We had a lot of electrical work done a few years ago and as part of this we had some extra 240v sockets added in useful places with usb sockets included. The vast amount of devices that are now chargeable by usb seemed to make this a sensible change.
Unfortunately this year one of the usb units had failed and of course it is the one we use the most. The double socket is a standard model from screwfix but while I wait to source a suitable replacement, it seemed sensible to swap the broken socket for a functional one that we don’t use. This was done on a Sunday and flush with the success of having fixed the windlass remote I switched off the sockets on the board and set about unscrewing the ten screws to swap them over. Half way through this Maria has dished dinner and rather than letting it go cold, I stopped what I was doing. We thought we would watch something on the tv that we had recorded on sky… better switch the sockets on to do that!
No prizes for guessing the idiot next step. Having eaten my gorgeous dinner, I picked up the screwdriver and went to finish the job without remembering to switch off the sockets again. Earth and neutral were fine but as I touched the live there was a loud bang and lots of sparks. Fortunately, the screwdriver was insulated and so I didn’t personally try to conduct the electricity but it was a stupid mistake. Of course all of the trips have gone so I need to reset the power which includes a breaker next to the inverter charger, two shorepower breakers in the lazarette and the shore power itself on the pontoon. It takes some time to remember all the potential breakers that may have gone but eventually the power comes back on. I leave the sockets off so that I can finish the job, hoping that I haven’t damaged anything. After screwing everything together, I can safely switch the sockets back on. I test the two sockets I have swapped and the original faulty one is working but the one I was working on that banged has no power. Maria then notices that another one in the same area is also not working. This is also true for the sockets in the aft cabin but the ones in the galley are working fine. Hmm, that is weird. We seem to have only one 240v circuit so how come half of the sockets no longer work? I spoke to a friend of ours, James on Valentine, who suggested that the short circuit caused by my screwdriver may have caused a problem with one of the sockets and any that are “downstream” of it. Apparently, this is common in older houses where one of the wires downstream effectively acts as a fuse and breaks but how do you find the break? Hopefully it would be into one of the sockets that isn’t working. I decide to start where the problem first occurred, by undoing and reseating the live wire (having switched off the sockets first of course). This had been blackened and I wondered if this was causing a poor connection so I set about cleaning it up and reseating it. By luck rather than good judgement this resolved the problem and all of the sockets were then working. I still have to do the job properly, which will include stripping the wire back a little but that needs to wait for the replacement sockets. Next time, of course, I won’t forget lesson number one: double check that the power is off!