By Ed Sherman
How to Protect Vulnerable Boat Wiring
In an installation like this, the battery should be in a plastic case and there should be Lexan coverings for the fuse holder and bus bar.
Question: I have a really nice storage locker under one of my boat’s settees that has the electrical equipment taking up space. It’s looking kind of vulnerable if I start loading the locker with other stuff. Any ideas on how I can prevent a mishap without having to relocate all that electrical equipment?
Answer: Wow, the builder really wasn’t thinking about maximizing the utility in that space.
OK, the first thing I would do is to relocate the fuse holder assembly in the center of the photo to the side wall of the locker, next to where the copper bus bar and other fuses are located. (Relocating it might require shortening the cable feed to it and re-terminating it to get a fair lead of cable to the fuse.) That gets it off the low point in the locker.
Since these cables and fuses appear to be from the battery main positive, and I think I see a corner of the battery at the top of the photo, I suspect that the locker is also acting as the storage compartment for a battery. This is a little problematic in that it looks like the battery could be secured directly to the wood lining of the locker space. ABYC standards are pretty clear that the area surrounding batteries shall not be vulnerable to attack and degradation due to possible exposure to battery electrolyte. So, the builder seems to have missed that point too. Wood will definitely be attacked by battery electrolyte. If there’s space, I’d put the battery inside a ready-made plastic battery box, available at most boating supply stores.
Next, we need to get covers over the fuse holder and the bus bar. I would make those out of 1/8” Lexan, cut and bent by using a heat gun to soften and shape them appropriately. Screw in the clear Lexan covers over the fuse holder and terminals as well as the bus bar. At least then you won’t have to worry about generating a short circuit with whatever you decide to store in that space.
My recommendation would be to not store heavy or metal objects in the space, even with the covers screwed in place. It’s a good place for the Triscuit crackers and Cheese Nips, and perhaps for a box or two of Cheerios. You get the idea.
- Ed Sherman is a regular contributor to boats.com, as well as to Professional Boatbuilder and Cruising World, where he previously was electronics editor. He also is the curriculum director for the American Boat and Yacht Council. Previously, Ed was chairman of the Marine Technology Department at the New England Institute of Technology. Ed’s blog posts appear courtesy of his website, EdsBoatTips.