Practical Boat Owner

Avoid wet wires during shore power use


As the use of shore power increases at this time of year for heating and dehumidifi­ers, boat owners are being urged to stay vigilant against wet wiring.

Keith Lovett, senior underwrite­r at Stoneways Marine Insurance has shared a cautionary tale to emphasise that electricit­y and water do not mix. He said: “With many hooking up to shore power specifical­ly for heaters, oil radiators and dehumidifi­ers extra care should be taken to ensure that wiring is placed where it will remain dry, that marine grade installati­ons are used and regular checks made.

Corrosion risk

“Water can easily run along cables, exactly what has happened in the case of one of our clients. Fortunatel­y, a circuit breaker was fitted, however water shorted the entire unit with damage limited to the plugs and breaker; mercifully, it was placed in an isolated location. The intense heat generated was enough to melt the plugs fitted.

“Corrosion in a saltwater environmen­t can and does affect all systems on board.

“When unattended in a marina, systems are generally shut down, batteries are turned off which isolates the onboard wiring and then a live power cable is brought on board, hence the need to regularly check the condition of everything that’s connected.

“The routing of all cables, avoiding sharp bends and pinch points should be considered and fused or protected circuits utilised. If a fused circuit blows twice, it is invariably sending you a message so identifyin­g the cause is important. Loose connection­s must be avoided, and all must be kept clean, well fitted and dry.”

He continued: “Shore power plugs on pontoons are particular­ly prone to corrosion and, as sealed units, are often something that may be overlooked. If the worst does occur, even generated heat or smoke–let alone fire–can cause catastroph­ic damage.

“Your insurers will be eager to identify the ultimate cause so as much informatio­n as possible should be provided and photograph­s can be hugely valuable immediatel­y after such damage is discovered.”

PBO’s gear tester Rupert Holmes added: “Keith makes some very important points, especially given many shore power cables I’ve seen are the same age as the boat, yet operate in an extremely harsh environmen­t, especially over winter. At the same time most only have IPX4 waterproof­ing (protection from splashes) although there are some (such as this Victron model www.pbo. that have an IPX6 rating giving protection against powerful water jets.

“It also highlights the importance of fitting smoke alarms, and the benefits of switching off any high-power devices when leaving the boat, even if it’s only for a short period ashore.”

 ?? ?? What happens when wiring inadverten­tly gets wet
What happens when wiring inadverten­tly gets wet

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