Electrical, Battery Switch, Part 2: Wiring

The battery switch, fully wired
Having described in the first half of this article my rationale for selecting the switch I selected and locating this switch were I located it, I will now, in the second half of this article, describe the approach I made to the wiring of this switch on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.
Let's begin by looking at the back of the switch. Moving clockwise from right to left, we see that the first terminal, is labeled with a number 1, the next terminal is labeled with a number 2, and the last terminal is labeled with the letters COM. I used the number 1 terminal for the house bank and the number 2 terminal for the reserve bank. Some people call this reserve bank the starting bank, but as I said in the first part of this article, I do not use it for starting purposes. Finally, there is the COM terminal. This stands for COMMON. In keeping with the instructions provided by Blue Sea Systems, the manufacturer of the switch, I used this terminal for two separate cables - the starting cable and the cable that joins the battery switch to the DC main circuit breaker.
For the wiring of this battery switch I used Almo brand battery cable that I ordered from Genuinedealz / Bestboatwire in Brunswick, Georgia, USA.
I benefited much from the excellent advice given by Maine Sail in his many postings on various sailboat forums and on his Compass Marine website, a link for which is on the homepage of this website. It was from Maine Sail that I learned about using the starting bank as a reserve bank, and it was from Maine Sail that I learned about Genuinedealz.
I was also from Maine Sail that I learned to use the largest battery cable possible, and it was from Maine Sail that I learned about FTZ brand heavy duty lugs. I estimated that 1 AWG (American Wire Gauge) was the maximum possible for the confines of my lazarette and cockpit locker, where all of this cable would go. This ended up being a very good estimation. I believe that if I had ordered a larger gauge, such as 1/0 or 2/0, then it would have been impossible for me to route it in the fashion that I routed it. I know that, in terms of the battery switch, I would not have been able to fit it in the tight space around the battery switch. 1 AWG was almost too large, and for some time I thought that I would not be able to make it work.
With the battery cable and the battery lugs in this package I received from Genuinedealz / Bestboatwire there were also many pieces of 12 inch adhesive lined heat shrink tubing that I had ordered.
Earlier I had ordered an FTZ brand crimper from K. L. Jack Industrial Fasteners & Supply in Portland, Maine, USA. Where did I learned about this crimper and this company? Yes, it was Maine Sail. I have no problems tipping my hat to him multiple times. I think he gives damn good advice, and I though I am not a marine industry professional, as is he, I share his penchant for precision and clarity, and I share his general dislike of sloppy, half-assed, bone-headed boat work.
With these and other items at my disposal, I created the cable that you see below. In my article on the wiring of the ACR (Automatic Charging Relay), I have described my crimping and sealing of similar cables, so I will not belabor these points here.
Making the cables was not the hard part. The hard part was figuring out how to route them and make them fit into such a confined space. As far as the cables for the house bank and the reserve bank were concerned, I had to route them down from the battery switch, into the lazarette, over the top of the ACR (the device with the yellow tabs), and then over to the top studs on the house bank and reserve bank positive bus bars (which I have labeled in the picture below).
As far as the starting cable for the motor was concerned, I had to route it down from the battery switch, into the lazarette, and then up again into the cockpit. Why, you might ask, would I route it down into the lazarette, only to bring back up into the cockpit? Because in the cockpit I had to be able to fit a protective panel over the wires and other components (such as the battery switch) on the bulkhead. Therefore, if I had tried to route the starting cable through the cockpit, it would have prevented me from installing the protective panel. For more on this protective panel, see my article, "Electrical, Protective Panel for Components and Wiring."
I also had to take into account the other cables (such as those for the battery charger) that I had to route through the lazarette. It took a lot of thought and time to figure it all out. If you look closely in the picture below (and especially if you look above, two pictures back), you'll notice a notch in the HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) backplane, i.e., the black plastic board. I had to remove the backplane from the weld studs and cut a notch in it, so that I could route the cables down into the lazarette from the cockpit. For more on this backplane, see the following article, "Electrical, DC Main Circuit, Part 1: Constructing and Installing the Backplane."
It took a while to figure out where to drill the holes and where to route each cable. In the picture below, you'll notice that I am using the cable for battery switch 1, in other words, the house bank cable, to test the flexibility of the 1 AWG cable. This is not the hole that I would use for this particular cable, and this is not even the right end of the cable. I had not yet crimped a lug on the other end. Having one of the ends uncrimped allowed me to pass the cable through the hole. Once I crimped a lug on this free end, there would be no turning back.
I also had to figure out how to route the 4 AWG cable from the COMMON post to the back of the battery switch. This was a short cable. Nevertheless, it was something of a pain to install. For more on this, see my article, "Electrical, DC Main Circuit Breaker, Part 2: Wiring."
There was also the issue of the bulkhead. There was a small gap between the top of the bulkhead and the hull liner cleat. This I filled with NP1, a polyurethane adhesive/sealant.
The benefit of using NP1 (which is marketed as a high-grade adhesive/sealant for the construction industry), is that it comes in a variety of colors, for example, Off White, and it is much less expensive than 3M 4200 and Sikaflex, which of course are marketed as "marine" polyurethane adhesive/sealants. The Off White in this application worked very well.
In the routing of these cables I would ultimately decide to crisscross the house bank and reserve bank cables in the fashion you see. I did this here to prevent myself from having to do something similar down below, in the lazarette. There was no getting away from having a crisscross somewhere, because the house bank bus bar on the backplane was outboard, and the terminal on the battery switch was inboard. Conversely, the reserve bank bus bar on the backplane was inboard, and the terminal on the battery switch was outboard.
In the picture below we see the battery switch as it appeared soon after I had completed the wiring of it. Due to the size of the 1 AWG cable, I was almost not able to fit the house bank cable (the cable on the far right) past the blue protective cover for the AC receptacle. For this reason, and for several others, 1 AWG cable was the maximum for this set-up. If I had tried to use anything bigger, it just wouldn't have worked.
Satisfied, I at last installed the red protective cover for the battery switch.
Then, to make things absolutely clear, I put a label on it. Call me what you will, but in the future this will make things crystal clear, not only to me, but also to anyone who might be assisting me with some problem.
Here's the way it all looked in the cockpit locker when I was close to the end of the entire rewiring project. Looking back on it, I find it hard to believe that I was able to fit all of this together in such a confined space. It was only through a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of thought that this was possible. Sure I had made meticulous plans in advance, but none of these fully prepared me for the challenges that I faced when the time actually came for me to lay hands on this project. Just like sailing itself, the rewiring of a boat requires patience, perseverance, and an ability to adapt to ever-changing circumstances.
This ends this posting on how I wired the battery switch for Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

Electrical, DC Main Circuit Breaker, Part 2: Wiring

The protective cover for the DC main circuit breaker
The wiring of a DC main circuit breaker would seem to be one of the easier tasks in the complete rewiring of a sailboat. After all, there are only two wires that join it. Things, though, in boat work, never are as easy as they seem. There are unexpected problems that create unexpected delays, and before you know it, what seemed at first as if it would require only a hour's worth of work ends up requiring much of the day. Replacing an existing component of an existing electrical system is not difficult. Creating an entirely new system is not. How much wire will I need? Where will I route it? Where will I terminate it? What size terminals do I need? Will this wire obstruct another that I will need to run through the same area tomorrow or the next day? How much chafe protection do I need? Is it the right size for the wire that I need to create for this component? For that matter, is the wire itself the right size for the job? Will it overheat? Have I taken into account the length of the run and the voltage drop? Wait a second, if I move up to a heavier gauge wire, then I'll need to order additional terminals, and maybe additional conduit, and maybe now the other wires that I planned to run through this area won't fit. These and many other similar questions I asked myself time and time again in the planning and execution of this complete rewiring of Oystercatcher my Ericson 25.

In this posting, the second of two in my article on the DC main circuit breaker, I describe the steps I took and the problems I solved to install two simple wires.
Let's start by looking at the protective cover for the DC breaker. You'll notice that there are two wires exiting it. The one on top is labeled "TO DC PANEL." The one on the right, that is fully sheathed, runs to the battery switch.
Now let's look on the other side of the bulkhead where things are nice and pretty. This was the way it looked after I had temporarily installed all of these components.The red switch is the battery switch. To right of it is the battery monitor, and to the right of the battery monitor is the DC breaker.
What I needed to do was to route a wire from the back of the battery switch (the red thing on the right) to the back of the DC breaker (the black thing on the left). It was clear from the start that I would have to route this wire around the back of the battery monitor (the round white thing in the middle). It was also clear that the blue protective cover that I had planned to install over the back of the battery monitor was no longer an option. It had to go.
What was not clear from the start, however, was that the thickness of the bulkhead would prevent me from connecting the wire from the battery switch to the back of the DC breaker.
Having made the wire and labeled it (tasks that I will not here describe, since I have described similar tasks in detail elsewhere in other articles) I now needed to figure out how to remove some of the plywood from the bulkhead in the area around the back of the DC breaker. You'll recall that I installed the DC breaker in the large hole where the old battery switch used to be. I was fortunate to have done this, because the extra space of this old hole gave me a little more working room.
Using my Dremel, with a sanding drum attached, I slowly routed out pathways of sorts for the two wires, being very cautious not to nick any of the wires in the vicinity. This tool can do a lot of damage in short period of time, if you're not careful. I should note that I did all of this work on my knees, while leaning into the cockpit locker.
I also had to be cautious about sanding too deeply. Otherwise, I would create not a rut, but a hole - a hole clean through the bulkhead. Note that I have covered the back of the battery monitor with duct tape to prevent dust from damaging the instrument.
Once I had routed out these pathways to a sufficient depth, I temporarily installed the two wires on the back of the DC breaker. I continue to use the word wire, but since this wire is 6 AWG (American Wire Gauge), it is normally classified as a cable.
At any rate, the wire that I routed upward from the back of the DC breaker led to the DC distribution panels in the galley. To get there, I routed the wire up and over the blue protective cover for the back of the bilge pump switches. Then I routed it through a small opening between the bulkhead and the hull. This wire, sheathed in a black, split-loom conduit, is near the gray plastic conduit on the far left. You just can't see it in this picture. Note that I used the white AC three-wire cable to hold the wire in place.
Below is a picture of the galley. To the left you can see the various white labeled conduits that I have routed through the small opening between the bulkhead and the hull. To right you can see a Blue Sea Systems terminal stud. It was to this stud that I would connect the wire from the DC breaker. The gray, blue, and orange wires are for the DC branch circuits. I address these in separate articles.
Here's the terminal stud after I have connected the 6 AWG wire to it. The other wires, which are 10 AWG, feed the three DC distribution panels. Connecting these three wires to the panels was one of the last things that I did in this complete rewiring of the boat. By this point, the only 10 AWG wire that I had left was yellow, the color I used elsewhere to indicate negative. Not wanting to order another spool of 10 AWG for such a small amount of wire, I decided to use the yellow 10 AWG but to color-code it with red tape and to label it with a + sign to make it clear that it was positive.
Before going any further I needed to seal the joint between the bulkhead and the hull liner in the galley. To do this, I used NP1, a polyurethane adhesive/sealant not unlike 3M 4200 or Sikaflex. NP1 is available in good hardware stores and, since it's sold as a construction material and not a "marine" material, it's much less expensive. It comes in a variety of colors. I selected Off White to match the interior of the boat.
There was a small gap in the joint. I wanted to seal this, so that air would not freely move between the interior of the boat and the cockpit. The NP1 worked well, and the Off White color blended perfectly with the color of the gelcoat on the interior of the boat.
The next issue I faced concerned the final installation of the breaker itself. Up until this point the breaker was only loosely seated in its housing with short screws. Now I needed to mount it with fasteners of sufficient length to prevent it from working itself free. I did not have fasteners of sufficient length, so I had to make a trip to the hardware store. Fortunately, here in Charleston, South Carolina, there are still some traditional hardware stores that sell individual stainless steel fasteners from open bins rather than prepackaged fasteners in quantities that you often do not need.
The fasteners had to be long enough to penetrate the first or second layer of the bulkhead, but not too long that they would pass all the way through these layers.
The DC breaker as it appeared shortly after I had screwed it fully into position.
One problem that I ran into, in terms of the fasteners was that, in the area above the back of the breaker, there was no bulkhead into which I could screw a fastener. The only material that the fastener could grab was the mahogany of the decorative backer. This was not necessarily a problem in and of itself. The problem, rather, was that the end of the fastener penetrated the mahogany and projected into the space where the wire for the DC panel needed to run. To remedy this problem, I pulled out the Dremel and sanded away the end of the fastener. By the time I finished, all that was left was a small stainless steel nub that was barely detectable when touched by a fingertip.
Despite the smoothness and the almost non-existence of this nub, I still thought it would be wise to cover it with several layers of black electrical tape. This was insurance of sorts against the possibility of chafing action.
Next, I needed to focus more closely on the wire that ran from the battery switch to the breaker. Up until this point it was just loosely connected to these two components.
One reason I kept it loose was because I still needed to connect the 1 AWG wires to the back of the battery switch. I had to be sure that this 6 AWG wire would fit with all of these larger wires in this space.
Fortunately, it looked like it would, so I screwed the protective cover into place over the back of the battery switch.
Now I was able to focus on tightening the nuts on the back of the DC breaker and finding a protective cover for it.
Here I encountered another obstacle. When I had earlier hand tightened the lock nuts on these studs on the back of the breaker, everything seemed okay. Now, using a ratchet wrench, I could not get a good grip on these nuts. Therefore, I experimented with different nuts in my miscellaneous bag of stainless steel hardware. A number 10 nut was too small, and a 1/4 inch nut was too large. Puzzled, I made a trip to the hardware store. There, I discovered that the nut I needed was in fact a metric sized nut. Fortunately, this hardware store keeps stainless steel metric fasteners in stock. Back at the boat, I tightened these metric nuts into place using a metric ratchet - a tool that I rarely use, but one that I am glad that I had. I'm still not sure why Blue Sea Systems opted for the metric system on this breaker when they use the English system on all their other components that I have encountered. While I'm at it, I should note that I was able to solve this metric puzzle by taking the original nuts to the hardware store. Yes, this breaker came with nuts. I needed a second set of nuts, because I used the first set as stand-offs. In other words, I installed them behind the lugs. This helped me in the seating of these lugs in this tight space.
Now that I had solved the nut problem, I needed to solve another. As I contemplated how I might protect the back of the DC breaker, I slowly began to remember a conversation that I had had with the tech person at Blue Sea Systems and the notes I had taken at that time. I had asked this tech person if I needed to fuse the wire that would run between the battery switch and the DC breaker. He said that, according to ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council) standards, the battery switch is a power source. Therefore, he said, if the wire coming off it were to be over 7 inches in length, then it would need to be protected by a fuse. He added, however, that if this wire were to be protected by a sheath or conduit, then it could be up to 40 inches in length without being protected by a fuse. After consulting my notes, I pulled out my tape measure to check the length of the wire. Sure enough, it was an inch or two over the 7 inch limit. I knew that given the space restrictions a fuse was out of the question. Therefore, I decided on the quickest and easiest solution possible - sheathing the wire in a split-loom conduit.
This was something that I really should have done in the first place, given the twists and turns that this wire had to make in such a small space, and given the proximity of this wire to the wire that fed the DC distribution panels. As an added measure of protection I wrapped the end of the conduit many times with black electrical tape to insulate this wire from the adjacent one on the back of the breaker.
In terms of protecting the back of the breaker itself, I experimented with several options until I settled on the one you see pictured below. Yes, this is an electrical box for an AC receptacle. Specifically, it is known as a "shallow work" box, due to its slim profile. It fit perfectly in this space, and it left plenty of room for the two wires to enter and exit the box.
At this point, my complete rewiring of the boat was almost at its end. This is the way the cockpit locker appeared at this time.
Despite the fact that it was obvious to me at this moment that this was the main DC breaker, I still went ahead and labeled the box. This would provide immediate recognition and clarity for me or for anyone else (who might be assisting me) at any point in the future.
Yes, this was a lot of work for two simple wires, but then again I could tell countless stories of similar tasks in the refitting of this boat that seemed at first to be simple, but ended up being much more time consuming than I had ever imagined.

This ends this posting on how I wired the DC main circuit breaker on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.