Registered users don't see ads

Installing a new DC switch panel in an Alden Challenger.

Discussion in 'Alden Questions, Answers and Advice' started by TomY, Feb 8, 2018. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    953 posts, 377 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    The DC switch panel on CHRISTMAS - a 1961 Challenger - is original. I've considered replacing it in the past, but always with other more pressing projects, I've left it alone.

    Mainly because, it works fine (amazingly,...).
    Switch panel opened._.jpg
    The glaring problems aside; multiple connections on both the + - power posts, inline fuses, mind boggling heaps of wires, it's interesting to see how standards have changed since 1961.

    The main unfused feed comes into the panel on the right and the + is distributed via a stiff exposed copper wire, to the switches. As well as connected with copper bands around the exposed wire, plus the connections are soldered.

    All switches were STDP (single throw, double pole). Some of these STDP switches divide individual circuits - as many as 4 circuits on one switch - that have devices with independent switches such as cabin lights, or navigation and mast wiring, which have their own switches in the cockpit.

    The feed and terminals are still exposed, and not fused at this point.

    Through the STDP switches, the individual circuits are sent off the switch terminals (some with 2 ring terminals on one screw - to create 4 circuits), to individual soldered SFE fuse holders mounted in the panel. The feeds - finally fuse protected - then connect onto standard terminal strips (invisible under the spaghetti), and run to various devices.

    Switch panel door opened.jpg

    I haven't any pressing projects on Xmas, so this winter I'm replacing the panel. The panel is well used up.

    The simplest solution would be to buy a generic breaker panel. As I plan to keep the enclosure that hides the panel (I especially appreciate the space to store a few most used tools, a knife etc. in the storage forward), options were limited to stock panels that would fit inside.

    I'd spend 1k in parts and end up with a panel with too few circuit capability, and have to put another fuse block, somewhere.

    Switch panel closed 2.jpg
    Having decided to keep the original cabinetry, I promptly tore the cabinet out, in pieces.

    Restoring the cabinet carcass would have been more work than building a new one. I'd restore the door that was built by the Danish craftsmen at the Poul Molich yard in 1960, and replace the rest.

    With wires snipped and everything torn out, I built a duplicate of the "box".

    Then returned to the boat to see if it would fit as planned: It will have to slide under the bridge deck,...
    Carcass testing-3.jpg
    ....rotate into the cut out in the countertop,...
    Carcass testing-2.jpg
    ...rise up to the bridge deck, and Bob's your uncle.
    Carcass testing.jpg
    Fitting as original, the piece allows the galley counter top to be removed(in 2 pieces) for major access below.

    Satisfied, I took the box home to complete, at my leisure, in a warm shop.

    Once the work is done, the plan is to install the completely finished and wired piece at a later (and warmer) date, with only the connections to make to new terminal strips, buss bars, etc.

    Things are coming along. Winter is perfect for work like this. No hurry. It seems a zillion parts are needed and take several trips to suppliers (and more to come).

    There's also time to research a myriad of marine panels, from DIY to custom made breaker panels, online. I should end up with cleaner, safer wiring that is easier to do work on in the future.

    Best of all, this type of work is great fun! You can design in your head, sketch ideas as winter slowly passes, confident you have a good plan.

    We'll see:
    Parts_.jpg
     


    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
    jon hansen likes this.
  2. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    953 posts, 377 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    Finally getting around to wiring. Various parts - some I had to order - took a while. When I'm wiring anything on the boat, this is what I think of:
    Fire dockhouse2.jpg
    That's a new lobsterboat burning away in our harbor several years ago. We watched it as it nearly hung up on a few boats and charred two of them (it missed mine to the left). It was finally roped and pulled onto the beach.

    It burned to the waterline in a matter of minutes. The two men aboard opened the engine compartment and the boat was immediately engulfed in flames. They leaped into the water. The cause: Electrical.

    What caused the wiring to burn and ignite the fiberglass boat? Nobody knew. But whether a wire was overloaded and burned, or fell onto a hot surface melting the insulation allowing a dead short (we had that happen once), the wire apparently, wasn't fuse protected.

    It's pretty easy when you start from scratch, to do it right and not worry about the above. There is plenty of info online, SBO's own Mainesail, and in books, to help choose the correct parts.

    My biggest challenge is fitting what I need in a small space. Here goes,....
    Wiring panel in shop.jpg
     


    jon hansen and jssailem like this.
  3. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    525 posts, 145 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us toledo ohio-----sturgeon bay wis sturgeon bay, wis
    aeolus"s panel is in the same spot. molich original but different components to the board, not wood. has always just worked. i have not added allot of modern electrics to aeolus, so no owner overloads to the system. my gps and fm radio are hard wired to the batteries with inline fuses. batteries were closer than the panel. aeolus is still a camper, not changed to a condo. still requires a crew to operate.

    i will open up and review this spring. preventative maintenance i guess. your always setting the pace Tom.

    80% fresh water life is much easier on the electrics for sure.
     


    TomY likes this.
  4. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    953 posts, 377 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    Please feel free (Mainesail too), to chime into the thread if you see something you think isn't correct (there is still time to fix things).

    Running wire:

    I opted to install LED indicator lights on each switch. This turned out to be a challenge. Fiddly 26 gauge wires and parts.

    First, how to crimp the little (26 gauge by looks) wires. Research showed several methods. Mainesail had a great article on using correct sized terminals and crimper. I needed to be compact with a small - buss bar mounted on the panel. Plus, combining wires on terminals would shrink my required space on the buss bar.

    In the end, I opted to use (18-22) terminals; either doubling up wires, or folding it back on itself.

    ABYC standards I could find do not prohibit doubling or folding back, but they have strength requirements. So I went with these methods followed by a sharp 'tug' to test each terminal. The indicator lights were wired first to keep the small wires close to the new switch panel and tested.

    My boats DC power is simple. A small (2-GRP 27) house bank and a separate starting battery. The two can't be connected. The house runs off it's own switch and 1/0 AWG.

    Blueseas 5026 fuse blocks fit well in the small deep space I had to work with. The ST fuses, easy to read and spot, will be a nice change from the old fuses. In reality, I've had to change perhaps 3 or 4 fuses in 30+ years of fused boat electrics. Still a confined space, it's much improved over the old.

    Switch panel wiring_.jpg
    Once the box is installed, a 2 AWG will run 2' from the main switch to the fuse blocks. I plan to put a 100 amp fuse on the house bank switch(batteries lack space over for fusing on posts). The 2', 2 AWG neutral from the house bank, will connect to the lower buss bar and then to the fuse blocks.

    With the 2 AWG wire size, tests have shown there is no detectable voltage drop between house bank and new terminals.

    Result: 14 toggle switches (2 STDP*), wired with 12 AWG, supply 16 fused-switched, circuits available at the new terminal strips in the bottom of the box, better visible here:
    Switch panel wiring 2-2.jpg I used 2, 12 position Blueseas terminal blocks (outer) and one 20 position neutral buss bar in the center.

    I didn't like the folded wires resting (chafing) on these terminal blocks so I fit a piece of 1/4" polycarbonate between, better visible in this photo. The easily removable piece has two holes that fit on two SS bolted posts. Wires from switch to terminals run outboard of plastic piece.

    Switch panel wiring 2.jpg The boats many feeds for devices (lights, instruments, etc), come into the open back of the box, and run in the 2 channels between terminal strips, beneath the plastic piece. The feeds are then connect to their adjacent and designated, + - #8 screw terminals.

    All the hardware on the 2 AWG side is rated at 100 amp or higher. From the fuse blocks, the hardware is rated at 20 amp or higher. In practice, most of the circuits will be fused at lower amperage because of the lines wire size connected at the terminal strips.

    About 5 of my circuits will be 24 hour(devices with own switch), and connect directly to the Blueseas fuse blocks.

    I'll end up with 3 spare, wired - switched circuits, 4-5 empty 24 hour circuits, and space on the panel face for ?

    All the work has been done on a bench at a comfortable height, in a warm shop. The box is about ready to install and make the connections to the new terminal blocks. I'll post the installed photos,...in warmer weather.

    Note: (2DPST*) one double pole feeds two separate cabin light circuits, another feeds 2, 12VDC sockets, each 20amp fused.
    Note2: ST fuses in photos are for testing. In reality they will be different amperage.
     


    jon hansen likes this.
  5. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    525 posts, 145 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us toledo ohio-----sturgeon bay wis sturgeon bay, wis
    clean, very clean. always enjoy your work tom. you rock
     


    TomY likes this.
  6. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    953 posts, 377 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    Thank, Jon. If it weren't for you, I'd get pretty lonely here. Like our old boats, our Alden forum is in another time warp.
     


    jon hansen likes this.
  7. py26129

    py26129

    Joined Oct 25, 2011
    526 posts, 68 likes
    Island Packet IP31
    CA Lake St. Louis, Montreal
    I'd love to chime in but am reduced to lurking on this thread and absorbing knowledge for when my time comes. Too busy this winter with things mechanical (engine mounts, cutlass bearing & PSS shaft seal) to tackle anything electrical.

    Keep it coming please. These beautifully illustrated posts are a pleasure to read and to learn form./

    Cheers

    Matt
     


    TomY likes this.
  8. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    525 posts, 145 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us toledo ohio-----sturgeon bay wis sturgeon bay, wis
    matt, the key thing to reading and learning from from tom's posts is that to do top level work such as his you need to get a dog like his. his dog is just like scuppers the hero from the book 'the sailor dog' by margaret wise brown. illustrated by garth williams. that book was one of my childhood favorites. i've been chasing dreams created from that book my entire life.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sailor_Dog_(book)#/media/File:Scuppers_(book).jpg
     


    TomY likes this.
  9. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    525 posts, 145 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us toledo ohio-----sturgeon bay wis sturgeon bay, wis
    tom, you labeled your thread totally wrong and hence the low response rate. you should have titled this thread, 'fun with dogs' :)
     


    TomY likes this.
  10. py26129

    py26129

    Joined Oct 25, 2011
    526 posts, 68 likes
    Island Packet IP31
    CA Lake St. Louis, Montreal
    Jon
    That is indeed a great book. Keeping up with Tom is a tall order. I truly enjoy the posts ( and articles in GOB etc.) and the fine pics that go with them.

    Cheers

    Matt
     


    TomY and jon hansen like this.
  11. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    953 posts, 377 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    I think you're right, Jon. I should have led with this photo: One of our old Jacks was fascinated watching my daughter clean the circuit board on an old VHF that got dowsed with salt water.
    VHF repair2.jpg
     


    jssailem and jon hansen like this.

Ready-made sheets and halyards
Now faster than ever, our calculator tells you what sizes you need.
Stainless documentation placard
Who said a documentation placard cant be beautiful? Brushed stainless with laser-fused numerals.
Flexible steel chafe pads
Innovative new product made of flexible, laser cut stainless steel. Must see!
Leaky Lewmar ports?
Start by replacing lens gaskets in stock now