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Shore Power

Boat Maintenance Special:

By Capt. Bill Pike

The standard Y-type electrical splitter
The standard Y-type can feed two 30s from a 50-amp source.

The Complexities of Splitters

I’m no electrician—never claimed to be. But over the years, thanks to my brother the electrician (and an old boat’s ability to teach), I’ve learned a bit about electricity. For example, one of the things I avoid while cruising these days (if at all possible) is hooking up to shore power in unfamiliar marinas using a reverse Y-type splitter. The reason’s not complicated. Like lots of midrange vessels, the Betty Jane has a 50-amp electrical system with two legs, one feeding the two onboard air-conditioning units and the other feeding everything else. The problem with employing a reverse Y-type splitter (the sort that combines two 30-amp shore-power outlets into one 50-amp plug) is that sometimes, in some inexpertly-wired marinas, the two side-by-side 30-amp outlets on a pedestal will share the same power wire, a tough-to-diagnose-on-a-stormy-night situation that provides a total of just 30 amps to your boat, even though you’re seemingly hooked up for double that amperage. Sure, stuff’ll often work on half power, but it won’t work either well or healthily.