Marine Electrician vs Regular Electrician Cont….

Boat Electrical System Components


While we make our income dealing with the repair of boat wiring, I believe it is important to educate boat owners about marine electricity so that they are safe and their investment is protected.

I have seen some very scary jury-rigged wiring that literally looked like a rat’s nest and just so happened to have rat’s in there and wasps to boot! That’s scary stuff and also almost begging to cause a fire. So, let’s talk about parts of marine electrical systems.

I talked before about grounding and the difference between AC & DC. There is only 1 point where DC is grounded, at the battery. It is a free floating system where nothing is ever grounded to any metallic part of the vessel, most especially not the bonding system. It’s like a car sitting on rubber tires which provide insulation, the battery itself provides a negative potential.

Bonding Systems

These actually have nothing to do with electrical systems. Nothing should ever be grounded to bonding systems. Unskilled electricians often make the mistake of using this to ground electrical systems and this often ends in disastrous results.

Electrolysis & Galvanism

Boaters who don’t really understand electrolysis often abuse this work. Number one, all boats have electrical potential. All the metals on the boat have differing electrical potentials. This is exactly the principle that allows a dry cell battery to generate electricity. This electrical potential is called galvanism & is the reason why we put zincs on boats.

Now, electrolysis is stray current escaping and is most damaging. When this occurs, it eats up zincs quickly and leaves it looking bright & shiny. So, Shiny zincs = electrolysis & Dull eroded zincs = galvanism.

Shore Power Cords

The largest cause of issues w/ shore power systems comes from failure to maintain connectors on both the cord & boat connectors. Remember, these are exposed to water & will suffer from corrosion & general wear. This can eventually result in overheating & power drop. This alone can create conditions for fires & cause electrical equipment to work harder which reduces the life span of your boat. Maintain your shore power connections!

Coastie Marine recommend you buy only the highest quality power cords, as these will last longer and have the advantage of replaceable connector parts. Cheap connectors usually can’t be taken apart. Lastly: If you’re not turning off the dock breaker before disconnecting the power cord, start doing it! You risk getting electrocuted, but disconnecting an energized connector damages the contacts.

Please feel free to email us if you have any type of electrical questions at or check out our website:

Thanks! Cliff Hairston, Owner/Marine Electrician


MARINE Electrician vs Regular Electrician

Discussion about marine electricians only to work on your vessel.

Marine Electrician vs. Regular Electrician

If you own a boat, you are aware that insurance companies use marine surveyors to inspect your boat before they insure you. One of the top issues these surveyors run into are electrical systems that have been jury-rigged. This usually happens when you use “Bob the Electrician” from down the road because his rates are cheaper. Some of these guys think wiring a house is the same as wiring a boat but that is absolutely not the case.

The older the boats get, the more jury-rigged wiring occurs and ends up causing a substantial number of problems. I’m not mocking residential & commercial electricians but substandard boat wiring can cause problems to your entire system, such as, chronic battery drain, frequent system faults or even electrolysis and fires. And not to mention a long list of fixes from the marine surveyor.

So, why does using a MARINE electrician so important? Well, most importantly is that your boat is in the water which makes a boat much different than a house or car. Sea water is a fair conductor of electricity. There are addition rules about materials & methods of installation that you won’t find on land based vehicles or buildings. Water provides an awesome ground path for electricity so we must be careful how things are completed.

Many marine electricians are self-taught as there are little vocational schools for this career. I was lucky enough to receive exceptional training in the U.S. Coast Guard. So, when hiring a marine electrician, experience and training is key so I would ask for credentials, or a resume or anything that provides proof of knowledge in this field.

Materials and equipment are much different in the marine repair industry. The ABYC or American Boat & Yacht Council has strict standards for this as does the U.S. Coast Guard. Do not use common wire or wiring devices or residential electrical equipment. If proper materials are not grounded, properly constructed or insulated, you might be at a high risk for fires.

One of the most horrible things I’ve seen on a boat is the use of extension cords, non-marine wire, audio speaker wire and even household lamp cords. This is not a joke at all. House wire and marine wire is completely different. Marine wire must have the right temp, be water & oil resistant & should be purchased from a reputable marine supplier.

No one who is untrained in marine high voltage systems should touch boat wiring. Deadly fault systems are too risky. Grounding & a boat’s electrical system most commonly misunderstood. Only someone educated in AC & DC marine grounding should touch boat wiring. AC & DC are two separate systems. If you don’t know the 4 principles of ground systems, stay away from boats. And owners need not hire.

In the next article, I will discuss the main parts of a boat’s electrical system and further stress the importance of hiring a marine electrician vs. any old regular electrician. Moral of the story is that you will actually save money in the long run and have peace of mind using a skilled and trained marine electrician on your boat. Protect your investment.

Cliff Hairston, Owner/Marine Electrician or Facebook: @coastiemarine



Florida – A Boater’s Paradise!

With an average year round temp of 88 degrees, come see why Florida truly is a boater’s paradise! From the Florida Panhandle down to the Florida Keys, it’s fall y’all!

The oceans surrounding & the waterways within are all part of the beauty of boating year round in the paradise that is Florida. Yes, of course many people visit Florida in the Spring & Summer time but it’s the boaters and the boating community in this great state that make Florida the premier year round boating state.

First, let’s talk about our weather. This morning, my gorgeous wife was so excited as she drank her coffee & read the morning news. Apparently, the weather forecast for Saturday is a high of 89, a low of 66! Yep, that’s it, 66 degrees. She was walking around saying, It’s Fall Y’all. Keep in mind, July is the hottest month in Florida with a statewide average temperature of 88 degrees! The coldest month is January with the average temperature, statewide is 61 degrees!

Let’s talk about another reason Florida is a boater’s paradise! Florida Oceans and waterway are endlessly beautiful and can be accessed YEAR ROUND! With the Gulf of Mexico on the west & the Atlantic Ocean on the east, that is 1,350 miles of coastline! Florida has 67 counties and is embedded with beautiful & numerous waterways including; beaches, lakes, rivers, waterways, bays & swamps with Saltwater, Freshwater & Brackish to choose from.

I know my picture hints that we know it’s fall when we only see Florida boating plates out on the water but let’s be honest, Florida’s economic well-being is linked to our visitors, natives and freshwater, coastal and marine resources. We have islands and The Keys too! With year round perfect weather in most of the state, boaters don’t have to put their boat away!

And how about our boating adventures offered year round? Florida offers private & group chartered deep sea & inshore fishing, boat tours and dolphin swims, catamaran rentals, parasailing, jet skiing, snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, eco tours, glass bottom boats and so much more! There is literally a boat or some type of watercraft that fits every single personality out there.

While we love boating and Florida, sadly since we boat year round, we have the highest number of recreational boat accidents. Florida has 900,000 registered motorboats, 12 months supply of sun & ALL that water, that puts you at a higher risk of an accident.

I know you’re asking, so what can I do to avoid an accident?

  1. Don’t Drink and Boat. The US Coast Guard stresses that alcohol and intoxication play a huge role in boating accidents so have a designated boater each time you are enjoying the water!
  2. Wear a life jacket. This is not just for children, have life jackets for adults too!
  3. Take a boater safety course. Average cost is around $30 & can even be done online.
  4. Get a FREE vessel safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard w/ zero consequences. Our goal is just to educate you and help you enjoy the water in the safest vessel possible.

From the Florida Panhandle, all the way down to the Florida Keys, I just wanted to welcome you to fall and hope you have a wonderful rest of the year on the water! Some whether your are a native or a visitor, it’s fall y’all! Let’s get out and stay out there on the water and enjoy Florida’s number one way of life, boating.

Cliff Hairston – Coastie Marine Services, Owner/Marine Electrician

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Electrician’s Mate, 1st Class




Choose the Right Inflatable Vest

I’ve talked about boat safety and having a vest on board for everyone, not just children. This isn’t a suggestion, it is an actual law. The U.S. Coast Guard does an outstanding job protecting waterways, enforcing maritime law and most importantly, saving people’s lives!

Bet hey, why not go ahead and follow their rules, they are there for a reason. Sometimes there is limited storage and you flat out want to use the inflatable vests instead of those bulky foam ones required for commercial operation. You can call and complain and try to find exceptions but they will be matter-of-fact with you and you are wasting your time.

Luckily, recreational anglers are not bound by those same restrictions although some have similar storage issues. Inflatable life vests are must easier to stow & may off better safety features than those rinky-dink old style foam alternatives. However out of all the million different styles of PFD’s, Coast Guard ratings of inflatables can be confusing.

So, you wanna look good, right?

The advantages of inflatables are increased comfort & less volume in terms of space.  Tons of people don’t wear the devices because they don’t look cool. But keep in mind, the designs have come a LONG way over the years and those produced ny regular manufacturers just looks cooler so more people like to wear them. Remember the old versions, only available in the red or blue color? Now they have tons of different styles and colors that offer aesthetics and safety.

Stay with the times

Manual vests are east to maintain because they don’t have a trillion components. All you need to do is make sure the co2 stays intact, the vest is usable and the cylinders last regardless if they aren’t punctured by the inflator mechanism. REMEBER! They still require periodic inspection.

If you are going to invest, make sure they fit.

The costs range from $10-$30 less than auto-inflatables but they aren’t appropriate if something bad happens and you end up unexpectedly in the water. Auto vests inflate by 1 of 2 ways….The most common uses a dissolvable tablet that disintegrates when it gets went, firing the inflator mechanism. The hydraulic style reacts to water pressure. Mustang Survival is the ONLY company that currently makes Coast Guard approved hydrostatic vests.

Heads up!

Consider the buoyancy rating when purchasing an inflatable vest. The USCG is currently studying its rating system and Grover expects changes, but the rule remains that you must go with a higher rating depending on where you do the majority of your fishing. Offshore Canyon Runner in big seas, opt for an offshore vest with 35 lbs of buoyancy. That extra lift will keep your head above the surface in big waves.

If bays or flats are your dig, one of the vests that offers 22-26 lbs of flotation is a good choice. The smaller cylinder used makes these lighter & more comfortable without sacrificing safety.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The USCG wants to see 22 lbs. min in inflatables. I hope to see approval ratings change radically to reflect performance but stick with that for now. Even though inflatable life vests are appealing due to storability, there’s a better reason for using them. The goal is to make it easy to maintain & make it looks good. If you’re buying 1 just to meet a compliance requirement, you’re missing the point. The USCG wants you to actually wear them, because at the end of the day, it’s all about safety!

Former Proud Coastie, Cliff Hairston