I’m usually a well grounded person

I arrived at the boat all excited to accomplish a laundry list of to-dos. However when I flipped on the breakers to bring my girl to life the stereo did not fire up as usual. "Noooo!", how could this be, I just upgraded to a great Sony unit with an iPod interface. My mind started swirling:

  • ‘Damn, I have to fix this before I can start anything else’
  • ‘Has my stereo already broke’
  • ‘Do I have an electrical problem’
  • ‘I don’t want to trace an electrical problem’
  • ‘Loose connection?’
  • ‘I don’t want to trace an electrical problem’
  • ‘bad wire?’
  • ‘I don’t want to trace an electrical problem’

My mind was racing and having trouble changing gears from my well defined plans to electrical trouble shooting. In defeat I finally submit to the reality of my situation and started stowing my gear. In the deafening silence I grabbed the tool bag and pull out the multimeter and screwdriver, here we go!

The tidy back half of my breaker panel.

The tidy back half of my breaker panel.

I unscrew the breaker panel and swing it open to expose the organized chaos that is my electrical wiring. First step, verify the breaker and that 12 volts is being supplied. Ok third switch from bottom, yep 13.2 volts, good. The circuit is powered so the problem has to be between the breaker and the stereo.

I have to pull out the stereo user manual and find the connecter wiring diagram. Ah Ok I see now, first pin on left bottom row is the power. Multimeter probe won’t reach into plug to test it, Grrrr..

Where did I stow the sail repair kit 1, I think it’s in the sail locker, nope. Under the settee, nope. Maybe the oven, nope. Where the hell is that kit!! Oh, right here below the breaker panel that I’ve been staring at for the last hour.

I grab a needle that I think is approximately the same size as the connector pin. Stick the needle in the connector then touch the needle with the multimeter’s probe, 13.2 volts. Crap! power is coming into the stereo but it’s still not coming on. That can only mean the stereo is busted, damn you Sony Corporation!!

Even though I ended up necessarily buying a new stereo. The now one stores my iPod inside the unit!!!!!

Even though I ended up unnecessarily buying a new stereo. The new one stores my iPod inside the unit!!!!!

At least there’s light at the end of my tormenting tunnel, off to the marine supply store, you know the one ‘West’ of here. I begrudgingly drop $200 on a new Sony replacement, this is seriously cramping my beer fund, not optimal.

Back at the boat I slip the new stereo into the old stereo’s location plug in the connector, flip on the power……..nothing.


At this point I’m frustrated, dejected, and all round mentally exhausted. What gremlin could possibly be crawling around my electrical system causing this. Some how I’ve gone around the board, passed ‘Go’, and lost $200. I don’t like this game anymore.

I need a break and a beer, maybe a sandwich too…

While sitting in the cockpit in silence with my beer and a thousand thoughts. It finally comes to me ‘Oh yea, electricity travels in a loop, I didn’t check the ground’.

Never forget to test the ground connection!!!!

Never forget to test the ground connection!!!!

Back down into the cramped wiring closet. A quick continuity test confirms my new theory. Rig up a temporary ground and plug in the stereo. Blink, blink, squelch, squelch, the radio roars to life! Sweet baby Jesus, music is flowing through the speakers again.

The old ground wire vanishes into a zipped tied bundle of black wires then behind a board and pops out God only knows where. Screw this I’m just going to cut the old ground and wire in a new one.

I lost an entire day, I owe the Sony Corporation a huge apology for falsely accusing them of shoddy craftsmanship. I just blew an unnecessary $200 on a new stereo I did not need. All because I forgot to check the ground.

Even with a silver lining of a new stereo that stores my iPod inside the unit. The moral of the story is remember electricity travels in a loop. The ground is just as important as the supply voltage, especially on fiberglass boats!

I know I can’t be the only one out there that abhors sorting out electrical issues, does anyone else find this the worst boat task on the planet?

A little update to this day of frustration, I come to find out Beneteau installed a fuse on the ground circuit and that fuse had blown. I’ve never heard of fusing a ground wire. I did some research on the subject and found some interesting and polarizing information. Be on the look out for another post about that adventure.


  1. My grandfather taught me the trick of using sewing needles to pierce wire coatings and reach into small connectors.
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  1. Chase on December 15, 2014

    You could avoid all this by either buying a 1980’s boom box, or learning to play the guitar (chicks dig it).

  2. Todd Martin on December 29, 2014

    Unfortunately I cannot play any type of musical instrument, up to and including the triangle. I just don’t have any rhythm. An 80’s boom box takes up space, I need to conserve all the space I can, you know for essentials like beer, Scotch, and sun tan lotion. 🙂

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