When power goes wrong

Steve Mitchell 2 min read
When power goes wrong

Yesterday I made a trip down to the sailboat to do a few things, and when I arrived, I noticed that I didn’t have any shore power.  Additionally, the main A/C breaker panel indicated a reverse polarity situation.  I immediately disconnected the A/C panel from shore power via the breaker, and went outside to the plug to see what had happened.

As you can see from the picture, it’s pretty clear why A/C power was interrupted.  After a bit of sleuthing, I determined that the socket that the shore power plug was connected into was full of water.  I believe the water caused a short which then resulted in what you see in the picture.

The main breaker in the boat did trip when this happened, so everything was safe, but it’s a bit strange it caused so much damage to the plug and socket.  It should have likely tripped earlier, so I’ll be thinking/investigating the current boat-side breaker to see if there’s a better solution.


The other worrisome situation was that my BlueSea VSM (used to monitor battery health, A/C power, and tank levels) was acting up.  It also reported low voltage conditions on one of my batteries, which only a few days before had reported healthy.  These were new in the last 2 years AGM batteries that should last a long time.

I decided to use the SmartPlug system when replacing my damaged plug and socket – specifically their 30 AMP solution that includes a new plug end and socket.

It took about an hour to install, which was mostly because my shore power cord is slightly bigger than normal, and getting the new plug on was an exercise in strength.  Once that was set, I had A/C power back and waited while the battery charger started bringing life back to the batteries.  Right around that time, the BlueSea VSM stopped displaying vital information and flashed on it’s screen:

No firmware image found.  Waiting for download.

So back to using the handheld meter to check on things.  The rest of the afternoon and evening the battery charger worked long and hard and had the batteries back to their normal selves late in the evening.  From other visual inspections of almost the entire A/C wiring (whew!) I did not see any other damage, and everything else on the battery side seems to be OK as well.

I contacted BlueSea on Sunday via email, and on Monday morning they returned the email saying they would be glad to ship out a replacement, and that this rarely happens, and they’d like to see the broken unit.  Very helpful and quick – I hope to have the new one very soon.

I had read a lot about the SmartPlug system, but never really thought there was anything that wrong with my current system that warranted the $200 price for the plug and socket.  I’m glad nothing was badly damaged, and can sleep soundly now that I’ve installed SmartPlug.  It’s a very well designed system, with little chance of a repeat of what happened.  Sealed in several ways, positive locking, and a lot more metal on metal contact, it’s well worth the investment, and I would suggest anyone upgrade immediately to prevent things like what happened to me.

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