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Author Topic:   Nagivation Lamp Wiring in Boston Whaler 17 GLS
DillonBW posted 09-19-2012 11:35 AM ET (US)   Profile for DillonBW   Send Email to DillonBW  
Does anyone have a diagram for the simple wiring on a 17ft 1990 GLS Super Sport? Several months ago a tree limb took out the [junction] box that sits aft by the battery and I am only now getting to repair it. Of course, now I have completely forgotten how it was wired! I know the red wire was the feed and gray was negative, but what is the gray with black stripe for?
At my age, my eyesight ain't what it used to be and laying upside down under the console is no fun any more...

Thanks in advance.

jimh posted 09-19-2012 12:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The color codes used by Boston Whaler are shown in the REFERENCE section. See the article

Marine Wiring Color Codes
by James W. Hebert

Basic power distribution wiring is explained in an article in the REFERENCE section. See the article

Boat Electrical Circuits and Wiring Practices
by James W. Hebert

DillonBW posted 09-19-2012 08:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for DillonBW  Send Email to DillonBW     
The [junction] box I talk of is a 3x4 box mounted on the side right above the battery box in the stern, to which my wires from the battery run into. There is a terminal block inside to which they all attach. Then I have three wires that come out and go to the console. One is Red, one is Gray, and the third is Gray with Black stripe.
L H G posted 09-19-2012 10:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for L H G    
I assume this is what you are talking about: current=Scan_Pic0031.jpg

If so, that is the [junction box] containing a 4 gang terminal block (only three terminals are actually used) that connects the navigation light wiring. As shown on my Montauk, that was not original in 1979, but I bought the component from Twin Cities, rewired the nav lights, and it works well.

Underneath, is the exit point in the hull for the two wires (power (+) from the nav light switch and negative ground) that are concealed under the rub rail and go up to the bow light.
Also exiting this box should be the pigtail for the stern light plug.

In my photo, the white cable going into the box is three wire, one for the bow light power from the switch, one for the stern light power from the switch (those are probably two grey wires you are talking about) and a common negative return from both lights, to the battery, or maybe even running back up to the dash (but it should NOT be a red wire - should be black). There is no unswitched positive power directly out of the battery into this box. All this assumes the wiring is done correctly, the original function has not been altered, and not re-configured by a previous owner. if so, all bets are off as to what you have.

jimh posted 09-20-2012 06:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Dillon writes:

I know the red wire was the feed and grey was negative....

The GRAY conductor was most likely not a battery negative circuit. Check the wiring color code list to see what GRAY conductors are used for. The GRAY and the GRAY with BLACK stripe are clearly identified; they're not battery negative circuits.

DillonBW posted 09-20-2012 07:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for DillonBW  Send Email to DillonBW     
LHG is correct with his image. I would have added a picture, but I am currently away from my computer and it is a little hard to do via phone.
Thank you all for your help, I will see what I can accomplish this weekend if I get home in time.
L H G posted 09-20-2012 08:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for L H G    
Dillon - let me know if I can be of additional help. By your description, I knew exactly what you were referring to. [Speculates about how well understood the description would have been for other readers.] On a 17, there's not much else it could have been in the location you described.
DillonBW posted 09-21-2012 08:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for DillonBW  Send Email to DillonBW     
LHG is completely correct with his image. I would have added a picture, but was unable to do so at the time of my first posting. With LHG's help, I am now clear in what it is, what it is called and how to rectify my problem.

I understand that it is a "simple junction box" that contains a 4 gang terminal block. This terminal block is used to connect the navigation lamp wiring to the battery and the switch. I was unclear as to which wires connected to each other via this terminal.
jimh posted 09-21-2012 09:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Dillion--Please let us know what your investigation finds regarding the conductor color code. In particular, the GRAY conductors should be identified.
DillonBW posted 09-24-2012 03:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for DillonBW  Send Email to DillonBW     
So I have finished this repair project on my junction box. I had the hardest time working out how it was wired, as I would get continuity through all the wrong terminals with the switch off or on.

Long story short. Main thing that messed me up was the All-round White lamps's bulb had been replaced with the wrong type! Single terminal on its base instead of a double one! I changed that and it made a huge difference in my day.

On this particular boat, the original Boston Whaler wires are as follows:

--a Red (positive) and Black (negative) from the battery to the junction box. This runs through a fuse to a simple terminal block;

--coming in from the bow light are two BLACK wires;

--coming in from the All-round White lamp are two BLACK wires;

--from the dash switch I have three wires. One is RED. I used it as a Hot feed from junction box/battery to my first terminal on the dash switch. Second one is GRAY from my second terminal on dash switch. I used for the All-round White lamp. The third is GRAY with a BLACK stripe, coming from the my third terminal on the dash switch. I used this one for the All-round White and Sidelight lamps.

The first pull-position on the switch is OFF. The second pull-position, gives me the All-round White Light. The third pull-position gives me the All-round White Light and the Sidelights, plus the dash gauge lights.

I also took the time to run two wires from the battery to a new fused junction box under the dash. From this I can wire in future electronic devices.

Thanks for every ones help and I hope this may help others in their future wiring quests.

See you on the water, at night!!

jimh posted 09-24-2012 08:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As they say in the SPORTS DEPARTMENT--"Check that."

Wiring is hard to describe in a narrative, but, if reading your narrative correctly, you have the white all-round lamp connected twice.

L H G posted 09-25-2012 12:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for L H G    
The [All-round white lamp] functions on both positions of the nav light switch: anchor and running. Although the wiring now seems to function, I suspect the wiring you found on the boat was not factory work. Generally, on all Whalers I have ever seen, the house power cable from the battery is brought directly to the helm area, via a fuse/circuit breaker in the positive. Generally, they used 10-AWG or 8-AWG wire. Then, power to switches and other accessories, comes directly off that positive buss at the helm. There would not be a separate positive (red) wire up to the dash for just the lights.

On the smaller boats, the nav light neg is grounded back directly to the battery, rather than back up to the helm/console.

jimh posted 09-25-2012 08:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As Larry mentions, it would be an odd wiring practice to bring the 12-Volt positive power to the junction box at the stern, only to then run that circuit to the helm position to provide a supply of 12-Volt power to the switch that controls the circuit. There should be two branch circuits from the switch controlling the lamps. Each lamp circuit wires to only one of the branch circuits. According to your narrative, you have the white all-round lamp wired to two branch circuits, and the sidelights wired to one branch circuit. This makes no sense. When two branch circuits are connected in common to a single load, the two branch circuits are joined together and become one circuit.

It is hard to describe wiring in a narrative, and that is why it should not be done. Sketch a diagram of the circuit as you have found it or re-wired it. Then readers can tell what we have.

This wiring is about as simple as DC electricity can get. It should not take much investigation or analysis to get the control of two lamps from a three position switch to work as desired.

jimh posted 09-29-2012 10:30 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I am trying to understand the narrative of the wiring. What has me confused is the conflict in these two statements:

...coming in from the All-round White lamp are two BLACK wires...


...Main thing that messed me up was the All-round White lamps's bulb had been replaced with the wrong type! Single terminal on its base instead of a double one!

This description gave me the impression that you were describing the All-round White lamp's bulb as having a dual filament. But if there are only two wires connected to the lamp fixture, the bulb could not be intended to be a dual filament bulb.

Help me understand which type bulb was used in the All-round White lamp. Thanks.

jimh posted 09-29-2012 10:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Based on the narrative of the wiring, as far as I can deduce, the boat wiring must look like this:

Sketch of possible boat wiring based on narrative.

This is not at all the wiring described by L H G.

jimh posted 09-29-2012 02:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As explained in the reference I cited already, a conductor with GRAY insulation is usually associated with navigation or running lamps. A conductor with GRAY with BLACK stripe is usually associated with a mast lamp. On that basis I would expect that the navigation lamps would be wired as follows:


Gray ------> Sidelights, i.e., the running lights

Gray with black ---> White All-round light, i.e., the lamp used in place of a masthead lamp on small boats

The narrative seems to suggest that the color coded conductors are just the opposite. This is a mistake in the wiring in my opinion.

jimh posted 09-29-2012 02:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Again, based on the narrative, the switch controlling the navigation lamps appears to have an action as follows

OFF ---ON 1---ON 1, ON 2

and is probably the Cole-Hersee M-531

This switch is usually seen controlling navigation lamps. Its operation and wiring is explained in more detail in a reference article I wrote many years ago. See

Navigation Lamp Wiring

jimh posted 09-29-2012 02:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Regarding navigation lamps, a boat is underway when it is not aground, at anchor, or made fast to a dock. When the boat is underway certain lights are to be shown at certain times. These are sometimes called running lights, although that term is not used in the rules. Those lights are explained in RULE 23:


When a boat is at anchor there are different lights to be shown. On a small boat a single anchor light suffices.

When a boat is made fast to a dock it is not required to show any navigation lights, but usually the deck is illuminated by work lights.

A boat that is aground is required to show lights according to RULE 31.


When 17-foot Boston Whaler boats go aground, the helmsman usually gets out and pushes them into deeper water. They are not normally equipped with lights to comply with RULE 31.

The switch controlling the lamps is properly marked OFF--ANCHOR---UNDERWAY

DillonBW posted 09-30-2012 02:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for DillonBW  Send Email to DillonBW     
JIMH, Your diagram is exactly right in the way we have this wired, on THIS particular boat. Please note, I have not owned this boat from new, so these wires may NOT be the original Boston Whaler wires.

With regards to the bulbs themselves.
The correct bulbs are a bayonet style, single filament ones, with ONE contact on the base.

I had found a similar bayonet style, single filament bulb, but with TWO contacts on its base had been used.

I hope this clears any confusion.

jimh posted 09-30-2012 08:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Thanks for the clarification on the single-filament bulb. I think I've got the plan now.

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