It was a Friday night in January and I was snoozing onboard the Betty Jane. Temperatures were in the 30s. All of a sudden—bleep!—there goes the electrical power, a grim development signaled by the precipitous halt of reverse-cycle heat. I soon determineded (via flashlight-lit breaker flipping) that there was no way to get power back on, at least immediately. So after a long, cold night, I started some early morning detective work, much facilitated by my now-extinct (more about this momentarily) Wiggy Solenoid Voltage Tester. Oh yeah, I have a multimeter onboard, a rather nice one. But quite frankly, in some situations, the Wiggy’s better. For example, stretch out on your back on a dock some time, with your two hands working the Wiggy’s two probes, which you’ve inserted into the holes of a 30-amp dockside receptacle. You’ll find it’s quite easy to tell what kind of power you’ve got by simply feeling the Wiggy vibrating (with a gentle hum) on your chest—you don’t have to eyeball a screen (or listen for a faint chirp) like you do with multimeters. Moreover, you’ll find the extendable probes are long enough to bottom out in virtually any receptacle, unlike stubby multimeter probes. And finally, you’ll discover the Wiggy is both simple to use (vibrational and visual signals are proportional, i.e., 240 volts produces more vibrational activity than 120 volts) and robustly constructed. My detective work? Thanks to my Wiggy, I checked both voltage and phase issues on the dock, without having to wait until Monday for an electrician. Juice was ample, by the way—a new 50-foot, 50-amp shore power cord was called for. Pricey? Cripes yes, but here’s what’s even more tragic. When I contacted Square D (the one-time purveyor of the Wiggy) to get the current suggested retail price, I learned the Wiggy is “out of production due to high manufacturing costs.” There’s some good news, though. Ideal Industries has taken up the Wiggy mantle with a new Wiggy-inspired device: the Vol-Test XL Solenoid Voltage Tester. The new unit looks faintly different from my extinct model but, by all reports, has the very same features. If you know why the Wiggy was originally called the Wiggy, by the way, please let me know, you can post it to our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/powerandmotoryacht.
This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.