The Aggravation of Current Leakage – Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard Can Help
By Hartwell Champagne, Yard Manager of Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard
You pull into a new marina to enjoy a quiet night in your slip. After tying up, you plug your shore power cord in and flip the breaker on. In a moment the breaker trips — so you try it again, and again it trips. No amount of effort keeps the breaker on…what in the world is happening?
The problem afflicting your boat and testing your patience is current leakage.
As marinas come into compliance with the most up-to-date electrical code they are installing ground fault protection devices (GFP’s) at each dock pedestal. GFP’s are similar to the GFCI outlets most of us are familiar with in our bathrooms and kitchens. The outlets with the small “test” and “reset” buttons on them are designed to trip when a very small amount of electrical current leaks into the grounding system.
The dockside GFP acts the same only on a larger scale. The reason your boat continues to trip the shore-side breaker is due to current leaking into your AC grounding system.
Leaking current is likely not a new malady on your boat…it’s probably been happening for quite some time. The difference is that now the GFP’s are sensing this leakage current and reacting.
Leakage current is cause for concern for two reasons: First, the leaking current can pass from the AC grounding system to your bonding system and various through-hull fittings, then out into the water. This poses a significant risk to persons who may for whatever reason enter the water.
The U.S. Coast Guard has done studies and determined the thresholds for the human body when exposed to electrical current in the water — those thresholds are what the dockside GFP’s have been set to.
The second cause for concern with leakage current is that because it is travelling through the AC ground, it can affect other vessels that are electrically connected via the same ground.
Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard Tests for Current Leakage at No Cost
Determining the amount of leakage current present in your shore power system is a straight-forward process with the right equipment. Determining its cause is rather more difficult. It takes a good bit of detective work to find the source, or sources, of leakage.
At some point in the not-too-distant future, all marinas will move to GFP pedestals, so leakage is going to become a growing problem — especially on older vessels.
Gig Harbor Marina and Boatyard will gladly test your vessel for current leakage at no cost. Determining what to do about it is at the discretion of the boat owner. However, to keep boating enjoyable and safe we encourage you to address the problem sooner than later.