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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
    1,155 posts, 674 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
    1,155 posts, 674 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
     


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  3. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    950 posts, 433 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us 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.
     


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  4. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    1,155 posts, 674 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.
     


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  5. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    950 posts, 433 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us sturgeon bay, wis
    clean, very clean. always enjoy your work tom. you rock
     


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  6. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    1,155 posts, 674 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.
     


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  7. py26129

    py26129

    Joined Oct 25, 2011
    572 posts, 93 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
     


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  8. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    950 posts, 433 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us 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
     


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  9. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    950 posts, 433 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us 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' :)
     


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  10. py26129

    py26129

    Joined Oct 25, 2011
    572 posts, 93 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
     


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  11. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    1,155 posts, 674 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
     


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  12. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    1,155 posts, 674 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    A string of warm days enticed me to spend a few hours getting the 'box' installed in the boat. With the main panel folded down and the engine panel opened in the cockpit (plus a removable panel to the port side), there is decent access.

    Here is the view of the back of the box from the cockpit.

    The manhole in the cockpit sole is handy for work like this. You have a place to stand (in the manhole), while you work wires from the cockpit(this work would be murder without it).
    Wiring raceway_.jpg

    And a place to stand in the cabin to work from this side. I'll be making many, many trips between these two stations.

    Wiring raceway cabin side.jpg

    Even in an electrically simple boat like mine, there are a lot of wires! It's good to unravel the 50+ year old braids,...no dreadlocks, of old and new wiring.

    Then there are those wires that I curiously marked with a "?", last fall, to trace.

    I'm gathering up parts -again - for the final installation.
     


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  13. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    950 posts, 433 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us sturgeon bay, wis
    i see you are a dawn man, me, i'm a L.O.C. sailor!
     


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  14. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    1,155 posts, 674 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    While I was installing the box, Jon, I fixed a few things that only people with these old boats 'enjoy'.

    Stick built, there is a hardwood beam - 2" x 2"- that runs the entire beam under the galley counter, below the forward edge of the old switch panel box. It's span is broken up by a few bulkheads but supports the countertop through most of the galley.

    I think on my boat, it was inadequate and sagged over the years. The sag may have been partly due to the weight of the bridge deck and aft face of the house, that rested on the old switch panel box (yellow arrow).
    Wide angle cabin:galley.jpg
    Well aware of the sag, I built the new box strongly as I intended it to be a structural piece to remedy this problem. The new cockpit (installed 2016) is stronger than the old one. The new bridge deck is designed to span from deck to deck without need of support. Once the new box was rolled into place, it was 'hung'; well fastened through the top into the new bridge deck (# 10 screws carefully pre drilled).

    Once installed, I bored 2 - 5/16" holes through the box and old sagging 2" x 2" beam below. Two 1/4" carriage bolts were installed through the new holes, and with washers, I cinched the old beam up tight to the bottom of the new switch box.

    The old top still has a little sag (like jacking an old house floor, you can't get it all) but it's improved and is very stiff.

    You step on the galley counter coming through the companionway. Little things like this, only the owner enjoys.
     


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  15. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    950 posts, 433 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us sturgeon bay, wis
    tom, thankyou thankyou thankyou for sharing. i love the updates, i love the photos, i really like your photos from down below. those cabin windows, wow ............ wow. the view from your galley is just so special i'm sure.
    learning what you find while taking things apart an putting them back together is of great interest to me of course. your sharing is very much appreciated.
    may you only have fair winds in 18', jon
     


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  16. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    1,155 posts, 674 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    The restored switch panel cabinet, is back in the boat. The old one was really beat.
    Panel box new.jpg
    I love to do restoration work. The cabinet door is the original 1961, stripped and re-finished. The new cabinet face frame is built with mortise and tenon corners, just like the original. The mahogany is reclaimed from my old cockpit. It's beautiful old wood and matches well. The 'box' I cheaped out on. It's standard Luan plywood underlayment. I stained it with Interlux Chris Craft red filler stain, and then varnished. I wouldn't have used it if was more visible but I'm amazed how good the cheap plywood looks. The panel next to it (removable for access) got a couple coats of varnish.
    Panel box side.jpg
    The new switch panel (drum roll,...)
    Panel_.jpg The boat is tucked under a green tarp and all the lighting for photos is with LED work lights. It gives a purple cast to the photos.

    I taped a small LED worklight inside the top to see if a small light might help. It really turned purple! I've got one on order as well as some for the engine room. A few more circuits to connect, and done.
    Panel with LED_.jpg
     


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  17. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    950 posts, 433 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us sturgeon bay, wis
    love the american flag in the pictures :)
     


  18. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    950 posts, 433 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us sturgeon bay, wis
    i have the same counter tops as christmas. mine are more worn. we call it PATINA :)
     


  19. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    950 posts, 433 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us sturgeon bay, wis
    obviously you live by the same important AXIOM that i go by, that i learned 50 years ago.

    "NOBODY WORKS ON YOUR STUFF AS WELL AS YOU DO, NOBODY"
     


  20. jon hansen

    jon hansen

    Joined May 25, 2012
    950 posts, 433 likes
    john alden caravelle 42
    us sturgeon bay, wis
    another AXIOM i notice you follow. "IF YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO FIX IT RIGHT, HOW COME YOU HAVE TIME TO FIX IT AGAIN".
    great job tom. you do very nice work. thank you for sharing!
    jon
     


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