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S&S Swan General - Original electrical installations
16 September 2020 - 04:24
Join Date: 27 October 2013
Posts: 60

Original electrical installations



Do we need to change old but good-looking electrical systems?

I am searching for my next S&S Swan and I try to estimate the overall costs for each candidate.
Corrosion is the big issue on electrical systems because of the exposure of salty humid environment combined with all the various materials used.

Many of the S&S Swan still have the original electrical switch board in place. That indicates that the original electrical system is still in place – or at least some of it.
It is quite easy to see modifications and add-ons to the systems which often is done more or less on DIY basis. They are often wrongly installed and sometimes dangerous. So it is easy to make the decision and get rid of these installations.

But what about the remaining original installations (Some of the candidates have the entire original system intact) what if that looks good? No corrosion, no signs of humidity damage and in good working order. Do we need to change old cables despite they look good? It sounds wrong to me to rely on 40-50 years old electrical installation – but at the other hand what if they look OK?

It is an open question; I would like to hear your experiences. (My previous S&S Swan had fairly new system – nothing left from Nautor so I have no experiences on this myself)

Fair winds, Navigare


16 September 2020 - 08:20
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 1018

Dear Navigare,

when I bought Vanessa I found out the electrical system, the original one, had a few problems, not exactly with corrosion, but it has been modificated over the previous 30 years, by different hands (despite the fact the boat had just one -the original- Owner before mysef) and, as it happens quite often, the technicians who worked onboard, installed new stuff and new cables without getting rid of the old ones. In some cases a few lines has just been cutted...!

I decided to have a completely new system, so, with the help of a very good technician (I think you know Massimo Orlandini, in my opinion the best electrician I have ever met), we have designed a complete new electrical system, panel included.

I opted of course for the classic anodized alluminum panel with the classic switches, but behind the "old style" panel there is a contemporary electric system, with all the alarms and security stuff you need.

This panel engineering/layout has been opted by Massimo for at least three other S&S Swan since 2016.

Fair winds!

matteo (47/069 Vanessa)

original electric switch panel

behind, before and after

New switches panel

17 September 2020 - 01:47
Join Date: 27 October 2013
Posts: 60


Dear Matteo,


The before and after picture explain it all :-) Wonderful solution.


Did the upgrade involved ALL cables in the boat? Or is there still part of the original in place?




17 September 2020 - 08:01
Join Date: 20 July 2017
Posts: 115

Dear Navigare,

we still have most of what we believe is the original wiring. Guess it was done properly in the first place and since Kairos sails relatively dry we do not seem to have any major problems with it (yet - fingers crossed!).

As Matteo already pointed out, the problems come with the wiring that was added over the years. On Kairos, while most of this seem to have been carried out by professionals, in my humble opinion the main problems are less with the actual wiring but the following:

- old cables left in place, some just cut and even still live

- new cables/systems just added to an existing circuit breaker in the electric panel; this means we have a lot of 'non-intuitive' allocations. For example, someone thought it was a good idea to connect the gas warner to the B&G circuit breaker ...

- no or inadequate documentation / wiring diagrams of the additions

We are in the process of addressing the above but - unless you want to do a complete rewire, I guess - found it is difficult to find an electrician that is happy to work within the existing old systems.Most want to just add to it, rather than integrate new circuits/equipment properly

I believe this is because it takes time to understand and get familiar with the existing wiring, and also they (understandably) seem to not be very keen to work in the old panel with its tight, old connections and lack of space.  Main reason for this is, with the old connections, you run the risk to knock out two old systems while installing/replacing one new one ... and then you have to find the problem.

For similar reasons I think people shy away from pulling out old cables - they just fear that something else gets damaged in the process.

Once you found an electrician (or any craftsman, really) that takes pride in what they do I recommend to make sure you keep them happy, they are not easy to find anymore in my experience :-)

Saying that, we have now found an electrician who appears happy to get stuck in, likes old systems and doesn't want to rip everything out and replace it ...

Fair winds and good luck


Kairos - 57/43



17 September 2020 - 08:11
Join Date: 02 February 2007
Posts: 202

Dear Navigare, and dear Matteo,

May be I am very lucky, as there is no corrosion in our elctrical system. Also we are only the second owner of Soeur Anne 41 nb 22. So we are still with the original electrical system with a few add-ons. Of course we had to modify a few things like battery charging with a new alternator and 220v battery charger, battery controller from Mastervolt, an electic windlass, a safety switch on the 220v, adding a few pup switches, etc... We did all this ourselves. Of course its important to have drawings of all the modifications.

After 40 years of operation, it works fine!

But of course a 41 is a simple boat.


17 September 2020 - 16:40
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 1018

Dear Friends,

@ Navigare: no, most of the cables on the ceiling, for the lights, were (and are) in p e r f e c t condition (very good material). You have to check cable by cable, and you are likely to find out 20/30 per cent of the cables are as good as new.

@ Kairos: you are perfectly right. The original system was very well engineered and built, the problem is with who and how put his hands over the decades. Your example about the gas warner is above any comment!. Diagrams are f o u n d a m e n t a l .

@ Philippe: you are indeed! Vanessa is my second boat and the second boat which needed a new electrical  system

Fair winds!

matteo (47/069 Vanesa)

18 September 2020 - 20:40
Join Date: 24 April 2020
Posts: 18


I am deep in the electrics right now and after 40 years and too many unqualified hands what we are finding is scary.

To start with we have taken an entire garbge pail full of old wire out the  boat that was left when new stuff was added. - not a domestic rubbish bin but a full on dustbin as you leave out at the end of the week for the collector!!!

The DC panel beofre and after are attahced - the message i got from my electrican to go with the "before " pic was "thats what a fire waitng to happen looks like"

There were multiple things wired directly to the battery - no breaker, no fuses nothign.

The 300 amp fuse block for the charger was jammed between the two poles of the fittin gbut not attahced - how it stayed in place all this tim eI have no idea.

More to come as the project progresses - all new intruments and batteries are coming  - but fo rnow my first advise to the original poster is hell yes - get an electrical audit by someone you  know and trust!!

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