Summer Boat Tips

Summer is definitely here in all its British glory, here are some summer tips to keep you going:

·         Check all hull fittings and especially the transducers/sensors used by the onboard electronics, keep the screw threads of through-hull housings well-greased with silicone or water pump grease. Ensure that the outer surfaces of the housings are properly coated with anti-fouling paint NOTE that Depth and Sonar transducers should be hand painted – not sprayed, with a thin coat of a non-metallic containing, non-ketone based anti-foul.  Check with the manufacturers because some anti-foul will damage the sonar face of the transducers or impair the operation of the transducer.  Speed impellers should also be hand painted with a thin coat of anti-foul, be careful not to impede operation of the paddle wheel.

·         Check the operation of the speed transducer paddle wheel, use a transducer service kit and fit a new paddle-wheel, paddle-wheel axle and O-Rings if the speed transducer looks worn or fouled in any way.  The requirement to replace the paddle wheel is determined by local water conditions, the sandier and muddier the water, the more the paddle wheel bearings will wear and a service kit might be needed every season to ensure accurate speed through the water.

·         Inspect the O-rings on both the sensor and the blanking plug and replace if damaged or worn, and then lubricate with an inert silicone lubricant or petroleum jelly (Vaseline®).

·         Check the sacrificial Anodes on the outside of the hull, excessive deterioration, or corrosive damage to other metallic hull fittings suggests there is an electrical issue onboard the boat associated with grounding or earth leakage currents and a qualified professional engineer should be engaged to investigate further.

·         Check the security of all earth bonding or grounding strips, ensure connections are secure, that grounding strips are undamaged and that grounding plates on the outside of the hull are clean and in good condition.

·         SSB radios use a sintered plate on the outside of the hull underwater to ensure an effective ground, check the security of this plate before the boat is refloated, ensure it is clean – DO NOT antifoul it.  These plates or blocks are usually made of thousands of small Bronze spheres to maximise the surface area and the gaps between them can become clogged with marine life or debris, ensure the plate is secure on the hull and in good condition.

·         Check all exterior electrical cabling, plugs and connectors are in good condition, replace any which appear damaged.

·         Check all exterior lighting and replace any lenses or fittings which are defective, cracked or leaking.

·         Check all cable runs through the boat, ensure all cabling is undamaged, secured correctly to avoid chafing, does not run through areas where it will be subject to excessive temperatures or lie submerged underwater for extended periods.  Locate and check all junction boxes  – this is a good opportunity to ensure you know where all the cables run and where connections are located which could help when trying to diagnose issues at sea.

·         Check the status of replaceable batteries in all handheld devices, Radios, GPS’s, EPIRBs, check the battery terminals are clean and replace with new batteries as necessary.  Ensure any rechargeable batteries will hold a charge and ensure they are fully charged.  Test correct operation of all devices.

Latest Spring update for Boat tips

Some more Spring tips for your boating pleasure:

·         Damp is the enemy of every electrical and electronic system, ensure the boat is well ventilated or installed with a dehumidifier.

·         Equipment left unused for extended periods of time can become erratic in operation due to damp affecting switch contacts, internal circuit boards, signal processors or even computer chips, so regular power up checks and operation during extended idle periods can help maintain correct operation. Part of the spring check is to operate every switch and circuit breaker onboard to ensure they operate as designed.

·         Switch contacts can accumulate Verdigris/ Corrosion over extended idle periods and this can create high resistance connections or even complete isolation of switch contacts. Repeatedly operate all switches and check the device being controlled to ensure it is receiving the full undiminished supply voltage and current

·         Carefully check all cables and Junction boxes to ensure the cable insulation is not damaged, cables are secured to bulkheads and not showing any signs of chafing, ensure all junction boxes are securely mounted and correctly sealed and no cables or junction boxes are mounted such that they remain submerged for extended periods of time. Replace any cables or junction boxes that show any signs of damp, wear, damage or overload.

·         Carefully check all electrical connections to ensure they are tight and secure against vibration, check fuses and fuseholders to ensure fuses are secure and making good contact with the cables and fuseholders and no corrosion has occurred over the winter. Add spare fuses to the boat’s spares inventory in case a fuse burns out at sea.

·         If additional equipment has been added over the winter, this may now overload the original fuse or cable. If in doubt, get the local qualified engineer to check and either redistribute load or install correct cabling and fusing to safely support and protect the electrical load.

·         If the mast has been un-stepped over the Winter, carefully check the cables in the mast for damage or chafing, check the masthead electrical/ electronic equipment and replace if in doubt – BEFORE the mast is re-stepped. Mast cables can stretch and fatigue over a period of time, causing random faults, replace if unsure of the condition or history of the boat.

·         Check the VHF antenna and cable/plugs/connections.  If poor remake.  If the antenna is 7-10 years old, then consider replacing.  It’s easier to pull the new cable thru the mast and fit the antenna when the mast is in the mast rack.  If in doubt, ask a dealer to check VSWR reading. (Ideally before the mast is stepped).

·         Check all electronic/electrical items that may need service and don’t leave it to the day you relaunch your vessel to contact your local dealer or supplier for service. 

·         Consider electronic chart card updates for the new season.  Contact your supplier or manufacturer and do not leave to the last minute.

·         Go online and check for manufacturers software updates.  There could be enhancements or new features at no extra costs.

·         Check normal operation of all electronic and electrical equipment onboard, a cold damp winter will highlight weaknesses in products and the first few power cycles can throw up a wide range of issues not seen before.

·         Browse the handbooks prior to when the boat is being launched.  Saves time calling your dealer or manufacturer on ‘how to enter a route in my chart plotter’ or ‘my instruments keep alarming and how do I stop it’.

·         Plan ahead for any service work required and notify your local dealer asap so they can help book it into their busy schedule.

If you need any help or advice regarding your boat, please contact a local BMEEA Member.

Are you ready for Spring? Electrics and Electronics

With Winter on its way out and Spring definitely on its way, we have some spring preparation tips for you:

  • Check the shore power connections, inspect the cable and sockets, look for frayed cable, damaged insulation, corroded/ burnt pins and sockets, damaged external fittings and replace as required.
  • Test shore power functionality, use your local qualified marine Electrical engineer to test the AC installation to ensure the reverse polarity protection and earth leakage protection functions correctly.
  • Test all lighting fixtures, cabin lights, deck lights, instrument lights etc. replace burned out bulbs and damaged fittings. Store spare bulbs on board.
  • Make sure that vhf and GPS antennae are secure, in good condition and the antenna cable is undamaged.
  • Bilge pumps should be inspected for proper automatic and manual operation. Check float switches, cables, connections and filters to ensure correct operation.
  • Check all drive belts for tension, fraying, and wear, also check that all belts are aligned properly and that no belts are slipping. These may include an engine water pump, alternator drive, fresh water pump and possibly any autopilot drives.
  • Check that the bilge ventilation blower is correctly operating and ventilating gasses from bilge areas and engine room.
  • Check and replace zinc anodes if necessary, they guard against galvanic corrosion that can quickly destroy underwater metals like your rudder or outboard.
  • Check lubber line alignment and deviation of both the main steering compass and electronic compasses (e.g. heading references for autopilot) so they give accurate bearings and headings.  Ensure that equipment installed over the winter period is not located where it can affect the safe and correct operation of the compass sensors.
  • Ensure that the radar reflector is functioning correctly, if you do not have one, consider having one fitted, this ensures that your boat is more visible on other radars.
  • Check the batteries, if removed for safe keeping over the winter, fully charge them and refit back onboard – if you are unable to do this, ask your local approved and qualified marine electrician to do this, ( for a list of BMEEA members able to assist please visit the member locator – need a link here to the BMEEA dealer locator).  Batteries left uncharged for long periods will need to be replaced completely.
  • Inspect battery terminals for corrosion. If they appear corroded, clean and protect with an inert protectant like Vaseline/ petroleum Jelly
  • Check the water level of the boat’s batteries (to include bow thruster battery if separate). If water levels are low, add distilled water to maintain battery’s performance – NOT TAP WATER as that will diminish battery performance.
  • Ensure battery storage is clean, is not corroded, is well ventilated, and that batteries are secured firmly in place with metal or fabric straps that are strong enough to prevent the batteries becoming dislodged in rough weather.

If you have any other tips you think should be added, please let us know by emailing secretary@bmeea.co.uk

Many thanks,

BMEEA

Impact of lightning or electrostatic charge

Whether it be a direct hit or near strike, the likelihood is that all electronics on board a vessel will have some measure of damage caused by a direct lightning strike or close proximity to a significant Electrostatic discharge.

Given the nature of an integrated system onboard of electrics and electronics it is impossible to predict what route the static discharge will take as is goes to ground and it also depends whether the boat or boatbuilder or installer made any precautions to try to protect against such an event.  

The damage to equipment, cabling and ancillaries can be immediate and components are blown up instantly or damage can be partial and the components will fail at an indeterminate period thereafter.  It is also likely the majority of other electrical equipment onboard will either be damaged or partially affected and will prematurely fail at some future point in time.

The Electrostatic discharge will cause random damage to PCBs and especially will destroy ICs and flat pack devices, as well as arc across copper tracks completely or partially severing them.

There is limited protection which can be provided to electronics to protect against static damage, simply due to the massive energy levels involved, however, installations can be given limited protection, simply by bonding all rigging to deck fittings and to an independent grounding plate using appropriate sizes of copper strapping will offer a reasonable level of protection.

The provision of lightning protection should be considered if the craft is intended for use in an area where there is likely to be a high incidence of electrical storms, for example inland lakes, Caribbean, North East Asia are all areas of significant Electrostatic activity.

There is a standard ISO 10134 : 1993 for lightning protection on small craft.

GENERAL PRINCIPLES

Lightning protection is the provision of a direct low resistance path from the masthead to a ground plate on the craft. It should be noted that lightning tends to take the shortest path. The connection from each mast or air terminal should be in a straight direct path vertically down to low level then horizontally direct to the ground plate on the hull or to a metal keel.

Usually the mast, rigging, stanchions and toe rail are all bonded together and are grounded to the sea through a grounding plate, this offers a good degree of protection, but again, depending on the size of discharge may still not offer a complete solution

ZONE PROTECTION

The zone of protection is equivalent to a cone, its point coincident with the top of the mast and the cone having a radius round the craft equal to the height of the mast and centred on the mast base – for example this can be formed by the effective bonding together of mast, shrouds and other standing rigging.

GROUNDING CONDUCTOR/WIRE CONDUCTOR

To provide an adequate lightning grounding conductor the entire circuit from the top of the mast or air terminal shall have a mechanical strength and conductivity not less than that of an 8 mm2 copper wire conductor., this can also be in the form of flat copper tape or strip of a similar cross section area.

LIGHTNING GROUND CONNECTION/PLATE

Any metal surface which is submerged in the water in any condition of heel or trim and the wetted surface area of which has an area of least 0.1m2.

Metallic radio ground plates or dynaplates may be used for the lightning ground connection.

NOTES:

i) Complete protection from equipment damage or personal injury may not be achieved and is not implied.

ii) Craft with metal hulls, if there is electrical continuity between the hull and the mast or other metallic superstructure of adequate height, no further protection against lightning is necessary.

iii) If a craft has been stuck by lightning, the compass, electronic and electrical gear should be checked for damage or change in calibration.

It is the customer’s/ boat builder’s responsibility to ensure the equipment onboard is correctly and effectively bonded and grounded and adequate lightning protection is provided

Our recommendation to customers is to completely replace all electronics that are in the affected circuit – replace cabling and switch gear since they may also have been damaged or burned as well as replacing any associated ancillary equipment which may also have been affected.

 

Mid Winter Checks

 

Tis the season to be jolly – tis also the season where general maintenance is most important as visits the boat are less frequent and the weather is cold and wet.

Here are some tips for what to check:

  • Replace any cables or junction boxes that show any signs of wear, damage or overload

 

    • Carefully check all electrical connections to ensure they are tight and secure against vibration, check fuses and fuse holders to ensure fuses are secure and making good contact with the cables and fuse holder.

 

  • Winter is a good time to asses all circuits on board, has additional equipment been added which may now overload the original fuse or cable? If in doubt, get the local qualified engineer to check and either redistribute load or install correct cabling and fusing to safely support and protect the electrical load.
  • If the mast is being un-stepped, remove mast head unit and store safely. Protect MHU plugs at mast head to prevent water ingress. Label and bag the loose cable at the base of mast to prevent water damage.

 

    • Check the VHF antenna and cable/plugs/connections.  If poor, remake.  If the antenna is 7-10 years old consider replacing them.  It’s easier to pull the new cable through the mast and fit the antenna when the mast is in the mast rack.  If in doubt, ask a dealer to check SWR reading. (Ideally before mast is un-stepped).

 

  • Check all electronic/electrical items that may need service and don’t leave it to the day you relaunch your vessel to contact your local dealer or supplier for service.
  • Consider electronic chart card updates for the next season.  Contact your supplier or manufacturer and do not leave to the last minute.
  • Go online and check for manufacturers sw updates.  There could be enhancements or new features at no extra costs.

 

 

When all this is done, go home and have a well deserved drink in the front of the fire to warm up.

 

From everyone at the BMEEA, we wish you the merriest of Christmases.

Season’s Greetings!

Winterising your boat’s Electrics and Electronics

With winter upon us we have some tips to help prepare your boat for the months ahead:

  • Where possible, remove batteries and keep them warm and dry over the winter – if you are unable to do this, ask your local approved and qualified marine electrician to do this, ( for a list of BMEEA members able to assist please visit the member locator)
  • Keep batteries fully charged or topped up at least every couple of months. Batteries left uncharged for long periods may need to be replaced completely. If you’re unable to remove batteries or if the boat is staying on its mooring, leave them fully topped up and regularly recharged, as full batteries are less likely to freeze in sub-zero temperatures.
  • Damp is the enemy of every electrical and electronic system, ensure the boat is well ventilated or installed with a dehumidifier.
  • Equipment left unused for extended periods of time can become erratic in operation due to damp affecting switch contacts, internal circuit boards, signal processors or even computer chips, so regular power up checks and operation during extended idle periods can help maintain correct operation
  • Switch contacts can accumulate Verdigris over extended idle periods and this can create high resistance connections or even complete isolation of switch contacts. Regular operation of the switches can slow down the deterioration of switch contact surfaces.
  • Do not spray the switch gear with corrosion inhibitors, this can leave a residue which effectively isolates the contact surfaces and creates a malfunctioning switch.
  • Carefully check all cables and Junction boxes to ensure the cable insulation is not damaged, cables are secured to bulkheads and not showing any signs of chafing, ensure all junction boxes are securely mounted and correctly sealed and no cables or junction boxes are mounted such that they remain submerged for extended periods of time.

If you have any other tips or questions, please let us know!