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We received a great query from a reader just the other day that needs sharing. Joe is a land based electrician that has been asked by a client to do some rewiring on a houseboat that the customer is actually building on to an existing steel barge platform. It could end up looking as elegant as the one shown in the photo below that I took of a typical Amsterdam houseboat found along the canals routed throughout the city.

Amsterdam house boat at its most elegant. Not bad little harbor cruisers tied up to it either!

So, to Joe’s questions. He begins by asking about a main circuit breaker for the system coming into the boat, but also, his customer is installing a rather large on board generator. Joe, yes, a double pole main breaker is required and a GFI (ground fault interupter is a good idea. Today, use an ELCI. To learn more about those and get a brochure that describs the installation, go to our sponsor here, Blue Sea Systems (  to get all the details.

Joe asks about grounding. For that you really need to get a look through ABYC’s E-11 standard that describes the requirements for on board AC and DC systems. Joe, you can purchase a copy of that by going to our website at: You really want to look over this standard before you dive into this project.

Joe asked about using household wire or boat cable for this job. House wire is single strand and forbidden for use on boats. Boat cable, which is multi-stranded is the only way to go here.

Joe, please spend the few dollars on purchasing E-11 and get the answers and detail you need to do this job correctly and safely! And, thanks for having the foresight to ask about this important issue.

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