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23' mini-trawler
by Schucker

Janice aboard Seaweed,
living the good life afloat...

Trawler cruising on $14 per day is possible.
I'm doing it and you can too.

Janice Marois, nautical journalist.
Accredited member of Boat Writers International.

Here, I share my views on living aboard a small boat with very limited resources. Hopefully my successes will help others achieve the life. And yes, I'll share the things I did wrong too -- though not everything 'cause a girl's got to have her secrets!


Date: 18 April 2018. Making a Plug-In AC Voltage Meter.


A couple years ago I bought an AC powered nightlight. I plugged it into an outlet in my galley. Eventually I broke the plastic part that lit up. The LED was blue and still functioned. I thought the base section might be of use someday so I tucked it into a junk drawer. Then it came to me: I could make my own plug-in AC meter from the broken nightlight and an AC meter I had on hand. Here's how I did it.

Eons ago I ran across some cheap AC meters
on eBay. Here's one I bought for a couple bucks:

I had originally planned to cut a hole in my cabinet and permanently mount the meter.

One thing I find comforting is being able to easily check voltage. For my DC system, I have a multitude of meters scattered about Seaweed. I wanted to permanently mount a few AC meters too. I had envisioned looking up from my dinette and confirming the power supply was stable.

This is another of those Good Ideas acquired and not installed. That is a BIG PROBLEM for me: getting items and then not utilizing them immediately. The money is spent so of late I have been attempting to use up the goods I have already. So far, well, I'm not doing spectacularly at that. Yet.

As for the meters, better sense came to me before I cut a hole in my cabinet front. I am the worst at cutting a straight line in anything. I can draw one but when a power tool is in my hand suddenly things go wonky. It is not pretty.

So the thought was to buy a plug and wire the meter into the plug. That way I could simply plug in the meter and have my voltage displayed. The demise of my nightlight gave me the opportunity to test my theory.

Everything works in Theory. Sometimes I wish I'd been smart enough to name my boat Theory!

First I dismantled the nightlight. This is what I found:

The AC meter is below the nightlight in this photograph.

The inside of the nightlight is rather straight forward.



As you can see in these pictures, the prongs are directly behind those two larger bumps. That is where the power comes into the nightlight. I knew that one side would be positive and the other ground.


Photos repeated for comparison


So I attempted to solder the connections on the meter to the greenboard at those two large bumps.


I would love to be able to say that I knew which was which. I didn't. I was careful to do all testing AFTER I had completely closed the unit. AC is not for the faint of heart. People die from stupidity and carelessness.

Be safe! A ten dollar solution is shown right here: Eversame AC Voltage Meter



My attempts at soldering were pathetic. Nothing worked. The wires were not sticking. I had to rethink the problem and figure out a way to attach the meter wires to the plug.

I dismantled the nightlight further. This is what I ended up doing:

Note the RED DOT of polish on
the plug. That's the positive side.

For this meter/illustration the BLUE ARROW points to
 positive and the GREEN ARROW points to  ground.

My soldering skills are apparently nonexistent at this time. Instead I stripped the meter wires back about one inch. Then I twisted the wires. Next the wires were wrapped through and around the holes at the base of each prong. (See BLUE and GREEN arrows above.) Two dots of liquid electric tape secured the wires.


Side Note: If you do not yet have liquid electrical tape in your arsenal, at some point you might want to pick up a container. It is handy to have though I don't know that this is essential gear.


Below, on the right I've linked you to the main Amazon page for Liquid Electrical Tape. I recommend you select Gardner Bender brand.


The reason I have chosen this specific brand is because of the container! Most of them are in tin cans. The cans rust so removing the lid becomes problematic. This lid will rust too, however it won't stick to the plastic container quite so firmly.

Note to Self: Next time I open the can, coat the threads of the lid with Vaseline.

Affiliate link

Liquid Electrical Tape


So after I had secured the meter wires to the
nightlight plug I put it all back together. It worked!



Now that I've shown you how to make this on your own for just a few bucks, let me tell you what I'd suggest if you can afford to do so: Buy one. Seriously, already put together, no problems and probably works a-okay. Here's one I found for less than ten dollars:

Eversame AC Voltage Meter



Mine works fine. It was made from parts already paid
for and aboard Seaweed. For me, this is Good Enough.

Side Note regarding the red dot shown on my electric outlet: That denotes the wider prong of the plug. It lets me know which way to plug the AC cord in, even when my glasses are off.

To you and yours, use what you have and make do or do without. But in this case I'd seriously suggest you spend the ten bucks and buy a Eversame AC Voltage Meter. You won't be sorry.

Happy cruising.

Comments welcome and encouraged on the
, and Making a Plug-In AC Voltage Meter page.

Categories: Gear, In the Bilges, Recommendations,


Announcement: Folks who want to be notified when I post are welcome to become subscribers. I email readers every time a new article goes up. That's usually once or twice per week. If you'd like to be included via BCC* simply drop me a line to janice@janice142.com and I'll add you. It's free.

*BCC - Blind Carbon Copy. Basically no one but me will have your email address and the list of subscribers is not available.

Now this is not fancy. Basically I copy off the top three items in my Archive file. That way you can catch up if life gets in the way of your reading fun.

Secret: If you want to know what's what, start in the Archive. It offers you the title, first paragraph and topics (Categories) covered in each article published on my website.

My Cruising Kitty earns money each time you buy on Amazon through my links. It costs you nothing and helps supplement my cruising funds. I appreciate it so much when you click through my site's Amazon links. It really does help keep me afloat.

Thank you.


Pet of the Week: Angus
aboard Evan

Submit your pet's photo.
Please email pictures of your crew!

More canine, feline and feathered crew members can be found on the The First Mate Gallery page.


The Archive holds a chronological list of every item published on my website. It includes a brief synopsis (not just the title) along with the topics covered in each article.

Click on the title and voila: you're there. Enjoy!

Skipper, First Mate extraordinaire

Of course every boat needs a Deck Swabbie. Mine, born in 2008, is a papillon mix. She weighs in at 4 pounds 3 ounces.

Coming soon ...


Topics of Interest:
You can achieve a simple satisfying life

Oh, a wondrous bird is the pelican!
His bill holds more than his belican.
He can take in his beak enough food for a week.
But I'm darned if I know how the helican.
(Poem by Dixon Lanier Merritt, 1879-1972.)


For years I've been collecting short pithy statements otherwise known as aphorisms. If you're like me and enjoy the weird, go ahead and CLICK!

These are previously posted at the bottom of each article -- for new, you'll have to come visit again.

Seaweed is in St. Pete right now.

The above chart (#411) can be a wish book of sorts as you look over your domain and wonder where to go next. And yes, I do have the originals (sans red arrow) as jpeg's for download should you desire your own for closer perusal. Enjoy!

The Writer's Block

It's my belief that other folks who boat are some of the most interesting in the world. Inside every boater is a story. Let yours out! I'd love to post short stories, vignettes, or even longer articles that focus on some aspect of our life on or near the water. Suggested topics include:

1. I Remember When...
2. My First Boat
3. Who inspired you to be a boater?
4. Fishing Trips or Tricks
5. Or another subject of your choosing

For the novice, here's how to write: Simply pretend you're sending a letter to a friend. Tell about an event or a memory from years ago that you still recall.

Life has changed so much on the water since I was born aboard. Personally I'd love to hear your memories of life when you were younger. Boats were smaller, narrower, and much slower. Kids were kids and our families often shaped the adult we have become. Here are my two aboard the tow boat my dad ran for a time:

Your pictures would be wonderful too. I posted one of Boot Key Harbor taken in 2001 that has gotten quite a few downloads and really, that's not so terribly long ago... Do you have any photos to share? Email me.

Do you want to help out?

Often an article for the website will be completely written yet lack photographs. I like pictures and am looking for some for up-coming pieces:

  • Pets afloat (include pet and boat name please)

  • Any picture of boats underway or at anchor

  • Photos of people enjoying life in or on the water

Size: a minimum of 1000 pixels across please. If that doesn't make sense think bigger versus resized for emailing. I prefer the full-size version. Also, the name you'd like me to use when I add the copyright stuff to your picture. And thanks bunches!

My email address is janice@janice142.com

23' Schucker mini-trawler, circa 1983.

Thanks for visiting. If you happen to see my boat along the waterways, give a call on Channel 16. I'm always listening.

click picture to enlarge

My home is not fancy by any means, however you cannot imagine how wonderful it is to come back to her after an expedition on shore.

If I can live this life, why not you too?

Skipper, First Mate

Aphorism Alert: Begin doing what you want to now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake. Marie Beyon Ray.

Contributions to my Cruising Kitty
are always appreciated.

Every gift helps.

The Cruising Kitty is what boaters refer to as spending money. There's never enough aboard Seaweed!

I am also an Amazon Affiliate.


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