Electrical, Battery Charger, Part I: Analysis and Installation

The Iota 45 Battery Charger
A battery bank is worthless, if you don't have some way to charge it. Some persons use an alternator on a diesel or gas powered inboard engine to charge their banks. Likewise, those with outboard motors replenish their banks (somewhat). These methods of caring for battery banks, however, are only effective, if the mariner is doing a lot of motoring and very little sailing. This is especially the case with those who rely upon a small outboard. For those who prefer to sail more than they do to motor, there are other options. Solar panels and wind generators can help, assuming there is enough sun and enough wind. When there is not, other more dependable methods of charging the battery banks must be employed. This is why most cruising sailboats have a battery charger of some sort, and its also the reason why the battery charger, powered by a genset or a generator, is so often called upon to bring the bank (or banks) up to full charge. When it came to outfitting Oystercatcher, my 1975 Ericson 25, for cruising, I decided that a battery charger was a necessity. In this three-part article, I describe my process of selection for the charger; my approach to installing it; my construction of a protective shield for it; and, finally, I describe my wiring of it.
When I purchased this boat in the fall of 2009, I inherited many problems that had been created by the previous two owners. Aside from the completely illogical mess of the wiring itself, there were some basic problems in terms of the battery bank, or I should say the battery, for there was but one of them, and it was in ill-health at best.
The previous owner had been in possession of the boat since the early 1980s, and for most of this time he had kept her at the dock you see pictured below. There was no permanently installed battery charger on this boat, nor was there any shore power inlet. This guy instead used an automotive-type trickle charger to maintain the battery. This portable charger he powered by means of an AC extension cord that he routed into the boat from the AC receptacle that was on his dock. From this set-up, it was evident that this previous owner never used this boat for anything more than day-sailing. Sure, he could have gone cruising for weeks or months at a time around the Pamlico Sound of North Carolina (where he lived) without the use his battery, and thus without the use of any navigational lights or lights on the interior of the boat, but I seriously doubt that he did.
Even before I got this boat back home to Charleston, South Carolina, I knew that I wanted to use this boat differently. I knew that the boat itself had the interior size and the overall heft for coastal cruising, so I knew that at some point I would need to rewire this boat accordingly. After a lot of research, I decided that I would use two Trojan brand, T-105, 6 volt batteries, wired in series, for the primary bank, i.e., the house bank. I realized that these two batteries together could pack a big punch for a relatively small price. With 225 amp hours, they would provide just the right amount of power for the amp hours that I planned to consume on a daily basis.
I'm not going to get into the details of the daily amp-hour consumption chart that I created for myself (based upon the various DC lights, fans, navigational equipment, and other items that I planned to install), but I will say that, after meticulous planning, I came to the conclusion that I would use somewhere between 75 and 85 amp hours per day. Knowing that it is not advisable to discharge a battery bank below the 50% mark, nor is it advisable to charge a bank above 90%, and mindful of the advice given by Don Casey, This Old Boat, 2nd Edition, that it is smart to multiply your daily amp-hour number by 2.5 to arrive at the correctly-sized battery bank, I did a little basic math, and came to the conclusion that I would need a battery bank that was capable of supplying around 215 amp hours per day. The Trojan T-105s, therefore, with 225 amp hours, were just right. I should point out at this juncture, however, that after a little more research, I came to the conclusion that it would be preferable for me to purchase T-125 batteries. These were the same size as the T-105s, and they did not cost that much more. They did, though, offer more amp hours: 240 instead of 225 to be exact. I liked the idea of having those extra amp hours, so I settled on the T-125s. With the extra amp hours, I would have more power available in an emergency, and I wouldn't be taxing the battery bank so heavily on a daily basis. This would likely result in the battery bank having a longer life.
In terms of the battery charger, I also did a lot of research, and at the end of it, I came to the conclusion that I would use a charger manufactured by Iota Engineering. This company, located in Tucson, Arizona, sells a lot of chargers to the residential market, but it also sells a lot to those who modify their boats for cruising purposes. I knew that it was a trusted brand, but I was unsure what size Iota brand charger I should buy. There were many to choose from, starting with a 20 amp charger and moving up through those of 30, 45, 55, 75, and 90 amps. From all of the research that I had done, I knew that balance was the key. Too much and too little were not good things. The charger had to be large enough to charge the batteries in a reasonable amount of time, but it could not be too big. Otherwise, it would overheat the batteries, causing them to emit excessive amounts of hydrogen gas.
As I researched Iota brand chargers, I concurrently researched charging sources, i.e., generators. What I discovered was that Honda brand generators are wildly popular with cruising sailors. Unlike your standard generator, which sounds not unlike a lawnmower, Honda generators are incredibly quiet. Moreover, they are incredibly fuel efficient. Given these features, it's not surprising that they are also incredibly expensive, when compared to the standard generators. Nevertheless, many sailors consider them worth it, and after enough research and after seeing enough of them in action among friends and neighbors here in Charleston, South Carolina, I decided that a Honda was worth it to me as well. When it wasn't needed on the boat, I could use it around the house, especially in the event of a power outage due to a storm.
In my research, I discovered that there are two main types of Honda generators that cruising sailors use - either the Honda EU1000i or the Honda EU2000i. For the sake of simplicity, we'll simply call them the EU1000 and the EU2000. From everything I read and from people I talked to, I learned that those who use the EU1000, also tend to use either the Iota 20, 30, or 45 amp charger. Likewise, I learned that those who use the EU2000 tend to use either the Iota 55, 75, or 90 amp charger. At the same time, I learned that these Honda generators have breakers that will trip, if they sense that there is too large of a draw upon them. Due to this safety feature, there were some who said that their EU1000 could not handle the Iota 45 charger. It simply drew too many amps. Others, however, said that they had used the EU1000 with the Iota 45 with success. In terms of the EU1000 itself, many cruisers said that given the similarity in size and price of the EU1000 and the EU2000, it was worth it to get the EU2000, since it had twice the capability for almost the same amount of money. Taking these words of advice to heart, I decided that to me it also was worth it to spend a little more and get the EU2000.
Having settled on the Honda EU2000i as the primary charging source for the battery bank, I still needed to settle on which type of Iota brand charger I should get. Initially, based upon my calculations and research, I thought that an Iota 55 would be the right size. It appeared that this charger would bring up the bank of T-125s to a 90% level of charge in 1-2 hours. The more I thought about it, however, the more I believed that the Iota 55 might be just a little too much. Overheating the bank was the last thing I wanted to do, so I settled on the Iota 45, figuring it was not too much, not too little, but just right.

The Iota 45, DLS-45/IQ4 Charger
Next, I needed to figure out the linkage between the Honda and the Iota 45. This Honda generator, by itself, will not power the charger. To make the connection, you need a cord. I did not want to run an extension cord from the generator directly to the charger. That would have been unsafe, and it would have looked pretty damn tacky. Instead, I decided, like many, that I would use a pigtail cord to connect this generator to a shore power inlet.
There was not, of course, a shore power inlet on the boat when I purchased it. Therefore, I had to install my own. The shore power inlet would do double-duty. When docked, I would be able to charge the battery bank through a shore power connection. When at anchor (or even underway), when far removed from the grid, I would use the Honda generator to fool the shore power inlet, as it were, into thinking that it was plugged into the grid.
The shore power inlet would be wired to the AC main breaker, which was located within the AC distribution panel. One of the circuits in the distribution panel would be dedicated to an AC receptacle, which would power the Iota 45 charger. For more on this panel, see my article, "Electrical, AC Distribution Panel."
Having settled on the Trojan, T-125 batteries, the Honda EU2000i generator, the Iota 45 charger, and the shore power inlet, I needed to figure out exactly where I should put all of this stuff. As far as the batteries were concerned, I decided that they needed to be located in the same spot where the original bank was located - low in the lazarette and centered over the bilge. Below you see the Noco brand battery box that would house the Trojan T-125s. It sits upon a fiberglass reinforced plywood shelf that I constructed specifically for this space and this battery box. At the time I took this picture, I had not yet permanently installed these items.
The Honda EU2000i generator I decided to locate on the port side of the cockpit. The exhaust for the generator would point aft. Eventually, I would install a swim platform on the stern, just behind the generator. Atop the swim platform I would strap the gas tank.
Within about two feet of the generator would be the shore power inlet, located on the outboard side of the coaming. I wanted the inlet to be outboard rather than inboard. That way, the shore power cord, when the boat was docked, would not interfere with activities in the cockpit. Also, I figured that when at anchor the pigtail from the generator would stay clear of the cockpit.
In terms of the placement of the AC distribution panel, I opted for the port side of the galley. In the picture below, you see the port side of the main salon and galley as it appeared at the time I purchased the boat. The original battery switch and DC panel were located on the bulkhead beside the stove.
I removed these original parts of the electrical system (and all the other parts for that matter). For more on why I did this, see my article, "Electrical, Original."
When I rewired the boat, I decided to stick with Ericson's original plan, as far as locating the heart of the electrical system on the port side of the boat. This made sense to me for two reasons. First, this side of the galley was the hot and dry side, whereas the other side was the wet one. I thus wanted to keep this electrical equipment on the side that was opposite the sink. Secondly, I wanted the AC distribution panel to be as close to the shore power inlet as possible. If I had located the AC panel on the other side of the galley, the distance between the inlet and the panel would have been greater than 10 feet. According to ABYC (American Boating and Yachting Council) regulations, this meant that I would have been required to install a breaker between the inlet and the panel. This I did not want to do. My rationale for this whole set-up should be much more clear now: generator, port side; shore power inlet, port side; AC distribution panel, port side.
Yes, this all made good sense, but by locating all of these items, i.e., the battery charger, the battery monitor, the DC main breaker, the AC distribution panel, the two bilge switches, and the three DC distribution panels on this port side of the galley, I left not one bit of room for that all-important piece of equipment - the Iota 45 battery charger. So where could I put it? What were my other options?
Well, I considered putting it inside the storage area that I had created behind the backs of the settees. These storage areas existed on both sides of the boat. I easily could have located the Iota 45 in one of these. The only problem, however, was that Iota Engineering specifically said that the charger had to have ventilation while it was operating. They also said that it should not, under any circumstances be within a closed space. This meant that if I located the charger in one of these settee storage spaces, then I would need to remove the backrest or at least lift it up while the charger was charging. This, to me, was completely impractical.
I also considered putting it on the mahogany trim piece, which covered the alcove box. In the picture below you see a break between the Spanish cedar on the left and the mahogany on the right. It was on the Spanish cedar that I mounted the DC distribution panels. For more on this part of the rewiring project, see my article, "Electrical, DC Distribution Panels." Yes, I could have mounted the Iota 45 on that mahogany trim piece, but that would have been bad for two reasons. First of all, it would have prevented anyone from sitting comfortably on the settee in the space directly beneath it. Why? Because the Iota 45 would have prevented anyone from putting his or her head back in a normal sitting position due to the way that it projected into the headroom space from the alcove box area. Secondly, it would have violated my own aesthetic principles. To put it in plain English - it would have looked ugly, and it would have annoyed the hell out of me to see it sitting there screwed to that alcove box, the product of some half-assed afterthought.
I could not put it in the lazarette. The Iota 45 charger is not ignition-protected. This means that if it were located in the lazarette, then it could ignite the hydrogen gas that would be emitted from the batteries during the normal charging process.
Some might say that I could have located the charger on the forward side of the lazarette bulkhead - that side that faces the galley and main salon. In the picture below, we see this forward side of the lazarette bulkhead as it appeared on my boat at the time of purchase. Certainly, I could have located the Iota 45 on either side of the mahogany door, especially since I removed the DC distribution panel you see on the right. I should note that I have actually seen a picture of one Ericson 25 where an owner located what appeared to be a charger in this very spot. The problem I had with locating my charger in this area was that I had cut out a good bit of the fiberglass around the door, so that the access to the lazarette would be much larger.
In its place, I had created a plywood panel, into which I had mounted the original mahogany door. There was no way I could mount the Iota 45 on this panel. I designed the panel so that I could easily remove it when necessary, simply by unscrewing four wing nuts. For more on this project, see my article, "Lazarette, Removable Panel and Door."
Having eliminated all other possibilities, this left me no choice but to consider the starboard side of the galley as the location for the Iota 45 charger. Below we see the starboard side of the galley as it appeared at the time of purchase. Above the sink is the VHF radio. I would later remove this dinosaur and replace it with a new one - one with DSC (Digital Signal Calling) capability. This I would integrate with the GPS, which would be mounted in the same area where you see those antiquated instruments. Given that this space would be occupied with a new VHF and GPS, I knew I could eliminate this area as home for the Iota 45 charger. I also knew I could eliminate the open space just beneath the antiquated instruments. This was where I had planned, all along, to install a binocular rack. Likewise, I could eliminate the space behind the sink. This was where I would install a custom mahogany spice rack.
This left me but one place I could install the Iota 45 - on the bulkhead, next to the ice box, in the same space where that puny spice rack and utensil rack were originally located.
Fortunately, the Iota 45 fit perfectly in that space. In the picture below, you see that I have situated it in that somewhat protected area underneath the cabin trunk protrusion. The duct tape on the protrusion says, "Paper Towels." I toyed briefly with the idea of putting the paper towel holder in this spot (instead of a binocular rack), but quickly abandoned it when I saw how far out into the galley a full roll of paper towels would protrude.
Yes, this spot for the Iota 45 was the best one possible. It was close to the battery bank, it was relatively protected, and despite its somewhat secluded location, it would still be well ventilated. Nevertheless, I was concerned about its proximity to the sink. The icebox I was not worried about, because I never planned to use this as an icebox in the first place. Instead, I intended it to be a pantry of sorts for the storage of dry foods. The sink, though could be a problem. Water, splashing from the sink, could damage the charger. Things could be much worse if a human hand happened to get in the middle of that combination. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to devise some means of protecting the charger from the sink and those who might use it.
I was pleased that I had settled on the Iota 45 charger, and I was pleased that I had settled on a location for it. The task before me now was to create a shield of some sort. This shield, in keeping with the principles I had established for myself from the start of this refitting, had to be both functional and pleasing to the eye. How I created a shield that satisfied these criteria is the subject of part two of this three-part article.

This ends this posting on how I selected and installed the Iota 45 charger in Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

Electrical, DC Distribution Panels, Part 1: Analysis and Installation

The three new DC distribution panels, installed above the mahogany spice rack
The importance of the DC (Direct Current) distribution panels on a cruising sailboat cannot be overestimated. These panels control many important circuits in and around the boat. There are those circuits that concern navigation lights, anchoring lights, and the GPS and VHF. There are those that concern the lights within the boat. Finally, there are those for all the miscellaneous, yet important items, such as fans, DC receptacles, and one thing then the next. Many cruising sailboats have large, multi-circuit DC distribution panels. Yes, these are convenient - for those who have the space. For those who don't, in other words, for those whose vessel would rightly be classified as a pocket cruiser, often large DC panels are not a possibility. In these instances, two or more small DC panels can serve the same purpose. The advantage, of course, of small panels is that you can arrange them in creative ways. In the rewiring of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, I had no choice but to get creative with the placement and orientation of the three DC distribution panels that I installed. In this two-part article, I describe my rationale for my placement and arrangement of these panels, and I describe my wiring of them with regard to the runs that were made from each of these panels to the terminal blocks (which would feed the individual circuits).
The original DC distribution panel was woefully inadequate, except to those with the most Spartan of tastes.
The electrical system in general was also woefully unsafe, at least on the boat that I purchased. For more on the problems that I inherited when I purchased this boat in 2009, see my article, "Electrical, Original."
In terms of the inadequacy of the original DC panel, let's take a look at what it had to offer. As you can see from the labels below, it allowed for only the most rudimentary functions.
This is certainly why the previous owner, or possibly the original owner (the boat had only two before me), installed the items you see below - a bilge pump switch, and a second panel.
These were located next to the lazarette door.
The second panel, i.e., the one located next to the lazarette door, appeared to have been purchased second hand. The owner had re-labeled the circuits with one of those vinyl-tape-stamping guns that was popular back in the 1970s and early 80s. Note that the label for the circuit at the bottom is partially missing. The original label (what is visible of it) says, "windshield." My guess is that this panel came off of a powerboat of some sort. There's no problem with using second hand equipment. There is a problem, though, with wiring it in a haphazard, numbskull way. Some of these switches worked, some didn't. Some controlled things that were not indicated by the labels. Moreover, the guy had placed this on a bulkhead, the backside of which opened to the lazarette. Putting aside the fact that the wires from the panel made for a messy and unusable lazarette on the port side, the exposed switches were dangerous on account their proximity to the battery. Flooded lead batteries emit gas when they are being charged. With a high enough concentration of gas and with an electrical device that is not ignition protected, the results can be . . . well . . . explosive.
It was probably for these reasons that Ericson located the original panel higher up on the bulkhead, on the same level as the stove. That way, the wiring on the backside of the panel would be within the port side cockpit locker. In terms of locating the original panel on the stove side of the galley instead of the sink side, Ericson probably opted for the galley side in order to keep the panel away from the water on the sink side. For all of these reasons, I stuck with Ericson's original location, when the time for me to install most of the components of my new electrical system. As you see in the picture below, I filled that bulkhead with quite a few items - an AC receptacle, a battery switch, a battery monitor, a DC main circuit breaker, an AC distribution panel, and above that, two bilge pump switches. Knowing that by installing all of these items on this bulkhead I would have no room for the new DC distribution panels, I had planned in advance to locate those panels on the alcove box just above the mahogany spice rack. Before anyone raises an objections to my choice to locate all of this electrical equipment so close to the stove, I will say right now that I would later take measures to protect it by means of a high-tech, fire-resistant curtain of sorts that could be snapped into place when the stove was in use.
In terms of locating the DC panels in the alcove box, it sounds simple right? Simply cut three holes in the wood that covers the alcove box, install the DC panels, and you're good to go, right? Not so fast. In my experience in the refitting of this boat, nothing is ever that simple.
The problem was that the wood that covered the alcove box was one continuous piece of mahogany trim. This trim piece ran from the galley to the end of the main salon. Sure, I could have installed the DC panels in this trim piece, but it would have been incredibly awkward and difficult to wire these panels while having to deal with an eight foot long piece of wood flopping around here and there. So why not just cut the trim piece? That would solve the problem, wouldn't it? That way, part of the trim piece would be over the stove, and the other trim piece would be over the settee in the main salon. Yes, two separate trim pieces would do the trick. Not so fast.
The problem was that there were cut-outs in the fiberglass underneath the trim piece. These cut-outs did not correspond in any way to the break between the galley and the main salon. This meant that if I wanted to cut the original mahogany trim piece, I would need to cut it to correspond to one of the cuts-outs in the fiberglass. As you seen in the picture below, the first cut-out extends about one foot beyond the stove. This stove serves as a natural break between the galley and the main salon (never mind the temporary counter extension you see in the picture below). From a design standpoint, it would, in my opinion, look strange for the mahogany trim piece to extend all the way into the main salon. It would also look strange for the DC panels to extended into the main salon space. I thought about this and thought about this, and drank more than a few bottles of hops and barley before reaching the solution that I eventually reached. That solution called for the creation of a trim piece for the trim piece. A new trim piece that extended the length of the space (from the galley through main salon) would cover the existing cut-outs in the fiberglass. This would eliminate these cut-outs as an issue. This would leave me free to cut the original mahogany trim piece in a way that would emphasize the break between the galley and main salon.
I wanted the new, foundational trim piece to be of a different color than the original mahogany one. I selected luan, a wood from the tropical Pacific that is often used as an underlayment in household kitchens. Luan is not a finish-grade wood, so my plan was eventually to epoxy-coat it and paint it white, so that it would correspond to the white of the alcove box itself. In terms of cutting the new, luan trim piece, I began by laying the original mahogany piece on top of the luan. The mahogany served as a pattern of sorts. The new, luan trim piece would be half an inch larger, all the way around. As you see in the picture below, I had to orient the mahogany in a diagonal fashion, in order to get it to fit on this sheet of luan (which was 4 feet by 8 feet in size).
Below, you see the half-inch marks that I've made on either side of the mahogany.
Notice in the picture below that I have drawn one of the ends two or three inches beyond the original mahogany. My reason for doing so will become clear as we move further along in this posting.
The cutting of this new, luan trim piece was not easy. Before I made the final, precise cuts, I made several initial cuts to get rid of the large pieces that would hinder my access to the pencil-marked lines.
I then loaded my Makita jig saw with a Bosch brand T101BR, 10 TPI (Teeth Per Inch) reverse-cut blade. These blades are designed for making especially clean, splinter-free cuts. I should note that these are the same type of blades that I used elsewhere in this refitting of the boat for cutting fiberglass. The reverse-cut blades reduce the chipping of the gelcoat.
The Makita jig saw, like other good jig saws, has several different settings. I set it to zero, which would prevent the blade from making oscillating plunges, and would instead make the blade cut straight up and down. This meant that it would take longer for me to make the cut. The reward, however, would be a much cleaner cut.
Also I set the speed to #2, one of the Low settings. This would also help the blade made a cleaner cut. This step and the one I described above are ones that I would always make when cutting fiberglass on the boat. I should note, though, that after making a practice cut in the luan, the #4 setting worked better in terms of preventing chips and splinters.
I had to use dumbbells to weight down the luan along its center, since it was impossible to clamp this part of the wood.
It took a long time for me to make the first cut, but it was worth it. No chips, no splinters.
Then I turned the piece around and cut the other side.
After I had finished making the cuts, I loaded up the quarter-sheet sander. I experimented with several different grits on a scrap piece and came to the conclusion that 100 grit was the best for these purposes.

Next, I grabbed the original mahogany trim piece and laid it upon the new one. I situated the mahogany piece so that it would be one half inch from the right side (the far side, as seen in the picture below). On the left side (the near side, in the picture below), I allowed 2-3 inches of luan to be exposed. I wasn't concerned about the mahogany being at an inconsistent distance on this left side, because I would soon be cutting the mahogany to make room for a piece of Spanish cedar, which would serve as the foundation for the three DC distribution panels. At any rate, after I had lined up the luan and the mahogany in the appropriate fashion, I drilled a few holes through them. I would use these holes to screw these pieces into place, temporarily.
The luan and the mahogany were quite unwieldy. To assist me in screwing these two pieces into place, I called upon the Admiral.
With a little cussing here and there, we wrestled the two pieces into place and held them there long enough for me to get the screws in place.

Using the side of the mahogany spice rack as a guide, I made an initial mark on the bottom of the mahogany with a pencil. Then, I pulled out a plumb bob and allowed it to hang over this mark. At the point at the top of the mahogany, where I held the line, I made a second mark. No pictures of this, of course. Had to have two hands.
Back at the sawhorses, I used the speed square to mark a straight line between the two pencil marks. See the bottle of vitamins? I used this to scribe an arc on the two corners.
The vitamin bottle worked well. The new, rounded corners looked just like the old ones at the other end of the trim piece.
Now that I had removed the unnecessary mahogany from the luan, I could get to work on the Spanish cedar that would serve as the mounting surface for the three DC panels.
Why Spanish cedar, and not mahogany? Well, it was actually the result of a mistake. As I have said in other articles, I frequently visit Southern Lumber, a traditional lumber yard here in Charleston, South Carolina. The yard has quite a few different warehouses. One is devoted exclusively to exotic woods. In the picture below, you can see a two-tiered rack were some of the exotics are stored. The sapele mahogany, which I often buy, is located on the bottom right of the rack. There are also usually one or more large stacks on the floors. Notice the scrap pile to the right of the rack. There is where they throw random pieces of various exotic woods that are left over from the millwork division of the company.
Every few weeks they have enough of these random scraps to make a big stack on a pallet. They then sell the whole pallet for two or three hundred dollars. Before this time, they will sell individual pieces, sometimes at nice discounts, if they are of an especially odd size or thickness. I like to dig through the piles, looking for sapele mahogany. There's a nice 8/4 piece, about two inches thick, right there on top of the pile in the picture below. One day, while picking through a pile like this one, I found a few good pieces, bought them, and took them back home. Some time later, when I needed to use these pieces for something, I pulled them out and inspected them, trying to figure out which one would make the best piece for that particular job. It was then that I noticed that one of them was not exactly like the others. Upon closer inspection, and after a little bit of research, I figured out that this slightly different piece was not sapele, but instead Spanish cedar. Despite it's name, Spanish cedar is actually a member of the mahogany family. They look very similar. Spanish cedar, though, is somewhat lighter in weight. At that time, I put the Spanish cedar aside, deciding that maybe I could use it for some other project.
When it came time to select a nice piece of wood for mounting the three DC distribution panels, it just so happened that the piece of Spanish cedar was just the right size for the job.
The first problem I had to solve was how to make the squared-off piece of Spanish cedar fit onto the curved piece of luan.
The only solution that I could find was to cut the Spanish cedar into the shape of a parallelogram. You can see in the picture below that the squared-off look did not look good.
While marking the first end of the soon-to-be parallelogram, I went ahead and scribed the corners with the vitamin bottle. That way, I could cut the entire end in a single pass with the jig saw.
The finished cut on the first end.
Placing the Spanish cedar back down upon the luan trim piece, I was able to mark the other end.
Here's the way it looked after I had finished cutting both ends.
My next task was to make a cut-out within the luan trim piece. This cut-out would create the space needed for the backs of the DC panels.
Also at this time I thought through how I might be able to gain access to the backs of the DC panels after they had been installed. In the picture below, you see a hinge on the back of the Spanish cedar. My thought was that I would simply swing the Spanish cedar open and shut. While this sounded like a good solution, I ended up abandoning the idea. I didn't like it that the Spanish cedar would not sit flush with the luan trim piece. The problem would have still existed, even if I had mortised the hinges within the cedar, since one half of the hinge would still be sitting on the surface of the luan trim piece. I also would have had to have come up with some way to latch the Spanish cedar shut, and there was nothing nearby (within the boat) onto which I could have latched it. Why so picky about the gap between the Spanish cedar and the luan, other than the fact that it looks cheap and lacking in craftsmanship? I didn't want any air to flow freely between the alcove box and the galley and main salon. The interior of the boat would be air-conditioned at night in the summer when at anchor. I did not want any of that precious cool air to escape. Moreover, I did not want any of that hot and unpleasant air from the cockpit locker (which was connected to the alcove box) to be drawn into the living space within the boat.

In place of the hinges, I opted for stainless steel screws with finish washers.
These would hold the Spanish cedar tightly against the luan trim and the alcove box. They would also complement the other screws and finish washers that would be on the mahogany trim piece.
The cut-out, soon after I had completed the job. The luan was flimsy, and I had to be especially careful when making the cuts.
Back in the boat, with the luan and the mahogany reinstalled, I was able to mark the small piece of fiberglass that needed to be removed from the original cut-out. You should see clearly now why I needed to make the luan-trim piece 2-3 inches longer than the mahogany original. The original did not extend all the way to the end of the galley. I wanted the luan and the Spanish cedar to extend all the way. This would make them more visually appealing. The Spanish cedar would be the same length as the mahogany spice rack underneath it. The cedar and spice rack would thus visually complement each other.
In the picture below you can see what I'm talking about. Balanced and harmonious, the Spanish cedar and the mahogany trim piece help to define the galley area and set it apart from the main salon.
One more way that I planned to achieve balance was through the placement of the three DC distribution panels. The three panels, evenly spaced, would complement the three compartments of the mahogany spice rack.

I began by drawing three rectangles, evenly spaced (and square with one another) across the face of the Spanish cedar.
When I put the Spanish cedar back in place within the boat, the rectangles, as I drew them, looked odd to me, since the luan trim piece, on which the Spanish cedar was mounted, was curved.
I returned to the sawhorses and began to experiment with different orientations for the three rectangles.

As much as I tried, I could not make the rectangles look good when they were canted one way and another.
See what I'm talking about?
After wasting about half an hour on this fruitless enterprise, I redrew the rectangles as I had drawn them the first time.
Then I got to work, making the cut-outs for each panel.
The first one was different from the others. This was an older West Marine brand panel with glass fuses.
The other two were newer versions of the first one. West Marine had moved from fuse-based panels to panels with breakers. With the switch, they had also changed the outer appearance slightly.

The finished cut-outs.
The panels, temporarily installed.
The backside of the panels.
While all of this was going on, I was also working on the installation of the AC distribution panel and the other items that I placed on the bulkhead.
I still needed to cut out that small piece of fiberglass from the original cut-out in the alcove box, so I removed the spice rack and covered up the electrical items to protect them from the fiberglass dust.

You can see some of the original wiring that still lurked within the alcove box. Some of the original wiring I had left in place, simply for the sake of letting me see how Ericson hat routed various wires long ago. I figured this might help me with some of the ideas I was formulating for the routing of the new wires.
My first impression upon installing the DC panels was that the entire port side galley area looked balanced and well-organized. I was, though troubled by the fact that the Spanish cedar did not fully conform to the alcove box. It's impossible to see from this angle, but there was a gap of about 1/8 inch between Spanish cedar and the luan around the mid-section of the Spanish cedar. The problem was that the alcove box curved not only upward, but also inward. Yes, it was concave, conforming to the curvature of the hull. This meant that the Spanish cedar, being a straight board, did not conform.
The only way I knew to correct this was to install more stainless steel screws with finish washers. To do this, I had to remove the mahogany spice rack. Otherwise my Makita drill would not fit. I made a mental note to myself that when sailing I needed to carry my Milwaukee Tools, right-angle attachment. Otherwise, I would not be able to access the backside of the panel easily, if necessary.
The finished installation, dry-fitted into place. The additional screws did a great job helping the Spanish cedar conform to the curvature of the box and thus the hull. The task before me now was the wiring of these panels to the terminal blocks, which were located within the alcove box. That is the subject of part two of this article.
This ends this posting on how I installed the new DC distribution panels in Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.