida in December is in the low 70s, and that gives more like 30 minutes till the resin 'kicks' and becomes unworkable.

That gives me about 6 weeks of delay time. But will also allow time to get all of the supplies ordered and on site (the workstation is my Garage)

Peggy did have an 'outside of the box' idea - we could rent a refrigerated truck! Or, we could head up the coast, around the Jupiter area where it gets cooler much sooner. Perhaps stay in a motel. The resin  I have chosen is VOC free, so we would just need to be really careful masking off the work area. Great ideas, but I would feel more comfortable working at home.

So, we're delaying work until it gets cooler. Meanwhile I'll order the supplies.

  • 1 Gallon Totalboat Tabletop Resin $65
  • 2 Quart Totalboat Tabletop Resin $50 (because 1 gallon is not enough)
  • Mica Black Diamond Pigment Set $18
  • Disposable Mixing cups $9
Total cost $150, this had better be good!

Stay tuned for progress reports. If you have done anything like this, please leave a comment with any suggestions. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Plan to sleep better with our electrical system

 OR - Fixing our Electrical System

Since we have owned Eximius, we have installed quite a few upgrades and my guess is that we're not the first to upgrade the boat and certainly not the first to make changes to the Electrical System. Every time I open an electrical panel I repeat - I'll have to fix that one day. Well that day is nearly here.

Where we started

We have installed or upgraded the following parts of the Electrical System
And all of that during the past 5 years of ownership. (or should that be 'ownerboat' ?)

During that time the state of the electrical system has improved simply because I have endeavoured to do the right thing and replace any wires where it was necessary and it was in most cases.

Now that we are aware of the kind of issues involved such as:- Incorrect Wire sizes, unnecessary butt joints in the wires, incorrect wire colors, inappropriate wiring terminals and buss bars and missing fuses (by missing I mean there are some systems that should be fused and they are not)

Example of poor wiring (in the bathroomf)
Here's an example.
There are many similar situations on the boat where wires have been joined rather than use a continuous run, the joints are typically twisted, soldered and then wrapped in electrical tape.

Worse are the 110v AC system wires that are joined with Wire nuts used in homes.

There are multiple wires that have nothing connected, just wires dangling.

Tie Wraps are abundant and it's not unusual to have 20 or more tie wraps within a 3 foot loom. That would be ok if they were each functional and neither redundant nor unused.

The Main Electrical Control Panel (Before)

So many things wrong here.
No separation of AC and DC panels.
No protective cover of AC breakers.
Incorrect terminals on lots of wires.
Kinda labeled wires.
Wrong size wires in many cases.

The solution  - at least - my solution.

So far, I have upgraded the wiring that supplies power or data to the device that has been upgraded. But that does not have the kind of impact that I'm looking for in order to sleep well at night.

The big question is, "Where do we start" and I say "we" because this really is a joint effort. Peggy has a pretty enquiring mind and is happy to ask why I'm doing something. Peggy was a Nurse for about 40 years, if you see the amount of technology that Critical Care and Cardiac Care Nurses have to deal with on a daily basis, it's pretty obvious why I explain why I'm doing something or what I intend to do.

If we were to buy another boat, then one thing I would inspect with a much more educated eye would be the Electrical System. Our Boat Surveyor never mentioned it other than noting something that was not working.

Ok, to the task - The Solution.

I posted a question on the C34 Forum and the Association Secretary suggested reviewing the Wiki Links - Wow, there are at least two great examples of what owners have done to solve this issue.

From the Wiki, I learned about a great idea of installing a breadboard at the back of the electrical panel area to mount the Terminal Blocks rather than having them float around behind the panel creating unreachable locations. That will simplify a lot, the board can be made to secure with just a couple of screws then removed, mount the terminal blocks and reinstall it. 

Here's a pic showing the concept.

The General Concept of the Panel Upgrade

The idea is to have enough length of cable looms from the circuit breakers to the terminal blocks that the Breaker panel can be unscrewed from the framework and pulled away to provide access to the wiring terminals as well as make it easy to access the back of the panel.

AC Terminal Blocks (3 - Hots, Neutrals, Grounds)
  • Main AC Power  & Reverse Polarity Switch power
  • Reverse Polarity indicator lamp
  • 110v Outlets Power
  • Inverter/Charger Power
  • Water Heater Power
  • Air Conditioning Power
DC Fuse Block (for normally on services)
  1. Nav table Light
  2. Stereo Memory Power
  3. Weather Clock Power
  4. Dry Bilge Timer
DC +ve Busbar
  1. Power from Battery Selector Switch
  2. Power to DC 1 Circuit Breaker Busbar
  3. Power to DC 2 Circuit Breaker Busbar
  4. Power to DC 3 Circuit Breaker
  5. Power to DC Fuse Block

The existing wires mostly go directly to the Circuit Breakers, some have inline fuses. So there should be plenty of wire to cut off the terminals and then label and connect new terminals with heat shrink tubing to reduce corrosion penetrating into the wires.

Layout of the Terminal Block Bread Board

The -ve, return, busbar is located in the area above the control panel and only requires that the cables are re-terminated, labeled and routed appropriately. I'll still check them to their source device to ensure they are solid, ie. do not include multiple unnecessary but joints and the wires are the correct size and color. If they do not meet those specs they will be replaced.

The spreadsheet below has the terminations for each of the circuits. I'll update it on progress.

Ok, everything has arrived, even the 1/4" 12"x24" White Starboard. I'll measure the space for the breadboard again before cutting. Moving ahead with our Cabin upgrade at the same time, so progress will shift between the two and I'll report as we proceed.

See you on the water.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Cabin Upgrades

 Time to update the Cabin of our Catalina 34

Our cabin layout is definitely different from every other Catalina 34 (Mk 1 Tall Rig Fin Keel) but it is dark! Not very uplifting.

Step 1 is to replace the cabin table. 
Current Cabin Style
Currently, the Cabin table has 2 fold down leafs and the forward inboard corner is an accident waiting to happen whenever anyone tries to climb up to get in the forward seat.

The bulkhead between the V-berth and the cabin is very dark as are the Cushions.

Mockup of bulkhead, table and cushion

Here's a quick mockup showing a grey background on the bulkhead and a simple blue reshaped table.

Also I've added a cushion to the lower part of the bulkhead.

We're thinking of some artwork or chart covered with a clear resin.

This mockup shows a resin tabletop with artistic beach breaking wave. Definitely adds richness to the cabin.

We'll change out the cushion fabric to a lighter color later on, but it's in the dream bucket.

Considering painting the cabinet fronts and definitely updating the window curtains. Oh, I also need a new bottle of Rum.

Here's the new template for the new table.
The template is 41" for-n-aft and 25" athwartships. 

The cut out for the mast is slightly deeper than the original table which will increase the overall width of the table. 
The length is about 4" shorter than the original which will increase the space available to stepup to the seating.

The template is made from 5/16" plywood.
I scribed the mast cutout onto a piece of paper on the boat and transferred that to the plywood. All straight edges were cut with a circular saw and the cut out as well as the rounded corners were cut with a portable jigsaw.

The actual table will be made from two layers of 5/8" marine ply, all corners cut using a router, both the top and bottom edges will be rounded with the router also. Then the top and edges will be artistically covered using resin. The artwork will either be like the mockup above or pieces of chart, boat pics and C34 logo. We'll see. Now it's down to the boat to see how the template fits.

Stay tuned.