Module 1 - Introduction

This is where we are right now. We will talk about the contents of the course and how to make the most out of it.

Module 2 - Basics of electricity

This module is specifically for beginners who do not yet have background knowledge about Volts, Amps, Resistance, Power and Energy. But even if you already know  these things, the relatively short and easy to understand lessons of this module might be a good refresher.

Module 3 - Components & Circuit diagrams

In this module we will dive into boat electrics by covering the most important electrical components we find on a boat. We will learn how they work and how we can represent them in a circuit diagram. We will use this knowledge when we learn how to design and plan a system at the end of the course.

Module 4 - Cable Selection & Installation

The fourth module is all about basic marine electrical wiring. We will learn what conductors are suitable for boat wiring and what are not, how to properly size conductors, and how to install them in a professional and reliable way. This module includes the topic of overcurrent protection, which is absolutely crucial if you want to prevent the risk of fires on your boat caused by overheated conductors.

Module 5 - Lead Acid Batteries

Here you will learn how lead acid batteries work and how to treat them in a way that enables them to reach the life expectancy for which they were designed. 

Module 6 - Charging Systems

In this module we will talk in detail about battery charging regimes and the right choice for a charging device.

Module 7 - Energy Systems Design

In the seventh module you will learn about systems design and how to plan your energy needs based on the devices you use and the charging sources you have. This will give you the peace of mind that you have an adequate system to meet your lifestyle expectations together with the necessary control over the way you store and manage the energy on your boat.

Module 8 - Case Study: Planning a Rewiring

In the last module we will put everything we have learned together in the form of case studies. We will do this by planning the complete DC-system for different scenarios on an imaginary boat.

Bonus Lessons

Over time, and depending on the feedback we get from you, we will add bonus lessons that cover some interesting related topics. Once you have signed up for this course, you will get access to this additional future content free of charge. We will send you an email as soon as new bonus content is released.

Using this course

We highly recommend that you do the lessons in the right order, because they build on each other. But of course you can always go back to a topic anytime you want.

Most of the lessons have a video at the top of the page. All the relevant information will be in these videos, so in theory you can learn all you need to know by just watching the videos.

If the video is too quick for you, you can easily go back a bit on the timeline on the bottom of the video and listen to parts of it again.

We have provided lecture notes for each lesson. They are placed below the video. (What you are currently reading are the lecture notes...)

Here you can review the content at your own pace. The lecture notes are also a great help if you search for a specific topic. Just enter your term in the search bar on the top right of the page and you will find a list of all lessons where the term occurs in the lecture notes. 

Sometimes the lecture notes contain additional examples or provide more in depth explanations of certain topics than what we cover in the video. So in general it is a good idea to use both the video and lecture notes if you want to get the full benefit of this course.

Comments & Feedback

We also have a comment section under each lesson. If you have specific questions about the content or suggestions on topics that you would like to learn more about, please write a comment there. This way we can improve the course over time and also add bonus material if there is a need for it.

The Basis: ABYC & ISO Standards

Let's have a quick look at the standards that are the foundation and basis for this course. We designed the content to be compliant with the ABYC E-11 and the new ISO 13297 standards.

The ISO and the ABYC are the two organizations that write the principal standards governing small craft. That typically includes recreational boats up to 24 meters in length for ISO or 70 feet for ABYC. 

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 the 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. 

The ABYC standards are not mandatory (the ISO are). But if something goes wrong, for example if a fault in the system sets your boat on fire, you will have a much easier time dealing with insurance claims if you can document that your system was installed according to the standards. 

Unfortunately, even on new boats it is not uncommon to find electrical system details that violate the ABYC and ISO standards. It is our hope that those who master our lessons will be able to do at least as good a job at designing and installing boat electrical systems as most professionals, and significantly better than many!

  • Thank you for creating this course. I will be a full-time cruiser within 3 years. I follow many boats on YouTube, and being able to repair electrical issues is among the many skills required. I was directed here by Project Atticus and will be signing on for the full course.

    Are you considering adding Lithium batteries to the curriculum? I know that cruisers comprise only a tiny fraction of boaters, but technology moves forward and I believe that Lithium batteries will replace the flooded batteries.

    • Thanks for your comment! Great to hear about your cruising plans! I am a liveaboard since 2 years now and I did not regret the decision for a second.
      Regarding your question: We will definitely cover lithium-ion batteries in the near future, however this will probably be in a separate mini course or in the course of an “advanced electrics” package. The reason is, that in order to do it right there are A LOT of things to consider that would definitely go way beyond the scope of an introductory course. There are many so called “drop-in” replacement solutions that claim to make switching to lithium-ion easy. But if you want a safe and reliable system (which you definitely should if you plan to venture off-grid) things get way more complex. If you sign up for our newsletter we will keep you posted about new topics, including lithium-ion, as soon as we put it out there.

    • I also heard about the course from Project Atticus (we love those guys). They’re even spending the summer the same marina that we used to keep our boat.

  • Very excited about stating this course and very glad you’ve put this together for us novices who are beginning their cruising careers on boats that are many times new to us!
    Similar to the previous comment, I have AGM batteries on our boat and understand they may have different charging requirements vs the lead acid batteries. Is this something that will be mentioned in that section of the course (or could be added?).

    • Thanks Robert! In the module on Batteries and the following one on Charging we cover in detail the different (lead acid) battery types, their construction and how to properly charge them. So yes, we have you covered with your AGM batteries! 🙂

  • Really excited to have found this course which was recommended by a sailing friend. I am refitting a 30 year old 46′ blue water boat which we hope to move onto next year – I’m reasonably practical, but electrics are truly a black box to me & I recognise they could be my weakest link at sea! So can’t wait to get stuck in.
    Best wishes

    • Thanks a lot for being on board for the course, Simon! Sounds like a great project and I am sure the course will help you with the planning of the electric refit!
      Looking forward to welcoming another future liveaboard/cruiser in the community.
      Greetings from the anchorage in Sardinia

  • I am so stoked about the availability of this course – and I thank you all so much for putting it together! It is priceless to have a resource I can trust in video format like this one. I will be purchasing a used sailboat by July 2022 to live aboard as a first timer. It will just be me so it is vital that I not only understand what I am looking at as I shop for a boat, but also how to repair and maintain electrical systems. I have only just started on this course – but I am wondering if you may cover how to manage all the other systems on a boat, eventually, but specifically, how to prioritize the wiring/hardware/batteries etc. in the placement within the real estate of the boat alongside all the other system’s hardware. Thanks for all your work on this course!

    • Thanks Victoria, after being a liveaboard for over two years now, I can highly recommend this lifestyle! And it will definitely pay to be able to assess the electrical system before you buy your floating home.
      In the case studies in the later lessons, we will go into details of planning such a system, which in a way should also help you prioritize what will be most essential for your lifestyle on the water. What we can not provide in this course though is a one-size-fits-all kind of plan on where to put all the electrical gear in the boat. Every boat and every owners needs are different, so this is unfortunately something that you will have to figure out for yourself (maybe with the help of an experienced surveyor or boatbuilder).

      • Oh yes – I realize each boat and boat owners needs are different :). I know this course is a solid step in helping me figure out an ideal electrical set up. If you all were to develop other course content as well pertaining to all systems on a boat (and how they overlap/interact) – I would be very interested! 🙂

  • It is mine to say… “It has always been my best’ist ideas which have gotten me into the worst’ist of troubles. I’m looking forward to many corrected ideas found within your online forum. “The more you know”. Thank you.

  • Hey Jan
    We purchased a new to us Catalina 42 in Georgia and sailed her north to Canada in the spring of 2022. This is our third sail boat – each boat gets bigger and with more complex systems. The previous owners cruised the Caribbean- so it is well set for future long distance cruising.

    I have some knowledge but I am looking forward to starting from square one, so I can better understand the multiple systems and not rely on the notion that it is just ‘magic’ that what the previous owners put together works … we all know the magic bubble will burst.

  • Thank you guys for putting a nice, detailed course together. We just bought our first boat a 56 Formosa, I need to do a considerable amount of work on her; sails, rigging, through hulls, electrical troubleshooting, new batteries, inverters, converters, electronics, refer, pumps, and some wood work. I can do just about anything, my weak link is electronics, electrical 12v, 24v, and the 120v and how they relate, interact and improvements that I can design, it has a generator, and I’d like to add solar, and maybe a water gen to tow behind for some cruising
    …with this course I believe I’ll be able to set it up long term for some serious cruising. Thanks again, Mark

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