Electrical, AC Receptacles, Main Salon and V-Berth, Part 1: Analysis and Installation

The AC receptacle installed in the main salon
Quite a few times I've said that alternating current, or AC for short, offers many benefits that direct current, or DC, cannot. My earlier articles on the AC distribution panel and on the installation of the AC receptacle on the port side of the galley address the issue of AC power, so I'm not going to belabor the point here. Instead, I'll address the subject of the present article - the strategies I employed for the installation of two separate receptacles, the first in the main salon and the second in the V-berth of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.
I've said before that the Blue Sea Systems AC distribution panel that I installed in the galley area of my boat enabled me to have three separate circuits. The first I allocated to the AC receptacle on the port side of the galley. This would be dedicated to the air conditioner. The second I allocated to the battery charger on the starboard side of the galley. The third circuit, as I said, would service two separate receptacles, one in the main salon and the other in the V-berth.
I had constructed a sturdy table for the main salon out of mahogany. Upon it, I planned to do my navigating. The Admiral liked it for her own business as well. Knowing that she enjoys her laptop computer, I decided to install a receptacle underneath the table. That way she could plug in, whenever we were connected to shore power.
Around the same time that I had constructed this table, I had obtained from a fellow Ericson 25 owner a main salon settee berth extension of mahogany. Ericson had offered these as an option at the time of purchase back in the 1970s, and the original owner of my boat had not opted for one. Below we see a picture of the extension that I obtained. This was before I received it in the mail via UPS. Notice that in this picture the owner has stowed his original white Formica table against the bulkhead. Ericson designed the settee berth extension so that it would not interfere with the table when it was in the stowed position.
One of the nice things about the sturdiness of the mahogany table that I had constructed for Oystercatcher was that, at night, I could fold and stow the starboard side leg of the table, thus allowing me to fold out and use my newly-acquired settee berth extension without having to fold-up and stow the entire table against the bulkhead. I should note that during the day I could, after redeploying the starboard side leg, fold and stow the two legs on the port side of the table. This would allow normal access to the head and the V-berth. The point of all of this is that during the construction of this sturdy table, I liked it so much and found it to be so useful, that I decided I would likely use it continually and rarely fold it all up and stow it against the bulkhead.
This meant that placing the receptacle on the forward end of the settee, next to the bulkhead, was a good idea. It would be out of the way of a person's legs whenever he was sitting at the table; it would be out of the way of the settee berth extension; and it would almost always be out of the way of the table.
After I drew a rectangle of the appropriate size, I installed a special fiberglass cutting bit in my Dremel and got to work. Earlier, when I had cut the holes for the receptacles in the galley area (for circuits 1 and 2), I had begun by drilling numerous pilot holes around the circumference of the rectangle. I did not do that in this instance. Why? Because from this angle I had much better control of the tool. Please ignore the water stains at the bottom of the bulkhead. These were the result of leakage from the VHF conduit in the mast compression post. These stains I inherited from the previous owner. They were not something, however, that caused the surveyor much concern back at the time I purchased the boat. I would later address these cosmetic issues, after these more pressing matters projects were complete.
Into the hole I inserted what is called in the world of residential construction an "old work" box.
I fastened this old work box into place with stainless steel pan head screws, and then I temporarily installed the GFCI receptacle.
Likewise, I temporarily installed the protective plate. I selected the off-white color known as almond. It tied in well with the off-white color of the fiberglass.
Having completed this temporary installation - temporary, because I still had to do the wiring - I moved on to the V-berth. I wanted to have AC power in this part of the boat in the event that I needed to use a power tool. This would save me the hassle of having to run an extension cord from the main salon. The AC power would also provide me with the option for using AC power chargers for various devices, for example, my Streamlight brand Waypoint lithium ion spotlight.
Practical Sailor magazine had given this spotlight high praise, and when the time came for me to purchase a spotlight, I opted for this one. Given that it has an LED bulb, and given that it has a lithium ion battery, you get a lot of life out of each charge. Given that it would only need an occasional charge, and given that an AC charger was included, I decided not to spend the extra money on a DC charger. I figured that, when necessary, I would charge the spotlight while running the Honda generator to charge the battery bank, or when connected to shore power. There was really no other place on the boat, except the V-berth where I could both stow and charge this spotlight at the same time. Therefore, an AC receptacle in the V-berth for this reason made sense.
Earlier, I had varnished my newly-constructed mahogany alcove box panels, and I had installed hull cloth in the alcove boxes themselves. For more on these subprojects, see my article on the alcove box panels.
Decisions decisions . . . they never seem to end in a complete refitting of a sailboat. Should I install the AC receptacle on the port side or the starboard side? That's what I asked myself many a time.
Eventually, I decided that the starboard side was not the better of the two sides of the V-berth, even though the wire run from the first receptacle, i.e., the one at the foot of the table on the starboard side of the main salon, would be shorter. My thinking on this was in large part shaped by the fan that I also planned to install in the V-berth. The AC receptacle and the fan could not both be on the same side. There just wasn't enough room. The more I thought about it, the more the starboard side seemed the better location for the fan. On this side, the fan would be tucked away, and it would not interfere with the comings and goings through the entrance to the V-berth, which was on the port side.
The starboard side of the V-berth, where I would eventually install a fan (beneath the DC receptacle)
Below, we see the entrance to the V-berth. If I had installed the fan on the port side, it would have come close to encroaching on the entrance, and it surely would have gotten bumped by hands and shoulders on a regular basis.
On this port side, I also planned to install a DC receptacle. The AC receptacle, according to my measurements, would fit well, just beneath it.
Removing the mahogany alcove box panel, I carried it indoors to my temporary workshop in an addition to my house. Here, I cut the necessary hole for the plastic AC electrical box. Just like the other box that I had installed in the main salon, this was an "old work" box.
Back in the boat, I refastened the mahogany panel to the alcove box.
Then, with my Dremel, I carefully cut out the fiberglass, using the edges of the mahogany as a guide. Notice that I did all this dirty work before I installed the hull cloth on the inside of the alcove box.
Once I had vacuumed up all the fiberglass dust, I temporarily installed the box inside the hole. Now I could begin to think about the wiring for this circuit.
Eventually, after I had installed the hull cloth, and after I completed the wiring of the V-berth, the AC receptacle would look quite nice, housed as it was with the DC receptacle just above it.
The steps I took in the wiring of AC receptacles in the main salon and the V-berth are the subject of the second part of this two-part article.

This ends this posting on how I completed the initial installation of these AC receptacles in Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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