Daily Archives: November 24, 2013

What’s this thing do?

Every time we do anything on Escape Velocity involving wiring we come across strange little boxes with wires going in and out. They're under the settee, behind the drawers in the bedroom, in back of the helm instruments.

“What's this thing do?” we ask each other, or friends or repairmen ask us. Our answer for the last eighteen months has been to shrug and look away. But we wanted to uninstall our old fixed-mount satellite phone and install our new portable one so we removed the transceiver from behind the bedroom drawers and unscrewed the handset mount from the base of the mast compression post in the saloon. The wire from the handset went through a piece of furniture, under the settee and disappeared under the freezer. We couldn't remove the phone from this end because the connector won't fit through the hole in the furniture. We'd have to either cut the connector off, which we didn't want to do because we want to sell the phone, or trace the wire through the boat and pull it all through the hole and out. It sounds so easy.

The phone cord was bundled up with a gazillion other wires, all neatly held together with zip ties. Some of these wires went into mysterious boxes along the inside of the settee. We cut all the ties, pulled the whole mess out onto the floor and starting tracing wires. Every once in a while we found one that wasn't connected to anything on one end so by a process of elimination and some judicious Googling we slowly identified and eliminated four mystery boxes. Turns out they were all part of a defunct security and paging system that a previous owner had installed. It explained the purpose of a lone red LED light at the base of the mast that never worked. We figured it was to indicate that the system was armed.

By the time we were done we were left with only three wires crossing under the settee and we zip-tied them safely out of the way again.

We were still at square one on the satellite phone. Working from both ends we identified various unused power and data cables and pulled them through conduits to the next access point. We had wires noodling out from behind the bedroom drawers, under the master bathroom sink, under the bottom shelf of the pantry. Our boat was beautifully wired from the factory but through the years owners added or removed equipment and rarely labeled new wires or removed unused ones. Consequently the conduits are jam-packed with wires, many of which aren't being used anymore. We managed to get some of it out but some we had to admit defeat and leave in place.

We looked everywhere for the phone cord. Knowing where it started and where it needed to end up we thought maybe we could see it behind the air conditioner return vent behind the fridge. Jack showed his Olympic form in a full layout position and peered into the cavity.

“Wow, there's a lot of unused space in here. And water.”

What?? Our boat is absolutely dry, even in the hardest rain and in big seas. Then I remembered that while Ryan in Trinidad was compounding the deck and cabin top he had the pressure on the hose turned up so hard that he forced water in around one of the windows. It must have dripped down through the vent into the very deep, empty cavity. Jack mopped up the couple of cups of water by dropping a sponge to the bottom, fishing it out with long tongs, wringing it out and dropping it in again.

So now the space is dry again, but the phone cord wasn't there. Eventually we cleared out the medicine cabinet, unscrewed an access panel and found where the phone cord and others we were tracing appeared from their journey under the freezer. From there we could work our way back through various conduits and liberate the wires from the bedroom, down the hallway, under the bathroom sink, behind the medicine cabinet, under the freezer to under the settee and out. Whew! Check “uninstall sat phone” off the list.


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