Recently ex o/s boat Grosvenor experienced a fire in the inverter. Fortunately this occurred in the evening with the boat moored up, and the owner aboard, and as a result damage was limited to replacement of the inverter.
The owner was alerted to the fire, by the sound of cracking and popping coming from the aft cabin, and immediately went aft to find the cabin already half full of smoke. The onboard smoke detector, could not detect smoke in the aft cabin and did not activate.
Grosvenor is a 58ft centre galley boat (built 2002), and has a smoke detector just forward of the galley, but none in the aft cabin where the inverter is sited. The inverter (a 2100v sine wave) was plugged in, but not switched on, and not being used.
According to the electrician who replaced the unit, the likely cause was a manufacturing fault that has deteriorated over time. The type of inverters fitted to ex o/s boats are sealed units and it is not possible to service these types.
Fortunately inverter fires are rare and it is unlikely that this event will happen to you however, there are some simple steps we have taken to lessen the risk in future, which you may like to consider for your boat.
1. We have replaced the forward smoke detector with a 10 year life ionising smoke detector that will detect both electrical and non electrical fires
2. A new smoke detector of the same type has been fitted in the aft cabin to give early warning especially to anyone sleeping there.
3. A few weeks before this incident another alert owner had spotted and replaced the nearest fire extinguisher which had lost its charge due to age. Although not needed on this occasion, this highlights the importance of every owner undertaking simple steps like checking that the extinguisher indicators are still in the green and so available when needed.
It is also sensible to check the life expectancy of your smoke detectors (some only have a 5 year life) and consider replacement if you are not sure. Due to the low head height, narrow boats do fill very quickly with smoke so money spent on these is a good investment.
Happy and safe boating to everyone