Installing the main electrical panel
My plan was to install a new wiring panel at the front of the starboard
quarterberth, beside the existing outlet:
This is me, cutting out the fiberglass with a foxtail saw, and
test-fitting the new panel:
There is a teak rail around the front of the panel, to prevent
accidentally switching a circuit. As well, all the switches are off in
the "down" position, so that if something falls on them, they won't turn
on and drain the battery.
I wired up as much of the panel at home as possible, so that most of the
soldering was done ahead of time.
Busbars were a difficult topic -- I simply couldn't justify spending the
exorbitant prices for "marine" busbars. Hence, I made my own,
which are probably way oversized. I bought a section of 1/4" x
1-1/4" brass, 3 feet long. This I cut into shorter pieces, and drilled
and tapped for the appropriate screws or bolts. Each busbar was mounted
onto 1/4" plexiglass, which was epoxied into place, with 5200 as a
backup adhesive in case the epoxy lets go.
One of the best tools I bought for the electricals was a "brother"
handheld label machine. I used this to label the front and the
back of the panel, for ease of tracing wires and faults later.
This is the installed panel, showing: 12V feed from the main switch
(red, at top), fuse holders (top row of panel), switches (bottom of
panel), ground return (black, at bottom left), and lighting busbars with
diodes (bottom right). The diodes are installed so that the windex
light and instrument lights will be on, regardless of which nav lights
I'm using (deck-mounted or masthead).
Secondary electrical panel and battery charger
The main panel controls all the "normal" day-to-day electrical items on
the boat. I installed a second, "emergency" panel, to control the stuff
that would normally be left alone. It corresponds to the lower section
of my electrical diagram (see the bottom of this page), and has fuses
for the bilge pump, battery charger, and outboard alternator feed.
As with the lights, the bilge pump is powered via diodes from both
batteries, so that it will continue to run, even if one battery dies,
without connecting the two batteries together. However, diodes can
fail, and there is an override switch to directly connect the pump to
In the last two photos here, you can also see the new battery cutoff switch
(1/2/both/off), and the 12V courtesy outlet in the v-berth. The wood
covers the old electrical panel hole, with no fiberglass work required.
Also, in the first two photos, you can see that I've painted the bottom
of the sink white, to help brighten up the area below the galley.
Next to the secondary panel, there is a set of small busbars that
connect the battery charger, bilge pump, and batteries. The two
vertical busbars go to the batteries; the diodes connect to the bilge
pump, and the horizontal busbar is the ground return. On the right, you
can see the new Guest 2610 battery charger. It's a three-stage charger,
with a max charge rate of 5 amps per battery. I labeled the front of
the charger to make it easier to hook up, and to be able to remove it
over the winter to keep the batteries on charge at home.
These two photos give a good overview of the layout against the bulkhead.
To the right of the battery charger is the bonding busbar, which
connects the mast, keel, 12V ground and 120V ground. All these
connections are made using green wire, to note that they are
non-current-carrying. See Nigel Calder's "Boatowner's Mechanical and
Electrical Manual" for more details on this.
The blue junction box at the top right is for the second shore-power
outlet, which feeds the battery charger.
Installing anything on a 22-foot boat is a challenge of space, and
wiring is no exception. Here I am, wedged into the galley, soldering
The final product. This is the secondary panel, fully installed and
wired. I attached a small multimeter to the galley door with velcro,
which plugs into the panel to check the battery voltage. It can also be
easily detached to be used elsewhere on board if necessary.
© 2018 Melissa Goudeseune