Know How: Nav Station Makeover

Having had so much fun upgrading the systems on our project Norlin 34, it came as something of a shock to realize that after installing a windlass, propane system, new winches, new portlights and new genoa sheet tracks in the space of three years, I had run out of things to do.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Sprucing up an older cruiser with new switch panels

Having had so much fun upgrading the systems on our project Norlin 34, it came as something of a shock to realize that after installing a windlass, propane system, new winches, new portlights and new genoa sheet tracks in the space of three years, I had run out of things to do. Well, not really. The old girl turned 40 in May, and it was time to address some of the cosmetic issues I’ve been steadfastly ignoring over the years.

The makeover involves refacing instrument panels and replacing the old DC and AC switch panels

The makeover involves refacing instrument panels and replacing the old DC and AC switch panels

The list of wanna-do’s is long indeed—rip out the nasty vinyl covering the hull sides and replace them with wooden ceilings, find a way to improve the ugly, scarred cabin overhead, refinish the heads compartment, and give the nav station a makeover. But which project to tackle first?

West Marine plastic 6-breaker DC panels made by Blue Sea Systems

West Marine plastic 6-breaker DC panels made by Blue Sea Systems

With the boat in the grip of a savage and seemingly never-ending New England winter, not to mention a seriously tight budget, my options were limited. I settled on the nav-station makeover, which would involve refacing a couple of beat-up instrument panels, and replacing the ugly old DC and AC switch panels that had been annoying me for years.

The existing DC panel consisted of three ancient aluminum Marinetics circuit breaker panels loosely joined together and mounted on a piano hinge. Because of its location I would have to replace it with a panel of the same height, though it could be wider. A quick look online for made-to-measure DC panels revealed prices that made my head swim. A plunge into depression was averted when I found that West Marine was selling plastic 6-breaker DC panels made by Blue Sea Systems for $50 each, complete with LED indicator lights.

A 360 Main + 2 Position from Blue Sea Systems

A 360 Main + 2 Position from Blue Sea Systems

Three of these, side by side, would fit very nicely. I would have to make a hinged framework on which to mount them and also the new AC distribution panel. The latter was a 360 Main + 2 Position from Blue Sea Systems; the boat’s shore power demands are modest, with only a battery charger and a single AC outlet to be served.

I ordered a piece of 3/16in G10 fiberglass sheet from McMaster Carr, trimmed it to the correct dimensions with a jigsaw, and cut out the holes for the 3 DC and single AC circuit breaker panels. I drilled the holes for the panels and screwed them in place to check everything fit properly. Then I glued on some white Formica sheet with contact cement and cut the edges smooth with a laminate trimmer.

Removing the old DC panels, cleaning up the wiring and replacing the terminations with spade terminals

Removing the old DC panels, cleaning up the wiring and replacing the terminations with spade terminals

Meanwhile, I spent a happy morning removing the old DC panels and cleaning up the wiring (which I had labeled) and replacing the terminations with spade terminals as required by the new panels. I bought a new brass piano hinge, cut it to size and bolted it to the new panel, and used my trusty Dremel to remove some fiberglass so the new panel would fit properly. The switch panels are more than adequate for my needs and incorporate two accessory outlets.

The switch panels incorporate two accessory outlets

The switch panels incorporate two accessory outlets

The rest was easy as pie. I removed one of the black instrument panels that housed only the flush-mounted VHF radio and stereo units, along with a battery monitor, but bore the holes and scars of assorted other long-gone instruments, and took it home to reface it with some more of the Formica I had stashed in the basement. The other panel was too difficult to remove, so I made a cardboard pattern and cut out the Formica to match. Luckily, it was a near-perfect fit on the first attempt. I’m happy with the new-look nav station; now for the cabin overhead…

The finished upgrade

The finished upgrade

Once I’d sold the old DC and AC panels for $100 or so on eBay, this upgrade set me back less than $300 and a day’s work. Bargain!

Related

CONNECTING-SHROUD-2048

Experience: Wild Ride

My Hartley 38, Moet, is pounding into massive Pacific Ocean seas. One week of continuous storm conditions has taken me 700 miles south of Fiji, heading for New Zealand. Every few seconds the bow lifts out of the water and hangs in midair for a moment while I tense my muscles, ...read more

01-LEAD-nSterling-ProCombi-S-2

Know-how: Inverter, Charger Combos Offshore

With solid-state inverters and domestic AC devices becoming increasingly efficient, it only makes sense for many sailors to install the necessary 120V AC power for the many appliances now finding their way onboard: including washing machines, TVs, microwave, laptops, chargers ...read more

IMG_5308

Chartering in the British Virgin Islands

Not for nothing are the BVI known as the “nursery slopes” of sailing charters. There simply is no better place to ease yourself into a first-time sailing vacation; for that matter, such is the appeal of these islands that many charterers return year after year. The islands ...read more

IMG_7831

Racing and Bareboat Chartering in the BVI

If not all who wander are lost, then not all who charter are content with sailing between snorkeling spots and sinking a few Painkillers at beach bars. Some want a dose of hard-sailing action blended in with their sunshine and warmth—the kind of action you can only get from ...read more

01-GMR19FP45_1194

Boat Review: Fountaine Pajot Elba 45

With new catamaran brands springing up like mushrooms, France’s Fountaine Pajot is something of an oak tree in the market, with a story that goes back to its founding in 1976. It is also one of the largest cat builders out there, sending some 600 boats down the ways in 2018. The ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Take no Chances This is my stern with the engine running slowly in gear against the lines. We all know that when we’re charging batteries this lets the engine warm up thoroughly. However, I have a ...read more

190910_ROSS_PORTSMOUTH_0187-2048x2048

Cup Boats Hit the Water

Emirates Team New Zealand may have been the first to launch a new-generation America’s Cup boat, but it was the New York Yacht Club’s challenger, American Magic, that had the last (first?) laugh. Just a few days after ETNZ’s radical-looking AC75 hit the water in mid-September, ...read more