Gear Test: WeatherDeck panels - Soundings Online

Gear Test: WeatherDeck panels

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When discussing marine electrical components, I regard the name Blue Sea as synonymous with quality of design and execution. The WeatherDeck line of electrical panels is a recent addition to its inventory, and I was anxious to determine just how effective their water-resistant claim truly was.

WeatherDeck water-resistant switch panels are designed to be surface-mounted on flybridges and in open cockpits that are exposed to rain and seawater. They are available with and without built-in circuit protection, and can be used to add additional electrical circuits or to replace existing electrical panels.

The panels can be mounted in one of four orientations, with any of the 30 supplied labels being installed accordingly. The use of bicolored LEDs for backlighting keeps current draw to 10 milliamps per illuminated circuit. Red indicates the circuit is off, green is on, and dark indicates a blown fuse. The label backlighting is very effective in reduced light but, unfortunately, isn’t discernible in daylight.

The panels are constructed using corrosion-resistant materials that should endure in the marine environment over time. The panel cover is made of thermoplastic and can easily be removed from the panel without tools. It’s secure enough, however, that it won’t come off inadvertently. Removing the panel cover permits access to the reinforced polycarbonate base and fully sealed silicone rubber boot that shields the ATO/ATC blade-style fuses. Simply pull the boot back to access the fuses. The switch openings in the panel cover are designed for easy control access while helping prevent inadvertent operation.

The 15-amp DC-rated toggle switches, manufactured for Blue Sea Systems of nickel-plated brass and non-corrosive phenolic by Carling Technologies, have black waterproof silicone boots installed on them. Behind the panel is a circuit board to control the bicolor LEDs, the required connection bus, and terminals. Both tin-plated copper and tin-plated brass components are used in the assembly. Original panels used a solder mask on the circuit boards, while all currently produced WeatherDeck panels use conformal coatings to provide corrosion protection, according to Blue Sea.

To confirm weather-proof integrity, I installed the panel assembly on a piece of StarBoard, which is rigid and has a slight surface texture. Following the template supplied with the WeatherDeck panel, I made the appropriate cutout and mounted the panel with the supplied screws and gasket, which fit between the panel and the StarBoard. (If I were to make this a permanent installation aboard my boat I would eliminate the gasket and use silicone sealer in its place. In my experience, the thin gasket doesn’t always seal the perimeter and often lasts only a few months before deteriorating.)

I then sealed the StarBoard with plastic around the edges to assure that the steady stream of water directed at the WeatherDeck assembly wouldn’t leak around to the back side of the panel. After 10 minutes of constant soaking, I turned the assembly over and found it to be completely dry. I am satisfied with the water-resistant integrity of both the WeatherDeck panel and gasket.

WeatherDeck switch panels are available in two-, four-, six- and eight-

position configurations, with and without circuit protection. Switches offered are either on/off or momentary toggle, and the panel is available in white or gray. All panels measure 3.88 inches wide, with heights from 2.6 inches to 7.7 inches, depending on the number of positions. The four-position panel retails for around $63.99, the six-position panel for around $89.99.

For more information, contact Blue Sea Systems of Bellingham, Wash., at (360) 738-8230, or visit www.bluesea.com.