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Philosail 23-01-2009 10:48

Getting shore power onto my boat
Good day All,

My boat(contessa 26) currently has no shore tie inlet, or wiring for AC. I am hoping to improvise a simple, cost-effective and safe method for being able to run simple amenities like heater/dehumidifer/lights in a timely manner as I hope to start livingaboard in the near future. Anybody with any subject-knowledge on the difficulty and scale of the task at hand I'm facing, I would be appreciative to hear from, and/or any ideas for the best way to go about this. I would prefer to make as little alteration to my boat as possible, i.e. not drilling a hole through anything for an inlet. My questions are gathering around issues such as, appropriate power strip(if any), GFCI, circuit breaker, onboard receptacle and how to tie all these particulars into a whole in the safest, easiest and cheapest fashion.

Thank you very much for any assistance.

sabray 23-01-2009 11:08

THe right way to do this is by using a shore power cord With a disconnect on the boat. Separate panel with proper sized breakers on board and gfci on the branch circuits. If you are a live aboard user this isn't the place to take a cheap or easy short cut. I don't see how you can do this without drilling a hole. You also need to understan some basics such as length of runs your power draw and proper grounding etc...
Guess thats not very helpful.

James S 23-01-2009 11:53

If your trying to do this on the cheap...can’t you just bring an extension cord with a multi GFI receptacle on board through a porthole or hatch/companion way?

This isn’t well thought through but seems safe enough.

sabray 23-01-2009 12:06

If you are using extension cords on a dock you would normally plug a gfci in at the dock outlet. So that everything past that point is protected.
If you are living aboard you should spend the time and money to hook up a simple marine system.

Philosail 23-01-2009 13:10

I'm not trying to take any shortcuts here, I might have given the wrong impression with some of the words I chose. My intention is to be a liveaboard for about a 1 1/2 years at the docks, so I was hoping to avoid complicating/altering the onboard electrical system as much as possible. By that, I primarily mean, avoiding installing an inlet, I was hoping to route it through a cockpit hatch or something of that nature.

DeepFrz 23-01-2009 13:41

Of course you can do that. Not the safest or most convenient in the long run but there is nothing stopping you from doing that. But, if you electrocute yourself or someone else, don't blame me.

Seriously, I would recommend you get a qualified marine electrician to install a proper 30 amp connection and have him run a few convenient outlets. Use a properly sized good quality marine shore power cord as well.

sabray 23-01-2009 13:47

I guess If I were going to live aboard. I wouldn't want extension cords run through my hatches or dorade boxes. With a little studying and and a few bucks you could drill a hole and wire the boat properly. Extension cords and there plug ends don't do well handling high loads. And then when the cord gets damaged or the plugs start to heat up you could wind up with real problems. Even the good 30 amp shore power cables can get overheated.
I don't know how much draw you are talking about. With an electric heater a computer and a few lights your getting close to a 20 amp circuit. For me Id look at it like a neccessary system plan it out and do it right. your next year and a half will be more enjoyable minus the extension cords dangling about.

hellosailor 23-01-2009 14:29

Simple and cost effective is heavy short extension cord (so it won't overheat or drop the voltage to the heater) with a GFI protector unless there's one right in the dock box.

That is not the "right" way to do it, and may run afoul of the marina's policies as well. To do it right, you'd install a marine AC receptacle (usually in the cockpit coaming) followed by a GFI, wired up to a dual AC breaker in the cabin, and then a couple of AC outlets in the cabin as needed. And then use a marine power cord to connect that to the dock.

Your choice, as budget and all dictate. If the extension cord is heavy enough, and you are careful enough, it can be the interim solution even if it isn't "proper".

Ike 23-01-2009 21:05

running a simple household extension cord from the dock outlet onto the boat is a huge shock hazard as everyone has pointed out here. Plus that even an industrial 20 or thirty amp extension cord used by building contractors is not designed to survive very long in the marine environment. Go to Home Depot an look at the heavy duty extension cords. The go to your local marine dealer and look at marine shore power cords and you will immediately see the differences. The number one cause of onboard fires is electrical, and among those the number one cause is bad high resistance connections. The prongs on a extension cord would corrode so fast that within a shirt time (a month or two) the cord would overheat and start a fire.. Minimum needs. A 30 amp shore power cord and a receptacle for the boat. A breaker panel with a main breaker, a few AC outlets with GFCI (or a GFCI at the main breaker) and enough UL listed marine wiring to reach the outlets.

Read up on marine AC. See Basic Electricity - AC circuits New Boatbuilders Home Page - Basic Electricity AC Page 7

hellosailor 23-01-2009 22:40

"running a simple household extension cord from the dock outlet onto the boat is a huge shock hazard as everyone has pointed out here."
Who said "simple household" ? I don't think anyone has suggested using the $1.89 18-gauge Chinese extension cords that you get from the dollar store.

Bottom line is that if there are twenty feet of 10x3 triplex extension cord running from the dock to your boat--that cord is the same, and the hazards are the same, regardless of whether you plug it into a marine socket, or terminate it belowdecks with an extension cord socket.

The prings on an extension cord are immaterial, if the two cords are going to be plugged into the same dock box--they will need to have the same plug on them anyway!

No one said a "household" cord, Peter. As to surviving in a marine environment? What do you think they use at waterside bars and restaurants? Ahuh, plain landlubber cords and lighting strings and the like. Doesn't matter much which side of the dock you are on--with proper sizing and due care (GFI, drip loop, chafing)--it is possible to compromise without danger.

Northeaster 28-02-2009 07:20

HelloSailor - You mentioned instaling a GFI, on the boat. My boat is 30 years old, and shore power is likely original. I have the proper connector in the cockpit, that goes to my small AC breaker panel (just a few plugs, charger, and water heater). I don't believ that I have a GFI on board. I thought the dock GFI was all I needed.

Could you elaborate on this, Please? The boat is stored indoors for the winter, so I am able to do rewiring, etc.

hellosailor 28-02-2009 09:18

If there's a GFI at the dock outlet, in theory that's all you need to be safe. Of course that makes a couple of assumptions like:
1-The dockside GFI is working properly
2-You'll only be docked at that socket

I don't like to depend on safety equipment that is owned or maintained by other people. Especially when it is so cheap, like a GFI is. It should cost you less than $20 to buy your own GFI and to bury, ergh, install it someplace "readily accessible" in between your shore power fitting and your breaker panel. As close to the shore power as possible, offhand there's an ABYC spec for that but I don't recall it.

One could say the extra GFI is a waste of time and money and if you're racing, it makes you too heavy and slow to boot. But then again, one could argue that a racing boat shouldn't be carrying around all that AC junk anyhow. (VBG)

I've got big respect for electricity, I know it can find ways to zap people all by itself. So I call it a $20 life insurance policy.

GordMay 28-02-2009 10:03

1 Attachment(s)
Install the new GFI Receptacle as a replacement for the first (schematically) of your “few plugs”.

The 30A Dock-side Shore Power Outlet will be a 30mA GFI, not as sensitive as the 5mA GFI receptacles in your boat.

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