SHOCKING ADVENTURES IN ELECTRICITY
As delivered, our Prout Escale lacked a proper charging system, the wiring was undersized and/or unfused, circuit breakers did not match their loads, instruments would drop out when the engine was started, the starter battery would be depleted by the inane contactor system, etc... the list goes on. After several years of finding problems hidden in various parts of the boat, "Prout Catamarans" and electrical quality have become an oxymoron for me. At least current US customers seem to be shielded from the worst of it by Advanced Yachts (the US distributor) and their dedicated employees.
An excellent article on surveying electrical systems on board can be found at: MarineSurvey.com. It gives me some heart to know that many other boatowners faced the same issues as me - Prout catamarans isn't the only sloppy builder out there. Here are some of the common electrical ABYC and equipment manufacturers standards that were violated by Prout Catamarans in the construction of our Escale:
- No fuses existed on the main buses running from the battery banks. The load center (a.k.a. the Link Box) is too down-stream to count.
- None of the batteries were delivered with protective boots or other means to prevent shorts. None of the exposed positive terminals had protected boots either.
- A number of conductors were undersized. We had several varieties of this problem:
- Prout attaching a combination of 24 and 18AWG wiring to the unfused current provided by the contactors. Good luck if that develops a short en route to the circuit breaker panel!
- Many wires do not fulfill voltage drop requirements as specified by the ABYC, US Coast Guard, or equipment manufacturers. For example, the wiring running up our mast is not the 11 AWG called for by the ABYC, the windlass wiring was not 1/0 AWG as specified by Simpson-Lawrence, the freshwater pump (installed by the US distributor of Prout in 1991) was fed by a 16 AWG wire when the manual called for 10 AWG, etc.
- Most electrical bulkhead penetrations did not feature any sort of chafe protection. Some consist of crude holes cut into fiberglass with rough shards visible.
- None of the OEM wiring was tinned. So sealing it properly is very important to protect it from the salt-air/water environment. However, none of the connectors were sealed with heat shrink plastic - electrical tape (when used) was the most we could hope for.
- The wiring numbers (when used) never correspond to the plans of the boat as delivered. The wiring plan is mostly wishful thinking, only shows major circuits, and no returns.
- The wiring inside the boat can freely slide around in a number of places instead of being attached every 18". This combined with the lack of chafe protection and unfused or undersized wire connections has the potential to cause shorts and fires.
- Much of the mast wiring and other wiring is interfaced in the electrical closet next to the companionway (the same location as the link box). While the link box is somewhat difficult to service due to the reach required to get in as well as the tight quarters, a lot of house wiring comes together in a set of wiring mounts attached to the inside wall *over* the door cutout into that space.
Best Estimate for Time Required to Fix/Upgrade Electrical System:
|Overview of issues and creating representative electrical diagram||80 hours|
|Simplify Link Box, upgrade components||11.5 hours|
|Install useful battery monitoring system||6 hours|
|Install powerful alternator system||11.5 hours|
|Increase battery capacity, install fuses||27 hours|
|Replace "Busbars" throughout boat||12 hours|
|Repair main circuit breaker panel||22.5 hours|
|Replacing Wiring throughout boat||81.5 hours|
|Design, build/install bilge monitor||22.5 hours|
|Installing night lights||3.5 hours|
|Install Lightning protection||19 hours|
|Install Bilge Pumping infrastructure||2.5 hours|