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Project Log:  Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I continued work on the rough helm area mockup.  Having determined what I needed to with the helm pump and wheel yesterday, I removed them from the mockup to avoid damage and because the weight of the helm pump made the mockup unstable.

I decided I wanted more room in the lower portion of the console, behind the electrical panel.  With the knowledge that the steering wheel wasn't going to impact the operation of the panel or my intended hinged cover, I didn't see much reason for the lower portion of the console to be set back several inches, so I extended the sides with additional plywood, cleats, and glue to bring the lower portion of the panel flush with the upper section.   I left a 3" tall toekick at the bottom, but quickly realized this wasn't tall enough, so I knew I'd have to make changes in the final construction later.


Meanwhile, I spent a few minutes printing out some full-sized drawings of the electrical panels I was thinking of, to better represent them visually as I worked through the console design.  The large main panel still fit in the space, but was now impinging on the available length of the lower section more than I wanted, particularly when I accounted for the recessed frame that added nearly 1" all around.  Effectively, I'd shortened the lower section by 3", or the height of the toekick, and now the length of this panel was pretty tight in the remaining space  For the moment, I left things as they were, but sensed I'd need to make a change in the service panel for a better fit.

With the modifications to the box complete, I worked on my initial layout for the planned installations on the console--all subject to change throughout the process.  I located and installed the engine control, engine gauge panel, and fuel gauges in the angled top panel of the console.  I debated the merits of recessing the engine panel, something I still might end up doing in a later version of the mockup or actual construction, but for the moment I installed it on top in the normal way.

Then, in the front panel of the console, I installed controls for the heating system and bilge pump.

At this point, I decided to make a change in the electrical panel.  Knowing from my discussions with the vendor that I could combine different panels in the same enclosure, I selected a 24-position DC panel and 7-position AC panel that gave me roughly the same switch capacity as my original choice (with three additional DC breakers that I didn't really need), but were housed in panels that were wider and shorter than my original choice. 

This had the unnecessary but still somehow satisfying consequence of making the lower, main panel be the same width as the small nav lights panel at the top edge of the console.  The shorter overall height was a much better fit in the lower section of the console, and would give me plenty of room for as large a toekick as I wanted (though I wouldn't bother making the change on the mockup).

With the console up in the boat, I checked clearance for the throttle lever.  While it not-unexpectedly hit the upper part of the pilothouse dashboard before reaching its full travel, I didn't think it would travel that far once cables were attached (and probably wouldn't pose a practical problem if it did), but nonetheless I considered the possibility of changing the orientation somewhat to eliminate the issue if needed.


Navigation electronics would be flush-mounted in a separate box, to be located on the dash itself, and this was the next thing for me to mock up.  After taking a few measurements of the available space, I cut a 1/4" scrap plywood panel to what I thought would be appropriate dimensions for the space and for the installations required, and laid out the positions of the multi-function display (Simrad NSE-8), VHF radio (Simrad), autopilot control head (Simrad AP24), and sailing instruments (Simrad).

In this initial configuration, there were two possible orientations for the three identically-sized square instrument heads.  My first thought had been to stack two of them vertically in the space between the large display to starboard and the VHF to port, with the autopilot control head off on its own above the VHF.  This also left room for a few small installations like USB ports and 12V outlets.

However, there was also just enough room to locate all three control heads in a horizontal line across the top of the panel space, and after due consideration I was leaning towards this configuration.

I more or less randomly selected a 30° angle for the face of the electronics console, and built a basic box beneath the plywood top to simulate this setup.  I started with a 2" tall vertical at the low end (aft) and worked from there.


With the new box set up in place in the pilothouse, my immediate thought was that the angle needed to be steeper for easier access to and better viewing of the NSE-8.  I also felt that the 2" tall vertical was too high, so for the next round I expected to make some changes.  The angle of the panel and its overall height had to be balanced between usability (most important), impact on forward views from the helm (probably not a real issue no matter how I laid it out), and overall aesthetics.

Before making any changes to the original configuration, however, I'd probably cut the access holes and install the actual electronics to see how it all felt with the real units in place. 



Finally, I checked the clearance of the throttle lever with the box in its intended position. 

For ready reference, this is what the area looked like when I got the boat.

Total Time Today:  6.5 hours

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