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The Masthead
write this after several recent experiences on my own new
boat have reminded me that even today the matter of a
boat’s serviceability is often overlooked at the design phase.
Further, my thinking here raises the question of whether or
not the ABYC Standards should look harder at the matter of
The question, or perhaps debate, over this issue centers on
the thought that the ABYC Standards after all, are
standards, not service standards. But that is where the issue
gets clouded I think. Why? Because you could debate
whether or not ser-
vice access or the
lack thereof might
impact safety.
So indulge me here
while I share with you
several of the design
flaws on my new
boat, which I am
really enjoying by-the-
way, and believe to
be a good quality
boat . . . just with
some flaws that I can
correct, with a bit of
effort. Effort I might
add, that would have
cost the builder very
little during the build
stage and would have
truly satisfied all of
my desires, but will
now introduce a bit of
frustration to my life.
I share this because I
think anyone learning
or thinking about boat design needs to have someone tell
them that ease of service should be a part of
signer’s mindset. Indeed, the Westlawn Yacht & Boat Design
program already places a strong emphasis on access and
serviceability in design. Unfortunately, today the mindset of
too many builders and designers often centers on ease of
assembly, and absolute lowest production cost.
So, back to my new boat, it is a small center-console fishing
boat made by a well-known American builder. The builder is
not known as a “price-point” builder, so there is no excuse
there. The builder does participate in the NMMA certification
program using ABYC Standards, hence my standards-based
serviceability question.
The first revelation came as I attempted to add a DC acces-
sory to the boat’s electrical system. The system on this boat
is simple. Strictly DC, no need for AC shore power. It is a ba-
sic, two-battery powered DC system. I don’t even use an
automatic battery isolator, all is manual select and control
and just the way I want it.
So, in attempting to
access the back side
of my high-quality DC
panel to facilitate
connection of DC
power and negative
return for my new
accessory, I discov-
ered that the builder
had not allowed for
enough extra wire to
create what is re-
ferred to in electrical
work as a service
loop; enough extra
wire to facilitate pull-
ing the panel out to
inspect or service the
terminals on the
back of the panel. I
couldn’t move the
panel more than
about 1/2 inch out
from its mounting
surface. There was
absolutely no easy access to the back of the panel. This
revelation triggered an instant series of thoughts in my mind
about the build process. This is something I’ve seen many
times before in my some 40-year experience servicing
boats. I’m referring to the common practice of installing a
boat’s systems before the deck or interior hull liner gets in-
stalled, without giving much thought if any, to what happens
once the deck gets dropped in place.
Sept. 2012 Page 13
Design With Serviceability in Mind
By Ed Sherman
This panel could only open this far due to the wire service loop being too short.
Continued next page