Chip Ford's 1974 Catalina 22 Restoration Project
Sail #3282  l  Marblehead, Massachusetts

The never-ending project to fill my hole in the ocean while bailing it out

The Ongoing Wiring & Electrical Project

Click thumbnails below for a larger picture


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One of my early projects on Chip Ahoy in the spring of 2003 was rewiring the electrical system, and that began with replacing the switch/fuse panel. The original panel (left) was seriously corroded so I removed and tried cleaning it up, but it was too far gone.

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The original panel had only five circuit connections, and since I  planned to add an anchor light atop the mast, a deck light at the mast spreaders, and a VHF radio, I'd need additional connections and switches.  I had to cut away a little of the fiberglass to make the new  switch panel fit. I had labeled the wiring and drawn myself a diagram, so once mounted, I wired it up as it had been. Then I added the new circuits I needed.

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The new panel provided one extra switch. It used lighted rocker switches instead of toggles, which made inadvertently switching a circuit on when stepping in or out of the cabin -- a frequent occurrence, I learned from other Catalina 22 owners -- more difficult. The "on" light at least indicated the circuit was active.  But I wanted a way to control 12V power to the entire panel . . .

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To free up another switch on the panel, I moved the 12V master switch wiring from the old panel to a new lighted (when on) rocker switch I mounted on the winch panel, just above the ignition switch for the outboard's electric starter. The leads went to the battery (which I subsequently changed to the battery switch when I installed the second battery and battery switch the following year). At the same time I also added a voltmeter and the bilge pump switch to the opposite side of this panel (see below).

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I added a buss block terminal to the aft bulkhead between the cabin and the cockpit beneath the aft settee seat on the port side in the cabin, one side positive the other negative. I connected the positive side to the master switch.

Note in the center-left of this photo and bottom-right that I labeled each fuse-holder with the name of the device it protects. Then, if and when a circuit blows, I can more easily find its fuse-holder in the maze and check its fuse.

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When I added a small solar panel the following year (2004), I added a Sunguard-4 (Morningstar) controller alongside this buss. (Its leads run from the solar panel through the controller to the battery switch I subsequently installed.)

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Installing the second battery and battery switch in 2004 required two new buss blocks, one positive the other negative. They were mounted around the corner in the bilge  from the initial buss terminal. (Their covers have been removed in this photo.)

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From top to bottom, the voltmeter, bilge pump switch and battery switch.

SeaDog Voltmeter (Dual Batteries) Switch schematic  (PDF File)

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I replaced the deck-mounted (hidden) running lights unit with the new pulpit-mounted style. I ran the wiring through the pulpit tubes and down below deck, where I wired it into the original embedded wiring harness.

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Once I'd installed the new mast wiring harness and wired up the new anchor, deck and steaming lights, I needed a new deck connector for the additional wires (4 altogether). After a frustrating week fighting against two bad SeaDog connectors that kept shorting out, I finally bought an AquaSignal deck connector that worked perfectly; it also provided an extra (5th) wire connection should I ever need it. At this point I  also added a Blue Sea Systems cable clam on the cabin top for the VHF antenna cable to run through into the cabin.

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Inside the cabin, I ran the wiring along the overhead then down into the V-berth area, then beneath the dinette area to the switch panel. (See: preliminary deck wiring into the cabin for more details.) I replaced all the cabin light bulbs with  halogen light conversion kits.

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When I installed a new "fishfinder" (we used to call them depth finders -- because we were looking for depth, not fish!) in 2004, I epoxied it to the hull in the aft locker beneath the V-berth and ran its cable along the same route as the mast wiring, then up to and through the port side cabin/cockpit bulkhead out to the cockpit.

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A view from the cockpit of the new fishfinder mount (port side) and compass (starboard side).

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When I installed a new tiller pilot, I ran its wiring aft across the transom beneath the cockpit liner, then forward along the port side, and into the cabin. That is still a work-in-progress, but now that I've upgraded from two failed Raymarine ST-1000s to an ST-2000 that works, I'll wire it into the buss terminals this season. (Note the "cigarette lighter" receptacle I added at bottom-right to power the handheld GPS instead of having to run off its batteries.)

One of the last things I did before heading out on my cruise up the Maine coast in August of '04 was to wire-up the ICOM IC-M402 radio to my Garmin handheld GPS so I can use the NMEA DSC (distress calling/position) function. It's cable runs from the cabin out to the cockpit and connects there to my handheld GPS. I keep its connector covered when it's not connected and sealed with a rubber band when it's not in use, stowed away in the coaming compartment. This eliminated the need of the "cigarette lighter" receptacle I'd added to the bulkhead beneath this position. (The black circular disk fastened beneath the connector is the base for my GPS mount.)

Lessons learned:  If I had it to do over again, I'd have done the job cleaner and reduced if not eliminated the "rats nest" of wiring chaos. Fortunately, I did the job and know where everything is and runs to. Hobie Davidson sent some pretty neat aircraft-wiring sheathing material that he used when rewiring Dick King's "Jagged Edge," but it was too late for me unless I want to disconnect and rewire all -- which I'm just not up to doing. Plan ahead as much as possible before you start running wires. If you don't have to, chances are that you'll never want to revisit this project again either.

Being a contortionist would be an advantage when undertaking this project:  most connections are readily accessible, but not easy to work on without some serious physical contortions. Before you get yourself into position, make sure all tools and parts you'll need are within easy reach of your new posture. Think ahead before you wrestle yourself into such a contorted, immobile position -- after getting yourself there you'll want to hold it as long as you physically can!

Conclusions:  Throughout this ongoing project I've almost exclusively used 16 AWG marine-grade wiring, color-coded when practical, and corresponding marine-grade connectors. The exceptions were 10 AWG occasionally when it seemed prudent,  and 8 AWG when connecting from busses to the battery switch. I used 16 AWG multiple-wire sealed cable to continue the mast wiring harness inside the cabin to the switch panel, and 12 AWG two-wire sealed cable for the tiller pilot from cockpit to cabin busses. All connections are sealed with shrink-tubing. All fuse-holders are labeled with the devices they are protecting.

The only original wiring that remains is that which runs between the deck and the cabin overhead, and out to the stern light. I never have figured out a means to remove and replace it without major structural work and continue to keep my fingers crossed that it never fails. . . .


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