Hubbell Shore Power Socket

Another one bites the dust…..

End of shore power lead suffered heat damage.
Pins badly corroded, causing high resistance, thus heat build up.

The customer had requested that I replace the old Hubbell with a 32A Smart Plug, shore power inlet. An adaptor plate was machined from 316 stainless to cover the larger opening left by the Hubbell.

The quality of the Smart Plug and Socket is far superior to that of the old Hubbell. All connections are made by very well engineered cable clamps that use hex key screws.

Motorboat Galvanic Issues

A simple haul out of my own Fairline on Monday lead to a bit of a surprise! As the hoist lifted the vessel, the port prop was obviously very pink!

Surface corrosion to propeller.

After closer inspection, there was no damage to the edges of the blades, nor had the prop suffered badly as the majority of the pink cleaned off with a Scotch Brite pad on a grinder. The prop also “rang” when tapped with a stone, so luckily hadn’t become completely damaged.

The next surprise was to see the starboard shaft damaged!

Lumps eaten away and a “burn” mark around the area.
Another burn mark within the P bracket.

There had been no damage to the port shaft whatsoever, nor any damage to the starboard propeller. An investigation is currently underway as to the cause of this, as when the vessel was launched last year, there was not a mark on any of the stern gear, so all damage has happened within the last 9 months.

Luckily being based at a full service boatyard, nothing should be an issue!

A New Electrical Panel Can Rejuvenate A Boat

A customer had become fed up with his old electrical panel onboard which was past the end of its useable life. The boat had undergone some recent interior restoration and the panel was letting the saloon down. Labels were falling off, switches were broken and the finish had faded and become patchy.

Using some new rotary isolators and a new gauge for the DC distribution but keeping the old mains distribution equipment, I custom engraved a new panel to fit the existing aperture, fitted the equipment and rewired.

By removing the old panel from the saloon and replacing it with a new gloss finish engraved electrical panel, it has transformed the vessel and makes her look 20 years newer!

An Affordable Mood Lighting Upgrade

A simple upgrade for a customer who was having his Fairline headlining in the saloon replaced. In place of the old single colour tubes fitted as standard in 2007, I removed and replaced with high wattage, multi-colour RGBW LED strip with wireless controller.

It is possible to have the system set as a single stationery colour or have it scan, flash, fade, pulse, etc between different colours.

Disco boat!!

When Battery Charging Goes Wrong

These batteries were wired in a 12V parallel system, exposed to over 100V because of alternator failure. The tops had blown off due to such a high voltage charge!
A 24V battery system had caught fire on a small commercial workboat due to overcharging. This was caused by an alternator failure, exposing the batteries to dangerously high charge voltage.

Sterling Pro Charge B 12V to 24V Charger

Something was smelling a little funny on a river boat. Cables were of a good size and in good condition. Batteries tested ok but the clue was in the battery to battery DC-DC charger… still smoking whilst it was being removed!

I personally HATE Sterling electrical products with a passion. The old stuff that was manufactured in the UK was great but since changing their manufacturing facilities, I steer clear of the stuff – every time!

Something seems to have become a little warm…

Webasto Thermo Top Pro 90 Fault

Another one of these heaters failed today with the water temperature sensor having corroded. The customer had reported a few fail to start issues a little while back and then complete failure, with the Webasto on/off switch reporting “lockout”.

The part number in question is 9010620A. Quite a tight thing to get to with the heater installed. It is also made of very soft metal, so be careful when removing and replacing!

Left: Corroded temp sender. Right: New temp sender.

With a plug in Webasto diagnostics, we could see that the temperature was reading 0c. Of course this wasn’t the case as even ambient temperature was 9c.

Diagnostics showing 0c – clearly faulty.

So after reading the fault, changing the component and then finally unlocking the heater, we were immediately back in business.

Faults cleared and temperature reading correctly.


A Few “Interesting” Finds

High resistance joint?
Interesting use for an old fuse holder!
Another commando plug burnt out!
Boat well in need of a haircut. All just left behind panelling.
Thames motor cruiser in for a new helm panel, wiring isn’t in the best shape. Time to meet Sweeney Todd or the equivalent Demon Electrician of Suffolk.
Some “redundant” equipment removed from a boat in less than 40 minutes.

Raspberry Pi On Board

Having a few weeks off this Christmas meant that I could start having a play with some Raspberry Pi work that I have been wanting to do for a long time, but simply haven’t had time.

A brief initial scope:

  • View vessel systems via web browser in a central location.
  • Enable view of AC & DC systems.
  • View solar PV data in the same “app”.
  • Enable remote start of generator manually or automatically based on certain parameters.
  • View current status of generator Running/Stopped/Fail To Start.
  • Enable remote heating start/stop and current status (bi-directional).
  • Automatically switch certain lighting systems depending on outside light levels.
  • Track certain battery parameters in a log file and visually display this (TBD).
  • Take N2K and/or SignalK info and display repeated data in the same “app”.
  • Display compressed vessel CCTV in the same “app”.
  • Inverter control, load monitoring.
  • Potential auto selection of AC supply. Between shore power/generator/inverter.
  • Virtual tank monitoring.
  • Ability to know bilge pump status and when it was activated and how long it ran for, etc.

Essentially the system will be a collector of information and an intuitive centralised display system. It is actually going to perform very little apart from automatically starting the generator should the batteries require charging and shore power is not available. As well as piggybacking my current remote heating system and turning a few select lighting circuits on and off automatically. It is not a system that will be relied on at sea, it is only complimentary to my current analogue and integrated monitoring systems.

Some things to focus on will be designing a user interface, simply this is going to be made with Node Red as it is quick, easy and looks good. Hardware should be considered and will more than likely consist of pre-made boards which can be integrated simply by connecting to GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi. This should save a huge amount of time.

The main board is a Raspberry Pi 3, Model B which I had already from previous prototyping jobs. This is installed with the default Raspbian OS. I have fitted a “wide input SHIM” from Pimoroni. This is a variable voltage power supply and as this system will be used onboard a boat, power can sometimes fluctuate.

The main piece of additional hardware is a “AutomationHAT” also made by Pimoroni. This will deal with the inputs, outputs and a couple of switching tasks through the built in relays. This sort of stuff can be built DIY, but to keep things quick and simple, pre-made boards are where my attention is at.

Next time, I’ll post about setting up a simple user interface and by then, hopefully will have decided on a final list of sensors required to complete the job.

Boat Fires

It’s not the first, it certainly won’t be the last. I seem to be investigating, assessing, repairing and signing off a rather worrying amount of boat fire related work just recently. Only last week did I look at a river cruiser that had suffered substantial fire damage caused by some rather “interesting” charging circuits which had been added to make a 12v engine charge a 24v battery bank for an inverter on board… not sure what it was all about… all very strange.

The owner had been on board and noticed a popping sound, followed shortly by some smoke coming from under the engine hatch. If it wasn’t for his quick response, he would have most certainly lost his boat. Even after the fire was put out, there were some more horrors waiting, as the tops of the batteries in the aft cabin blew off. Fortunately the batteries were contained under the aft bunk, in a battery box, so damage and fallout was contained. Dangerous stuff!

Another recent example unrelated to the above…

This vessel was less than 15 minutes from going up in smoke. Luckily, again, the owner was on board and managed to catch it before the fire started. The above image was an ammeter feed which had been added to a panel without any fuses protecting the circuit. Only by luck did the wire burn though, effectively acting as a fuse, otherwise the circuit would have continued to act like an electric heater until the surrounding engine room insulation and panelling caught fire.

You have to wonder what this is all about…

It was me that cut the wires, but apart from cutting the wires, this is what state the box was in after me removing the front cover. A healthy dose of block connectors, twisted joints covered in insulation tape and an unearthed water heater supply!

Another recent find…

No earth supply onto the boat whatsoever. Electric radiators, hairdryer, toaster, etc on use on board. In the event of any of these appliances failing; somebody could have been in for a nasty shock!