The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Shocking and Electrifying

K. Barrie Letts

Knot 2 Krazy
Pearson 385
March 30th, 2024

When starting a boat project, you will find three more projects or you will make three more (aka “screw ups”) or both. In addition, take your highest cost and time estimates, double them, and that sum will be about half of what it will end up costing/taking. I recently experienced this in spades.

We purchased our boat a year ago (yes…with a full survey) and I have been doing my winter upgrades.

This project started with an alarm going off on my inverter/charger. The error code, too much AC draw off the inverter, made no sense, as I had nothing plugged into it. The inverter/charger came with the boat and is way oversized for my needs (and takes up much needed closet space). In addition, it is a brand I am not familiar with. Thus I decided to remove it and replace it with a simple Victron charger. Off to Trotac for a charger.

When the shore plug was removed, we found that it was fried, along with the boat inlet fitting. Off to Trotac again to buy a new “Smart Plug”.

Upon removing the boat fitting, I did not like the look of the wiring. Decided to replace the wiring from the boat fitting to the AC panel.

Opened the back of the AC panel…I have seen neater rats’ nests. Closer inspection revealed some serious “mystery” wiring. Decided to redo the AC Panel and related wiring. Off to …

Tracing the wiring, I found a galvanic isolator attached, but loose in behind a bulkhead. Not an ideal installation.

Soooo…long story short…I now have a totally rebuilt (including new breakers) and rewired AC panel. In addition, I added a single 15 Amp circuit AC plug for an electric heater/cooktop/microwave/etc , complete with oversized wiring.

Oh…almost forgot…the new Victron battery charger got installed.


Left: Houston, we have a problem; Right: Wire insulation hardened and cracked

Top left: Rat’s nest – “What the…?”; Top right: Mystery wiring – bottom wire was not connected to anything. Why double up when so many connection screws are available? Black wire in an AC circuit!; Bottom left: four to one splice, what were they thinking?; Bottom right: The wire in my hand goes to the common neutral. How do the top two circuit wires connect?


Left: Smart Plug installation; Right: Back of rebuilt AC Panel

Top left: New “no mystery wiring” Neutral and Ground Bus Bars, labeled wiring, AC bundled separate from DC, galvanic isolator attached to bulkhead. Bottom left: New single circuit outlet for high amp appliances (heater/stovetop/etc); Top right: Front of panels and new Plug outlet; Bottom right: Finally, got to install the new Victron AC battery charger.

In the end, the charger/inverter was just fine, with the error code most likely the result of the wiring short. That being said, we are happy to get the wiring issues addressed and our closet space back.

The time taken was well over four times what the replacement of the inverter/charger took. As to cost…it is best measured in Boat Units, not dollars.

Wishing you all fair winds and calm anchorages.

P.S. I sent pictures of the wiring upgrades to my insurance agent. I received a reduction to my annual premium, including a prorated reduction for the current year! If I keep the boat for…let me think…about a half millennium, the savings will pay for the upgrades.


  1. Ken Buckley says:

    It’s good to know it’s not just me! 🙂 Every boat job requires many unexpected trips to the chandlery/hardware store regardless of the degree of pre-planning.

  2. James Letts says:

    The new set up and wiring look great! Worth the effort, just for the peace of mind and cleanup :).

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