Oct 12, 2017

Smartplug inlet 1If you walk the aisles at a boat show, visit a marine store, or stop in at a repair shop, you’ll likely be inundated with digital displays, vivid touch-screens, NMEA compatible devices, and Bluetooth connectivity. Every facet of marine electronics seems to be making major advances – we couldn’t have imagined many of the electronics found on today’s boats, 20 years ago.

Except in shore power.

Sure – there have been new products: new pigtail adaptors, cords with LED lights and increased amperage for modern demands on today’s vessels. But the same ‘twist and lock’ plug is being used that was introduced decades ago. Walk the docks at any marina or yacht club and you’ll find 15, 30 and 50A 3-wire twist-lock plugs. Marine store shelves are stocked with the same or similar cords and adaptors found for years. We shrug our shoulders and say - why re-invent the wheel? Those twist-and-lock plugs work great, don’t they?

Charred CordTheoretically – yes. The twist-and-lock action is designed to withstand vibration, protect from harsh weather conditions and prevent the cord from being pulled out of its socket. But unless both plug and socket are used correctly - and maintained appropriately - there is potential for electrical shorts, overheating, and even fire.

A standard wist-and-lock plug cord charred from overloading

Then I heard about SmartPlug. Recognizing the shortcomings of the twist-and-lock plug, they’ve come up with a multi-point locking system, while matching the durability of their competitor’s products. I was intrigued. And then I was asked to install two different set-ups on two different boats and write a product review. My interest turned to excitement as I got to dive in and test their claims first hand.

I was able to test out two packages from SmartPlug:

Smartplug Inlet Connector kitSmartPlug Inlet and Cordset. The SmartPlug Inlet is the female receptacle on the boat-side. The cordset has a male SmartPlug connector for the boat-side, and a standard twist-and-lock style 30Amp connector on the other, for the shore-side.

SmartPlug inlet and connector kit

SmartPlug Inlet and Connector – The inlet is identical to the first package. The Connector allows for an existing shore-power plug to be modified, by cutting off the twist-and-lock end (boat side), and replacing it with a SmartPlug Connector.

Installations were amazingly straightforward. Here are a few highlights:

Existing InletI installed each package on two different boats: one was a fiberglass Beneteau 36.7 racing yacht. The other, a 1960 steel-hulled cruising yawl.

I had basic tools ready: phillips screwdriver, flat-head screwdriver, wire crimpers, wire cutters, wire strippers and allen keys. I only needed the phillips screwdriver to remove the 4 screws

Existing Twist-and-lock Inlet

replacing the original inlet with the SmartPlug inlet. The packaging included the only other tool needed: an allen key

No cutting was necessary: The SmartPlug inlet matches the surface area and shape of the existing inlet.

No caulking, tape or glue: gasket material is included, pre-cut.

Installing package # 1 was most straightforward - total time, from opening the package to final testing: 17 minutes.

Smartplug Inlet 2Installing package #2 required a bit more care and skill – wires had to be cut, stripped and fed – but the folks at SmartPlug have made this as simple and straightforward as possible, by including clear directions, and an additional guide-tool to aid in the necessary connections.

SmartPlug Inlet wired and ready for install

Here are some highlights of the final results:

The SmartPlug advertising indicates that the pins have increased contact area vs competitors – this certainly seems to be correct when comparing the two styles of plugs

More SmartPlug literature shows ambient temperatures of the plug connection of the twist-and-lock style are much higher than those of the SmartPlug design (This equates to a poor connection between plug and inlet, which further equates to voltage drop and potential risk of arcing or fire). I tested the temperature of the connection with a laser-style temperature reading. The temperature of the SmartPlug connection was 1.4 degrees F less than that of the twist-and-lock connection (after being plugged into shore power for 1 hour, with the boat’s equipment drawing 5Amps, with the same weather conditions in each test).

Smartplug CordsetThis seems to back-up SmartPlugs claims I’ve always fumbled and had to double (sometimes triple!) check my twist-and-lock connection. The SmartPlug connection offers a satisfying and audible ‘click’ as it seats securely. It made me feel a lot more confident walking away, after plugging in.

SmartPlug Cord set

The lock is strong. I tripped, pulled, yanked and kicked at the cord and connection. It wouldn’t come free. Until I wanted it to, and then I was able to unseat the connection smoothly with one hand.

The orange colour of the inlet and cordset is a nice change from the common yellow.

A clear snap-on weather-resistant cover is available for the boat-side plug.

The SmartPlugcordset has a blue LED light on the boat-side that shows when the shore-end is providing power – another safety and confidence feature

After browsing a local marine store, I found SmartPlug packages available (Inlet, Connector, Cordset and Plug Cover), and priced higher than existing twist-and-lock plugs, cordsets and adaptors. While not an unreasonable difference, this may be a deciding factor for some.

SmartPlug doesn’t produce any pigtail adaptors – which may mean using a combination of products in order to achieve the desired end result

Measuring TemperatureMeasuring the temperature of the Connector after installation of the changeover option

In summary: SmartPlug has produced a product and product set that fills an identified short-coming in existing shore-power products: specifically the concerns around safety with existing twist-and-lock products. They’ve managed to retain all the positive attributes of existing products (durability and resistance to weather and vibration), while providing increased confidence, in a product that is simple and straightforward to install. I was excited to see the next evolution of shore power, first hand. I’m sure you will be too.

For more information about SmartPlug and their products, check out: www.Smartplug.com


Ask Andrew Andrew McDonald is the owner of Lakeside Marine Services – a boat repair/maintenance firm based in Toronto. Andrew has worked in the marine industry for 12 years and is a graduate of the Georgian College ‘Mechanical Techniques - Marine Engine Mechanic’ program.

Questions or comments for Andrew? Email him directly via: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Related Articles
Maintenance
  • 07 July 2020
  • By Ethan

Ask Andrew: Tune-ups

Many boats are now on the water after a COVID-imposed hiatus – and with a shortened ‘prep’ period, usually filled with antifouling, polishing, cleaning, engine check-overs and the installation of a new...

Maintenance
  • 10 June 2020
  • By Ethan

Ask Andrew – Pump it up

Boats contain several pumps, each serving a unique purpose and positioned in a way that allows it to do its job effectively. Understanding the why and the how can be important in troubleshooting when an...

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
New at the end of 2019, the 58 Salon Express design features large windows to flood the living ...
No wonder this is one of Regal’s best-selling boats; the Regal 33 Express offers amazing ...
The newest member of Beneteau’s Gran Turismo line is the GT 36 and this yacht brings the style and ...
With a philosophy of quality and 'doing things right Ranger Tugs launches the all new R-25 at the ...
The new Beneteau Swift Trawler 41 renews the spirit of the practical seaworthy cruiser. The ...
The Canadian Yachting test crew last week had the opportunity to run the Bavaria S36 HT at St ...

CY Virtual Video Boat Tours

Virtual Boat ToursWe all love boats and nothing can break us up! So, what better way to spend our time than looking at interesting boats and going aboard in a virtual ride or tour. We have asked our friends at various dealers and manufacturers to help us assemble a one-stop online resource to experience some of the most interesting boats on the market today. Where the CY Team has done a review, we connect you to that expert viewpoint. Our Virtual Show will continue to grow so visit frequently and check it out. If you can’t go boating, you can almost experience the thrill via your screen. Not quite the same, but we hope you enjoy our fine tour collection.

 

Read more about the CY Virtual Boat Tours....................

 

Beneteau Oceanis 30.1As boat builders clamber to create ever-bigger platforms for ever-more generous budgets, the entry-level cruiser has become an elusive animal. Sure, if you want to daysail, there are plenty of small open boats from which to choose, but if you want a freshly built pocket cruiser, you’re in for a long search. Enter French builder Groupe Beneteau, which identified this gap in the market and set about creating the Oceanis 30.1, an adorable little cruiser that resembles her larger siblings in all but length and price. With all she offers, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call her a mini yacht.

Read More about the Beneteau Oceanis 30.1..................

Destinations

  • Prev
On May 19, the New York State Canal Corporation today announced an updated opening schedule for the ...
If you have four hours to enjoy a fine tour of one of Canada’s most interesting waterways (let’s ...
Boom & Batten Restaurant is suspended over the water adjacent to the Songhees Walkway and ...
Provincial Boat Havens are those special places to drop anchor in British Columbia’s West Coast and ...
NW Explorations, a Bellingham, Washington-based yacht charter, brokerage, and marine services ...

DolphinsBy the Canadian Yachting Editors


Canadians are blessed in many ways and especially when it comes to boating. We enjoy some the world’s most beautiful cruising waters and many places are as sheltered as they are scenic.

British Columbia and the Pacific North West plainly have the most breath-taking scenery with the combination of the majestic ocean views and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. It’s like no place on earth when you have a Killer Whale breach beside your little fishing boat.

Read more about Canadian Cruising...........

 

Lifestyle

  • Prev
The Council of British Columbia Yacht Clubs with over 50 yacht club members has become the voice of ...
Classic boat restoration expert and wooden boat builder Stan Hunter recently sent us this great ...
In Mid June, a floatplane plunged into Constance Bay on the Ottawa River after two planes collide ...
Winter is a fun time for sailmakers in Canada. We grind through mountains of repairs and have an ...
The seasoned sailor mapped out an ambitious course around the world — aboard his 28-foot ...
Clean wake: A concept amongst cruising sailors that stresses the impact that individual behaviour ...
This line-up of Beneteaus can to us from our friends at RCR Yachts in NY State where they are ...
As another harsh Victoria winter came to a close, the deck repair and refinishing continued with ...
The Peterborough Canoe Company was formed in 1892 and began production the following year after ...
On one of the sunny days we had recently, Kyle MacTaggart in Honey Harbour ON fired up the Merc to ...

Cobourg Yacht Club - 2015 Sailing instructorsKatherine Stone

Like many other harbours on Lake Ontario, Cobourg has seen its fair share of changes. Screams used to be heard from kids piled into a toboggan on wheels that went hurtling down a wooden slide into the harbour. Above it all was the bustling din from the waterfront of ship’s whistles, train engines, foghorns and thundering coal cars. It is now a rather serene place for the locals and visitors to enjoy various watercraft. Fortunately, the beautiful beach that lines the waterfront is still a star attraction for the town.

Located 95 kilometres east of Toronto and 62 kilometres east of Oshawa on the north edge of Lake Ontario, United Empire Loyalists first starting arriving in the area as early as the 1780s. The first settlement in 1798 was called Buckville, later renamed Amherst, then called Hamilton (after the township) and also nicknamed Hardscrabble. It wasn’t until 1819 that they finally settled on the name of Cobourg, which was incorporated as a town in 1837. In the late 1820s large schooners with passengers and cargo had to anchor well off shore, as there was only a landing wharf. A group of Toronto businessmen formed the Cobourg Harbour Company which built the wooden Eastern Pier from tolls charged for the use of the harbour.

Read more: Cobourg Yacht Club...

Marine Products

  • Prev
Wet decking can compromise passenger safety on boats, particularly when boarding or disembarking. ...
Anyone who has repeatedly used a rag to clean gelcoat, paint and delicate surfaces has seen the ...
The new Mercury Racing 300hp Five‑Blade CNC Cleaver propellers are designed expressly to maximize ...
Beneteau may have outdone itself with introduction of its new Gran Turismo 36, manufactured in ...
Yanmar Power Technology has announced the development of a hydrogen fuel cell system for maritime ...
Kevin Monahan is a retired Canadian Coast Guard officer with more than 20 years of experience ...
The new 2020 PORTS Georgian Bay, North Channel & Lake Huron Guide is available for purchase at ...
Professional boatbuilders don't want to have to redo a job any more than a DIYer. Many choose Life ...
Since its introduction last year, the JBL by Harman Marine BassPro 10" Powered Subwoofer (JBLMBP10) ...
After decades of perusing charts and guidebooks as part of planning a cruise, it was a totally ...