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Boat Wiring & The Importance Of Electrical Service Loops.

Nice panel, but its as far out as I can get it. (Not the Robalo) Another example of a no service loop install.

A panel with a service loop. Notice how you can swing the panel all the way down to access the wiring and terminals on the back. Nice, and the way things should be.

OK, today I’m whining. Just finished a project on my new Robalo R-180 and I’m sharing one of the major frustrations that occur on a lot of boats I’m afraid, so yes the folks at Robalo should listen in here, but others as well.

First, the project….. I ordered the boat with an optional raw water washdown system. So when I picked the boat up at the dealer it had been installed…sort of. Now granted it is only a $65 option on the “build your boat” page of the website, but understand I actually wanted the system to function as installed. Not too much to ask I think.

Now the dealer kindly included the system for “free” as part of my deal with them. Well, I got exactly what I paid for, nothing. Nothing that worked very well that is. You see the genius that installed that system simply put a “t” fitting in the output line from the livewell pump to the livewell. There is a shut-off valve on the inlet to the livewell. So, the sales guy told me all I had to do was turn off the valve to the livewell to divert the pump pressure (sic) to the deck wash.

Well, let me tell you folks, a Sureflo 500 gph livewell pump can’t possibly generate enough pressure to run a deckwash system. No way, no how.

Now it turns out that ShurFlo in their design wisdom provides a nice additional plumbing tap on the side of the pump inlet. For what you ask? To provide a secondary connection point for the plumbing fixtures to feed an additional pump, one designed for washing down a boat deck.

The pump I selected cost me $158. It really works well now. But to my title here, electrical service loops, or the lack thereof. You see to their credit Robalo uses top quality equipment for all of their systems. All first class materials. They just need some serious help on the systems design side of things. The key word here is serviceability.

You see I needed to actually add some wiring to supply power to my new deck wash pump. No big deal I thought, there was a nice Blue Sea master battery switch panel located neatly in the port side aft locker under the kick-up seat. Actually quite accessible. One really big problem however, all too common on a lot of boats.

I removed the four screws holding this neat little panel in place with the thought of providing a master switch controlled master feed to my new pump (circuit breaker would be immediately downstream from this switched tap point. Guess what? The panel must have been installed before the deck had been dropped in place on the hull. The engineering dept. at Robalo had done an excellent job of designing this system so that not a dime would be wasted on extra wire, not even an inch of extra wire.

On my boat there is absolutely no way I can slide this panel out to even look at the wiring connections on the back side of it, never mind attempt to attach a new lead anywhere. I’m not going to dwell on the beautiful DC grounding buss I can see through a service port located in the engine well. All neatly done using top quality equipment.

Too bad its going to take a person with 5 ft. arms, preferably with an extra elbow installed to get to it when any service work needs to be performed, or perhaps a Leprechaun with some electrical system training.

Is any of this a safety issue? No. Does it still meet ABYC Standards and the criteria for NMMA Certification? Yes. Unfortunately, neither the Standards or the NMMA Certification have a serviceability component for electrical systems. Recent additions have mandated inspection access for fuel system components, but not for electrical. Oh, well, I’ll pick away at this all and get it perfect, but I have to compel builders to think beyond the shop floor. I know that this work was all done before deck, and the folks who did it did a nice neat job. Too bad you need mirrors and Leprechauns to see their careful work.

As for the dealer? I’ll get to that in another post. We’ll talk a bit about their accessory installation skills, or lack thereof in another post. I”m still not sure if they are actually the ones that provided the wash down install.

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