Our review of Boat Electrics 101, a new online course, co-developed by marine electrics expert, Nigel Calder.
When we bought our 1970s-era sailboat, the boat wiring was a disaster.
We soon discovered a rainbow spaghetti mess of unlabeled electrical wires behind our DC electrical panel. Legacy marine electrical systems from a previous “rewiring” made trouble-shooting and tracing wiring runs exasperating. Lights and pumps regularly failed and we once lost power entirely (despite being on shore power).
In short, living on a poorly wired boat was a nightmare. We needed to learn about our boat’s electrical if we were ever going to go bluewater cruising.
A quick note that this post contains affiliate links (so if you purchase through a link we’ll earn a small commission). We received free access to this course in exchange for a fair and honest review. All the opinions are our own.
Learning how to wire a boat
The good news is that while boat electrical may seem intimidating, it’s actually not all that difficult to get the hang of—but it does have to be done right!
The challenging part was finding a good teacher. We hired an electrician we found on Craigslist to show us the ropes, but this proved to be a complete disaster (with him shorting out the dock mains at our marina and frying our inverter).
After that experience, we resolved to teach ourselves, sorting through the good, bad, (and sometimes, downright dangerous) boat electrical advice available online.
Fortunately, there is now a FAR better way to learn boat wiring…
Boat Electrics 101
Boat Electrics 101 is the online course I desperately wish we’d had at the time. It launched in 2021 and was created by arguably the world’s smartest people on marine electrics including boat systems guru, Nigel Calder.
If you’re not familiar with Nigel, you’ll find his mechanical and electric books in just bout every bluewater cruiser’s library. These guys really know what they’re talking about!
In the course you’ll learn:
- The basics of how electricity works
- Electrical system components and how to safely connect them
- How batteries work (and what you can do to double or triple their lifetime)
- Energy system design: how to balance your energy storage, consumption, and generation
- How to plan a (re)wiring of your boat (including making your own boat wiring diagram)
Unlike my grade 10 science teacher, the course does a great job of taking an important concept and breaking it down with animations, diagrams, and videos.
For example, In one module, Calder demonstrates the importance of circuit breakers by driving a screw through an unprotected wire. The cable immediately went up in flames, filling the room with smoke! Lesson learned.
Best of all, all of their materials follow ABYC and ISO standards. Both Nigel and Michael have been members of American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) committees, so they know the rules and best practices better than anyone.
I’ve taken Boat Electrics 101 and can’t say enough good things about it. If you sign up now, you can take advantage of their early bird offer ($199) and save $100. Oh, and you keep your access to the course forever (even as they add new material). Even if it saves you hiring a marine electrician just once, the course more than pays for itself.
The rewards of doing it yourself
Learning how to wire a boat was not only rewarding but it made us more capable, self-sufficient boat owners. It’s an essential skill for people with older boats, but even new boat owners will find there comes a day when an electrical component fails or they want to add more bells and whistles.
We’ve saved a lot of money by doing our own marine electrical work (not to mention avoided days stuck in port waiting for a professional marine electrician). So, don’t let marine wiring intimidate you. With the right knowledge and tools, you’ll be well on your way to doing your own marine electrical.
Fiona McGlynn is an award-winning boating writer who created Waterborne as a place to learn about living aboard and traveling the world by sailboat. She has written for boating magazines including BoatUS, SAIL, Cruising World, and Good Old Boat. She’s also a contributing editor at Good Old Boat and BoatUS Magazine. In 2017, Fiona and her husband completed a 3-year, 13,000-mile voyage from Vancouver to Mexico to Australia on their 35-foot sailboat.