Our boat wasn’t ready for full-time cruising when we bought her. This was perfectly fine; we’d rather add necessary items ourselves and learn them inside and out through the process, than pay for systems already in place that may not be exactly what we want, or are old and need to replacing anyway.

We had completed a bunch of projects in Wisconsin before leaving on our trip down the river (like upgrading our anchoring system), but a few big projects still needed to be done before we could take off to more remote, sunnier locales.

Project #1: Install an arch/bimini combo to provide shade for the cockpit, a place to mount solar panels and davits to hang our dinghy.

Project #2: Our electrical system needed an upgrade. Our battery bank was old and small. We wanted to double our bank from two to four, install a battery monitor, solar charge controllers, and clean up/rewire anything already in place that might be a potential fire hazard, or was just a bit sketchy.

The question was this: DIY or hire a contractor? The electrical project was a massive undertaking, something neither of us knew much about, so we’d first have to invest a lot of time hitting the books, trying to understand the basics of electrical wiring and energy storage. Time is money, and we contemplated hiring someone, as it might’ve made more sense if we spent that time working our “real” jobs to pay it off instead. In the end, we decided to DIY the electrical project, since all the skills we’d acquire would be useful for any other electrical project/troubleshooting we’d be doing in the future if WE knew our own boat’s electrical system from the ground up. As for the arch/bimini, because we wanted a custom look that required a skilled tradesman (as well as a bunch of machinery we didn’t own or have access to) we felt it made sense to hire a professional, or so we thought…

Here’s how our decisions played out… Pop the corn and settle in for this 20-minuter!

Hope you enjoy!

Lauren & Kirk

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Our camera gear:


Tools Highlighted in this video:
Self Adjusting Wire Stripper
Heavy Duty Lug Crimp Tool