Essential Boat Electronics avoids too much theory and is a useful guide to have onboard, says Yachting Monthly literary reviewer, Julia Jones
Essential Boat Electronics 3rd edition
Oliver Ballam and Pat Manley
‘Electrics are the number 1 problem on any boat’ states the back cover blurb.
It’s tempting, of course, to challenge such a sweeping statement and point to the numbers of boats who get along quite well, in their different spheres, without electricity.
However, the fact remains that even the cruising yachtsmen who do not absolutely require microwaves, bow-thrusters, hairdryers and electric winches are likely to have moved on from paraffin-fuelled navigation lights and hand-cranked auxiliary motors.
So has the average sailor’s level of understanding kept pace with this increased electrical dependency?
Will O-level physics be enough?
Oliver Ballam (or Pat Manley) assures us that ‘very little theory’ is needed – and, in general, that promise is kept.
Some theoretical explanations have to be given – such as the relationship between current and resistance or the difference between connection in series and parallel – but in general the requirement seems to be painstaking organisation and documentation, with a sense of personal priorities.
I wanted to go round my boat with this manual in hand making notes on exactly what I have where – and why.
As with so many yachts new systems have been added in as new needs are identified or earlier installations found inadequate.
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There’s a particularly significant section on the challenge of ensuring that the different components of navigation systems talk to each other.
Even if you know in your heart that this is something you are going to pay an expert to sort out, understanding that there is an issue may help you to avoid it – by choosing to buy all devices from the same manufacturer, for example, instead of picking eclectically here and there on basis of price.
Once the planning and the documentation has been done, this is a certainty a book to be kept on the boat together with a selection of the well-illustrated tools.
There were moments when I felt the text could have gone further.
As we develop new awareness of sustainability issues, I predict that a 4th edition will soon become necessary.
I found myself eager to learn more detail about reducing consumption and boosting self-sufficiency in supply.
The section on solar panels was clear and useful but introduction to towable water turbines tantalisingly brief.
The pace of change in boat electronics is not likely to slow down but it may alter its direction somewhat.
Meanwhile this volume focuses on the here and now and will therefore be immediately useful, even to the least confident.
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