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Old 02-15-2015, 07:45 AM   #1
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The dreaded phone call

It's 04:35 local time as I write this. I was awoken at 02:35 hrs this am with the phone ringing.
"Is this Jim Cave, of the vessel Phoenix Hunter?"
"Yes?"
"We have disconnected the power to your boat. There is a burnt electrical cord".
"Which end?"
"Boat end."
I thank the guy for taking prompt action and for phoning me, and in 10 minutes, dog and I are in the car and on our way. Not a lot of traffic at 3 in the morning as I get to the boat in record time. Down to the boat. Plug is unplugged and I check the boat end. It's still plugged in and no burned cord on that end. However on the utility end the neutral prong has burned the plastic. This is a 20 amp adapter for the 30 amp cord, and the 30 amp cord is fine. On further examination, the neutral prong is corroded, so I'm presuming that is the reason for this result.

I'm thinking now it's a good idea to regularly inspect these cords for corrosion.

Any other advice very humbly accepted!


Jim
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Old 02-15-2015, 07:53 AM   #2
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So you have your 30 amp shore power cord plugged into a 20 amp outlet through an adapter, right?

The only improvement I can see is to upgrade the marina's electrical system to 30 amps. That may take a bunch of wiring, breakers, etc to do and is probably not possible. That 20 amp outlet (if it really is 20 amps- does it have a cross on one lug? If not it is 15 amps) can't handle near the load of a marine 30 amp socket and plug.

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Old 02-15-2015, 07:55 AM   #3
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I have had one at the dock end sizzling, arcing, and making appropriated sounds that go along .....but have had a dozen of mine and many work related ones get pretty burnt with no indicator except intermittent power.

I am curious if yours had gotten to the arcing/smoking point and was quite noticeable, or how did anyone know?

Even if you keep your ends perfect..if you travel a lot, so many dock ends are terrible and tear yours up in no time.

I upgraded to 50 amp much because the more robust ends....the other move is smart plug or hard wire the boat end....dock ends you still have a problem but less chance of a boat fire I would guess.
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Old 02-15-2015, 07:57 AM   #4
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Fix all corrosion, terminals and sources of resistance on the circuit. Then review what loads are running. I never run significant amperage through my 30 amp cords when away. You don't have a heater running do you?
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Old 02-15-2015, 08:07 AM   #5
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The dreaded phone call

Quote:
Originally Posted by ghost View Post
Fix all corrosion, terminals and sources of resistance on the circuit. Then review what loads are running. I never run significant amperage through my 30 amp cords when away. You don't have a heater running do you?

Thanks everyone for your comments. Yes, Ghost, I do have a heater running. Not right now obviously! I've been careful to,have it set at the 500 watt setting. DMarchandt, it is 20 amp service.

Yes, the 20 amp service is a bit of a problem and I've complained about it as elsewhere on the docks at this facility, it's 30 amp. The upgrade is on their to-do list but it's glacier action. This is a subsidized facility for commercial fishing. Power is $300/year, flat rate. I can pay another $60 a month for a second 20 amp service cord.


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Old 02-15-2015, 08:12 AM   #6
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The marina has people come by several times a day to check the cords. The check is pretty cursory. Perhaps they smelled something. It wasn't visually noticeable until it was unplugged.


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Old 02-15-2015, 08:56 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDCAVE View Post

I'm thinking now it's a good idea to regularly inspect these cords for corrosion.

Any other advice very humbly accepted!


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Old 02-15-2015, 09:02 AM   #8
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It was probably easy to see in the dark. This is one of those things I worry about (amongst lots of others, its not at the top of the list)when away from the boat. I also use 50 amp receptacles and cord ends on the boat. I have 2 30amp cords one has a 50 amp end on it at the dock pedestal. The other is a 30 end. each cord feeds a MS2000 inverter/charger that are connected to 8 T105 batts. If I lose 1 power source (burnt ends, bad breaker, etc.) the batteries are still being maintained by the second inverter. If power is completely out for any reason I have enough solar to keep them up, with no load except bilge pumps and emergency pumps. I hate that call from the marina.
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Old 02-15-2015, 09:04 AM   #9
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Would it help any to use a dielectric grease on both ends, especially if plugged in to the same outlet all season? Perhaps a couple of shots of electrical contact cleaner before plugging in to a new outlet?
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Old 02-15-2015, 09:09 AM   #10
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On the subject of cord ends, what has happened with the new positive locking/clamping units. The "springy thingy" in the recetapcle is our biggest problem. If it gets hot it loses its springy,ness. If the last user had a bad cord he probably left you with a bad receptacle. Kinda like a virus, it affects you and anyone else that comes into contact with it. And, if not caught and fixed on your end you spread it to the next pedestal or outlet. Seems like a cam clamp of some type would be much better.
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Old 02-15-2015, 09:11 AM   #11
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A close inspection of the power post receptacle is also important. Sticking a new adapter in an old corroded receptacle will eventually yeild the same result again. These receptacles aren't designed for the moisture of the dock environment and most marinas only replace them after an incident.

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Old 02-15-2015, 10:07 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by O C Diver View Post
A close inspection of the power post receptacle is also important. Sticking a new adapter in an old corroded receptacle will eventually yeild the same result again. These receptacles aren't designed for the moisture of the dock environment and most marinas only replace them after an incident.

Ted


Routine inspection...particularly after heavy usage is the only way I know to even have a clue if it has overheated.

I have never noticed any symptoms other than smoking or popping sounds from moisture or arcing and at that point immediate action is necessary.
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Old 02-15-2015, 10:39 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike66 View Post
Would it help any to use a dielectric grease on both ends, especially if plugged in to the same outlet all season? Perhaps a couple of shots of electrical contact cleaner before plugging in to a new outlet?

Mike, I thought about posting the same question. We use it lots on industrial equipment harness plugs (DC voltage) where we want to assure a good connection.


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Old 02-15-2015, 10:40 AM   #14
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The dreaded phone call

My boat is "new to me" and there is so much I don't know yet. One unknown is the electrical connection.

The boat has two 30amp sockets. When I bought the boat it only came with one cord and so that's what I have used and it seems to power everything up, although I have not really used the boat at dock enough to put much of a load on the system yet.

What is the reason for the two sockets on the boat? Should I buy another 30amp cord and use both? If the marina only has one 30amp plug do I buy a spitter to power both 30amp cords? If the marina has 50amp service do I split that?

Is there a book I could read to get some baseline knowledge of boat electronics? I'm fairly mechanical but electrically impaired, sadly.
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Old 02-15-2015, 10:54 AM   #15
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cardudeo1, check out Nigel Calders electrical book
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Old 02-15-2015, 11:05 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cardude01 View Post
My boat is "new to me" and there is so much I don't know yet. One unknown is the electrical connection.

The boat has two 30amp sockets. When I bought the boat it only came with one cord and so that's what I have used and it seems to power everything up, although I have not really used the boat at dock enough to put much of a load on the system yet.

What is the reason for the two sockets on the boat? Should I buy another 30amp cord and use both? If the marina only has one 30amp plug do I buy a spitter to power both 30amp cords? If the marina has 50amp service do I split that?

Is there a book I could read to get some baseline knowledge of boat electronics? I'm fairly mechanical but electrically impaired, sadly.
Often the second 30 amp connection is for air conditioning.

Ken
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Old 02-15-2015, 11:15 AM   #17
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I'm generally at the boat twice a week...at least once a week and I've asked one of the live-aboards to check the breaker as it does pop once in a while. There is no "assigned" receptacle. The power isn't metered. If someone is "stealing" power, they charge the, $6/day, which adds up quick.


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Old 02-15-2015, 11:18 AM   #18
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Ok. Thanks. I'll get that book.

The boat does have two AC units, and they both work using one 30amp cord. I have not run them very long yet however. I need to stare at the electric panel and figure it out. I've only been on the boat three days total so still overwhelmed.
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Old 02-15-2015, 11:56 AM   #19
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The electrical on our old docks was terrible. It was 30 amp, but open to the weather and subject to corrosion. People were trying to protect their cord ends by hanging buckets, plastic bags, etc. over the power service boxes. It wasn't uncommon to walk down the dock and see steam coming off an electrical box and there was no user accessible breaker to throw. it was amazing we didn't have more boat fires.

When it starts popping breakers, under normal loads, then there is significant resistance there. I got in the habit of feeling the power cord ends as I was coming and going from the boat. If my cord end at the dock was showing warmth or terminal corrosion, then the dock receptacle was probably in the same shape. As you say, it's a cancer and putting a new plug into a corroded receptacle resulted in the same problem. I would ask the Marina to change out their receptacle every time I changed out a cord end, which was about every other year.

Once the new docks and modern protected service pedestals were installed. . . no more problems.
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Old 02-15-2015, 12:07 PM   #20
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Simply: I have our Tollycraft set up so it is never needed to leave our boat plugged into dock when away for more than a few hours.
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