Ev­ery­day electrics

David Parker il­lu­mi­nates the space be­hind his boat's switch panel with step-by-step in­struc­tions on the ba­sic elec­tric in­stal­la­tion skills and equip­ment re­quired for the job

Practical Boat Owner - - Contents -

Step-by-step guide to fit­ting a locker light PLUS a guide to us­ing a mul­ti­me­ter

“Don’t look in there,” he said. We were in front of the wiring locker. The owner sell­ing me my mo­tor boat smiled. He was try­ing and fail­ing to pass off his com­ment as ban­ter. I looked, of course – and shut it quickly. I could see what he meant. The tan­gled ar­ray was a sorry sight. The small space was jammed full of mul­ti­coloured ca­bles ran­domly knit­ted like a bar­rel full of mon­keys had got hold of them. The wiring locker on my boat has al­ways been some­thing of a chal­lenge, but I’m glad to say that much waste­ful wiring has now been re­moved and it’s a lot bet­ter now.

How­ever, one job I wish I had pri­ori­tised early on was to clear a space to in­stall a de­cent locker light. Trac­ing ca­bles is a con­sum­ing pas­time and the nov­elty of work­ing with a torch in your mouth wears off af­ter a while, as in­deed does the enamel on your teeth. I pro­gressed to us­ing a head­light, then a lead light in the locker, but the fixed light is so much bet­ter. When I ac­tu­ally got round to in­stalling, it was a pretty straight­for­ward job. It makes gen­eral work­ing in there much eas­ier, but the real rea­son I did it was that if I should ever have an elec­tric fault then a good light wired di­rectly to the main ter­mi­nal would hope­fully make iden­ti­fy­ing and cur­ing the fault much quicker.

Var­i­ous de­signs of light are avail­able in chan­dlers and on­line and while tra­di­tional soft glow cabin lights look more at­trac­tive on board, here I wanted some­thing prac­ti­cal. Gar­ishly bright would do just nicely, but it needed to be com­pact too. For this rea­son I chose an LED Trilite to which I could add ad­di­tional tubes for greater il­lu­mi­na­tion. But I would ad­vise hav­ing a look at the de­sign op­tions if you can; while you can judge out­put from the spec­i­fi­ca­tions, see­ing the ac­tual light it­self gives a clearer idea of its size and its shape. This helps you de­cide on how easy or dif­fi­cult it will be to in­stall in the space you have avail­able. As fit­ting com­po­nents go this is a rel­a­tively straight­for­ward in­stal­la­tion, but the key thing with electrics is to take a sys­tem­atic ap­proach. Draw a sim­ple wiring di­a­gram and take a bit of time to plan the job to get the de­tail right.

How I fit­ted this one is de­scribed in the fol­low­ing pages.

Trip the light fan­tas­tic: the con­flu­ence of wires is less daunt­ing when lit up

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