Even though Aquarella is a sailboat she is quite dependant on her engine for getting in and out of harbours and to charge the batteries for all the electrical installations on board. The solar panels I have can keep them charged to a certain extent but as the outdoor temperature rises day by day, the fridge is demanding more and more electricity to keep the food cold. I buy 4 bottles of frozen water for 1€each, twice a week which helps but even so the batteries are struggling to keep pace. I use solar lamps in the cockpit and cabin after dark and a solar charger for my ipad but that only gives it about 25%, I have to top up the rest via the cig lighter contact from the boat' s own batteries.
So every third day I start the engine and let it run for an hour or two.
The other day when I turned the key - it just said "click". Tried again, " click" again. "What on earth is wrong now " I said ( no I didn't, I said something worse which can't be published here)
I checked the connection switches, they were all on. I opened the engine room hatch, looked down at all the wiring and closed it again because I hadn't a clue at what I was looking at. Then I opened "The boatowners illustrated electrical handbook" ( kindle version) which devotes a lot of time to Ohms law but says nothing about Sods law. Another ebook I have says " If you are in any doubt about what you are doing- don't do it" So I didn't.
I had just invested in 3 more 74 ah, maintenance free batteries. That meant that all 5 of the 8 year olds were now renewed this season so the problem couldn't be there.
I turned the key and pressed the starter again- " click".
I looked at the boats wiring diagram, which was all greek to me ( sorry about that)
The likelihood of me ever being competent and confident as a boat electrician is about the same chance as someone suddenly becoming a dot-com millionaire without even knowing where the dot is.
I have to admit I simply have no idea.
If you can imagine the car you normally drive having an electrical failure, so you screw off the whole dashboard to expose all the wiring behind it. Where would you begin ? Well you wouldn't, you'd just drive to the nearest garage. But on a boat, help is not always anywhere nearby so you are supposed to know what to do.
I don't.
Finally in desperation I wiggled all 3 red connection switches backwards and forwards (one called start, one called service and one called connect) I know the batteries are parallel connected so I presume they work together as a team.
Back to the key and the start button for one final try before ringing the boatyard.
YES!!! it started. THAT simple!
One of them, probably the one called start, had apparently been pushed a tiny wee bit out of place by all the junk I have in the space beside the switches.


  1. Could be your starter solenoid.

  2. You are brilliant and so game to try anything...well done!
    I relate to that...such an interesting blog!

  3. I love it! It's usually the simplest thing that goes wrong. On our boat, we have all the 'service' batteries wired separately from the 'starter' battery so we never accidentally drain the 'starter' by running lights and appliances. If you're wired similarly, then 'connect' probably connects the two separate battery banks. We successfully started our engine off our service batteries once, but only when they were really full (I believe the service don't supply as much oomph, but can be drained lower).