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Old 12-09-2017, 09:19 PM   #1
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ABYC certified electrical survey

If I were ever to buy another boat with large and complex systems I would hire a real marine electrician to give me an opinion. Having one on board after the purchase was very in lightening. It would have given me a huge bargaining chip that I didnít know about. Iím always on board when heís here and what knowledge Iíve received is worth paying his rate. BTW heís patient guy who doesnít mind if I watch and ask a million questions. Some may charge extra for that.
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Old 12-09-2017, 09:49 PM   #2
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I also should have had a certified ABYC survey before purchase..live and learn.
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Old 12-10-2017, 09:31 AM   #3
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I think if it is any boat over 20-30 years old, an electrical survey will scare you away from buying ANY boat. Additionally, it would seem to me to be pretty unfair to the seller to use, what is probably a factory design (or at worst, a well thought out repair or redesign), as leverage to try to force a price reduction. Would someone expect a seller of an 80ís Taiwanese trawler to change out all the negative DC wire to yellow? Or swap out all spade connectors to heat shrink? You could get a specialist in just about any field to find flaws in every used boat if you look hard enough. All you are going to do is pissoff the seller, waste their time, and insult them by low-balling a price based on expecting a modern building standard on an older boat.

I am not picking on you specifically, just stating a broad brush opinion.
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Old 12-10-2017, 10:18 AM   #4
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“ I think if it is any boat over 20-30 years old, an electrical survey will scare you away from buying ANY boat. Additionally, it would seem to me to be pretty unfair to the seller to use, what is probably a factory design (or at worst, a well thought out repair or redesign), as leverage to try to force a price reduction. Would someone expect a seller of an 80’s Taiwanese trawler to change out all the negative DC wire to yellow? Or swap out all spade connectors to heat shrink? You could get a specialist in just about any field to find flaws in every used boat if you look hard enough. All you are going to do is pissoff the seller, waste their time, and insult them by low-balling a price based on expecting a modern building standard on an older boat.”

Very well said. There is a difference between a boat that is wired safely albeit to the standards that were acceptable when the vessel was originally built as opposed to wiring that has been poorly done (hacked) after the vessel was built. The buyer and or Surveyer should be able to distinguish between the two.
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Old 12-10-2017, 10:48 AM   #5
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I seem to agree with all of you. ABYC electrical standards are best practices in all environments. That does not mean you are unsafe if you are outside the standard in a given situation.

Now the question is, whatís a complicated electrical system.
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Old 12-10-2017, 10:56 AM   #6
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“ I think if it is any boat over 20-30 years old, an electrical survey will scare you away from buying ANY boat. Additionally, it would seem to me to be pretty unfair to the seller to use, what is probably a factory design (or at worst, a well thought out repair or redesign), as leverage to try to force a price reduction. Would someone expect a seller of an 80’s Taiwanese trawler to change out all the negative DC wire to yellow? Or swap out all spade connectors to heat shrink? You could get a specialist in just about any field to find flaws in every used boat if you look hard enough. All you are going to do is pissoff the seller, waste their time, and insult them by low-balling a price based on expecting a modern building standard on an older boat.”

Very well said. There is a difference between a boat that is wired safely albeit to the standards that were acceptable when the vessel was originally built as opposed to wiring that has been poorly done (hacked) after the vessel was built. The buyer and or Surveyer should be able to distinguish between the two.
I agree with this and would extend the thought to any aspect of a survey of an old boat that was built to decades old guidelines. Condition is one thing...upgrading old systems because of an elective criteria is another. Beware of surveyors who carry around a copy of ABYC...especially if you're looking for a simple insurance survey. My carrier, Markel, has finally gone to self surveys of older boats (I did one on our 44 last Spring).
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Old 12-10-2017, 11:54 AM   #7
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I know a few AYBC certified electrical guys who cannot agree on what constitutes an acceptable bonding and grounding system, isolation transformer installation or battery combiner setup. They are smart, certified, well trained but come from different backgrounds.

Sometimes the certified experts aren't.
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Old 12-10-2017, 12:15 PM   #8
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I would definitely make sure that the boat does not trip the dock GFIs at a minimum. A lot of older boats do trip the GFIs. Usually because of comingled neutrals between 2 shore power inlets. I would not be concerned about not having yellow for ground or the type of connectors on the wires, but the tripping of dock GFIs is a big deal. It is a PITA if you canít plug into updated docks and it can be potentially very dangerous if you do have a leakage.
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Old 12-10-2017, 12:25 PM   #9
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I posted this on another thread, but let me repeat as it is instructive.

About ten years ago a very good friend purchased a CHB 45 after undergoing a survey. The boat was obviously well used and tired, heck it was 30 years old at the time. But all systems worked, the engines had no obvious issues as well as the genset. The bones were solid.

When I got on board a few weeks later to bring the boat down the coast from Virginia, I noticed a few things. Later the list piled up. Some of the issues:

Use of 18 gauge zip cord to wire a branch circuit to a 15 amp breaker through a hidden splice (see below) so none of it was visible.

Splices made inside the cabinetry where the only way to find it was to disconnect one end and pull it back out into the open.

All of the splices were made with wire nuts.

An AC type outlet wired to DC (with the zip cord of course) and used to plug in DC appliances. That one blew my mind.

Many of the add on electrical items were wired by simply wrapping the stripped wire around the terminals with no spade or ring connector.

None of this was called out in the survey, nor would most have been detectable by an ABYC certified electrician (well the stripped wire connections certainly should have been flagged). For the most part you had to live with the boat for a while to find it.

So, I have my doubts about any electrical survey being all that useful. In buying an old boat you just have to budget money to fix what comes up after a while. It will.

Edit based on the PP:

I will bet 90% of 30 year old boats will trip shore power GFCIs and maybe half of the 20 year old boats. It happened with my 1993 Island Packet sailboat, generally considered to be well built.

It doesn't seem to be a ground/neutral wiring fault, the IP only had one shorepower inlet. In the cases I tried to evaluate I believe it was just old damp wiring.

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Old 12-10-2017, 12:47 PM   #10
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Even if the boat has only one shore power inlet, it can still have a GFI problem. I just checked out and rewired a friends boat. He said he was in the water inbetween his boat and the shore and his muscles locked up and he could barely move. Someone had replaced an outlet and swapped the neutral and ground wires on the outlet. His dock does not have GFI protection so the miswired outlet was returning current through his bonding system through the water. Exactly why GFIs are now code on docks. Also found his water heater had a short between neutral and ground but he never used it so the problem was not apparent until we checked it. Lots of boats have current leakage problems. The state docks around here have gone to GFIs and consequently they turn a lot of boats away or do not let them use shore power due to leakage. My boat has 2 inlets and all the neutrals were hooked together. The surveyor did not catch this and he also missed the fact that it only had 1 30 amp main breaker...
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Old 12-10-2017, 01:29 PM   #11
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To be clear. New US code dock wiring is setup to trip at 3 ma. A real hornets has developed with many experts including ABYC themselves saying 3 ma is problematic and not realistic. Safety is one thing, absurdity another.
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Old 12-10-2017, 04:23 PM   #12
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No, the new code says 30 mAmp, not 3 mAmps. Some docks have a GFI per slip, some have a GFI per dock. If there is only one per dock, then all the boats share the 30 mAmps.
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Old 12-10-2017, 04:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
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No, the new code says 30 mAmp, not 3 mAmps. Some docks have a GFI per slip, some have a GFI per dock. If there is only one per dock, then all the boats share the 30 mAmps.
Having a GFCI protect an entire dock is nuts. If the dock had 10 boats then each could only leak 3 mA on average. And if the GFCI tripped it would take down the whole dock. I don't think many docks are wired this way.

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Old 12-10-2017, 04:49 PM   #14
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One thing I would like to see on surveys, is a High-pot test on the ac wiring, or, at least, a insulation resistance test. It will show up wet insulation that has above normal leakage. It won't show up high resistance line and neutral connections, but it is one more piece of valuable data.
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Old 12-10-2017, 05:13 PM   #15
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No, the new code says 30 mAmp, not 3 mAmps. Some docks have a GFI per slip, some have a GFI per dock. If there is only one per dock, then all the boats share the 30 mAmps.
Right you are Comodave. I left off a zero and indeed the number is 30. Lobbying is going on to get the total dock marina raised up significantly. Time will tell and in the meantime many US marinas are holding off redos until the situation is better understood.
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Old 12-10-2017, 05:35 PM   #16
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Hopefully not many marinas will go with the one GFI per dock, but it is cheaper that way. The 30 ma GFI are expensive. Two state docks near me have GFIs. One has a GFI per slip and one has one GFI per dock. Yes it is indeed a problem with say 10 boats per GFI. If you are the last boat to tie up and the previous boats are leaking 29 mAmps and you leak 2 mAmps the GFI will trip and you are the bad guy and donít get power...
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Old 12-10-2017, 06:36 PM   #17
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IMO, everyone you meet knows something you don't. I'll spring for the electrical survey not to beat the seller up, but to know what they find that could later cause me a problem, especially underway so I can at least fix what is known. As a former FPL employee, I know the dangers well. Some of my coworkers never got to retire to that boat they dreamed of.
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Old 12-10-2017, 09:29 PM   #18
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IMO, everyone you meet knows something you don't. I'll spring for the electrical survey not to beat the seller up, but to know what they find that could later cause me a problem, especially underway so I can at least fix what is known. As a former FPL employee, I know the dangers well. Some of my coworkers never got to retire to that boat they dreamed of.
Well said Sugardog!

Todd
ABYC Marine Electrical Certified, Former SAMS Surveyor, Current Clock Repairer
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Old 12-11-2017, 05:25 AM   #19
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You certainly would not be wrong to have an electrical survey or reserve the right as part of your purchase agreement to perform one if your regular purchase survey determined it prudent. Some things that might trigger performing a more thorough electrical survey would be:

1. Too many connections on battery terminals also without overcurrent protection.
2. Non-marine cabling used for "upgrades" and other add-on equipment.
3. Lack of battery service disconnects and overcurrent protection for high current users such as thrusters and inverters.
4. Dimming lights, flickering electronics or other signs of voltage drop as vessel is operated.
5. AC electric inlet fittings not accounted for by breakers and transfer switches.
6. Melted connections on inlet fittings, discolored cabling behind panels or unusually warm wiring.
7. If the electrical system has been highly modified "rewired" refer to the preceding.

If your hull surveyor does not have a three light tester, circuit analyzer, multi-meter or more then you may need an electrical survey. That equipment is similar to an engine mechanic hooking up his pressure group to the main engines to check them. If you find enough things done well then you will probably be OK. Otherwise, dig in deeper.
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Old 12-11-2017, 05:37 AM   #20
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This may be thread creep:

After reading your post I thought it was worth mentioning a couple things that you did not. I wondered if you checked to make sure the electrical systems were grounded properly (green ground connected to the DC buss) and verified the integrity of the green ground system (good low resistance connections back to the pedestal)? Seems a little odd that much current would have been leaking since a quality green ground connection should have been providing a reliable return path to the source. Just seems to me there may be a little more to the problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Comodave View Post
Even if the boat has only one shore power inlet, it can still have a GFI problem. I just checked out and rewired a friends boat. He said he was in the water inbetween his boat and the shore and his muscles locked up and he could barely move. Someone had replaced an outlet and swapped the neutral and ground wires on the outlet. His dock does not have GFI protection so the miswired outlet was returning current through his bonding system through the water. Exactly why GFIs are now code on docks. Also found his water heater had a short between neutral and ground but he never used it so the problem was not apparent until we checked it. Lots of boats have current leakage problems. The state docks around here have gone to GFIs and consequently they turn a lot of boats away or do not let them use shore power due to leakage. My boat has 2 inlets and all the neutrals were hooked together. The surveyor did not catch this and he also missed the fact that it only had 1 30 amp main breaker...
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