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Electrical fails tough to assess

July 15, 2016
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

My next bay boat will have an easy and full access electrical system that is logically and thoughtfully laid out. What a dream that would be!

That's often hard to find in many bay boat center console hulls in the locally popular 20- to 22-foot range where space is at a premium.

Lying on my side, twisting, grunting, and turning trying to fit as much of my 200-pound frame and arm through an opening the size of a medium pet door, I taped a small mirror to the inside of the console, snaked my hand through a jungle of wires, and started removing battery caps.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Returning with my turkey baster full of distilled water then lying at just the right angle to view the battery fill holes in the small mirror, reaching in I slowly - in the feels-like-a-105-degree heat - filled each of the 18 holes. Each and every filling required considerable physical effort and patience.

On a recent trip ruined by a total electrical power failure, the thought of trying to twist myself back into that 115-degree with zero breeze console and trace a multitude of wires and connections when I really don't know what I'm doing made me shudder.

The trip was salvaged by me blindly pulling and pushing wires till power was magically restored allowing us to escape a two-hour bug munching before a tow rescue.

Happy to be back on the trailer, but at the same time I also knew my electrical problem, the kind you can never seem to duplicate when the boat's at the high dollar shop for inspection at $100 bucks an hour, could be very costly.

I knew the answer to my dilemma. A call to the wizard of all things electrical, the Sultan of Spark, Dockside Dennis calmed my fears. (Highly recommended 239-541-1497.)

If your boat wiring looks like exploded spaghetti, nothing bundled, no logical clean layout, corroded connections, etc., electrical problems become more frequent and often harder to find for the repairman costing you big bucks.

Upon inspection I had nice shiny clean main battery connections in my three-battery system and really nothing looked amiss. After disassembling those connections seven ringed wire terminals were found to be hanging by a thread, so corroded that one or two easy back and forth bends made them simply fall off.

Some main battery terminals and connections that looked good from a top inspection were coated underneath. All of these things resulted in a loss of conductivity, simple bad grounds and a total shutdown on the water.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer capable of basic maintenance by all means don't wait for a breakdown far from the dock possibly in bad weather.

At least twice a year remove and inspect all battery terminal connections not only from main starter connections but also inspect the ringed terminals to various pumps and electronics that usually are stacked on the threaded accessory battery posts as well.

Inspect means not only visual, but tug each one to make sure it's a solid connection and you may be surprised to have it easily fall right off.

Wire brush all connections, replace bad ringed terminals and when doing so cut back the wire till you get fresh material. The wire itself, under the rubber coating, tends to wick moisture up the wire strand creating corrosion unseen because of the rubber sheath.

Redo all battery connections and many suggest coating the terminals with a grease compound that seals the terminal connections from the ever corrosive salt air.

Fill all batteries with distilled water and keep them on a smart charger full time. Do not overfill.

Black water woes continue. Fish nearer the Gulf and passes where water is cleaner, more oxygenated.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or, or



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