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Author Topic:   Secondary Power Distribution Refurbished on c.1990 Whaler
jimh posted 05-21-2012 01:11 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
The secondary power distribution on my 1990 Boston Whaler REVENGE 22 Walk-Through Whaler Driver had never failed, but this Spring it was beginning its 22nd year of service. The power distribution panel was oxidized and turning black. There were only six circuits for fuse protection. I had already purchased a new power distribution panel about a year ago, but I had not installed it. The replacement was my project this weekend.

I was concerned that there would not be enough slack or extra wire to move the 8-AWG conductors (from the primary power distribution at the stern) to the appropriate terminals on the new panel. This concern was unfounded: Boston Whaler had left enough extra wire to permit the new panel to be installed in the approximate same location as the old and to have the power feed conductors routed in a workman-like manner.

Before removing the old power distribution panel, I made a detailed sketch of wires, their labels (if any) and their destinations. The old panel is fastened to the bulkhead with self-tapping screws. The screws may be concealed under the vinyl-plastic labels for the circuits. I also noted the existing fuse ratings. The three OEM circuits on the panel were for the cabin lights (10-Ampere) and the bilge pump (7.5-Ampere). As far as I know, the fuses were the originals.

The Boston Whaler power distribution on my boat also includes a sub-panel that receives its own feed directly from the battery via the main panel. This panel has three circuit breakers and three pull-switches. The original wiring uses only two circuits: one (10-Ampere) for the navigation lamps and the second (5-Ampere) for a compass lamp. I extended the compass lamp circuit to act as the gauge illumination circuit as well. The sub panel only has positive power distribution. The negative or returns for those circuits generally will use the main panel. As a result there will be more negative bus connections at the main panel than there are positive bus connections.

The replacement panel I selected is a BLUE SEA SYSTEMS ST* Blade Fuse Block with Cover--12 Circuit with Negative Bus. My goal in the initial phase of this project was to get everything moved to the new panel and working. Turning the electrical wiring into an art object can come later. I tried to use as much of the existing branch circuit wiring as possible. I found some surprises.

The Boston Whaler factory installation did not solder any of the terminal connectors to the conductors. The terminals used were bare terminals and were covered with a few wraps of electrical vinyl tape. I soldered many of the terminal connectors, especially the main power conductors. Some of the connectors and wires had become oxidized (particularly the negative branch circuits) and did not take solder well, even after carefully cleaning and scraping away the oxidation. Some of those terminals and perhaps even the conductors may be replaced in phase two. As the project wore on into its second day, my enthusiasm for soldering oxidized terminals decreased. The last group to be connected did not get soldered.

On the boat I have a rather extensive selection of 3-AG type fuses, but only a couple of ATC fuses. The new panel uses ATC fuses, and there are no fuses included. I discovered I only had about five fuses on hand, of various values. I moved fuses from socket to socket to verify that the associated circuit was working. My new project is to order a set of fuses and replacements of appropriate values. The fuses are only $0.58 from MOUSER. Fifteen dollars of fuses ought to give me a start on the fuse inventory.

(More to come on this project)

jimh posted 05-21-2012 08:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
One anomaly in the re-fit of the new distribution panel was the arrangement of the positive and negative buses on the OEM panel compared to the new panel. The Boston Whaler panel had the positive bus on the top and negative bus on the bottom. The Blue Sea Systems panel was just the opposite. This created a bit of a problem with wire lead length and wire dress.

In the OEM installation, the positive leads were brought to the power panel from above (generally) and the positive leads were cut shorter than the negative leads. When moving these conductors to the new panel, in order to make the existing lead lengths work the conductors must be led to the panel from the bottom. As a result, I had to fly-in some of the conductors from overhead, rather than bring them down the bulkhead alongside the panel. I may have to clean up that wiring in the future.

I also noticed that the negative conductors seemed to have more oxidation. There is a phenomenon called "black wire creep" that is found in RC models where the negative or black conductors tend to oxidize and the copper in them will turn black. It is believed that this is caused by properties of the NiCad battery that is common in RC models. However on my Boston Whaler it appeared that the negative conductors--the black wires--were more prone to oxidation than the positive conductors.

One possible cause for this may be the arrangement of the battery ON-OFF switch: it is in the positive circuit. The negative conductors are always connected to the battery's negative terminal. Perhaps this accelerates or aggravates the oxidation of the copper wire.

It might also be that some sort of black spray was applied to the power panel, but in the application the fuse holders and the positive bus area was masked off, leaving it free from the black coating. I could not really determine if the black appearance of the negative wires and the negative bus was from a painted topcoat or from oxidation.

jimh posted 05-21-2012 08:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Re the new panel orientation: I suppose I could have mounted the panel upside down and matched its polarity of bus bars to the old system, but then all of the embossed labels on the panel would have been upside-down. That would be blasphemy!
newt posted 05-21-2012 11:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
I think I will crib your idea of extending the compass [illumination circuit] to the gauge [illumination circuit]. Good idea. Currently all my gauges light up when the port motor ignition switch is on. Eighty-percent of my night time motoring is on only one engine, so it makes sense to have the instrument lighting independent of the ignition.
Chuck Tribolet posted 05-22-2012 12:41 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Check the local auto parts store for fuses. You can probably
buy a fine collection (all in one package) for less than you
would pay Mouser by the each. And it will probably have an
nice little pair of tweezers to pull and insert fuses.


jmorgan40 posted 05-22-2012 07:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for jmorgan40  Send Email to jmorgan40     
I went with the same panel last spring when I totally rewired the Outrage 20. My 26 year old wiring was a MESS. Nice and clean now
prj posted 05-22-2012 09:25 AM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
Nice narrative of the project, I wouldn't have appreciated, or even understood, half of the content had I not undertaken a similar project on my Outrage-18 a couple months back. That understanding and increased familiarity with my electrical system was best part of my results.

As you note, Whaler left a coil of excess conductor, probably the same 8-AWG as yours, behind my starboard cover panel in the Outrage. As you mentioned in the article on my Outrage, the factory work done in circa 1990, my boat's age as well, was fairly refined and thoughtful. Problems and less than workman-like effort came later, I assume at the dealer because much of the inferior results were related to add-on components, from the outboard to the bilge pump and depthfinder.

Finally, many of my OEM terminals had a tacky black residue around the (unsoldered) connections. I assumed this to be a petro or rubber based sealant or isolator type material, perhaps applied to inhibit oxidation.

jimh posted 05-22-2012 01:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
O'Reilly Auto Parts--who have taken over most of the local outlets around here--sell a pack of five ATO fuses for $3.49, which works out to about $0.70 each, and you have to get five of each value. Of course, buying local would save the shipping, but I bet it would take three trips to three stores to find all the values I want in stock.
jimh posted 05-22-2012 03:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
It occurred to me today, now that I have updated the power distribution center, perhaps I ought to replace the circuit breaker that feeds the power to that panel--it's 22-years old, too, and has probably never tripped. I don't have the OEM circuit breaker handy to look at the rating, but it might be as large as 50-Amperes.

The new panel has 12-circuits. Let's look at the circuits already connected and their fuse ratings:

--cabin lights, Stb = 10-Ampere
--cabin lights, Port = 10-Ampere
--bilge pump = 7.5-Ampere
--VHF Marine radio = 7.5-Ampere
--GPS, Chartplotter, and SONAR = 5-Ampere
--cigar-lighter connector = 20-Ampere

Heck, I am already at 60-Ampere. The 8-AWG conductors can handle that current (briefly). Maybe 50-Ampere main breaker is reasonable. Anyone care to comment?

DVollrath posted 05-22-2012 04:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for DVollrath  Send Email to DVollrath     
I am approaching the sizing of the main breaker by adding the maximum functional current of all branches that might be on at once (finding the worst combination), and adding in a fudge factor for margin and future expansion. I do not believe you want to add the values of the branch fuses together, because these represent a failing condition that will only persist until the branch fuse has blown. For example, my Lowrance HDS-7 draws a maximum of 800mA, but is fused at 3A. I'll use the 800mA value for its contribution to my total. I'll size the main breaker to provide this level of current, and then make certain that my supply components (wire, bus bars, terminals etc) are protected by that breaker in terms of ampacity, and that the drop incurred over those components at max load is acceptable.

My only other comment regarding your situation is that 20A for lighting seems like quite a bit. I'm not sure how much of that is actually used by the components, but LEDs or fluorescents might be something to look into.

That is my approach, and comments are welcome as well.



newt posted 05-22-2012 04:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
My Revenge came equipped with a 50 amp breaker. I don't know if that was original from the factory or installed during the following 22 years though.

jimh posted 05-23-2012 09:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I ordered an assortment of ATC fuses from Amazon. Forty fuses for $11.18, or about $0.28-per-fuse. This will be sufficient to populate the power panel and have spare fuses on the boat.

I also ordered a 50-Ampere circuit breaker, also through Amazon, for $24. I ordered a Cooper-Bussmann model 185. I believe it is identical to the Blue Sea System type 185 (which is no longer offered by Blue Sea Systems). There is now very similar model offered from Blue Sea Systems, the 285, but the only difference I could find was the large stud connectors changed to M6 metric threads from 1/4-inch threads. The Blue Sea Systems breaker was $40. I could not see paying $16 more to get metric threads.

jimh posted 05-23-2012 12:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
To conduct a power inventory, I looked up the specifications for the HDS-8 chart plotter, GPS, and SONAR, as well as the Standard-Horizon GX1500S VHF Marine band radio. Their power demands are minimal:

HDS-8 = 0.9-Ampere (fuse at 2-Ampere)

GX1500S = 5.5-Ampere on transmit Hi Power (fuse at 7.5-Ampere)

I will check the incandescent lamps with an Ammeter to see how much power they are actually using. The present 10-Ampere rating of their fuses may be generous.

jimh posted 05-23-2012 12:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Here is an even better deal on fuses: B000M61JFC/ref=pd_cp_hi_2

However, these are not labeled with any recognized brand. With something like a fuse for current protection, I think there might be some value in getting a recognized brand.

jmorgan40 posted 05-24-2012 01:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for jmorgan40  Send Email to jmorgan40     
I ordered the same [Bussmann circuit] breaker for my Outrage when I rewired last year. I believe I went with the 70 amp but I have slightly more load than you. My thinking was I will probably never run everything at one time.
jimh posted 05-28-2012 01:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The image below shows the original power distribution panel from my 1990 Boston Whaler REVENGE 22 W-T Whaler Drive, now removed:

Photo: Boston Whaler fuse panel from c.1990 boat.
The lighting in this photograph makes the brass conductors appear to have more shine than they actually have.

On further inspection, the black coating on the negative bus and its terminal screws seems to have been applied intentionally. The positive bus was spared such a coating, except at the main terminal post where the primary power distribution bus conductor was attached.

I measured the resistance of some of the connections. In the 10-Ampere circuits for the cabin lights there was as much as 0.4-Ohm of total resistance, including the fuse. That could produce a significant voltage drop.

Measuring resistance along the bus conductors showed there was a significant layer of surface insulation that had built up. To get a good conductor one had to press the point of the multimeter probe through the surface insulating layer. Otherwise just touching the probe to the conductors would show a resistance of a megaOhm or more.

gusgus posted 05-28-2012 02:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for gusgus  Send Email to gusgus     
[The fuse panel shown in the image above] is the same as the fuse panel in my 1987 Outrage. I am going to leave it in place and use both bars as bus bars. The fuses shall be removed and the lower leg or fuse connector end shall be removed, leaving the upper bus and the lower bus bars. I installed the six circuit breaker indicator panel from Blue Sea Systems; it will lighten-up the panel. Since the batteries, switch, and main breaker are now moved into the console this will ease some needs inexpensively for a ground and positive bus.
contender posted 05-28-2012 03:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for contender  Send Email to contender     
I'm still using the same factory panel--just like that one--but mine is only has four fuses, and I'm only using three of the connections. Talk about simple.
newt posted 05-30-2012 01:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
My fuse panel looks identical to the one above, complete with black substance on ground bus, nuts, and wires.
jimh posted 02-05-2013 01:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I made this sketch of the new electrical panel wiring that I installed in the refurbishment of my boat's power distribution. It is very useful to keep track of every conductor. In a perfect installation every wire would be identified with a label. The label could be just a number, or it could be a printed label with the wire name. Knowing what every conductor at the electrical panel does will make it much easier to make changes or to diagnose problems.

Some of the original circuits are still identified with the labels given to them by Boston Whaler.

jimh posted 02-05-2013 01:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
You may notice that I have five fused branch circuits left to be used, but there is only one negative bus terminal open. It seems like I need to add another negative bus bar to accommodate any growth.

The negative circuits seem to grow faster than the positive fused circuits. Contributing to this is the presence of another distribution panel with three circuit breakers and ON-OFF switches that feeds accessory loads. All of those negative returns are coming to the secondary power distribution panel and using up terminals.

jimh posted 10-09-2014 10:08 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The image below shows the BLUE SEA SYSTEMS fused power distribution panel installed on my Boston Whaler REVENGE 22 W-T WD to replace the original six-fuse panel. This panel has 12-circuits.

View of secondary power distribution panel on refurbished Boston Whaler boat.

The location of this panel was constrained by my desire to use the original wiring as much as possible, and none of the original conductors were replaced or spliced to extend their length. As a result, the wiring is not a work of art. Some conductors come flying in to the panel from overhead.

This panel also passes its power positive feed to another small panel, which is mounted on the dashboard and has three pull switches fed by three circuit breakers.

Note that the negative bus has already run out of terminals, and I have begun to place two ring connectors under one terminal post. There are still three unused circuits on this panel and one unused circuit on the other panel. Adding another small bus for negative circuits will be very helpful, otherwise the negative bus wiring on this panel will have too many stacked terminals.

In looking at this image, I see my labeling of the circuits by number is quite goofy. Fortunately, that can be easily remedied by a new piece of cardboard label.

Conductors in the negative circuits use BLACK insulation in most of the original wiring, use YELLOW insulation in most of the added wiring, and one GREEN ground conductor is seen, a shield ground for some network wiring.

Conductors in the positive circuits use RED insulation in most cases (in both the original and added wiring), except for two cabin lighting circuits which have GRAY insulation.

Some of the conductors are identified with wire numbers, and they are mostly existing wires from the original installation. Applying wire number tags is a good idea. They make identification of the circuit much easier. I have been lax in not identifying the new conductors I have added, but the excuse I offer is that most of those conductors do not extend very far from the distribution panel and can be easily traced.

The wiring is not tightly laced or retained by dozens of nylon wire ties. A few more than in use at the moment would be a good idea. In general, I do not like wiring looms where every wire is held tight in a bundle. A bit of slack in the wire ties allows for some movement of individual wires in the bundle. This is often desirable when trying to trace a wire's path. Also, having some slack in the wire tires allows one new wire to be added to a bundle by slipping in through existing ties. This saves cutting off dozens of ties.

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