This is a fairly technical post, so if you only want to read about lifestyle stuff, skip on ahead. This boat came to us wired for European electricity. That means 220V, but more problematic, 50hz systems. The boat works by having a bank of huge batteries that most stuff runs off of. The batteries are charged by (i) plugging into shore power (big electric outlets at a dock), (ii) running the engines or generator or (iii) solar. A 220V cannot plug into US (or Mexican) shore power. So while the boat was in Mexico, we relied on the solar panels to keep the batteries topped up. It worked because we weren’t there and there was almost nothing using power. Once we got it back to the US, we would have to do something about it. That’s where mad electrical scientist Mark Yerex comes in.
Mark flew down to SF from Seattle and over the course of a weekend, he and I wired the boat to handle 120V power of the type found in the US and many other places. This involved a new shore power inlet.
120V wiring up to a new charger/inverter (this is a device that charges batteries and converts DC battery power to AC power to run appliances) and wiring out to new 120V AC outlets (just like in your house) throughout the boat to go with the European outlets already there (the ones with two round prongs).
Sounds a lot simpler than it was, but now we could plug into a dock like a normal American boat and keep the batteries charged up and run the various appliances on the boat (lights, refrigerators, stereo, outlets for computers, etc.). Things were getting closer to normal. However, two issues remained: 1) the laundry could only run on the old 220V system. That is not a big deal so we left it as is. We’ll just run the generator whenever we want to do laundry. 2) We couldn’t make hot water with our newly introduced shore power. (I am finally getting around to what this post was supposed to be about). This was a problem since showering involved walking up the dock to the communal showers – not to mention not having hot water to wash dishes, etc.
Our water heaters (we have one in each hull) made hot water when the engines (we have one of those in each hull too) were running or when 220V electricity was available (from a European dock or the generator). They were not wired to accept 120V electricity even after the aforementioned total rewire. Don’t ask why, its just the way it was. Sooooo, re-enter Master Yerex advising by telephone. With his tutelage, I created a new switch box with two 3-way rotary switches. I led a new 120V wire from the inverted to a breaker and then to this new box and installed the box in spare space in a cabinet. The rotary switches have positions for 120V, 220V and off. There is one for each water heater. Then with a few tweaks to the water heaters and double checking and testing all the wiring, we were ready to go. Fire it up and give it several hours for the tanks to heat up, and voila!