Upgrade 3 – It’s Electric!

Right after Dave the Head Guy finished with our head upgrades (please reference previous tirade post) I turned to Craig, sighed, and said, “It sure is starting to feel more like a home and less like camping!”

Sailors tend to be the superstitious type and I should’ve known better than to say something like that out loud. Not more than 48 hours later, I was up early trying to dry my hair before work. Per standard protocol, I blew a fuse. (Craig is giving me a lecture right now about how I tripped the breaker instead of blowing a fuse. Y’all know what I mean, right?) I tried to keep my swearing to a whisper as I marched back to the engine room since Craig was still sleeping and I am a lady. I tried to flip the switch, but it wouldn’t stay. “This can’t be good, “ I thought. Mostly because my hair was still wet and it was super cold outside, but also because we were likely going to spend another few Boat Units in the very near future.

As I left for the day I whispered a short explanation to Craig, which he promptly forgot. He called me later that morning (after his beauty rest) to tell me what was going on, as if I wasn’t the culprit. (If I had been thinking clearly, I would’ve let him go on believing that it was his nose hair trimmer at fault.) The main breaker was gone. (Gone as in kaput, not as in the prop of a David Copperfield illusion.) Let me make this clearer. The breaker that controlled the flow of all AC power on the boat was dead. There was no power being sent to outlets, the water heater, or the regular heater. If you haven’t been to Seattle in October, here’s a hint: it’s not warm.

30 amps of failed design

Giant Tripping Hazard – AKA old 30 amp shore power cord in highest traffic area of the deck, just begging to be kicked.

As Craig was talking to me I was not listening generating an email to a neighbor on the dock. (Remember? I learned my lesson about asking neighbors for help during Upgrade 1.) When the boat first moved into her slip, Dan came over to greet us within five minutes. He and his wife have been beyond welcoming. He recently retired from his career as a marine electrician and my email to his wife was a plea for help. It was a nerve-wracking day. Boats catch fire all too frequently in these latitudes because those of us with electric heaters are using a lot more electricity to keep warm and the giant shore power plugs are prone to damage from getting kicked. I couldn’t stop worrying about the boat, even after Irene told me Dan would stop by to check it out.

Old Breaker Box

The old breaker box for the 30 amp service has left the building.

The new 30 or 50 amp breaker box

The new 30 or 50 amp breaker box is mounted while the old one is slumped over from exhaustion.


When I finally got home, Dan gave me a run down. The breaker was fried. The shore power cord would be next. There was no way we could run the heater, water heater, and anything else simultaneously on the existing 30 amp service. We needed to upgrade the system if we planned on finishing out the winter on the boat. The next night, Craig and I sat down with Dan and discussed his plan to upgrade our system.

Let me take a brief moment to fill you in on a little boating secret. We’re all crazy. Never in a million years would Craig try to do electrical work in a house. But as soon as we start talking about fixing something on the boat, it turns into a DIY project as if he’s Tim the Tool-man Taylor. “Oh, I could totally do that!” sounds like a set of famous last words if you ask me. But Dan was willing to help us learn and make sure we didn’t electrocute ourselves or burn down the boat/marina in the process. How do you spell Dream Come True? D-a-n.

Dan the Man

Dan the Man instructs Craig on wiring our brand new 50 amp shore power cord.

For two weeks following the destruction of the breaker, we stayed with our friends Anna and Elia. If I were to count my blessing, it would look something like this: Anna, Elia, Small World, Jalapeno Cheddar Cheetos, Craig, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. We got them a little thank you gift of some mugs Anna had been eying and some yummy coffee… but only because I have no idea what to give someone who keeps you safe and warm when your home is broken. Mugs it is!

Where was I? Oh yes – fixing the boat. Dan showed us the plan, which mirrored the system he’d implemented on his own boat. We figured that if it works for a marine electrician, it would work for us, too. Craig went shopping with Dan to pick up all of the necessary parts. I’m part Polish, so I can say this: Craig pinches pennies with the best of us. Shopping for boat stuff is almost painful for us. It goes against everything we know. This crap stuff shit (that we actually really need) is expensive! But with Dan at his side, Craig was able to conquer the giant shopping list. Dan knew exactly what was needed and where everything was located within the various stores.

For the next two weeks, Craig learned from, and worked with Dan to help make our home safe. Craig’s schedule allows him to work on the boat during the day while I’m trapped in a cubicle 20 miles away. So while I’m staring at excel spreadsheets, he’s wiring our boat to accept 30 or 50 amps of electricity. I got pictures of grey metal boxes and giant orange plugs and I was giddy. That made me feel a little weird. I think I actually squealed a little when I got the picture from Craig.

The new SmartPlug housing!

Apparently this photo elicits giddy excitement, even when sitting in a cubicle surrounded by peers. Is it happening to you, too? I understand.


Brand new heater

Somehow, this 58 degrees is sexier than the 98 Degrees of my youth.

After 2 weeks we moved back onto Small World with 50 glorious amps of power. Craig installed an additional heater in the aft cabin and outside the forward head, and even replaced the original 1974 heater in the main cabin. (Is it weird that I was a little sad to see the original heater go? Boats give me weird emotions.) Three heaters? We live like royalty! The water heater is back on. The dehumidifier is on. I blow dry my hair. All. The. Time. Just because I can. (That’s not entirely true because I’d have to shower first and walking up to the shower right now isn’t exactly enticing and dry shampoo doesn’t require a blow-dryer. Because it’s dry.)

The moral of this story is that you should never talk about how comfortable you feel on a boat. It can only lead to more projects. So if you’re reading this, Small World, just know that I am perfectly content with everything as it is. I love you just as you are, you beautiful blue dream come true. Wink!


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About Krystle