A concern I have had for some time is about relates to my shore power connectors on the bow of Pendana and whether or not all that lurks beneath is really ok!
Speaking with Don Stabbert the other day, owner of MV Starr we got talking and thankfully he introduced me to a much better system of connecting one’s boat to shore power than the Marinco system which is called Smart Plug.
The Smart Plug is a revolutionary shore power system designed to replace the outdated and problematic twist-type design in use, by most, today. It’s intuitive to use and provides greater protection against loose connections and corrosion which I might add, is one of the leading causes of shore power failure and fires on boats today.
The thing one needs to appreciate is that Pendana, when in rough seas can, and has, buried her bow into oncoming seas with the net result being about 2ft of water on her foredeck washing around all over the place and no doubt getting into places it shouldn’t. As such, our shore power connectors have always been a source of concern. Any wiring issues regarding shore power connectors often does result in a very nasty fire, which have the potential to be catastrophic!
Boatus recently reported the top causes of fires on boats.
AC and DC wiring/appliance – 55%
DC shorts/wiring – 30%
DC engine voltage regulator – 12%
AC appliance/heater 4% shore power – 4%
AC wiring/panel – 2%
DC battery charger – 2%
AC power surge – 1%
With Don agreeing to help me install the Smart Plug and also being kind enough to pick up two 50amp 125/250V for me when he was recently in Seattle, we went about removing the old shore power system and installing the new, you beaut, Smart Plugs. What were we to find lurking beneath as we pulled off Pendana’s old connectors? Well, as it turns out one of the connectors had in fact burnt into place which is no doubt the result of a short or something else – NOT GOOD!. In fact, not only was the one connector welded to the plug fixture but the black housing surrounding it was starting to melt! Ouch!
I guess, like most owners, one simply doesn’t check these connectors often enough. Don mentioned that on another Nordhavn where he helped install the Smart Plug they found that one of the wires was totally loose and it just simply fell out. Lucky escape!
With the two new Smart Plugs installed I am happy to report that these plugs just felt better all round. The connection to the power outlet on the boat is firm and it feels solid. Real solid! Thanks to Don I can rest a little easier knowing that fire is something that won’t happen aboard Pendana due to a shore power connection problem. The two images below will give you a good idea about the differences between the old twist and turn system compared with the new Smart Plug system.
I now feel very confident that all is 100%. The Smart Plug is as important to Pendana’s safety as is her main engine. I guess for all of us (most of us) who own boats I believe very little attention is given to the connection between shore power and the boat and if you are like me, then may I suggest at the very least you check your fittings and wiring before the inevitable occurs. If you want to feel totally confident in the connection between shore power and your boat then then I would seriously take a look at the much talked about Smart Plug.
A little about the back story to Smart Plug may help appreciate the need and opening in the market for a better system, the Smart Plug system. The story begins with a guy named Ken Smith, founder of SmartPlug Systems. The last eight of his forty years in the marine industry included rebuilding yachts that had been damaged due to fire. In many cases, the fire originated from the shore power system. Beginning with a pencil sketch, he began to design a smarter plug – incorporating every safety feature he could think of – and finally address the problems with corrosion and fire in shore power systems today.
In less than 14 months, SmartPlug took its base design from conception to patent then to market. In March of 2009, the company introduced the first of its marine shore power product line – the 30 Amp Inlet and Connector – to the U.S. market. This initial product offering has met the performance requirements of UL and UL Marine tests as certified by IMANNA Laboratory Inc. and was certified ABYC E-11 standards and US Coast Guard compliant. The basis for the fully adaptable and scalable SmartPlug design has resulted in several patents (insured) with new patents being filed as derivative products are developed.
The bottom line is the Smart Plug is the future for safer boating. From Cruising World, Panbo, pBase and even our very own Steve D’Antonio who all have good things to say about the Smart Plug as do many,many others. While I appreciate I may seem a little over the top in relation to the Smart Plug the simple fact is, I have seen with my own eyes what a fire on a boat can do, as such, I am very pleased to be the owner of a couple of new Smart Plugs on Pendana!
A special thanks to Don Stabbert who without his help and knowledge I would not have known about this revolutionary product and would have still to this day, had my doubts about what lurks beneath! Thank you Don.