Don Casey wants to make electricity as simple as possible. So in Sailboat Electrics Simplified, part of the International Marine Sailboat Library series, he omits extensive theory and keeps his explanations brief. Yet the necessary information is there for the would-be doers of the world.

Don promises a simplified presentation of electrical systems and delivers on that promise. He has written several books meant to make complex technical topics accessible to non-technical sailors. The challenge is to deliver just the right amount of information – not too much, or you lose the reader, and not too little, or the reader will get into trouble for want of understanding and guidance. Don gets it just about right.

Following the introductory sections on safety and basics concepts, Chapter Three has an excellent explanation and discussion of batteries: how they work (and fail) and how types differ from one another. He covers starting, deep-cycle, gels, and AGMs. This may be the best-written survey of current battery technology in print.

He also covers DC and AC wiring, from wire types and selection to over-current protection, and includes helpful tips on wiring methods. He recommends the use of good materials and practices. But he is practical in his approach and points out ways to save money. For example, while there is a growing trend in new boats to install circuit-breaker panels that look like they would be appropriate for controlling a nuclear power plant, Don points out that there really isn’t anything wrong with using fuses. He notes that if a boat is properly wired, circuit beakers offer very little advantage, since there will be very few occasions when a fuse would blow or a circuit breaker would trip. This is valuable advice because a centralized circuit-breaker panel, besides being expensive, will often require twice as much wiring.

There is a well-thought-out chapter on troubleshooting, which includes a fine section on using a digital multimeter. Don’s philosophy on multimeters is simple: If you don’t have one, you need one. If you have an old analog meter, replace it with a digital multimeter. With this tool, you can troubleshoot all the electrical power systems on your boat.

This hardcover book also offers good sections on shore power, lightning protection, bonding, and radio-frequency grounding.

It relies heavily on illustrations. The excellent additions have been done by the author, and by Kim and Jamie Downing, and by Jim Sollers.

Sailors who are highly motivated, willing to read, and ready to study this book will be able to delve more deeply into the mysteries of their boats’ electrical systems.

Batteries included. Careful reading required. A good book.

Sailboat Electrics Simplified by Don Casey (International Marine; 1999; 176 pages)