Are Your Boat Electrics Safe & Reliable?

...or do they look like this:

  • The electrical system on your boat is a "black box" for you but you want to understand how it works...
  • You know a bit about electrics but you are worried that parts of your system might fail. Or even set your boat on fire...
  • You want to install and maintain a DC system on a boat like a professional. Or even better than most "marine electricians?.

Does of those points sound familar?

then we have something for you
...

Hi, we are Nigel, Jan & Michael!
We help you understand, extend and redo your boat electrics.

The right way.

Boat electrics is not rocket science...
...but it still has to be DONE RIGHT!

Electrical systems on boats have become more and more complex over the recent years.

Even moderately equipped boats today rely completely on their electrical system. A loss of power means in most cases an emergency at sea. (Or do you still have a sextant and all nautical almanachs on board?)

Yet, boat electrics are often poorly understood, despite being such a vital part for the operation of a boat.

The good news: It's not that hard!

With a bit of time and commitment to learning, everybody who mastered basic high-school math and physics will be able to understand the DC system on a boat. All it takes is a reliable and easy to understand source of information.

Unfortunately, many owners have only a vague understanding of what's going on.

Or, even worse: They think they know how to install a system and then end up making dangerous mistakes...

...and teach others these mistakes in blogs or on YouTube. 

YouTube is full of videos about Boat Electrics. Most of them are wrong or even dangerous!

The internet is a great resource for information. And in recent years, many people have shared their experience installing or fixing electrical problems on their boats.

The problem is: Most of those people are not professionals. 

It's easy to put a professionally looking video on YouTube...

...but it is very hard to tell, if this actually is professional advice. 
Or dangerous BS.

If you follow someone's advice on how to varnish teak and you end up with a mess, in the worst case you lost time and a bit of money.

If you follow someone's advice how to connect batteries and your boat ends up in flames, this is a different story. 

A typical example for bad advice is soldering, which is often praised as a great way of connecting wires. It actually is not. Soldered connections are rigid and tend to break when exposed to the vibrations typical on boats.

This is why both ABYC and ISO standards explicitly prohibit soldering as only means of connection...

Your brand new boat is properly wired?

MAYBE NOT...

When visiting boat shows, Nigel likes to take a look at the electrics of brand new boats. Unfortunately, this has become quite frustrating: a shockingly high number of production boats come with badly installed electrics. Straight from the boatyard.

And some of these installations are not just bad craftsmanship, but outright dangerous!

These batteries were installed on a brand new boat. What is wrong here?

  1. Inadequate support against sliding off the shelf
  2. Bad placement of the parallel connection. This will lead to premature battery death.
  3. No measures of overcurrent protection anywhere near the positive battery pole

This installation might look neat at first glance
- but it is highly unprofessional and calling for trouble!


What is this ABYC and ISO all about?

The ABYC E-11 and the upcoming ISO 13297 standards cover the electrical systems on small crafts.

Even though they are non-binding, they are based on decades of experience of hundreds of experts in the field. 

So instead of trying things out for yourself (with potentially disastrous consequences), it is a good idea to follow these standards as close as possible.

Everything we teach at BOATHOWTO is compliant to ABYC and ISO standards. Nigel and Michael have been long-term members of various committees for the ABYC and ISO. 

So there is no one who knows the standards better than us.

The American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) is a non-profit, member organization that develops voluntary global safety standards for the design, construction, maintenance, and repair of recreational boats.  It was incorporated on February 1, 1954, in New York State. The core mission of the ABYC has always been to create construction and other standards that will make boating safer. The standards are developed by voluntary groups of technical experts including boat builders, technicians, engineers, boat and accessory manufacturers, surveyors and investigators, retailers and dealers, yacht brokers and designers, marinas, law firms, government agencies, boat owners, insurance companies, and more (and including our own Nigel Calder). As an independent consensus-based body, these industry experts work together with the sole purpose of protecting the safety of the boating public.  

The ABYC’s Standards and Technical Information Reports for Small Craft cover all major boat systems. The development and regular review of these standards provide boat building guidelines that correlate directly with a significant reduction in the number of boating accidents over the past six decades.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) develops high quality voluntary International Standards designed to facilitate international exchange of goods and services, support sustainable and equitable economic growth, promote innovation and protect health, safety and the environment. The sub-group of the ISO that addresses small craft (up to 24m/70 feet), is known as Technical Committee (TC)188. Although the mission of the ISO is somewhat different to that of the ABYC, TC 188 has developed a set of standards that are closely aligned with the ABYC standards and in fact for much of its existence TC 188 has been chaired by an ABYC member. 

With respect to boat electrical systems the principal difference between ABYC and ISO standards lies in the fact that the ABYC standards tend to be more detailed. In order to provide the most detailed information in our lessons, we follow the ABYC standards.Where there are minor disagreements with the ISO (only a handful) we point these out. 

We know what we are talking about...
...and get straight to the point.

Understand the basics of a safe installation. Learn how to plan and design a system. Get practical advice on how to put everything in place.

Knowledge

Understand the basics of electrics in general and boat electrics in particular

Planning

Learn how to assess existing systems and how to (re-)design the wiring of your boat

Execution

Get your hands dirty with practical advice on how to crimp wires, install batteries and much more

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Join us for our ONLINE COURSE on DC Systems:

BOATHOWTO BOAT ELECTRICS 101

Safe & Reliable DC Systems

Learn how to set up a safe and reliable DC system on your boat that complies with ABYC and ISO standards.

In 8 modules with you will learn everything from the basics of electricity to designing a whole DC system on your own.

  1. 1
    Fundamentals: Understand the basics of electricity, how common components work and how to connect them.
  2. 2
    Batteries & Chargers: How do lead acid-batteries work and how to charge them to double or triple their lifetime?
  3. 3
    System Design: Step-by-Step guide to plan and install a DC-System on your boat.
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The contents of this course:

Module 1 - Introduction

TODO

  • List Element
  • List Element
  • List Element

Module 2 - Basics of Electricity

Get to know the basics of electricity and learn about Volts, Amps, Ohms and how they relate to each other.

Lesson 1 - What is electricity?

What is electricity and what happens when a current flows? We take a quick look at the behavior of electrons inside metallic conductors.

Lesson 2 - Voltage

Learn all you need to know about voltage, the equivalent to pressure in electrical systems.

Lesson 3 - Current

The current (given in Amperes) is the amount of charge that moves through a conductor.

Lesson 4 - Resistance & Resistors

In this lesson, you will learn how resistors reduce the general movement of electrons and how resistance affects the flow of electrons in conductors.

Lesson 5 - Ohm’s Law

Ohm's law allows you to calculate how resistance affects voltage given a certain current and vice versa

Lesson 6 - Power

Power the product of voltage and current. With two examples you will learn how to calculate the power draw of an appliance.

Lesson 7 - Energy, Consumption and Capacity

In this lesson, you will learn how the power supplied over time serves a measurement for energy and how this can be used to describe the capacity of batteries.

Lesson 8 - Summary

A quick recap on everything we have learned so far.

Module 3 - Components & Circuit Diagrams

Get to know the most common components of a boat's electrical system and learn how they can be represented in a circuit diagram.

Lesson 1 - The Idea Behind a Circuit Diagram

Learn why it is important to be able to read and draw circuit diagrams.

Lesson 2 - Wires and Conductors

In this lesson you learn the symbols for wires and wire connections.

Lesson 3 - Circuit Ground

What is ground/earth and how is it represented in circuit diagrams?

Lesson 4 - Switches, Buttons and Relays

Get to know the basic symbols for switches and buttons and learn how relays and solenoids work.

Lesson 5 - Resistors and Shunts

Get to know the symbols for resistors and learn about the most common type of resistor on board: the shunt.

Lesson 6 - Fuses and Circuit Breakers

How are fuses and circuit breakers represented in circuit diagrams?

Lesson 7 - Coils and Transformers

Coils mostly occur on boats within transformers. Here you will learn about their basic function and how to represent them.

Lesson 8 - Lamps, LEDs, Diodes, etc.

In this lesson you will get to know a few more symbols for common components in a boat's electrical system.

Lesson 9 - Basic Circuits

In the final lesson of the module, you will learn how the components in boat electrics are connected in parallel and in series and how this affects battery capacity and voltage.

Module 4 - Cable Selection & Installation

In this module, you will learn how to choose the right type and size of cable and how to properly install it. This is crucial knowledge for anyone planning any modification on their boat's electrical system

Lesson 1 - Cable Construction

Learn about different types of cables and which ones are suitable for use on boats.

Lesson 2 - Colors and Labeling

Learn what cable colors you can use for what purpose and how to properly label your wiring.

Lesson 3 - Sizing Cables

Learn how to choose the proper size for a cable with respect to ampacity and voltage drop.

Lesson 4 - Terminals & Terminal Installation

It is crucial for the system's safety to establish proper connections. In this lesson you will learn how to install terminals in a professional manner.

Lesson 5 - Making the Connection

Proper connections of terminals to bus bars and consumers are vital. Here you learn what makes a professional connection.

Lesson 6 - Overcurrent Protection (OCP)

In order to prevent fires due to overcurrents and short circuits, protective measures are absolutely crucial. In this lesson you will learn how to choose fuses and circuit breakers and where to install them.

Lesson 7 - Cable Installation

Learn the proper way to install cables in order to protect them from chafing and physical stress

Lesson 8 - Case Study: High Output Alternators

In this lesson we will apply what we have learned in this module to the special case of high output alternators. As we will see, there are quite a lot of things to consider.

Lesson 9 - Bonus: More Examples

Here, Nigel will show a few more examples of good or bad installations he encountered on various boat shows.

 

Module 5 - Lead-Acid Batteries

In this module we cover all you need to know about lead acid batteries.

Lesson 1 - Introduction

Get an overview on what to expect in this important module.

Lesson 2 - Battery Safety

Even though they operate at relatively low voltages, there are significant dangers when dealing with batteries. In this lesson we cover the required safety measures.

Lesson 3 - Lead-Acid Battery Chemistry

In this lesson you will get an overview on the chemistry inside a battery and how lead acid batteries work.

Lesson 4 - Battery Construction

Here we go more into the details of the internal construction and discuss the differences between cranking and deep cycle batteries.

Lesson 5 - Battery Types

Now it's time to look at different types of lead acid batteries, such as wet cell, AGM, gel-cell and some new innovations.

Lesson 6 - Battery Efficiency

Learn about the crucial difference between amp-hour and watt-hour efficiency and how to evaluate batteries based on this.

Lesson 7 -Battery Ratings

What do the common ratings found batteries (nominal voltage, nominal capacity and cold cranking amp) mean?

Lesson 8 - Battery Failure Modes

In this lesson you will learn what the most common reasons for battery failure or reduced lifespan are and how to avoid them.

Lesson 9 - Series and Parallel Batteries

Learn how to maximize battery life when installing batteries in serial or parallel.

Lesson 10 - Sizing Battery Banks

This lesson will help you decide how much battery capacity you really need for reliable operation and optimal battery lifespan.

Lesson 11 - Lead-Acid Battery Installation and Maintenance

Learn how to properly install your battery bank and how to maintain it in order to optimize its performance.

 

Module 6 - Charging Systems

In this module we cover in detail all you need to know about charging batteries. Topics include charging profiles, charging systems, charging circuits and systems monitoring.

Lesson 1 - Failure Modes Revisited and Expanded

Learn about the most common failure modes with lead acid batteries so mistakes can be avoided.

Lesson 2 - The Water Tank Analogy

Through the analogy of a water tank with semi-permeable membranes we explain why it takes a long time to completely top off a lead acid battery.

Lesson 3 - Charge Profiles

Learn what an IUoU profile is and how the bulk, absorption and float phases increase battery life.

Lesson 4 - Fast Charge and State of Charge (SOC)

Learn strategies to reduce charging times and engine hours while at the same time increasing your battery's lifespan.

Lesson 5 - Charging Devices

Learn what to look for when choosing a battery charger, an alternator or when planning on installing renewable energy sources.

Lesson 6 - Charging Circuits

Learn about different ways to charge multiple battery banks from a single power source.

Lesson 7 - Systems Monitoring

Learn about the importance (and challenges) of proper battery monitoring.

Lesson 8 - Summary

A quick recap on what we have learned so far in this module.

 

Module 7 - System Design

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Module 8 - Case Study: Rewiring a Boat

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Bonus Content

Over time we will be adding additional bonus content based on YOUR feedback!

Once you have bought the course, you will be able to access all future bonus content for free.

Current ideas for bonus lessons include the installation of shorepower chargers and a guide to LED lights.

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A Few More Testimonials to Prove it Works for Real People

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“Here, we have a second testimonials section, right after the purchase section. Now that we've asked the reader to pull the trigger, they might feel some resistance and testimonials can help reassure them.”

We like to do what many others have done already. There's safety in numbers. Testimonials can be used to give your visitor that sense of safety.
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Meet the team:
the faces behind BOATHOWTO

Nigel Calder

Author of the famous
 Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual,
often referred to as the "bible for boatowners"

Nigel Calder

Nigel is a full-time sailing writer, with a focus on marine technical systems. He is often referred to as THE guru when it comes to mechanical and electrical systems on boats.

His books are widely acclaimed by both boaters and professionals in the field. His most famous book, the Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual has sold 300,000 copies and a staggering 4,8 stars out of 596 ratings on amazon.

Besides writing books, Nigel is a long-time member of the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) electrical Project Technical Committee (PTC) which writes the standards for recreational boat systems in the USA, and has also been involved in European standards development.


Michael Herrmann

Author of several books about technical equipment on boats.

His book on electrical systems "Elektrik auf Yachten" is considered THE reference for technical information in German language.

Michael Herrmann

Michael belongs to the rare kind of people who combine a vast theoretical knowledge with the ability to apply this to the practical world.

Besides having written seven books on the topic, he has published over 500 articles in technical magazines, mainly on the topics of boat electrics and mechanics.

Since 2007, Michael is a member of the German Boat Builders Association committee on electrics and a member of ISO TC188 establishing standards for small craft.

His latest activities in the ISO was contributing to the merger of the two basic standards for electrical systems on recreational craft - ISO 10133 and 13297.


Jan Athenstädt

Jan runs a German online magazine for boatowners and an online shop for boat electrics.

He has a PhD in Computer Science.

Dr. Jan Athenstädt

Jan is the youngster in the BOATHOWTO team. During his studies of computer science in Germany and the US, he has worked as crew on various tall ships before moving aboard his own boat.

He started teaching people how to install and maintain technical systems on their boat through his online magazine KlabauterKiste.

He later started an online shop for boat electric supplies which he runs from his boat while sailing the Med.

Jan takes care of the technical side of BOATHOWTO and will guide you through most of the video lessons.

What people say about us

Nigel Calder is universally recognized as the guru of yacht systems. His hardcover tomes grace the bookshelves of yachts the world over. On Isbjorn, his are some of my most referenced books.

Andy Schell ‧ Skipper at 59-north.com

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Julia Harisson ‧ Designer

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