Nigel Calder

We are very pleased to announce that Nigel Calder will be holding his two courses on Boat Electrical and Diesel systems. A day with Nigel and you will improve your skills for troubleshooting your boats systems.

Wooden Boat Festival – Seminar #1
Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Cotton Building
Tuition: $125   Call Fine Edge Nautical Seminars to Register 360-299-8500
Understanding Boat Electrical Systems – key design criteria, do-it-yourself installation procedures, and simple troubleshooting techniques for the layperson presented by Nigel Calder.
Please call 360.299.8500 to register.

This course starts with a brief explanation of core electrical terms followed by key design criteria for both DC and AC systems. Unfortunately, a failure to abide by the basics is responsible for many problems on boats. For AC circuits, not following the basics can result in corrosion of underwater metals and a hazard to those onboard or swimming in the surrounding water. We will review how to keep your batteries in a healthy state and will reference some of the new technologies that are likely to transform the performance of your electrical systems in coming years. Nigel will review the current state of solar and wind power, LED lighting and new DC-to-AC inverters. The class will discuss how to size and install electric circuits that comply with boatbuilding and safety standards, including the very important, and often neglected, provisions for adequate over-current protection. The class will cover core troubleshooting techniques, especially with a multi-meter, that can be safely conducted by any boat owner. The course will specifically investigate starting circuits (the most common cause of an engine’s failure to start), charging circuits (the primary cause of battery failures), and general boat circuits. Included will be a look at the popular NMEA 2000 electronics network, with core troubleshooting techniques.

Contemporary boats are loaded with more and more electrical gear. Electrical systems are the number one cause of problems on boats that have anything more than a rudimentary electrical system. This class will also cover:

  • Designing DC electrical systems to avoid problems
  • Proper installation practices
  • Simple troubleshooting procedures

This seminar is designed for the inexperienced and requires no prior knowledge. It will help you understand your electrical systems and to correct many common problems. Attendees will come away with the ability to do basic wiring and electrical installations, and simple troubleshooting techniques that will enable the majority of electrical problems to be rapidly identified. The over-arching goal is to raise the confidence levels of boat owners with today’s increasingly electrically-loaded and complicated boats. The seminar will build your confidence when working on your electrical systems.

According to Nigel, he doesn’t have electrical problems on his boats. If you follow his advice, he claims you will not have them on your boat.


Wooden Boat Festival – Seminar #2
Thursday, September 8 at 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Cotton Building
Tuition: $125   Call Fine Edge Nautical Seminars to Register 360-299-8500
Understanding Marine Diesel Engines – do-it-yourself maintenance and troubleshooting presented by Nigel Calder.
Please call 360.299.8500 to register.

This seminar starts with a brief introduction on how a diesel engine works will be followed by a detailed description of the key systems on a diesel engine – fuel, oil, air, cooling, and the transmission to the propeller – with associated maintenance. The goal is to identify and facilitate the maintenance that can be done by a boat owner and those that are best done by a professional mechanic. The seminar will provide simple troubleshooting procedures, focusing on the most commonly experienced problems. We will define optimized operating modes that will maximize efficiency and engine life, and minimize maintenance. We will round out the day with a do-it-yourself engine health check for older engines.

No previous experience is required. Attendees will come away empowered to carry out all routine maintenance on their engines and to troubleshoot some of the more common problems encountered at sea. Topics will include:

Often overlooked critical installation issues, core maintenance and how to do it:

  • Testing starting and charging circuits
  • Techniques for starting recalcitrant engines
  • Overheating engines and how to find the source of the problem
  • Troubleshooting miscellaneous engine problems


About Nigel Calder

Nigel Calder got into motorcycles and sailing dinghies as a teenager, and has never been far from mechanical things and boats ever since. In a varied career, before becoming a full-time sailing writer he worked on an automotive assembly line, in a foundry and machine shop, and on offshore oil production platforms. He and his wife, Terrie, built a couple of 70-foot canal boats (on which they lived aboard in Oxford), and a 39-foot Ingrid cutter. They then sailed a Pacific Seacraft 40 for five years, following which they had a Malo 45 built in Sweden. This was replaced by the same boat but with custom experimental electrical and propulsion systems. It was used by the European Union Hybrid Marine (HYMAR) project, of which Nigel was the Technical Director, for extensive testing of hybrid propulsion systems. Nigel is a member of the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) Electrical Project Technical Committee. Nigel and Terrie have sailed in the North Sea, Scotland and points further north, the US east coast and the Bahamas, and extensively in the Caribbean, with Pippin (now aged 28) and Paul (27) augmenting the crew along the way. Nigel is best known for his book Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual, and his book Marine Diesel Engines, both in their third editions, and both considered the definitive works in their field and a must-have on every cruising vessel. In addition to over 200 magazine articles, he has also authored a ‘Cruising Guide to the Northwest Caribbean’, ‘Cuba: A Cruising Guide’, ‘Nigel Calder’s Cruising Handbook’, and ‘How to Read a Nautical Chart’.


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