Shore Power Wiring for Lilikoi – a Catalina 27

Getting Lilikoi ready for sale, I decided one thing that would really help the sale is adding shore power. For the last 40 years this boat has had an extension cord running through the companionway.  I figured it’s about time, and I have the parts and an electrical engineering degree, so time to do something about it.

Some adult supervision is important in any project involving electricity

Some adult supervision is important in any project involving electricity

This web photo helped me decide where to place the power entry

This web photo helped me decide where to place the power entry

Beginning with the shore power inlet, I had a plastic Marinco outlet from the wrecker for $25 and I needed to figure out where to put the inlet.

I did some research on the web and found a boat that had the inlet located below the winch.  I checked my boat out and reached under the port berth to where the screw heads are and forward to the proposed area and found it was pretty clear. The Marinco instructions call for a 2-7/8″ hole saw.  Right!  I found a 3″ saw at Harbor Freight and went to town after looking at the gasket to make sure it would cover a 3″ hole.  I taped the proposed plate location and made sure it wouldn’t interfere with winch operation.  I wasn’t sure how thick the fiberglass is at that point (turns out to be surprisingly thin at about 1/8″ and it cut through in under 3 minutes.  I had been worried that maybe I should get an expensive bimetal hole saw set, but the $10 set did the job fine.

This is the depth of the breaker.  I later cut the access out bigger to accommodate a full depth box to contain the wiring

This is the depth of the breaker. I later cut the access out bigger to accommodate a full depth box to contain the wiring

I bought a dual pole 20A breaker set for $5 at a boat wrecker (they typically cost about $100).  A trip to home depot to find some suitable wiring boxes.  The ones I chose have ears in the front and brackets that tighten against them with a couple of Philips head screws.

The wiring needs to support the size of the breaker, so I was commited then to using more costly 12gauge wire.  I decided I absolutely needed power at the Galley and near the Dinnette table (for general use, and about as far as you’d want to run a battery charger cable) It also made sense to have power at the starboard bulkhead for

An outlet in the bulkhead just outboard of the chainplate location faces the dinette and will be a convenient place to plug in TV, table lamp, chargers

An outlet in the bulkhead just outboard of the chainplate location faces the dinette and will be a convenient place to plug in TV, table lamp, chargers

the TV and another outlet up in the V berth because that is a dark and scary place.  This suggested I run two

using the cubby wall as an outlet location

using the cubby wall as an outlet location convenient to the dinette table

branches.  I drew up a quick diagram and marked the proposed locations with electrical tape.  I took full advantage of the wooden cubbies to avoid cutting holes in the fiberglass wherever possible.

In the end I needed to only cut one hole for the shore power inlet.  one 1/2″ hole for the wiring to the breaker panel.  A rectangular hole for the breaker panel, which I positioned near the existing DC panel, one hole through the bottom of the port bench into the galley cabinet, one rectangular hole in the galley cabinet for the GCFI outlet. In a parallel run the wiring goes over to battery locker to an outlet set in the wooden cubby above the dinette, then through the dinette to the main bulkhead where I mounted a second outlet for the TV and from there through the cubby in the head area to the forward bulkhead, where I positioned the V-berth outlet.  The backs of the AC boxes are obscured within the cubbies with the outlets facing out.

Multitool can create square cutouts with zero clearance

Multitool can create square cutouts with zero clearance

I used a multitool to make the cuts, which worked great because of the limited clearances.  it would have been close to impossible to cut rectangular holes with the jigsaw

For the Galley I chose to mount the outlet in the side of the cabinetry, accessible to the kitchen without being too close to the sink.  I crimped on connectors, Trying ring connectors the first time, but getting wiser when I found the outlets’ screws don’t back out the entire way.  An auto wire stripper I found at harbor freight was very helpful.  Their crimpers aren’t great, you generally have to use the next smaller size hole (blue for yellow) for a secure connection.

liquid electrical tape is handy for wet locations, sealing securely against moisture.

liquid electrical tape is handy for wet locations, sealing securely against moisture.

Over that I used some liquid electrical tape and then installed the outlets in the boxes and screwed on the covers.

Ground Current Fault Interrupt (GCFI) outlets are required for each run. These devices monitor power through them and if more than 30mA or so takes the wrong route, (through your body and wet feet to ground, for instance) they shut off the power in a millisecond. Standard 20A outlets can be used at the other locations but they need to be wired in properly, with grounds, and tested to make sure they are GCFI protected.  I found some GCFI outlets at Orchard Supply

six bucks for a 20A GCFI outlet.  You betcha.  Gotta thank Leviton and Orchard supply.

six bucks for a 20A GCFI outlet. You betcha. Gotta thank Leviton and Orchard supply.

that were being discontinued.  Leviton had made some custom sized outlets designed to work with special décor plates that hide their screws.  They didn’t catch on because the devices are nonstandard.  the GCFI outlets were going for just $6 and their non GCFI outlets were $3 with the cover plates discounted to a buck.  That clinched the decision to install four outlets instead of two!

2012-12-02 Work for Sunday – Cleanup and the Electrical Monster

Diesel in the Sump

The sump continues to collect diesel.  I believe the water in the sump was displacing the diesel and now that it’s been removed the tank can leak freely.  I need to empty the tank rather than continue sucking the leaky stuff out of the bilge.  The problem is, I am not sure how much is there and how to go about properly disposing of it. My wife is getting sensitized to that diesel aroma.  It takes about 3 washes to get it out of a pair of blue jeans.  My GoJo hand cleaner works well for my hands.

Cleaning the Head

Continuing the cleaning process, I cleared out the head area.  There’s no plumbing in here so it’s just kind of a closet with a big cutout in the wall for the holding tank.  I found a tub of mixed hardware, many of which were mild steel drywall screws that had rusted.  I did find a few jewels in there:

1) The mounts that secure the top of the companionway ladder were cleaned and installed.  Now it’s not quite as scary decending the ladder!

2) Several of the strikers for the cabinets.  These are just in fair shape, but it helps having the original equipment as a place to work from.

Lots of Formula 409 and scrubbing were required to restore the head to some kind of order.  Packed away the following items:

  • two marine fire extinguishers
  • a big roll of 3″ wide fiberglass tape
  • a couple blocks and strips of teak wood
  • about ten bottles of gold and silver paint with some brusheds that the PO had used on the logo.  I’ll give these to the Girl Scouts for Christmas projects.

The following items were trashed:

  • lots of wood putty, silicone and so forth
  • some sheets and discs of wet sandpaper
  • a rusty sparkplug socket and a miscellany of rubbish


The wiring is pretty nightmarish.  The fuse panel is hanging from its hinges and I noticed it has both AC and DC breakers in the same box.  That’s only marginally scary. The thing is the AC side is directly opposite the ground bus bar.  About the scariest thing was the battery charger AC input was wrapped and taped and just kind of hanging.

I spent some time tracing out the wiring.  That battery charger was actually pretty useful in that it allowed me to confirm which battery leads were which.  The color means nothing, unfortunately.  I wired in the group 27 12V battery I was using for the sump and played around with the panel.  I found that by turning on the POWER switch and the CABIN lights I could get the cabin lights to turn on.  Three interior lights and the forward Engine bay light was working.  The rear one looks to be missing a bulb.  I haven’t dared to try any of the other switches yet because there is a lot of abandoned wiring.

2012-12-01 Tarps and Cleaning

Saturday morning


I replaced the large 17×20 tarp with two smaller tarps. The big one had collected so much water that I need smaller tarps to let the cockpit drains and side drains do their work.  I put a 9×12 on the main cabin, tented over the mast, and a 5×7 on the rear cabin.

Cleaning the Aft Cabin

Continuing the work of cleaning out the rear cabin I found

  • Large fisherman’s anchor and rode
  • Two danforth anchors, large and small
  • Two big Coleman coolers with broken hinges.  One has no latch.  I will probably Craigslist these for free pickup by some fisherman
  • A 1980 era VHF radio. This went straight into the trash
  • Collection of teak and cabinet door bits.  I was able to sort this out into some semblance of order. I also found one of the side stiles for the main companionway drop board.  I am still missing a piece from the main companionway door and a stile from the rear companionway drop board
  • I found the oval cutouts for the side of the engine bay
  • big square boards that go at the bottom of the footwell
  • a pair of men’s pants.  Dickies – hey my size – 34″ x 30″
  • Lots of running rigging or what may be either sheets or the mast raising kit?  I am not sure.
  • Crab traps, floats and line
  • two nautical charts
  • Zodiac raft with a repair in the bottom and a repair kit

Electrical – Getting the AC working

I used one of my camper 30A adapters to run AC into one of the two Marinco outlets on the starboard cabintop and the AC outlets in the main cabin and aft cabin now function. I have a worklight going and plugged a fan in the aft cabin to get some ventilation going in there.


I used a gift certificate the kind folks at Cardica had given me a couple years back to buy some 6×9 speakers to install in the existing 6×9 cutouts in two of the kicker panels of the main cabin.  Melissa and I ran over to Fry’s Electronics at 8:30 just before closing and selected a pair.   I think having a stereo in there will make the work go faster.  I’ll probably put the speakers in some garbage bags to keep them dry and functional until the dust moisture and excitement die down.

I found the sump cover in the hanging locker so I pulled that out to dry.  The bottom looks pretty shot but I might be able to relaminate something so the teak pattern will match.  same story with the two cabin sole sump covers around the mast.

Scary red wire

I found a particularly scary red wire that runs down the floor of the cabin and was drilled through and under the cockpit sole then back up the other side.  I have no idea why they didn’t go through the cabinets 3′ away, but it’s perilously close to the edge of the boat.  I’ll figure out if this is still needed and relocate it.  the holes will need to be epoxy’d up… carefully!

Engine work

I picked up some Automatic Transmission Fluid and a battery bulb.  Juergen a mechanic who was working on an old wood boat at Coyote Point marina suggested that I fill the cylinder with ATF or diesel fuel to try to get the motor unsiezed.  I’ll try anything at this point: there is little risk! I spent almost an hour trying to find the spark plug before I remembered it was a diesel and doesn’t have one.  D’oh!  I removed the intake port and found it matched a gasket that was floating around the battery compartment, so it was nice to find a home for that.    The intake valve looked to be closed but I wiped out some rust and put about 3 tablespoons in before it overflowed.  Hours later it hadn’t gone down so I decided to have a look under the valve cover.  There is very little vertical clearance in the engine bay.  I had just enough room to remove the valve cover, if I tipped it just so.  I found the engine appears to be at the end of its exhaust stroke.  I’d have to open the other side to confirm.  I couldn’t get the intake valve to move for the life of me. The springs are tough but not that tough. I could squeeze it a bit but I couldn’t push the valve stem down any.  Nor could I convince the rocker on the other side to move.  The valve cover incorporates a decompression lever intended to let you crank start the engine, but when I looked at it it appears it presses down on the exhaust valve stem, which isn’t much help.

On Sunday I pulled the exhaust side.  I loosened four bolts and removed the exhaust manifold. I also had to loosen two hoses to pull away the exhaust. (It looks like there is a crack in the exhaust manifold unless it’s just a detail in the molding, but that’s a problem I am looking forward to having to deal with assuming I get the thing running.)  They’re all 13 mm bolts, about 4″ long threaded in the lower inch, and I had to dig through my tools to find a 13.  I have so many 12s and 14s it was driving me crazy!  If found a 13mm socket with a 3/8″ drive and an extension bar.  The first three came out rather easily, but the fourth was crazy hard. I had to brace myself into a knot and use my leg to push the handle of the wrench and it finally squeaked free.  I am amazed Teresa Carey was able to tear her engine down to repair a bent connecting rod by herself, but I guess mine had an additional 10 years of corrosion working against me.

The gasket had some RTV on it and when the last screw came out there was some motor oil (very dirty motor oil) coming out of the passage.  It stopped after I put the screw back in.  at least there is some oil in there!

The intake port was wide open. However, the piston is probably near Top Dead Center (TDC) so it only took a few ounces to fill it. As I pushed the exhaust manifold out of the way I heard a few cups of water come rushing out.  I don’t know if it was in the exhaust or raw water passages though.  It would explain the engine being siezed.

I figure there are a couple options. Either the cylinder rings rusted in the cylinder wall due to some exposure to moisture, or the motor had some more catastrophic event like a thrown valve or broken connecting rod.  I didn’t see metal flakes in the oil but I have not drained it yet.

The hope is that the oil in the cylinder will eventually creep down and lube things up enough that I can turn the main crank with a wrench.  I still haven’t been able to find the starting crank.  Juregen said it could take up to a week, so hold your breath and check back!