As we walk away, I ask Dan for his opinion on the one greatest trouble spot in boats. His answer is quick and unequivocal: electrical systems. “They’re too easy to get wrong and not always obvious to the installer when they are.” I agree and ask for some examples.
“Pick a boat,” he says. I do, and we climb aboard and snuggle in behind the helm station to check the wiring.
“Here’s a good sign right off,” says Dan with some surprise. “This bus bar has a plastic cover to keep water out even though it’s inside the boat. Not taking chances — I like that.”
I then point out some sloppy workmanship. “Look at all this glop slopped on the connections,” I say, trying to play junior surveyor. “What a mess.”
But Dan crushes my find by telling me that instead of sealing connections with adhesive-lined heat shrink, the rigger used liquid electrical tape — a thick paint that gets into cracks and crevices where regular tape and heat shrink can’t reach. It’s made by Star brite and Plasti Dip and is either an aerosol or a brush-on liquid.
“Everything looks good here, but let’s make one last stop,” says Dan, on the move toward the engine room. Inside, he points to the aluminum AC/DC panel box, also known as the main distribution panel or MDP. “Some builders just scratch-build these out of wood, which makes excellent kindling if things get hot.”
He also makes a point of how neat the wiring is, indicative of care that probably got carried over to other parts of this boat. But all that is soon shot down. “Aw, everything looked so good, too,” whines a disappointed Dan. “See, they’ve run the wires along with the fuel line.” Petroleum products such as diesel, gasoline and even steering fluid should never be bundled with wires. If a wire heats up or sparks and the hose bursts, it’s all over except a call to the insurance company.
It’s Not All That Bad
We climb down from the boat, walk over to the food court and buy the obligatory $6 flabby hot dog and $4 Coke with too much ice.
“I gotta tell ya, Dan, I’m a little depressed.”
“Don’t be. Builders put out the best boats they can, but problems pop up. It’s the nature of how boats are built. That’s why you should always have a pre-purchase survey and learn to accept that no boat is perfect. All new boats are going to need tweaking. Think of it as a bonding experience. Speaking of bonding, make sure to look for a green eight-gauge wire on each…”
“Enough already.” Poor guy can’t help himself, but I’ve got to love him for it — he’s given me quite an education.