Pilot House

Helm Seat Region Refinishing, Vent Replacement, Clock & Barometer, Electrical Panel Modifications,  AC Sub Panel, Stereo, Pilot House Refinishing, Reverse Image Camera, Inner and Outer Solar Screens


Refinishing the back of the Helm seat and Refrigerator Vent Replacement

The wood work in the Pilot House had dramatically faded over the years.  Honduras Mahogany will turn a honey color after long exposure to UV light.  The dark region was an area protected by the upholstered helm seat and still retains its original color.


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Chemically stripping the wood removed the finish, but the color miss-match was still quite evident.  We were able to get a closer match using a teak stain as mahogany stain was a bit too red. 

Re-finished region

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The ventilation grills for the refrigerator were past their prime and easy to maintain solution was needed.  The original cane ones made varnishing around the frame difficult so a removable alternative was devised.

On the back side, there is a plastic frame screwed into the cabinetry.

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On the front side, the actual plastic grill is mounted.  The pattern is not very imaginative, but since these were printed in ABS plastic on a rapid prototyping machine, a new design can be generated and quickly produced.  Since they are screwed in from the outside, they can be removed for varnishing with minimal effort.

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The Norcold refrigerator has since been replaced with a Nova Kool which vents out the front of the unit making these vents non-functional.

Ok, we lets replace these vent “covers” with version 2.0 in black acrylic (Plexiglas).  We have the technology: access to laser engraver/cutter.






Refinishing, back of Pilot House

Note the highly tarnished Chelsea clock and barometer.

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Remove the hardware so we can do a proper sanding and varnishing.

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We send the clock and barometer back to Chelsea to get a quote on cleaning them up.  It turns out that it would cost over half of what new ones sell for that service.  We decided to do it ourselves using paint remover to strip off the lacquer finish with a Scotch Brite pad and then shined the up with a buffing wheel. 

This picture shows the difference after stripping and before polishing.

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Since they are brass, they do darken (tarnish) but a little elbow grease will keep them shiny and bright if that is what is required.

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Electrical Panel Modifications

Originally (well not originally, but at least when we took ownership) the electrical panel included the Electro Scan holding tank control panel as well as a three pole AC source selector switch.

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The Hold n’ Treat control was replaced by a vacuum gauge indicating the health of the main fuel filters so we could keep an eye on that information without having to go below.  The fact that the Great Lakes is a no discharge zone required us to pull the entire Electro Scan system out of the boat so the Hold n’ Treat panel was no longer necessary.



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The fuel gages have never worked and we find it a simple task to dip the tanks since there are no bends in the fuel fill hoses.  The boat did however come with a never installed, new in the box 8 tank monitor gauge.  Even though the manufacture date on it is 10 years prior, it still powers up fine.  You can still purchase tank gauges for it and since running a water tank dry is a bit of a hassle we decided to install this where the fuel tank gauges lived.  All the water tanks are recent and are constructed from plastic as well as the holding tank so we should be able to easily monitor usage.  For fuel we would need a tank sender that outputs voltage and not resistance for this particular monitor.  While those are available I don’t believe we could replace our senders as there is only about 8 inches of clearance between the top of the tank and the bottom of the deck.  I suppose if the current sender checks out ok we could find an electronic gizmo that converts resistance to voltage.


We really need to do something about the face of the aluminum panel as the lettering is badly weather beaten with corrosion around the fasteners for the circuit breakers.  Replacing the entire panel might be an option but it looks like the re-wiring might be more trouble than it is worth.


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We eventually determined that the generator was not wired so as to drive the air conditioner.  Shore power on Pilgrims was usually set up with the port side power inlet running all the normal AC loads indicated on the main power panel.  The starboard side power inlet going to a secondary panel which branched to the air conditioners.  Our boat had a household breaker box on the starboard circuit which was led to the two air conditions on the boat, one of which was removed before we took ownership.  This most definitely had to go, hence the red x in the picture below.



 We wanted to be able to run the air when away from the dock (or even at the dock using the genset for a power source) and this was going to require a bit of re-wiring.  Seeing how the starboard wiring did not meet ABYC standards for having a breaker within ten feet of the inlet tearing out the old wiring (and the house-hold breakers) was an easy decision.  In addition, the location of the inlets was under a folding step leading up to the foredeck.  These were in a bad spot; difficult to reach to plug into and the bottom of the plug inlet was level with the deck and leaked.  We moved both inlets to one side of the cabin, just aft of the pilot house door.


Now both inlets were close to the electrical panel and the wiring could be routed direct to the double pole breakers like it should.  Replacing the three pole source selector with a four pole selector also allowed us install a dedicated AC sub panel to drive the air conditioner and a future washer/dryer as well as giving us the capability of powering this panel off the generator.   Since the genset is an 8kw unit, the additional load is not a problem.  On the genset side it only took adding another wire and switching a couple of jumpers on the genset itself to accomplish this.

The re-wiring process itself turned out to be longer and more involved than originally thought (it always does).  It took longer because it was done in November and December.  Most of the time we could only work an hour or two while doing the wiring as temperatures were in the 20’s (or below).  Your bare hands stop functioning effectively after awhile in those temperatures, tools are so cold it hurts to pick them up.

The wiring inside the breaker panel cabinet looks somewhat like a rats nest, but it’s a lot neater and more functional that what it was.


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Houston, we have another problem; as in the ammeter didn’t work.  To make a long story short, the hot lead coming from the inverter should have been routed through the hole in the transformer for the ammeter.  My guess is that the hot lead from the inverter bypassed the transformer coil when the inverter was installed.  As a matter of fact, it you take two turns through the coil, the gauge will read twice the actual amperage.  Why would you want to do this you might ask?  The simple reason is that the scale on the ammeter reads from 0 to 100 amps.  Since this is a 30 amp circuit, we should never see a load greater than that.  The scale is non-linear, meaning anything less than about 10 amps will hardly register, now a 10 amp load will read 20 amps, easily in the readable range on the meter.  We need to either put a label on the meter indicating that fact, or make a new card for the meter.  Yes, I know the wire shouldn’t be red (indicating DC hot), but black (AC hot) in the picture below.  The red pigtail was just used for testing purposes to make sure that we didn’t have other issues and has been replaced with a wire of the proper gauge and color. Why did it take three years to address this problem?


Original stereo system

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The second 30 amp AC circuit is now directed to an auxiliary panel which will feed the air conditioner and washer/dryer.  That panel also includes the three pole breaker coming off the 8kw genset and a modern stereo (AM/FM/CD/Aux and USB port).

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Helm Seat Re-upholstery

The fold-up helm seat doesn’t look too bad in this picture, but in reality was quite worn.

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The back rest was bolted through the wooden partition, requiring the removal of the refrigerator to get access to the bolts.  The new back rest uses Velcro to attach it to the partition so that it is easily removed for maintenance (varnishing).

In order to get a nice, flat piece of plywood for the backing, we ended up laminating our own. 

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Helm Station Refinishing

The woodwork in the pilot house was badly in need of some attention.  The image below gives one an idea of the shape of the finish.  In this picture we had begun to plug the numerous screw holes left from mounting different devices.


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The process of stripping and re-varnishing the woodwork in the pilot house was done while the boat was out for the winter.

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Select pieces of trim were too far gone to repair and refinish, so new pieces were made.  We also relocated the depth finder display from the center post between the pilot house windows to below the port window.  The back lighting from light coming in the front windows made it very difficult to read.

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The entire boat needs to have the cabin sole refinished, but things were bad enough in the Pilot House to force us to start do this region mid-summer of 2012.  Out came the heat gun and we started into it.

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The sole cleaned up quite nicely.

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While we were at it, we decided to do the vertical parts.

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Removing trim, even if it meant drilling out wood plugs made the job easier than trying to strip and varnish them in place.

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The finished result almost (not quite) looks new.

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Reverse Image Camera

Trying to keep a lookout on the port aft side of a Pilgrim gets to be a Jack-in-the-Box exercise, having to leave the helm and poke your head out the port side door every few minutes.  A rear facing camera solved that problem.  You do have to purchase one that reverses the image so the display is like looking into a rear view mirror.

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The image below shows what the camera sees when under way.  The blue tape was used to temporarily locate the camera until we were satisfied we would be able to view it in most lighting conditions.

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We eventually decided on a permanent location for the display.  Now it is a little harder for power boats to wake us after roaring up on our port side unnoticed.  They still wake us, we just see them coming a little sooner.

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Breaker Panel Update

We finally got to the point where we couldn’t stand the look of the breaker panel anymore.  A total replacement was out of the question but we recently got a laser cutter/engraver at work so we thought we should make some use of it.  The aluminum was pitted and many of the breakers had their purpose modified.  In general it was an embarrassment.


We started by measuring the hole locations as we were going to make an overlay to hide the printing on the original panel.  We tested the fit by laser burning a paper pattern to fine tune the geometry.


Once we were fully satisfied we committed the design to laser engravable plastic.  This material is engraved from the back side which removes a few thousands of an inch of black plastic.  The rest of the thickness is clear plastic so the top side is smooth and can easily be wiped clean.  We spray painted the back side white which makes the lettering stand out.  If you had enough room you could back light the sheet and the lettering would glow eliminating the need to light the panel at night from the front.


The reason the picture above is at such an odd angle is that it is very difficult to take a picture straight on given the reflective nature of the material.

We also were not fond of the “fit” where the panel was recessed into the bulkhead and unhappy with the fact that you needed a flashlight to see anything on it at night so we came up with a solution to both problems.  We are a devout convert to LED lighting, especially the waterproof light strips.  Mounting strips on each side of the box would illuminate the panel and covering this with some thin mahogany trim would hide the gaps on the sides.  The latches that release the panel are hidden behind the trim as are the LED light strips.


No more fumbling around in the dark to find the correct breaker.


It was obvious that some sort of clear covering needed to be made to protect the breaker panel from the weather when the port pilot house door was open.  We took care of that detail during the spring of 2014



In addition, we found the battery bank monitor for the house bank almost impossible to read unless you got down on your knees.  We removed both the monitor and the remote control for the inverter from the breaker panel and remounted them just below the secondary electrical panel/stereo panel, just around the corner from the main breaker panel. We did have to cut out an acrylic shield for the control to prevent somebody from bumping the toggle switch as they walked by.


It is a long story, but we our ailing Raystar GPS receiver was starting to fail.  This was the spare that was aboard when we purchased the boat, so it had not been in use for that long but this particular model was known have issues.  A NEMA based receiver was purchased as we wanted to get away from the Seatalk network.  Issues with installing the new receiver pretty much required us to re-wire most of the navigation gear.  It was a job that I had been avoiding with good reason. 

As “purchased”


Starting to sort through the wires


In the end we were actually surprised that the electronics functioned as well as they did, considering that some of the wiring (data communications) was just plain wrong.  The addition of jumpers will allow easier diagnosing of future issues.   There are still a lot of wires but that are now intelligently located.


Wiring diagrams were also drawn up detailing what we “learned”.

We also mounted a Spot transmitter which will relay our current position via satellite every 5 minutes when we are moving.  Our track and location will be able to be viewed using an internet browser.  It was purchased so that Dad could follow our progress during our travels.


Not having the documentation handy in at the helm for the Raymarine nav gear was an issue so we made a rack for it from some teak and Plexiglas.


We also carry lots of spare distress signals that we have accumulated over the years.  The out of date ones are kept in an container marked expired, and we wanted the legal, up to date ones kept hand for Coast Guard inspections as well as having them close at hand if needed.  Spring of 2014 also saw us make a rack in the pilot house for these.  I guess a fire extinguisher is handy if we need to put out a fire, and the flares handy if we need to start one.


Our “favorite” boat hook needed a storage place of honor that was both handy and secure as we don’t want this very nice device growing legs and walking off in the night.  It is mounted just inside the port pilot house door.  Acrylic protects the woodwork and the hook was 3D printed.  Yes,  that is another fire extinguisher as one is mounted on each side of the pilot house.  Actually, there are seven fire extinguishers aboard.  The theory is that if you have enough of them you will never need them (we hope).

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This is the “joint” between the pilot house chart table area and piece that folds down to cover access to the forward cabin meets (or doesn’t depending on your point of view).  We are pretty sure the house has changed shape since the boat was built as I am sure it never left Gozzard looking like this.  Anyhow it bothered me enough that I decided to finally fix the issue.


The finished result:




Late 2013/Early 2014 also saw the addition of a Yacht Thruster brand stern thruster added to the boat.  That saga is detailed in under the Rudder pages.  We replaced the single Vetus thruster control with a Side Thruster dual stick control.



Heat gain through all those pilot house windows is an issue even up north.  Our boat faces south-west at its dock and the afternoon and early evening sun does an excellent job of heating the boat.  Since we have lots of solar screen from other projects we made a one piece screen to help reduce the solar gain.


While the one piece solar screen is fine at the dock or at anchor, there is still an issue while underway.  After a bit of Internet searching we found some roller-solar shades.  At roughly $45 each we thought they were a good deal.  Now we can partially lower a shade as the sun gets lower and not be blinded by the sun.  All the pilot house windows get this treatment and this winter we will make some mahogany valances to hide the rolled up shade.  I suspect that using both the outer and inner screens at the same time when not underway will dramatically decrease the heat gain in the pilot house.


We finally got around to making the valances to hide the roller portion of the shades. 


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