1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Organizing the Electrical System

Dust, dust everywhere.

Way back in 2008, we sandblasted the hull inside and out. Cleaning up the big piles of sand afterwards was one big job. Little did I know that five years and dozens of times working the shop vac later, we’d still be finding sandblasting residue! Well, that and all of the dust from grinding the gelcoat off the cabin top and then the fairing compound and primer when we made it nice and straight in preparation for paint. One of the places that was harboring the most dust was the original wiring, much of which I left intact. Note to self: when you leave bundles of wires in place during sandblasting and sanding operations, every wire in the bundle will be coated with as much dust as gravity can pile on top. Bump any of those coated wires though, and the dust will fall straight down into your eyes.

Why is it always the eyes???

Anyway, while the layout of the boat will change quite a bit when I build the interior, the basic layout of the electrical system won’t change all that much. The main panel will get replaced, but it’ll still be in the salon cabinet where Chris Craft put them. There will still be heavy gauge wire going to the genset, which is in the same location as the original, as well as 120vac and 12vdc lines going forward and aft to service the two staterooms. Only their outlet locations will change. And since the boat wasn’t on the water for very long before being hauled on the hard and forgotten about circa 1985, the original wiring is in surprisingly good condition. I’ll cut the ends back a bit, but the copper is still bright in the sheathing.

But first, I need to clean all the wires, replace all the looms and generally get the system organized.

Tangled mess 'o wires

Tangled mess ‘o wires

I was very careful to mark each wire and loom when we first tore the boat apart back in 2008. Unfortunately, I marked the wires by making a tag out of blue masking tape and writing on it with a fine-point Sharpie. Over time most of the tape vanished, and the tape that remained no longer had any distinguishing marks from the Sharpie. I guess “permanent marker” only applies if the surface you write on stays in place and intact…

Slowly getting untangled

Slowly getting untangled

I carefully pulled each wire out of the looms and wire conduits, then wiped them down to remove dust. My coveralls, respirator and eye protection sure got a good workout! This also allowed me to trace each wire back to the main panels and buses. Now I pretty much know where each one goes.

New wire loom

New wire loom from Del City Supply

Out with the old...

Out with the old…

Dust-free wiring up and out of the way

Dust-free wiring up and out of the way

95% dust free

Fortunately, old boats aren't very electrically complicated

Fortunately, old boats aren’t very electrically complicated

It’s probably not a rare skill, but I have pretty much memorized the wiring on the boat. That should be good for winning drinks at any Chris Craft raft up. “Circuit #22? Oh, yeah, that’s the nav lights.”

Sharpies mark the wires wherever possible

Sharpies mark the wires wherever possible

Hopefully, this will be a more permanent marking system than the tape was.

Panda genset wiring looks tangled, but it's an organized tangle.

Panda genset wiring looks tangled…but it’s an organized tangle.

With the wiring sort of out of the way, it’s time to get moving on the engine install. For that to happen, some very long pieces of stainless steel round bar–Aquamet 22, to be precise–need to find their way onto the boat.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the propeller shafts.


11 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Organizing the Electrical System

  1. Eric Vardek says:

    Hubbell not Marinco. Will try and remember THAT.

  2. Eric Vardek says:

    Did I mention Clean Marine (Marine Electrical Specialist “George”)?
    Not cheap/but invalluable nonetheless: 703-847-5142

  3. Eric Vardek says:

    Mariners’ Museum will sell you a copy of your Roamer’s electrical diagram for a pittance.
    The 1969 version that is.
    Useful at times (did you know the house lights draw 12V current directly from the starter?)
    Just had the 12V system below deck (engines, bilge pumps, alarms, etc) up to, but not beyond the helm busses and one major bus for house stuff (that I installed for inverter (600W), macerator (itz electric!), and new stereo/amplifiers, etc.) But beyond that, the original CC factory 12V wires looked just fine. Fine that is until I start wanting to install some fancy interlaced electronics and digital gauges, eh?
    NOW, about the high side. Hmmmm,…., the pressing issues are: grounding (via three TINNED wire); galvanic isolator; and breaker switches. The primordial screw-out fuses CC installed in my electric box positively petrified me – especially when I thought about how much dough I was otherwise sinking (bad verb) into the boat.
    25 cents more of good (great) advice/tips here:
    What I did on the high side:

    Eyes & bilges. Definition: Where every little bit/nut/metal shaving always go like an ARROW.) Sorry, itz an UNalterable law of nature.
    Hope all is well – itz Noah’s Ark here.

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Hi Eric!
      I’m guessing the smaller Roamers had a different wiring plan than the bigger ones. This boat came with a 160# ACME-brand isolation transformer, so I won’t be bringing shore neutral aboard and the shore ground wire only attaches to the transformer case (which is fully isolated from the rest of the boat). The 220vac that comes out of the transformer is isolated from shore power completely, so no ground is used. If I tied the receptacle grounds to the transformer case, that would establish a solid line to shore ground and defeat the purpose of the isolation transformer. For the breakers, I’ll use the same box as I used on my 42 Commander: https://sites.google.com/site/1968chriscraftcommander42/home/Upgrades/shorepower

  4. Chasm says:

    How about a label maker and clear heat shrink? Easy to use and durable, usually more legible too. 😉
    If you want to splurge spend a bit more on the labels, the transfer type does not discolor when warmed up.

    Since you have all the wires in your hands: Now is the time to look for damage, cracked or chafed insulation and metal boats don’t mix.

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Excellent ideas! In fact, my wife knows where the label maker is, but she’s out of the country for the last month! I like the clear heat shrink idea though!
      Fortunately, none of the wiring that remains has damaged, chafed or cracked insulation.

      • Chasm says:

        Some stuff is so simple that it gets overlooked, even if the parts are already collect dust in a drawer. 🙂 The heat shrink is just there to hold the label in place over time.

        Since lights “directly from the starter” in the original setup have been mentioned. Unfused wires are always A Bad Idea. That includes starters.
        Additionally fuses directly at the battery bank are usually also a good idea in case something goes really wrong. Like dropping a wrench.

        • 1969roamer46 says:

          It’s funny, but while the little scrolls of numbered tape fall off over time, there are original markings on the cable ends indicating where each cable goes. Those markings appear to have been written in Sharpie or some other permanent marker. But, yeah…for individual wire marking you can’t beat a labelmaker and clear shrink tube.


  5. Bill Large says:

    I hope others see your reference to Del City. To me, it’s the best place to buy much of the stuff you need for marine re-wiring and repair. It’s so nice to have exactly the right size and style of connector when you need it.

    I really enjoy following your restoration. Brought back a lot of memories when I saw that terminal strip with the little Chris Craft number labels at the ends of the wires. I remember seeing them fall off as soon as I even came close.

  6. Scott Horslin, Markham, On, Canada says:

    Fantastic, steady on…
    and keep ’em comin’!!

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