One of the least fun aspects of buying a used cruising boat, sail or power, is the inevitable discovery of mysterious wires that are not labeled and were not part of the original build. I have found that on every boat I have ever been on.
These wires appear because the owner or tech guys added electrical or electronic gear. Most often, the goal is to get it done as quickly as possible, so corners are cut, power comes from the closest source, and no labeling of any kind is done on either end, let alone updating the boat's wiring diagram.
Any subsequent owner is faced with the daunting task to sort it all out. Bummer.
One of the best practices in boat ownership is to take the original wiring diagram, if there is one, and keeping it up to date. The one used by the boat builder is most always pretty generic and does not take into account any optional installed accessories and equipment. This documentation, including the owner's manual, is rarely done by an experienced technical writer or customer service technician thinking from the owner's perspective, so is often vague and unhelpful, and assumes a level of knowledge that doesn't exist.
By forcing the discipline to keep a boat's wiring diagram current, I find a distinct satisfaction that I am doing things right and keeping the boat properly shipshape. I feel more confident when I know I have taken care of details like this, and better understand a boat's systems for now and for future owners. The diagram that comes from the builder is a great start, but it seldom includes the battery charger later installed, or the additional lighting or audio equipment. A cruising boat might be ordered with an electric stove and convection microwave oven, which is certainly different from a sistership with a propane stove and oven, complete with sniffer. Was the wiring diagram updated to reflect this?
I've never been a fan of just snipping that red wire that seemingly goes nowhere. I would rather determine why it is there and if it powered a piece of gear that was removed, I will try my best to remove the entire length of wire.
I recall one TrawlerPort event that included a tour of a production boat builder. Steve D'Antonio and I walked around the facility, and commented that once wires were run through the boat, and the deck went on, it would be impossible to access any of it later. There were no wire chases, just wires put down in the voids between molded hull and deck.
Discipline in boating makes for safer boating, in my mind, and a richer experience. It is also true in life. I was reminded of this this past Saturday, as I had dinner with a young lieutenant, recently graduated as a Navy SEAL, and headed to his first deployment. He spoke of his experience and his training. The discipline of his last two years has been extraordinary, his instructors in his face as he trained in the close quarter reality of clearing rooms in a building, everyone using live ammunition. He spoke of learning to jump out of an aircraft into the night sky without colliding with the guy in front of him in total blackness. Yeah, he is all about discipline. I wish him great success as he leads a team in his future, and hope he stays well.
For me, I'll stick with the discipline to keep the boat as good as it gets, the wiring diagram up to date, so I know how it is all connected. It feels satisfying to have this level of control over one's passion.
Have a great week.