Sharpen Your Knowledge of Boat Electrical Systems

Onboard technical systems expert Nigel Calder is set to host a two-day seminar on the principles of electrical system design and installation.
Nigel Calder
Systems expert Nigel Calder works with a hydraulic crimper, one among many other subjects which will be presented during the seminars. Courtesy Nigel Calder

As many a seasoned boat owner can attest, onboard systems are the leading cause of technical issues on boats that have more than a rudimentary electrical system. But most of these problems are preventable. They arise from a failure to abide by core design and installation principles.

To take a deep dive into both design and installation issues, OceanPlanet Energy (OPE) is sponsoring an intensive two-day seminar developed and presented by tech guru Nigel Calder, author of the best-selling Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual.

The seminar is grounded in the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) standards for safe installations, though it is not an ABYC class because, according to Calder: “You can have a safe installation that nevertheless functions poorly. We will go beyond the standards to explain how to optimize performance.”

Topics include key design criteria for both DC and AC systems; how to keep batteries in a healthy state; newer technologies that are transforming the performance of electrical systems; sizing and installing electric circuits in compliance with ABYC standards; critical safety issues related to AC systems; corrosion; and grounding systems. The course curriculum will highlight commonly seen electrical installation errors, including on new boats, and how to rectify them—including hands-on terminal crimping practice, because “poorly made terminals are the bane of many an otherwise decent electrical installation.”

Calder will showcase a demonstration board that contains core pieces of equipment referenced in the presentation, which, in tandem with related equipment supplied by OPE, will be used to simulate electrical faults and explore multimeter troubleshooting techniques.

“We’ll be covering a lot of ground,” says Calder, who acknowledges the difficulty in absorbing such a volume of information in two days. “While the seminar is designed to be accessible to the inexperienced, that doesn’t mean it will be easy, even for those with prior experience, including some professionals.” 

Class sizes will be limited to maximize interaction with the participants. At a minimum, participants should walk away with the ability to check a boat for common installation mistakes, to understand and be able to do basic wiring and electrical installations, and to be able to safely conduct simple multimeter troubleshooting procedures that will enable most electrical problems to be identified.

“We send everyone home with a to-do list of critical checks for any boat, and a deck of almost 600 slides for future reference. The objective is to raise the confidence levels of boat owners, and to provide professionals with a perspective that goes beyond ABYC standards to optimized functionality.”

OPE will hold the seminars in the spring and fall (April 17-18 and October 29-30, 2024), just outside of the main tourist season, in the newly renovated Hyatt Place hotel in downtown Portland, Maine. The Hyatt is situated in the center of the vibrant old district, surrounded by historic buildings, with excellent restaurants and numerous places of interest within walking distance. The hotel has a free shuttle service to and from the easy-to-transit Portland (Maine) regional airport. Buffet-style breakfast is included in the seminar’s discounted room rate. OPE will provide lunch and refreshments throughout the day. Seminar participants are on their own for dinner.

To take advantage of this unique opportunity to hone your systems skills under the guidance of expert Nigel Calder, participate in a strictly limited and intense marine electrical education opportunity, and enjoy Portland, Maine, in the spring, contact OceanPlanet Energy for more information at