Category Archives: Electrical

Starter motor

Taking down the sails and getting ready to enter harbour only to find that something (discharged batteries?) prevents the starter motor from turning over at the usual pace is a somewhat tiring experience. In our case, the problem wasn’t discharged batteries but one of the brushes in the starter motor that had gotten stuck in its holder. Luckily, we had an extra brush holder complete with brushes on board; it took a bit more than an hour to change and the holder with brushes cost about USD 15.

On old holder (right), one brush was stuck.
On Anna, removing the starter motor is a 10 minute job due to easy access.

Nav lights

Originally, the connection for the navigation lights at the bow pulpit is made with screw terminals located in the chain locker. And with domestic-use copper wiring. Obviously, it doesn’t take long for the terminals and the wiring to corrode, mainly due to seawater entering the chain locker when sailing close-hauled.

We replaced the wiring from the lanterns with tinned copper wire, routed the wires via water proof ports in the chain locker bulkhead into the fore cabin, where the connections were located as part of the new hawse pipe installation.


New tinned copper wire straight from the lanterns on the bow pulpit exit the chain locker thru water proof ports into the forepeak

Replacing odd lighting fixtures

Some time in its almost 40 year history, Anna had been fitted with two very odd ceiling lighting fixtures; one in the forward head and one in the passageway between the salon and forepeak. They really ruin the beautiful interior of the boat and gives it a haphazard look. But we’ve been searching in vain for the old style. Then suddenly they just popped up on some web site in Germany.


Forward head. OK, it’s LED, but it doesn’t even cover the holes of the old fixture.


Passageway. Ehhh…


New (left) fixture is a very close match to old ones


This is what to search for when looking for replacement fixtures

Sacrificial anode

The anode on the propeller shaft wears out in two seasons. We also had a problem with corrosion of the heat exchanger (a new one was provided by Vetus under warranty) and corrosion of the ball valve on the sea water intake for the engine.

To hopefully avoid premature death of our new engine and other fittings, we have fitted a small pen anode in the sea water circuit of the engine as well as a 5 kg anode on the hull, wired into the engine. Let’s see what happens…


As close to the propeller and sea water intake as possible, with a free line of sight to both.


Bronze thru hull post connects the zinc anode to the 16 mm2 tinned copper wire from the engine

Bow thruster control panel

The ‘old’ control panel of our Vetus bow thruster short circuited because of water entering the circuit board. Not good; the thruster started running suddenly and had to be switched off by means of the main circuit breaker. Thankfully, Vetus replaced it under warranty.

At the same time, we took the opportunity to go for the new a slimmer panel. The old, square and somewhat big panel had been mounted where fingers easily caught between it and the steering wheel. Also, the sheets sometimes got caught on it. So, we built a better housing for the new panel.


Old, huge-ish panel


Building housing for new panel

IMG_1209 IMG_1211

Wind vane

After our post,, about the wind vane we put together for Anna, we have received a few requests for a little more info. So here’s a little video of the thing.


Basically, our misgivings about mounting the vane under the mizzen boom – supposedly made worse by relocating our two solar panels to the stern – were proven to be unfounded. However, we have so far not managed to get the vane to work with less than 2 knots boat speed, but maybe that is not to be expected. Light and fluky winds are not even easy for a human helmsman.

Apart from the obvious benefit of freeing the helmsman from the tiller, or wheel in our case, the main benefit of the wind vane is the substantial saving in power consumption when comparing with an autopilot. With the wind vane, we are self-sufficient as far as electricity goes with our two 54W solar panels – as long as it’s sunny…

Carbon monoxide

We ordered a carbon monoxide detector through ebay from China, installed it (well, put it on the cushion…) and fired up the POD kerosene heater and kept it running at full blast for an hour. The detector showed nothing. Then we hung it at the anti down draught contraption on the chimney. After some 10-15 minutes it showed 118 ppm.

So, obviously, some exhaust fumes are getting into the cabin although not sufficient to pose a serious problem, it seems. A different exhaust solution (another chimney cowl or a fan to force exhaust gases out) might keep us sleeping more soundly. More testing needs to be done.


Compass bubble

On Anna, we have a pedestal compass, marked “Henry Browne & Sons, Barking & London, Sestrel, 17854IV”. Late 2014, a bubble, about 40mm in diameter, suddenly appeared in the compass. A small bubble is not a big deal, but this was sufficiently large to make me worry about possible condensation in the air space. Also, filling a compass is done in a matter of minutes, right?

After researching what to fill the compass with I tried to find Isopar (M or L); no luck. So I settled for petroleum paraffin (C10C13), which is sold as lamp oil. The often recommended baby oil is not suitable (and in any case more expensive) as it starts to go opaque below approc -15 degrees C; it’s not often that it gets that cold in southern Sweden, but it happens.

Looking back, this is how the work went:

  1. Remove bow thruster control panel (to get to the screws holding the ‘steel cage’).
  2. Remove steel cage surrounding compass (to get the compass out of the pedestal).
  3. Remove compass.
  4. Clean and epoxy holes in pedestal for steel cage (had started to work loose).
  5. Drill new holes in epoxy, once hardened.
  6. Sand and varnish teak trim surrounding compass.
  7. Remove old varnish on steel cage and polish.
  8. Scrape, sand, prime and paint compass cover.
  9. Polish out scratches from compass dome.
  10. Make gaskets to fit between steel cage and pedestal. Hopefully prevents it from working loose in the future.
  11. Solder new red diode onto compass night light cable.
  12. Fill compass.
  13. Refit compass, steel cage and bow thruster control panel.

Again, never think about how much work it will take to fix something on the boat. Just do it!

No, baby oil is not a good idea, at least not in Scandinavia. After half an hour in the freezer, it went from clear to slush.

No, baby oil is not a good idea, at least not in Scandinavia.


The oil was simply poured into the hole.


Might as well touch up the varnish on the teak trim. Steel cage can be seen bottom left.


And better scrape off that loose paint on the cover.


And those holes are starting to get bigger, making the steel cage a bit loose. Better expoxy them. And those non-matching screws have to be fixed.


And the new epoxy-PU paint on the dome cover doesn’t want to harden, so it goes in the oven.


This stuff, Xerapol plastic polish, bought from, works great to polish out minor scratches


And a new diode, instead of the old and burnt-out bulb, gets soldered onto the night light cable (the cable should be twisted to prevent interference with the compass). Almost done now…

New heater #2, installation

After finding out that the heater brand “Planar”, manufactured in Russia, are being sold at less than half the price of similar German heaters, I decided to replace our old Webasto. I found a complete kit of the model 44D-12-GP-TM available from , including a spare glow plug and freight, for only SEK 6,000. Delivery was prompt and trouble-free.

Installation was straight forward, except;
1. I replaced first three meters of heating duct (was 80mm, now 100mm). All the heating ducts have previously been insulated as it improves heating markedly.
2. Old heater had a pump lifting from the main fuel tank. New heater has a dedicated fuel tank (7 litres) – although this can be supplied from the main tank with a separate lift pump in the future. I decided for this solution so as to ensure clean fuel for the heater.
3. Connections for combustion air and exhaust are 26 and 24mm respectively, significantly smaller than the old heater, meaning that new reductions have to be made.

The heater started on the second attempt (after the fuel line had been primed…) and worked as expected.


The Planar is rougly the same size as the old Webasto, so coudl be fitted in the same location. Exhaust connection is still temporary, awaiting welding of 80-24 mm reduction. Some tidying up still left to be done…


Although manufactured in Russia, the heater is sold by Autoterm in the Czech Republic and carries a CE marking.



After installation, I was happy to confirm that the Planar actually consumed slightly less electricity than stated in the data sheet.

Heater alternatives

Prior to installing the kerosene heater (which heats the aft cabin and aft head only), we looked into


#1. Replacing our current Webasto HL3003 with a new forced air diesel heater
Benefits: Reduced draw on battery (approx 20-25% less at max setting). Reduced fuel consumption (approx 25% less at max setting). More control over settings (our current heater is either off or on full power). Can be fitted into our existing system of ducts. No new chimney needed. Uses same fuel as engine. Can be used while sailing/heeling.
Disadvantages: Cost (especially Webasto and Eberspächer, wheras Planar is less expensive). Does not supply hot tap water. Still draws about 10-60 W, depending on heat setting. Some noise.

#2. Changing to water heater
Benefits: Reduced draw on battery (approx. -50%), Reduced fuel consumption (approx -30%). Can be hooked into our hot tap water supply. No new chimney needed. Uses same fuel as engine. Can be used while sailing/heeling.
Disadvantages: Cost. Requires new distribution system + convectors. Still draws about 10-40 W.

#3. Kerosene heater (brand: POD)
Benefits: No, or minimal (1.2 W), draw on battery. Uses same fuel as lamps (we use our kerosene lamps every evening because we like them; it’s the brass, open fire thing). Almost silent. Cheap fuel (about 20% cheaper than diesel). Can be used while sailing/heeling.
Disadvantages: Smell (though not a lot, assuming that you set the wick at the proper level). Requires new chimney and new distribution system. Does not supply hot tap water.

#4. Propane/Butane heater (brand: Truma)
Benefits: Uses same fuel as cooker/oven. Can be used while sailing/heeling.
Disadvantages: Very expensive fuel (about 3 times the price of kerosene/diesel) – which is why we did not look into this further. Requires new gas installation.

#5. Diesel heater (brand: Glembring and Refleks)
Benefits: No, or minimal (1.2 W), draw on battery. Uses same fuel as engine. Almost silent.
Disadvantages: Requires new chimney and new distribution system. Does not supply hot tap water. Can not be used while sailing due to heeling.

In the end, how you weigh the different pros and cons depends on how you use the boat. For us, the wish to be able to anchor for a week in winter with no engine running required to produce electricity is an important aspect (we have a 12 V 400 A battery bank). In the end, that, combined with the cost of the Webasto and Eberspächer products, is what made us settle for the POD heater. Only later did we find the Planar brand heaters, which are about 50-70% cheaper than similar Webasto/Eberspächer, although the Planar heaters draw about 13-25% more amps, depending on the setting.

For us, even with the advantageous price of the Planar, replacing our forced air diesel heater would not have achieved the goal (no, or minimal, battery draw). But we are definitely considering the Planar for the future since it barely costs more than servicing a Webasto/Eberspächer.

When at anchor, and even more so when sailing, it is sufficient to heat the aft cabin and head (volume approx equivalent to a 25ft boat). The salon is difficult to heat when sailing, since crew passing up and down the companionway result in most heat being lost. Also, we rarely have people staying in the forepeak, nor use the forward head. Consequently, our basic heating requirement is about 1 kW. However, the possibility of occasionally heating the salon while at anchor, and even the forepeak, has some value and requires an additional 1 kW, which is the minimum setting on the new forced air heaters.