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Old 15-12-2012, 06:40   #1
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Rewire the Mast?

I've got my mast out for the first time in 12 years and hopefully the last time for the next 12 years.

I'm replacing the anchor/tricolor with a new LED Series 34 Aqua Signal (top rated in a recent YM test) and am wondering whether or not I should replace the 12 year old wiring? It works perfectly and tend to think that if it ain't broke, don't fix it; OTOH I might not have another chance like this for another 12 years.

What do you guys think? The wiring in my boat is top quality and I've had zero problems with it; OTOH maybe expecting it to work for 24 years is pushing it?
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Old 15-12-2012, 06:49   #2
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

If it is good tinned copper conductors, no "green wire" and no chafes, I'd leave it!
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Old 15-12-2012, 06:51   #3
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Our mast wiring was 33 years old and non tinned when I replaced it. Everything still worked through some miracle, but the insulation was giving up. The boat has been saltwater most of its life too.
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Old 15-12-2012, 06:57   #4
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
I've got my mast out for the first time in 12 years and hopefully the last time for the next 12 years.

I'm replacing the anchor/tricolor with a new LED Series 34 Aqua Signal (top rated in a recent YM test) and am wondering whether or not I should replace the 12 year old wiring? It works perfectly and tend to think that if it ain't broke, don't fix it; OTOH I might not have another chance like this for another 12 years.

What do you guys think? The wiring in my boat is top quality and I've had zero problems with it; OTOH maybe expecting it to work for 24 years is pushing it?
Assuming it is well secured in the mast (inside a conduit or whatever) and the ends / terminals are in good shape i.e. well crimped and NO corrosion visible - save from very light surface discolouration that can easily be cleaned off with a electrical cleaner (like DeoxIT) or an eraser; then yes, leave it alone.

The two things that kill wiring is continual movement and/or corrosion of the terminals. If the terminals need significant cleaning using a scourer or sandpaper or if the wiring has being moving around for 12 years, then replace it now while you have the opportunity.

FWIW, I have seen 50 year old wiring in aircraft that is still very good!

As for DeoxIT, see Home of DeoxIT® and HAND-E-GLOVE® - CAIG Laboratories, Inc.

EDIT: good point by other posters - check the condition of the insulation - I am more used to teflon insulation rather than PVC so am not used to seeing it degraded
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Old 15-12-2012, 07:16   #5
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

- agree with wot Wotname said!
My wiring was installed in 1983, and, except for one small terminal strip placed in the bilge (now replaced!) is in pristine condition. Mind you, the boat has seen only one year in salt water.
I would remove, clean and deox every terminal connection. If you can, run a resistance / voltage drop test on those long wire runs, and compare to new wire.
On the other hand, the cost of new wire is not THAT large compared to most of the stuff we put on our toys, and if that would help you sleep better, I'd say "Go for it!"
Running the new wire and protecting it against chafe and slap is also a consideration.
Some would say, you are installing a nice piece of equipment at the top of your mast, why not give it the best chance of delivering years of trouble-free service?
There now ............ did I just give my opinion, and then contradict myself, all in the same post?
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Old 15-12-2012, 07:35   #6
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

OK, thanks, guys, you've given me confidence. The wiring in my boat is superb and I don't think that I can match the quality, so I'd rather leave it alone if there is not an inherent "sell-by date" problem. I'll inspect it carefully.
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Old 15-12-2012, 09:17   #7
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

You might want to put a messenger in while you can.
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Old 15-12-2012, 11:07   #8
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

Quote:
You might want to put a messenger in while you can.
+1
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Old 15-12-2012, 11:27   #9
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

FWIW, pulled my 42 year old stick because I wanted to add a windpoint, mast head tricolor, VHF antenna and was having shorting problems with the anchor light. Found the manufacturer had just hung the wire from an eye at the mast head with a loop of copper wire and stuffed the mast with waste foam strips. Not my idea of the proper way to wire a mast. Despite this, the only problem with the wiring was the short at the mast head caused by the copper seizing wire wearing through the insulation on the lead to the anchor light. They did use tinned wire which is still in good shape.

Sure that if the wire wiring had been properly done with a conduit and properly secured at the mast head, the only issue would have been running the wires up the mast for the new equipment.
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Old 15-12-2012, 11:56   #10
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmackay View Post
You might want to put a messenger in while you can.
Yes, it's a great idea, and I had actually thought of that. I will be pulling new wire up there (for Maretron weather station) so it won't be any trouble to do it. I guess I'm going to have to pull through one of the existing wires with mousing twine attached, attach a second messenger, then pull it back. Then after I finish, I'll just leave one of them in place -- great idea. That way it won't be disastrous if I ever do have to pull more cable up there with the mast in . . .
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Old 15-12-2012, 12:30   #11
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Yes, it's a great idea, and I had actually thought of that. I will be pulling new wire up there (for Maretron weather station) so it won't be any trouble to do it. I guess I'm going to have to pull through one of the existing wires with mousing twine attached, attach a second messenger, then pull it back. Then after I finish, I'll just leave one of them in place -- great idea. That way it won't be disastrous if I ever do have to pull more cable up there with the mast in . . .
Hmm.... this might be a game changer! I have never had much luck in pulling in additional wiring with the old still in place. This concept often works better in theory than in practice. Hopefully YMMV .

If it does work out, then leave some new wires in there rather than a messenger. If not, then add some spares to the bunch of new wires that you end up replacing!!
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Old 15-12-2012, 13:40   #12
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wotname View Post
Hmm.... this might be a game changer! I have never had much luck in pulling in additional wiring with the old still in place. This concept often works better in theory than in practice. Hopefully YMMV .

If it does work out, then leave some new wires in there rather than a messenger. If not, then add some spares to the bunch of new wires that you end up replacing!!
I have a fairly good sized conduit in the mast, so I hope it won't be that bad. We shall see, however!
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Old 15-12-2012, 13:50   #13
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

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I have a fairly good sized conduit in the mast, so I hope it won't be that bad. We shall see, however!
Use lots of lube or should that be .

Good luck with the job and please report back - I know you will!

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Old 15-12-2012, 16:30   #14
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

It may be a good time to consider spreader lights and running the appropriate cable if you dont already have them.
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Old 15-12-2012, 20:19   #15
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Re: Rewire the Mast?

FWIW Dockhead,

We recently had our mast out (22 years old) and did a bunch of mods and fixes. Did replace the wiring, based on the condition of the bits that were external to the mast, ie between teh mast (or masthead) and the light/instrument itself. Those external inches were UV damaged with cracks in the external insulation... but after pulling it all out, the rest of the wire was in perfect shape. There was plenty of extra, so we could have simply pulled a few inches out and replaced the terminals... but once it was out, I went ahead and used new. Not all that expensive, but I had one of those "gee, that was wasteful" moments.

Out of curiosity, which tricolor have you selected?

Cheers,

Jim
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