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Project Log:  Sunday, January 15, 2012

Now that the newly laminated engine bed extensions had cured overnight, I water-washed as usual, then sanded the surfaces as needed to remove any ridges left over from yesterday's work, and also ensured that the top edges and aft corners were smoothly contoured.  After cleaning up, I was ready to proceed.


I prepared two layers of heavy biaxial material to encapsulate each side and tie in the new material with the existing foundations, trimming the fiberglass as needed to fit properly over the new foundations.  I extended the material all the way to the base of the drip pan in the center, and nearly to the hull on the outboard sides, leaving room to keep the existing limbers clear.   The pieces were identical (except reversed) for each side, so once I'd made one pattern I could use it to cut the other three pieces as needed.

Before continuing with the tabbing, I took care of a couple small details.  At the forward end of the foundations there existed a small gap next to the forward bulkhead.  Thinking that this gap would be a constant debris catcher if left alone, I mixed up some filler and applied it to the gap, forming a smooth transition between the engine beds and the bulkhead.  This was for purely cosmetic reasons.

At the aft end, I started with a small piece of separate tabbing, which I cut and darted to fit around the aft end as needed to close off this area.  Because the foundations were solid fiberglass, there was no particular need to ensure full encapsulation (as with wood), and this small bit of tabbing was not intended to provide much in the way of structural support, but for a clean appearance and to avoid dark corners to catch debris, I needed to close off the remaining gaps where the aft end of the foundations died off into the hull.

I'd filled some of this gap with an epoxy fillet during yesterday's lamination, but the gap was too large on the inboard side, and filling the entire area solid seemed wasteful.  Instead, I let the tabbing run over the gap and down to the hull, providing the first layer of what would end u being a little fiberglass wall.

Finally, I precoated the foundations with plain resin.  This, along with the nicely rounded top edges, would help the fiberglass overlay stick to these contours when installed.


After allowing the resin coat to tack up during lunch, I returned to the shop and, one side at a time, wet out the two layers of fabric on a table, then installed them on the foundations, draping the material over the top of the extensions and down the sides as need be.  There was no problem keeping the material well stuck to the rounded top corners.


To complete the fiberglass work on the foundations, I installed small pieces of lightweight cloth over the very ends, to ease the transition between the new structural material and the forward bulkhead (with the fillet I'd created earlier) and the short vertical aft ends.  I installed this light material for purely cosmetic reasons.


I turned to the helm mockup once more.  Picking up where I left off earlier, I continued various layout, conception, cutting, and design-on-the-fly to slowly ease my way towards the vision in my head, all subject to constant change in the face of harsh reality.  My idea was to partially recess a reduced version of the electronics pod to minimize its bulk while retaining practicality.  I had to operate within the confines of the 5" deep space that existed beneath the horizontal dash on the boat, between the dash and what would eventually be the saloon overhead (as previously defined by the plywood support cleat I'd installed on the bulkhead).

This cleat shows the vertical space available
beneath the dash


An old photo from 6/21/11 showing the
open space beneath the dash
that I had to work with

Please bear with the numerous inelegancies of the mockup.  There was still work to do and changes to make.  The build process turned out to be highly fluid, so the results were necessarily raw.  At this point, I was looking to prove to myself a concept, rather than an accurate template for later use; once I got to a point that I could deem successful, I'd likely build an accurate mockup version based on the experience.

The focal point of the helm had to be the large navigation display.  This needed to be front and center, easily viewable, and easy to use without obstruction.  Next in the hierarchy of importance was, of course, the helm and engine controls themselves.  From here, I felt most of the desired features could be manipulated and relocated as need be. 

Working towards this vague concept, while staying within the bounds of reality, I made a cut in the bulkhead and dashboard, then used the cutoff to create a new "floor" for the recessed area.


I couldn't begin to explain the various thoughts and measurements and steps that led me forth, but over the next couple hours my design continued to morph into something that slowly gained potential.  I made various changes to my early cuts, and eventually managed to piece together a very rudimentary form of the concept, though already I was formulating ideas for improvement and other changes. 


Design in three dimensions requires the ability to change on the go.  For the moment, it looked like I'd managed to create a fine podium, but though I'd run out of time for now, I looked forward to fine-tuning the ideas into something even more workable.  There were a few constants in the layout that I'd have to work with no matter what, but the exercise had moved me closer to a final version.  Among the manipulations I had in mind was to more smoothly integrate the raised portion of the box with the remainder, and to return the angle of the lower dash--the engine control/instrument panel--to the 20° I'd used in the original version.

Total Time Today:  6.25 hours

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