Saturday, March 31, 2012

12VDC Distribution Panel

Using the same tool used to the design the AC Panel (previous post), here is the 12VDC distribution panel.

In summary, this panel, located in the engine room, will control the 12VDC system for the propulsion engine, starting battery, communications battery and a few 12V circuits NOT controlled by the Mastervolt distributed power system.

12VDC Panel
12VDC Panel
From left-to-right, top-to-bottom:

  1. Panel voltage
  2. Panel current draw
  3. Battery monitor for both 12VDC batteries (not sure on this one, this device provides WAY more features than I need)
  4. Remote battery selection switches. Left turns on/off engine start battery. Right turns on/off comms battery. Center parallels both batteries for emergencies (i.e. engine start battery dead)
  5. Propulsion engine hour meter
  6. Four DC circuits
  7. 12 volt aux receptacles (cigarette lighter type)
  8. Four DC circuits
 This is subject to change as I have a few more details to work out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

120VAC Distribution Panel

Blue Sea systems has a nifty little web tool that helps you custom design electrical panels based on their Panel 360 system. The tool can give you a "preview" of what the panels will look like (not exactly but close, it does not show breaker amp rating and labels). Here are some ideas based on the latest electrical schematics. These panels should just fit in the planned spaces.

In summary, this panel provides the main breaker for the shore power, and three groups of circuits: one group full time shore power, two groups each selectable between shore power, inverter and generator.

AC Distribution Panel
AC Panel
From left-to-right, top-to-bottom:

  1. AC voltmeter measures shore power voltage
  2. AC Ammeter measures shore power current draw
  3. 50 amp ELCI breaker controls the connection to the shore power bus
  4. Four circuit distribution connected full time to shower power bus (battery chargers, AC heating assist)
  5. Shore/Inverter/Generator source selection for the four circuits to the immediate right (#6)
  6. Four circuit distribution source selectable by #5
  7. Shore/Inverter/Generator source selection for the four circuits to the immediate right (#8) 
  8. Four circuit distribution source selectable by #7
At this time, I cant think of anything else needed for the AC panel.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Electrical System: Phased Approach

So I have been making some headway on the electrical schematics. Suffice to say, you don't want to "wing it" without some design, lest someday find yourself wired into a corner (and ripping/changing things out). We are using a "phased" approach by taking each and every feature we could ever want and placing them into three successive phases: "phase I: must have", "phase II: nice to have", "phase III: may never have". While ensuring that each phase builds on the previous. The key is to design the system such that power can be added (with more batteries, charge sources and converters) with the increase in power demands of each phase. All the while building on the previous phase at the same time (minimizing re-wiring and "ripping out").

The system can be divided into three "sub-systems": 24VDC, 12VDC, 120VAC.

It is this 24 volt sub-system that most of the "house" loads will be attached. This includes pumps, lights, switches, etc. We will be using Mastervolt's ship-wide digital switching system. One feature of this technology is the ease of future expansion as you do not need a master switch panel that every device (and the associated wire) homes to. Instead, you wire the new device to the nearest digital switch block (or install a new switch block), configure the system, (via computer) to see the new device, and you are done. Having said that, basic load calculations should be done to determine a minimum primary wire size (that is being handled in another worksheet).

There are in fact two 12 volt sub-systems: one contained inside ("internal"),  and one entirely outside ("external") the 24 volt system.

The internal 12 volt system provides the ability to use the same switching network of the 24 volt system, for certain 12 volts devices. We are planning on some devices that, at this time, are only available in a 12 volt version. Using these devices in the switching network is enabled by installing a 24 volt to 12 volt converter behind the switch blocks.

The external 12 volt system includes that of the diesel engine and communication loads (radios, etc.). The engine's starter battery, starter motor and alternator are 12 volts. The communications battery (for things like SSB equipment), is also 12 volt. Devices powered by this battery will have a small traditional switch panel and will not be switched by the Mastervolt system (to avoid any RF noise potential). There will be switches to completely isolate the communications battery, and it's loads, from the rest of the system.

It is this sub-system for which most of this planning is important. As 120VAC loads are added, more large things like batteries, inverters and generators need to be added. These are items for which one needs to allocate future "physical" space. There are a number of AC items planned, that we may never install.

Phase I
Phase I
The basic system:

  • 24VDC: main house distribution (with some internal 12VDC devices)
  • 12VDC: engine/communications
  • 120VAC: battery chargers, outlets, microwave, hydronic assist (cabin heater)

Phase II
Phase II

Phase I system plus:

  • 24VDC: second/expanded house battery, forward battery, thruster, windlass, second inverter
  • 12VDC: nothing added
  • 120VAC: second house charger, compressor, A/C units

Phase III
Phase III
Phase II system plus:

  • 24VDC: solar cells, wind generator
  • 12VDC: nothing added
  • 120VAC: appliances, generator

Of course, in the end, things may never go *exactly* like this. They never do. We reserve the right to move devices forward or backward through phases, or add more phases altogether. The point of this is to try and plan for the future, requiring minimal effort to adapt.

These diagrams will no doubt be updated a number of times. Those interested can find the latest version by clicking the 'Electrics' tab at

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interior Wood Species Selection, Continued

I cut some small pieces off the wood samples we bought a couple weeks ago. In order to get a feel for how the species would look 'finished', I sanded the samples to 320 grit and applied three to four coats of our favorite varnish, Epifanes Clear Varnish. After the final coat, I masked off half of the surface, sanded with 320 grit, and applied Epifanes Rubbed Effect topcoat. This topcoat, used for interior finishes, dries to a satin appearance (no gloss). It is hard to tell in the pictures, but the top half of the sample is gloss, bottom is satin. Presented, as best as digital pictures can, in order of dark to light, for analysis .
Teak $35/board-foot

Sapele (quarter sawn) $7/board-foot

Khaya (quarter sawn) $6/board-foot

Cherry $5/board-foot

Beech $5/board-foot

Alder $4/board-foot

Western Maple $3/board-foot
We use Epifanes Clear Varnish, a traditional tung oil varnish, on our small boat (lots of varnished topside teak). We have tested other varnishes in the past, including some two parts, but have always come back to Epifanes as no other varnish beats the gloss. But Epifanes tends to add an orange tint to the wood color, more so it seems, than other varnishes. For that reason, the beech, alder and western maple became a more yellowish-orange color after finishing. The khaya sample became more red (very much so). The sapele sample came very close to the look of teak. So, we have been wondering what a more clear varnish would look like on these samples. Maybe we will finish another set with a different coating.

So far, as for color and grain, I like the cherry. Not too dark, not too light, with a very distinct grain. Though I have been told cherry tends to darken over time.

Readers, feel free to chime in with opinions and recommendations.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More Wire Pulled

Run through the port side upper conduit, installed way back when, is wiring for
  • windlass control (AWG 16/4)
  • thruster control (AWG 16/4)
  • bow pulpit navigation light (AWG 14/2)
The windlass and thruster cables are not current carrying. They will be used to open/close solenoid switches for up/down (windlass) and left/right (thruster). The most current these will carry is on the order of milliamps.

Hanging coils of wire in the engine room.

Run through the "leftmost" split-loom on the port side are three more AC circuits

  • forward battery bank charger (AWG 12/3)
  • watermaker (AWG 12/3)
  • forward A/C unit (AWG 12/3)

All wires are homed to the engine room. It is starting to look like a jungle.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Interior Wood Species Selection

Haven't said much on this for a while, cause not much has happened. This is part of the interior design process that we have been putting off for as long as we can, simply because... we are not interior designers. It is the classic "We don't know what we want, but we know what we don't want" conundrum. But now there is no escape. Decisions need to be made soon (by this summer).

Since we are familiar with teak (lots of it on the small boat) and we know we do not want teak (too dark, too expensive, see below) we figure a good start is choosing an alternate wood specie. We visited our local hardwood supplier to pick some candidate samples. The first group of candidates are (with approximate prices)...

  • Teak (for comparison) - $35 per board-foot
  • Sapele (pronounced sah-pee-lee) - $7 per board-foot
  • Khaya (pronounced kai-yah) - $6 per board-foot
  • Cherry - $5 per board-foot
  • Beech, Steamed - $5 per board foot
  • Alder - $4 per board foot
  • Western Maple - $3 per board foot

L-to-R, Dark-to-light: Teak, Sapele, Khaya, Cherry, Beech, Alder, Maple
Next step: apply a couple of our favorite varnishes to the samples.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Engine Room LED Lighting

One thing I want is a well lit engine room. Well lit such that one does not have to take a flashlight and stick it in corners to generally inspect things. My first attempt at a solution involves LED strip lighting. The LED strips used here are waterproof, flexible, with an adhesive backing. They can be daisy-chained end to end to make a longer strip. There are 32 LEDs per strip and are of the RGB type (red,green,blue) which means the strip can be programmed to whatever color you want.
LED lighting in "white" mode

The home-made controller has a couple push button switches for on/off and color selection (for now colors are white and red). There is also a knob to dim the LEDs to desired intensity.

I have started with four LED strips (128 LEDs total) and have installed them around the engine room worksurface. This is very much a prototype to see how well it functions. Initial results show these LED strips provide nice ambient light, but they are not sufficient as a "work light" when you want something bright and focused.
LED lighting in "red" mode

I have some more ideas for expanding the strip lighting functions, using the engine room as the test application. Depending on how things go, I may use more throughout the boat. More on this later.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

AC Distribution Panel Schematic

Is looking something like this...
Breakers included for items we may want in the future (if ever).
This week, we will be looking into a custom panel made to order.

Update: Yesterday we spoke with Scott at Blue Sea Systems about the custom panel process. This has led to more refinements of the panel schematic as follows:
The dashed lines indicate the partitions for the Blue Sea 360 panel system

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Pulling Wire

Last week I managed to pull a bunch of wiring throughout the boat which included
  • 120VAC service for outlets and appliances
  • 24VDC to the starboard side
  • Network/Data/AV wiring
Data, 24VDC, 120VAC wire runs
These are the "bridges" to the starboard side

This is like wiring sockets in your house. The AC outlet sockets are the same, so are the gang boxes. But that is where similarities end. You need marine grade triplex wiring, which is tinned stranded copper wire, not solid copper like the household stuff. So you can't just strip the wire ends and stick them into the holes in the back of the sockets. Instead, wire ends must have a crimped on a ring terminal and sealed with heatshrink (ideally). They are securely screwed into the socket terminals  for all three wires: hot (black), neutral (white), ground (green).

The Westsail will have a number of separate AC circuits:
  • wall sockets
  • microwave
  • appliance 1
  • appliance 2
  • forward A/C
  • aft A/C
  • heat element assist (for hydronic heating)
Not all of these will be utilized at first. Consider it "pre-wire" for future planning.
Temporary placement of AC outlets
The wall sockets have been mounted in the general areas where we want them. Some will be concealed in a cabinet, some will face out, depending on how the interior trim works out.


The primary 24VDC leg has been run to the forward starboard side of the boat, using 8AWG duplex "safety wire". It is called "safety wire" because the ground wire is colored yellow instead of black. I guess too many marine repairmen have accidentally cut black wires, thinking they were DC ground, only to discover, quite suddenly, they were in fact the 'hot' side of a live AC circuit. So, yellow is the new black for DC wiring.

Anyway, this starboard DC wire will connect to one of the Mastervolt Distributed Power switching units to control DC devices for that side of the boat.

Details are still coming together for the DC system

Network/Data/AV wiring
Four runs of CAT6 wiring, fallen from the "trap door"
This includes:
  • four runs of CAT6 wire, color coded red, yellow, white, green
  • two runs of 18AWG duplex wire for stereo speakers (starboard side)
CAT6 wire is actually four pairs of small twisted wire, all in one jacket. It is the same stuff used for computer network cables. At least one run of CAT6 will be used for controlling the Mastervolt Distributed power system. The other three are for use "as needed".

I must say, having the split loom conduit "pre-routed" under the side decks made wire installation pretty easy. The steps were essentially

  • let out the spools of wires to run (if it is thick wire, straightening out the coil from the spool helps),
  • tape the ends all the wires together with duct tape
  • insert the wire bunch into one end of the conduit and push through
  • if the wire hangs up in the split loom, locate the hang up, open the split loom and push the wire on through