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Old 17-03-2009, 15:54   #1
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Cost to Rewire a Contessa 26

I know this is one of those questions that doesn't have a real answer, but I am trying to make a list of repairs/modifications necessary to a boat I am considering purchasing. Most of the things that would need to be done I have been able to price out, but the electrical system is baffling me.

I know that the wiring for the mast is in good shape, and it has a new Yanmar installed which would make me hopeful that the wiring in the engine room isn't a disaster. It also has two "group 27" batteries that are 4 years old. Beyond that, the current state of the electrical system is unknown right now. If I determine that my best option is to simply rip out the current system and replace it (which very well may not be necessary), what can I estimate this to cost me? Not including the solar panels (2x 55 watt) which I plan on installing and the charge controller, what am I talking just for the wiring, panels, etc. I would buy some books and do the bulk of the work myself (I know nothing about this currently, but I am fairly handy and will have the time this summer). I just want to know, is this something I can do for $500, $1000, $2000? It will have a big impact on what I can afford to pay for the boat. Thanks for your help and for all the wonderful advice I have received from reading these forums.

-Jake
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Old 17-03-2009, 17:37   #2
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That is a loaded question there Jake. I've practically rewired our 25' express cruiser over the past few years and I estimate I've spent about $1500 which included all new shorepower wiring, 80% of the DC wiring, new charger (2 bank ProMariner), remote searchlight, LED's everywhere, etc. I did spend a few extra bucks on a proper double crimping tool and a battery cable crimper (which I believe have already paid for themselves).

Do Not, just rip everything out! Trace & mark each circuit and replace them one at a time. Sketch yourself a schematic as you go. You'll thank yourself in the long run.

Check out Best Boat Wire & Cable - Complete Marine Grade Wire, Cable and Electrical Parts Supplier for decent prices on Pacer marine wire & cable plus all the other stuff you'll need, shrink wrap, liquid electrical tape, tie wraps etc. Good luck with your project. Keep us posted.
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Old 17-03-2009, 21:23   #3
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Thank you for the info. So basically, I should set aside at least $1500 beyond the price of solar panels and a charge controller for potential electrical work. This is definitely more than I had budgeted so I am very glad I asked. Thanks. -Jake
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Old 18-03-2009, 00:34   #4
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How old is the wiring? If it's old enough, you might also need to replace the breakers in the main switch panel. Our's are 15 years old and one by one failing.

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Old 18-03-2009, 05:24   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somasized View Post
Thank you for the info. So basically, I should set aside at least $1500 beyond the price of solar panels and a charge controller for potential electrical work. This is definitely more than I had budgeted so I am very glad I asked. Thanks. -Jake
Shop around Jake you might find some bargains. I spent a lot on tools & consumables that I still have so $1500 is probably more than actually went into the boat. In reality you won't be able to tell exactly what you need till you survey the boat and work up an estimate. The way the economy is nowadays you might find some decent bargains on the equipment you'll need.
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Old 18-03-2009, 06:00   #6
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I found eBay to be a wonderful source for marine grade wire. You'll definitely want to buy it in bulk. Get a couple of different sizes (AWG 12 & 16 as an example). Don't forget to get plenty of terminals and shrink wrap. I both crimp and solder all my connections, (some debate about that) so get an appropriate crimper or good soldering iron. Lot of debate about marine versus home switches and plugs. Which ever you select, plan accordingly. I set up a spreadsheet with a list of all the connections, junctions, switches and fittings. I put estimated cost for these. My final cost was within 10% of the estimate.

Does the rewiring include new instruments and the like? Cost go WAY up if they do.
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Old 18-03-2009, 09:11   #7
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The best reference for marine wiring I've seen is at this link: All About Marine Wire Termination Photo Gallery by Maine Sailing at pbase.com. I think a lot of times the actual wire (quality wire) can be reused if it's routed appropriately for your intended purpose. Good Luck.
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Old 20-03-2009, 04:04   #8
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I plan on rewiring our Endeavour 40 asap.
Larger boat but here is some of what I have found out.
Buy the best tools you can. I have spent well over 500 so far on these including double crimper battery cable crimper, fluke meter etc.
I have found that bestboatwire.com to have very good pricing on wire. I would not buy from ebay anymore except on a case by case basis. look around. Make sure its anchor or pacer wire, and tinned.
Replace the 12 v panel and 110v panels. Get new. go to peter kenedy yacht (google it) he has blue sea systems for a very good price.
Read everything you can on boat wireing.
Read the entire blue sea systems web site. They have a ton on useful information.
1500 is a goog starting point for your situation I would think, but if you plan on replacing everything electrical, it could go up quite a bit, just depends on weather you use quality vrs ok stuff.
Bob
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Old 20-03-2009, 12:29   #9
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Aloha Jake,
Your boat is very similar to our club International Folkboats and I can't imagine spending more than $500 to rewire. I disagree with buying fancy tools. You just don't have that number of crimps and joins to justify expensive industrial tools.
Of course, this is just my opinion.
Good choice for a boat by the way. Having a Yanmar is a big plus. Our boats are engineless (outboards are rather useless on the design) but we hang one (gas or electric) out if the wind dies.
Kind regards,
JohnL
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Old 20-03-2009, 18:22   #10
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Hi Jake
I rewired my Vancouver 27, the entire boat about three years ago, she was built in 1977. I am an electronics engineer and on inspection I decided to keep the original switch panels although I did replace the switches on the interior lights and the small panel, marine switches are generally good quality and although 30 years old they hadn't had a lot of use and were still operational. I replaced a couple of the fuse holders with 10A trips which fitted directly into the fuse holder holes and don't look out of place. The wiring for the radar was the only wire I kept. The most expensive part was the wires to go up the mast. I most definately would not solder. Just for wire connectors and ties etc I think you can do the entire boat for under £250 about $500, quite a bit less if you shop around but you must use tinned wire. I renewed the navigation lamps they were quite expensive. Best of luck.
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Old 20-03-2009, 18:45   #11
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Somazied: You don't give enough info for an accurate answer but I have surveyed a number of these boats and the DC systems tend towards the very simple and $300.00 should do it if you shop wisely. The AC systems tend to be junk and will cost $ 3 to 600.00 depending on how many circuits you fit and the complexity of the panel you buy. AC on a boat has to be treated differently than a land based system so buy a good marine electrical book before you start.
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Old 20-03-2009, 18:56   #12
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Buy a ratcheting crimper and a good quality wire stripper.(Klein)

Buy your connector in Bulk...you will get nickled and dimed to death if you buy them by the pack of 4 or 5.

Don't pull any wire out.......use it to "fish" new wire through.

If you get a breaker panel make sure you have space for two or three more circuits, in case you want to add anything in the future.
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Old 21-03-2009, 02:14   #13
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E-bay was a good source for me for anchor wire and breaker type panel. I had to be patient. The best investment I ever made was buying Nigel Calder's Mechanical and Electrical Manual. I think you should do it yourself. The experience is invaluable.
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Old 24-03-2009, 17:49   #14
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I agree with Celestialsailor and Cheif Engineer,
If you do it yourself at least you know the standard of the work and the quality of the material.
I recently went to get some wire from my local yacht chandlers, I commented that in my opinion it wasn't marine quality (it wasn't tinned wire) and the guy said it was from a marine supplier and was what he used to repair all the boats in the marina. I thought to myself I'm never going to let him work on my boat.
Cheif Engineer is right about using the old wire to thread the new wire in but at the same time send through a mouse string so if you want to add a wire later you have the string to pull it through, also while you are rewiring if possible add a couple of extra wires fo the addition of future bits of kit.
I would strongly recommend making a note of what colour wire goes where and does what for future reference, make your own 'circuit diagram' even if it's not like you get in a manual it will be very helpful for fitting future equipment or fault finding.
My boat is 27' and I wouldn't entertain a mains AC system, more trouble than they are worth, and can be dangerous to your health and your underwater metalwork. On the very rare occasions I have needed mains AC (one time in 3 years) i used a very long and waterproof extension lead that I keep on board with a RCD (Residual current device). A RCD in the UK is a device that monitors the current through the live and neutral wires if they don't match (ie the current is leaking to earth through you or some other fault) it trips and the supply is cut. In the UK and a lot of Europe we use 230volt AC wich is much more dangerous than the 110v the USA use.
The prices you quote are $ but the Contessa is a british boat so it's not clear where you are from.
The Contessa is a fine boat many have crossed the Atlantic. In the UK they are regarded quite highly and have a very good resale value.
best of luck.
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