On page 173 of his book, Yacht Designs II, the legendary naval architect William Garden dropped in a sentence that has guided my boat owning experience for many years now. Bill was describing the rehabilitation of Merlin, the 1904 launch he used for commuting to Sidney from his island home off Canoe Cove. He described some early fixes to the tired old launch, then he wrote, “Every year since she has received a dividend.”

Smart Plug

Smart Plug — solid, weatherproof and quick

What a splendid idea — every year, the boat receives a dividend. Not maintenance, not replacing a failed part with new, but an improvement. One of the best dividends our Tolly 37 Surprise got was an all-welded 1¼-inch stainless steel rail to replace the 1-inch rail assembled from components. The new rail is stronger and it doesn’t wiggle. Furthermore, it’s gorgeous. Despite its cost, that rail has made me happy every moment I’m on the boat.

A year ago we replaced the undersized Ardic forced air furnace with an oversized hydronic (hot water) furnace. The Ardic no longer was supported with spare parts, and we didn’t want a failure to spoil a cruise. John Flaherty, who has taken care of mechanicals and electrics on our boats for 20 years, did the design and installation. The bill for the furnace, boiler, hoses, heat exchangers (with fans), and controls was enough by itself, but the design and installation time at John’s hourly rate was just as heroic.

The result can’t be measured on the balance sheet. On a cold day the new furnace warms the boat (and my wife’s outlook) wonderfully, and the pain of the check-signing is forgotten.

Smart Plug

Smart Plug installation

Which brings us to this year’s dividend or dividends. New port and starboard running lights now replace the small and old running lights. New LED interior lighting has been installed, ridding us of the unattractive (and dim) original fixtures.

And, adding to safety and putting an end to frustration every time we hooked up to shore power, we now have the new Smart Plug receptacles and cord. Traditional shore power setups work well, but they must be used properly. If they become loose, they can arc and overheat, causing a fire. To keep them tight, a locking ring must be spun on and it isn’t easy. I’ve spent what seemed like eternities getting those blasted locking ring threads lined up.

Smart Plug addresses these problems and more. The blades are larger, so they transmit electrical current more efficiently. And the locking ring, with its grouchy threads, is replaced with side clips to hold the connector firmly in place. With Smart Plug, we squeeze the side clips and push the connector into the receptacle. Then we push the receptacle lid down and it snaps to the shore power connector, making a 3-point attachment. It’s solid, it’s weatherproof, and it’s quick.

Smart Plug

We now have the new Smart Plug receptacles and cord.

Installation was straightforward. The Smart Plug receptacle uses the same mounting holes as the system it replaces. I could have done it, but since John Flaherty was already on the boat, replacing the running lights and the interior lighting, I watched as he did it. John unscrewed the old receptacles and removed the wires. The insulation was cut back far enough to see that the wiring hadn’t been damaged, so it was used without change. The wires were fed into the Smart Plug fixture and clamped tight. The new receptacle was screwed into place, using the original fasteners and holes. It was finished in minutes.

Smart Plug is definitely an improvement. It’s easier to use and far more robust. One look told me it was well designed and made to last. The components show care and quality in every step. This year’s cruising will be better with it.
Happy dividend, little boat.

Bob Hale

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