Best Marine Products in Review
“From Multi Display Fishfinders and Digital Switching, to Trailers, T Tops, Epoxy and More”
Last year I decided to start a backyard boat rebuild project. I have always wanted the 225 Aquasport Osprey model, for which the hull was emulated many times by other boat makers simply because it worked, and worked well. Soon after finding one, I decided I really wanted to go to town and make this boat special. I wanted to fit this boat with marine products that I either knew from experience were the best of the best, or those that I have researched and feel are worthy of my hard earned dollars. I began with a budget minded plan, but threw that out the window once I started looking at all the unique marine technology available. I wanted a lot of product on this boat to review, and pass along my findings to everyone reading this. Not only will you see the product and installation methods, but I will continue to update each product so you can see how they hold up over the years.
Below is a brief overview of each product that I am installing, or using to repair the boat. I am documenting every step of the rebuild through video and images. Once the build is finished, I will begin editing and putting video together, but for now, enjoy the images and articles.
The name Rolls, carries with it a recognizable image in the auto world as high end, well built, and pricey. To be so bold and name your company Rolls Axle demands perfection in the same respect. After meeting with the owners, Dan and Suzanne at their Plant City Florida manufacturing site, I see why they dared to be so bold. Dan is a perfectionist and master at many things metal as I found out, but staying on topic, he demands quality from every trailer his company produces. So much so that Rolls Axle manufactures on site "every" aluminum part on each trailer they build. Being that I have owned a Rolls Axle tandem trailer for my flats boat over the last 8 years, and have not had a single issue, and have seen first-hand how well they hold up, I decided to have Dan build me another tandem trailer for this project boat. Even though the name reflects high quality and attention to detail, and the company ensures that is what you get, the price is in check with the other top brand trailers out there. I wasn't going to purchase the trailer until the end, but after a few weeks of working on the boat the old broken down galvanized trailer that sat under her was about to give out, so I brought the trailer in early. Yes, it get's covered up when work is being done!
The first aspect to restoring this boat was to get something to hold her together. I've used System Three many times in the past, so of course, I loaded up on product, which you'll see as you continue to follow the build. System Three offers a lot of product under their brand, and I've never had it fail me. It is very easy to mix, does what it says it will do, and continues to do its job year after year without fail. They offer everything you will need, whether for laminating, filling, shaping, bonding, coating, glassing, or foam, to name but a few, they have it and it's all top notch.
The heart of the boat is that which holds the liquid that pumps through the motor, so be sure you have something good holding your boats life blood. I wasn't willing to risk having to redo the deck again, so I immediately went to Moeller in search of a tank close in size and shape as to what came out of this boat. They actually had the size and shape, less about 4 gallons capacity. I now have 102 gallons. These tanks are made of a dual inner and outer layer cross-linked polyethylene and have low permeation technology, thus making plastic tanks very durable and well worth putting in your boat.
A boat wouldn't be a boat without its electrical system to operate all the goodies. Most boaters more than likely would have opted to go the traditional route of rocker switches, fuse panels, and bus bars, but that just ''ain''t'' my style. As with my Hewes flats boat, I installed a digital switching system on that boat 5 years ago and will never go back to anything less. I wanted a NMEA 2000 networked power distribution system on the boat so I could view and control my system on my Lowrance HDS 12 touch screen. The CZone runs NMEA 2000 micro cables, thus creating a network backbone specifically made to match up with the Lowrance screen, which was fine because that is another option that I was already leaning towards. In addition, I wanted to move away from the traditional battery selector switch, and that I did, far from it! CZone offers digital battery switching from the helm...just turn the key on and select your battery. There are too many features to list here, but you'll see the full install later. I have never used this system, so I am looking forward to testing it out.
Quality wire was certainly tops on my list. Now is not the time to go low end when you have a digital switching system controlling your entire boat, and despite the CZone being networked, it still needs to be powered, and have a path to complete the circuit to each component from the modules. Being a local company here in Florida, I have used their wire in the past as well, and it is extremely high quality type 3 UL listed marine grade tinned wire.
Being another local company to me, I wanted to see what they had to offer. I visited the factory and got to see how the silversteer system was made. I can only say that this system looks bad to the bone. The design is very Italian high-tech looking, and from all the specs I have seen, I am certain this is going to be a great system. I also decided to go with the UFlex electric trim tab set, which will be my first time going electric. The one thing that attracted me to the trim tabs was the joystick handle. It made the system a breeze to operate with no thinking on trimming. Check out the starter article UFLEX SILVERSTEER or UFLEX TRIM TABS
Since I went with Uflex for steering, I turned to another company with a long history in the industry. I doubt there are many boats out there that you won't find this name attached to. I found a very attractive binnacle that they made and had to have it. They also have a great design on the cables so I went with those as well.
With so many fishfinder/chartplotters to choose from, my head was spinning, but I always came back to the HDS 12 Gen2 Touch. Lowrance really took innovation to the next level and gave this unit some punch. This unit is packed full of features, and not features that you don't need, but key features that I know I will be used fully. I also went with the sonic hub system, a 1kw transducer, and the external remote gps puck to complete the entire system. As mentioned above, the HDS will link to the CZone for switching control, and being NMEA 2000, I'll be able to show my gauges on it as well via the Noland rs11.
You know the name! They are on most boats. What you don't know is the Mach 7. The latest brainchild to a list of already good products. This is a masterpiece of a display and monitoring system. It's a full touch screen controllable unit with a very attractive user interface and features like Geofence boat tracking, DVR video recording, full guage displays, alarms, trip info, fuel flow, audio, digital switching, chart plotting, GPS, depth, and much more. It's also bluetooth and able to be tethered to your cell. Look out world, Faria's got a gem. I haven't had a chance to use it yet, but my excitement has me on edge and I'm hoping for it to live up to it's features.
Every boater needs light, and quality light is the only way to go. I know a fair amount about LED lights, as I've been running them and researching for the last 7 years or so, and this light grabbed my attention. It uses Cree LED's, which we all know are the best Japan has to offer. This baby will sit high and mighty atop my T top and lead me where I need to go. I have a starter article already up, which you can find here. GOLIGHT
What can I say, Peter, the owner of SeaSpension has a very well designed product that I feel should be on every boat. I actually met Peter back in early 2004 when I had a shop next to his, and it wasn't until 2012 that I reconnected and chose to use his product. I wish I would have done my back a favor and got this seating system much soon. I haven't had any time on the water with it, but I've spent a few hours testing them on dry land and I certainly see the value in a shock absorbing bench seat. Read the starter article. SEASPENSION
Rarely have I gone prop shopping, but when I did on this motor, I quickly found that there are a lot of aspects to learn when selecting a prop. I spent a lengthy conversation on the phone with Todd, owner of Hydromotive, and he has a ton of knowledge in the world of props, and knows his boats too. The two go hand and hand. Hydromotive does a lot of work in the racing boat industry, so I am confident that his guidance has led me to selecting the perfect prop for my needs. I ended up with a 4 blade shiny beauty that I can't wait to see it bite the water and get this Osprey flying!
Nothing is worse than trying to trailer your boat in a nasty wind that causes you to blow off the trailer, or trying to trailer with crew members that don't know what they are doing. SNAPPER has the answer to get in and get out quick and easy. I have this same system on my flats boat, and I can't go back to normal crank systems. Read the starter article SNAPPER
I found this company in my search to convert my 2002 Merc over to CANbus NMEA 2000 without having to use the service port of the motor. If you've never had to make this conversion, then just stay tuned and follow my lead to see how this turns out, because there are too many factors that can get you in trouble. Looking at the specs on this, it looks like they have designed a pretty good product to cater to this market. I'll have a full review once I install it and get live on the network.
Every boat needs canvas work if you live in Florida, and it just so happens that I have a fantastic canvas company close by that does great work. I just had them the T Top canvas in Navy blue and it turned out great. Once this build is done, I'll take the boat to them and have the canvas wrap with Isen Glass and batwings fabricated. More details when I reach that point.
Every hatch, deck plate, and tackle storage on this boat was too old and brittle to restore, so I ordered up a plethora of access hatches, deck plates, and some nice accessories such as two tackle centers, a wash down station, a trash bin, and a electrical hatch box. High Tide Manufacturing had 98% of all the products I needed, as well as the sizes in stock. Delivery was one day out being that they are in the Orlando area. Stay tuned for the review, but for now, their products are very well made and look great.
No boat is complete without a Racor filter. For those of you that may not know what they are, might I suggest that you look into it very soon and save your motor. In brief, it's a marine fuel filter water separator with a clear bowl for visual inspection and contaminant collection with a drain valve to easily clean the contaminants from the system. It meets and exceeds USGA standards and ensures your motor runs clean and strong as intended.
Venturing away from the standard float switch for bilges, I decided to give the Water Witch electronic switch a try. I've read some comments on them and they seem pretty durable, so I am looking forward to testing it out in this build. Stay tuned for the review.
Having used this brand in the past with good success, I chose to go back to what has worked for me. Johnson Pump has put some pretty good technology into their pumps that I really like. In the smaller pumps they introduced the quick change cartridge, which makes upgrading or replacing the pump as simple as turning the knob and dropping a new motor in without having to rewire or disconnect the hoses. They are liquid cooled internally and spin on a quality ball bearing system. I went with two heavy duty L2200's for the bilge, two 750 twin port aerator pumps and aerator head for the live wells, and a 5.2 wash down kit. Review coming soon.
Every boat has to have a good set of underwater led lights, whether to just look cool, enhance your boating time on the water into the night, or to enhance your fishing experience, underwater led lights have a lot of benefits. Looking at the LifeForm led boat lights, they certainly look to fit my needs, and at a competitive price. I will be installing two on the transom end, and one under the anchor pulpit to provide bow light during anchor, and while moving. These lights look well made, and by the specs, put of a lot of light.
Welcome to FIA's Project Osprey boat rebuild. We've looked for several years to find this exact hull, and when we did we found it in excellent shape with no spider cracks at all in the gelcoat, no stress cracks on the transom, and it appeared to be barely used, however, the Aquasport Osprey sometimes comes with a hidden secret that not many people are aware of. When the manufacturer pressed the topside cap to the hull, they foam in various areas between the two pieces, and what may become of this process will land you in our shoes.
The expanding foam runs to free spaces, and in our case, this free space is a 2x2 cavity on the port side about 2/3rds forward just before reaching the step up on the topside. Within this cavity is a PVC drain to allow any water to drain into the bilge. Well, the foam dripped down covering drains on both sides and sealing them, thus causing retained moisture in this area. Apparently, over the years this moisture penetrated the underbelly of the deck and rotted both port and starboard sides in the same areas.
The moisture then expanded to other areas of the deck and created various rotted areas, so we decided to rip out and rebuild as much of the deck as possible. Below is the project details:
Boat Type / Size - 1994 Aquasport Osprey 22/5 (24 ft true centerline)
Deck size being replaced: 7x7 section
Reason: Soft deck due to manufacturer defect
Click the tabs on the top of this page to visit each section and follow along as we tear into this beast.
Before even putting a little more than a moments thought in what to do about the rotted deck, we stripped the deck of it's components. Now, after a few long hours of probing and changing our minds, we figured the best thing to do is just cut out the entire deck. The good thing is that the rot only extended under the step up area near the port side bow by a few inches, so we did not need to remove that part of the deck, which would have entailed removing a very big part of the boat that also plays a major role in support.
As you can see, we cut along the edge leaving a 2 inch lip, which was the original smooth drain channels. I used a skill saw with a hardy board blade for the straight cuts and a small top mounted cutoff air tool with a mason blade for the tight angles. Be sure to set the depth so you don't cut into the stringers, and with airtool, well the blade barely cuts deeper than 3/4 so that wasn't much of an issue.
As seen on the tank, there was water still in the boat when we removed the deck. There was also a lot of fresh mold and some really old dried up stuff, which tells me that this boat has been filled up a few times and always remained wet. Once the entire deck was cut along the edges, we still ran into a laborious task, as much of the deck was still epoxied to the stringers. With a lot of muscle and some kicking of the deck we managed to muscle it out, and let me tell you this piece was heavy. The deck consisted of a 1/4 glass bottom skin, 1/4 inch glass top skin, and a 3/4 ply that was saturated with water.
With so much muck in the boat we decided to giver her a pressure wash and see if we had a gem or some major headaches on the horizon.
To our relief, the hull cleaned up like new. As you can see in the picture, the glass looks as if it had just been laid as it's still got that new orange color. You can tell a lot about the condition of the glass based on the color. Keep in mind that not all glass will be orange, but may be green or gray, or some other shade. Regardless of the base color, if it comes out like this then you are in great shape, as it hasn't been weathered, rotted or chemical saturated. We further inspected the glass for texture and found it very smooth. Again, this is a good sign, as rough glass indicated deterioration. Now that she's all cleaned up and has a good bill of health, it's time to move on to removing the top skin non skid from the rest of the deck that we cut out.
Now this was very time consuming, and thanks to Reggie putting in some non-stop man hours, we managed to clean the 49 square foot section in a solid day. The original wood was block chunks, meaning that they simply used 6 x 6 cut sections of 3/4 ply and glassed them on. My thought is that they did this because the deck has a pretty decent crown to it, and the blocks were probably laid while the skin was in a mold, at which point they slopped in lots of resin to fill between the blocks and then covered it in cloth and more resin. The only way to remove all this mess was to chisel it out inch by inch, and then use the grinder as you see I'm doing in the pic to remove the glass grids that filled between the blocks. The finished product was nice and flat, yet I chose to use 40 grit sanding pads to give it a rough finish, which will later bond nicely to the deck. Now that we finished this area, it's back to the boat and prep it for bracing and decking. More on the next skid when we install it shortly. One final note: Be sure to cover over the skin with a 40 grit slow speed belt sander to really rough it up. Do not use a high speed grinder for the final prep, as the high speed, while it will rough it up, it also has a slight polishing effect and this hard glass.
After looking this boat over, we came to the conclusion that this boat is built like a tank! The entire stringer and rib setup is a solid mold wrapped in 1/4 inch biaxial and chop, and filled with foam. There are plenty of cross member ribs, and deep molded pockets that give this boat a very rigid structure. I've cracked a few boats open over the years and never have I been this impressed with structure design of a hull.
There is very little wood beneath the deck, in fact, the only wood we found was the wood just below the tank, which sits about 4 inches above the bilge and between the 2 stringers. I personally would not have put any wood in this area, as this is the wettest part of the boat. Even though they did use wood here, it is wrapped in biaxial glass and appears to be about a 1/4 inch of pure glass/cloth on top and then 5/8 ply covered by a thin layer of glass/cloth on the bottom.
We thought long and hard about replacing this area, but decided that it was currently in good shape, and if the wood does rot later, there is plenty of strength in the glass to compensate.
So now it's on to supporting the new deck. I think we spent a day or two looking at different options on how to install this deck. The issues come from the fact that the deck had a very pronounced crown, which was done to shed water to the sides of the boat. The crown is approximately two inches in height from dead center to the port and starboard bulkheads, gunwale walls, or inner freeboard, whatever you want to call it cause I'm not really sure!
The second issue was that we had to install the floor at the current height, as we did not remove the entire deck. There is a section of deck near the stern that has molded in live wells (shown below) that we were not about to remove, both because they were sound and because it would have been a big task. Our only option was to align the deck as is.
As you can see in the photo to the left, the crown is somewhat visible, and the two stringers with white putty on them sit higher than the sides, which means a solid piece of wood would need to be bent into shape, which wouldn't be much of an issue, but take a look at the fact that the deck also needs to slide between the upper and lower skin, as well as under the port and starboard lips! This is where it had to take some real planning. Obviously, a cut piece of wood is never going to be as strong as a solid piece, unless you do it right, as glue bonded joints have shown to be stronger than the original wood in many cases.
After a lot of thought, I decided to do the deck in 5 sections using lap joints and bracing below each lap joint. Basically, that means making one solid piece to run the length of the boat from port to starboard across the back section, another solid piece to run the length of the boat from port to starboard across the front section of the boat, and two pieces to run fore and aft on the port and starboard sides, and finally a solid piece to cover the tank area.
Each piece would need a two inch lap joint and would have to align over the stringers. Well, this created another problem, as the port side stringer, for some reason, was not aligned equal to the starboard stringer, which means that I'd have to account for that in my cuts. Because of the tight fits, dry fitting pieces was very limited, as I wanted them as tight as possible and we managed to get a few stuck that we thought were never coming back out.
Before doing the deck, we had to take care of a rotted storage area in the front of the boat. The entire area was rotted and literally flaking off as the wind blew, so we cut this area out leaving a small two inch lip of glass to rest the new deck on. We wanted to go light here, as this area doesn't have anyone standing on it, so we used two pieces of home depot lauan door skin, basically it's the top layer of a plywood sheet.
I know this area may get some of you that don't have a lot of experience in wood working, and the first thought is to make a template as my fishing partner Reggie did. Well, it's often harder and more time consuming to make a template then it is just to take some accurate measurements.
In short, I measured the overall length and the widest point of the opening, and cut the wood as such. Then, simply take a measurement every foot starting at the widest end. Make your marks along the wood and write the measurements on those marks. Being that this area has some forgiveness, one foot increments are fine, but if you need more precise cuts then take a measurement every six inches. After you have your marks, simply connect the dots by using a straight edge ruler. As you cut you can round the cuts with the saw.
Next, you'll want to wet down the backside with a mixture of styrene and resin in preparation to glass the underside. Once you have wet it down, allow it to set up to almost a tack free surface (about 10 minutes depending on what you kicked it at). Mix up another batch of resin with no styrene and glass one side and set aside to dry. We used chop for this application From there we took another skin cut the same and laminated the two pieces together using System Three's Silvertip 2/1 fast cure epoxy mix. We used glass microspheres to thicken the epoxy to more of a putty type mixture, and then laminated the two pieces. One thing I like to do is use a 1/4 notched trial to rake the epoxy around. This allows for less epoxy to be used, and also allows for a better lamination in my opinion.
Somehow the pics of this process got lost so I don't have any to show you, but it's very simple to do. To be safe, we set that piece aside and continued on wetting the rest of our pieces in preparation for glassing the bottoms of all our pieces in one shot.
Rather than doing individual pieces and wasting time and material, it's best to have everything laid out and glass the undersides. Don't get in a rush and try to glass both sides too soon or you'll have a mess on your hands.
The following day we dropped the double laminated, fiberglass backed piece into place over a bed of System Three's Silvertip fast cure epoxy and glassed in the top side using chop. We did let the epoxy set up for about an hour before glassing it in, as I always like to let things harden up a bit. I'm not sure if this is necessary, as I am by far no glass or epoxy expert, but the end results are a rock solid floor that we stood on and jumped on with no flex or cracking sounds.
The final step here is to use some putty filler to bring up the low areas and then coat the glass with a good quality paint. Now that we got that out of the way, it's on to cutting our decking sections, adding in support braces, glassing in the braces and dry fitting the cut pieces.
Our goal above was to utilize the gap between both upper and lower deck skins by filling the gap with excessive amounts of epoxy. We hollowed out about 6 inches of wood on the ends and as deep as we could go in front of the two hatches, which was about 3 inches. We cut the wood to follow the curve around the hatches, and butt tight where it meets the two hatches, and extends under the port and starboard lips to make contact with the hull. To say the least, this piece was cut with precision and made to go in tight, as this is the key to securing the actual deck.
This gets a little tricky because we only had one chance to dry fit this piece, as once we drove it in it did not want to come back out. We drew a line across the wood and then spent 20 minutes pulling it back out. The line showed us how deep we went, and then after measuring we knew that we had a one inch gap on the sides and pretty tight in front of the hatches. We also did a bit of drilling with a 3/8 bit into the wood between the two skins, as well as cross drilled holes in the back of the wood so when we drive it in with force the epoxy will fill the cross drilled holes and act as internal screws. We also drilled some on the top.
Now that all the holes are drilled and the cuts are precise, we loaded the gap with our System Three Silver Tip fast cure epoxy mixed to a thick pancake consistency. We also buttered the upper and underside and drove it in. Keep in mind that we also cut the lap joint before installing, and since there's only about 3/8 of wood, hammer on this will easily ruin it so I cut a scrap piece to duplicate the lap joint. When you put the two together it forms the original. Using a 2 pound rubber mallet we carefully drove it in inch by inch, making sure to hammer one time in three places across the face to drive the entire piece in evenly. I wanted to see some epoxy seep back out through the front, which it eventually did and let me know that it was indeed fully packed. Next I screwed the top skin to the wood by countersinking 3/4 stainless screws about every 10 inches to.
To finalize this piece, we used the System Three GelMagic cartridge with extended applicator to shoot some epoxy on the port and starboard edges, which bonded them to the hull. We then raised the piece enough to get some epoxy between this piece and the two stringers. As you can see in the photo to the left, the white putty spacer is the top of the stringers, and our piece we just installed sits on both stringers. We predrilled some holes in the white putty spacers so the epoxy would fill, bite, and bond nicely to all components. We finished this piece off with two 4 inch stainless screws countersunk in above the lap joint and deep into the stringer.
What we did here may be a bit extensive, but when I build something it simply does not come apart! Let's move on to the front section, which is very similar to the piece we just did, but on a larger scale.
Before we could put this section in we had to do a bit of bracing in the corners where there wasn't much strength . It doesn't have to be pretty, and you'll also want to glass these in later as well. Rather than using epoxy, which would take a lot of silica to thicken it to the point we needed, we decided to use a marine resin putty. We took three scrap blocks of 3/4 ply and puttied each together and screwed them to each other, then puttied them to the inner hull. To set them, we placed a piece of 3/4 as if it were the deck and simply pushed the block to the bottom side. Being that the inner hull is on an angle, this leaves the top of the three pieces of ply stepped rather than smooth where it butts up to the underside of the deck. Rather than making them flush, leave the steps and utilize the angles to help bond the deck once you fill this area with epoxy. Be sure to rough up the area where you are bonding and glassing to ensure proper adhesion. Now on to more bracing.
We felt the boat didn't have enough bracing under the deck so we added another four ribs and extended the stringer a bit to help support the lap joint of the new deck. As you can see below, we had to carve out some of the foam to add new rib braces. We didn't replace the old foam because it was still in great shape and dry.
For the rib braces we used two 3/4 pieces of ply laminated together with the System Three epoxy. The braces are about 5 inches in height, and each cut on the ends to follow the curvature of the hull. Again, we used the System Three epoxy with silica to make a thick paste. We also cut the inner side that connects to the stringer to follow the curvature, which as you can see is a double step. Both sides are bonded with System Three epoxy, but I also drove two 4 inch stainless screws from the outer part of the stringer back into the rib. If that weren't enough, we used 1708 biaxial and glassed in the rib to the stringer and the hull. IMPORTANT: When you set your rib support be sure to set them about 3/16 below the stringers because the deck must slide under the port and starboard lips, and making them flush will remove all the epoxy when you drive them in. You are going to lose some epoxy, but you should have that 3/16 layer after you slide the wood beneath the lip. Once you screw the deck down you'll have a secure bond.
In the bottom right photo you can see the same process. The wood you see attached to the stringers in the bottom two photos is where we had to widen the stringers to help support the lap joints. I wanted plenty of meat under each of the lap joints to ensure the strength was passed further into the wood beyond the joints. This probably wasn't needed, but again, I like overkill! These pieces are bonded and screwed to the stringers, and we laid three thick coats of the System Three epoxy over the raw wood to protect it. I didn't see a need to glass these in, as the three coats of epoxy will be more than enough.
Here are a few dry fit photos before the bracing was installed, ,and before cutting the lap joints on the port and starboard sides. Again, I lost some of the pics showing the front section install, but it when in the same way as the back section, using the same method of excessive epoxy filling the gaps. One thing we did different, was that we cut some scrap wood and filled in the gap leaving about 8 inches of space. We did this because the wood between the two skins was rotted about 10 inches deep, and rather than wasting all that epoxy, we simply used wood and the System Three Gel Magic with applicator tube of epoxy to bring fill it in. The front hatch opening had very little upper and lower skin depth, but we did get about an inch. The section does wrap around the hatch opening and extends about 8 inches into the gap, and is saturated with epoxy and screwed . Again, we screwed into the stringers with 4 inch screws, and used epoxy on all surface contact areas.
The lap joints were cut allowing a 1/8 inch space between each piece for the epoxy. One thing you can't see in these images, and I don't have a pic of it, but I added an additional piece of 3/4 ply under the front and back pieces that run port to starboard. The area from the stringer to the inner hull on both sides had no support so I bonded and glassed in the 7 x 21 inch pieces to the front and rear section. Basically, that piece has two steps now instead of the one step you see above. What this does is allows the deck laps joints to bond to each other, and also allows the underside of the deck to bond to the additional piece, thus giving it even more support. Now that all sections are dry fitted in place, it's time to cut the topside lap joints for the center piece to lay in.
This was a tricky cut, and after sniffing resin all day, well...it was a bit of a mind bender! It's not a hard cut, but in order for sides to lap joint to the front and rear, and allow the center piece to drop in from the top, we had to create two reverse lap joints. From here it's just a matter of glassing the backsides of all your pieces, which we already did for the front and rear pieces that we installed. IMPORTANT: You are going to want a little bow in your port and starboard sections. It's best to find this bow before you make any cuts, leaving the bow facing up. All ply will have a bow. If you forget, just remember when you glass your piece on the bottom side set them on a two mason blocks, one at each end with the glass on the top. The moisture and weight of the glass will put that slight bow in the wood. You see why you need this next.
So there you have, the majority of the deck is installed and extremely strong! In addition to using epoxy on all the lap joints, I also used stainless 1/2 screws countersunk. Be sure not to go through the backside of your deck, as you'll penetrate the glass and open the door to future rot. Installing the port and starboard sides were a bit tricky because they must slide under the inner liner lip as shown in the pic on the bottom right. Remember earlier when I said set your stringers 3/16 of an inch lower than the stringer, well this is when it matters. Also, I just mentioned the needed bow and this is where it comes into play as well. By setting your rib support a little lower and having the bow, you'll leave more epoxy on the support for when you screw it down.
We mixed up some System Three Silver Tip epoxy and made it thick enough to stand up, but not to be pulled from its location. Practice on something and find the right consistency before going forward. If you pull all your epoxy from the stringers your bond is going to be weak.
For the port and starboard sections we also scribed the curvature of the hull. Our intention was bond the deck directly to the hull as well as to the inner lip of the lining. In order to do this we mixed up a super thick batch of the System Three Silver Tip slow cure epoxy and applied it in mass amounts inline with where the deck will contact the hull. We also traced a line on the wood where the inner lip rested on the wood during our dry fit. Knowing how far to hammer in the deck, we put a nice thick line of epoxy about 2 inches inside the line so when we drive in the deck the epoxy will be somewhat pulled under the lip, thus helping to get it fully under the lip.
Now that all areas of contact are fully gobbled with epoxy, we proceeded to drive the sections in place. As planned, the deck mated to the hull perfectly and the epoxy gushed out above and below the deck, making full contact with the hull. I know our method worked because we were able to see the ribs through a few access points and they were separated by about a quarter inch with plenty of epoxy on all surfaces. We also looked through the inspection hatches on the inner liner and could clearly see the mating of the deck and hull and plenty of epoxy on both sides of the deck. To go a bit further, we were able to reach a good portion of where the deck and hull mated so we used a spreader and worked the epoxy deeper into the wood.
The last process was to get as much epoxy under the inner liner lip as possible. We used a few wedges to lift the liner in small areas and used the spreader to forcefully work the remaining epoxy under the lip. After that was finished I dropped 3/4 stainless screws in every 4 inches. As the lip and wood pulled together the epoxy seeped out, which is a good sign that it had plenty to spare.
For all of you wondering, here is the System Three Silvertip epoxy system we are using. The stuff is great, and in my opinion, the best I've ever used, which is why I am using it again. I'll have plenty of details on the system when I write the review on it. I will also put more details about mixing, dry times and other aspect shortly. Stay tuned...
As of December 4th, we are awaiting a custom fuel tank and can not go any further until we install the tank. Update >>> We received the tank today from Moeller, Jan 5th, and it looks awesome and very well built. Due to rain, cold weather, product delays, and other obligations, we have decided to seal her up for a month or so and continue in mid March. In order to protect the wood from the rain we had to tape plastic around the entire deck from gunwale to gunwale, and taking this down each day is a royal pain. Before covering the deck my main concern was condensation getting to the wood via the plastic, so we laid down a thick bed if wood chips as seen below. We also glassed the back side of the center deck piece with 1708, leaving the overlap areas that will bond to the framework untreated. We added another 3/4 piece of plywood to the underside of the deck (secured with System Three Silvertip epoxy and screws) where the bench seat will mount for extra support.
Sawdust and wood chips to wick up moisture. 1708 Glassed backside (Main Center) with leaning post support
So now it's March 20th and we are back at it again. After unwrapping the deck we found very dampened wood chips, but the deck below was nice and dry! We let her sit in the sun for an extra day to ensure the wood was completely dry. Now, on to the Tank install >>> Next tab
Installing the tank was pretty straight forward, but a little tricky due to the angled sides. The top of the angle had more space than the bottom, and to install this tank properly, a 1/2 gap is to be left on all sides for expansion. To further confuse someone, these tanks come with a concave to them until they are filled with fuel, so when installing keep this in mind. Once you add fuel, they will expand outward, so keep that half inch gap by using the top and bottom of the tank edges as a guide.
To the left we just ran the padding all the way to the tank with three layers, as this will easily allow 1/2 expansion. The bottom and center was too narrow for three layers, so we only put two layers, and added smaller pieces to the top.
On the ends of the tank we had to pad out about 8 layers and again just took it all the way to the tank. The angle was much tighter at the bottom and only took about 4 layers. I really don't know why the angle wasn't 90 degrees when they built the boat, but it is what it is. We probably should have taken the time to glass in a new barrier wall closer to the tank, but the original tank was installed the same way and lasted 20 years with no damage. Besides, the padding is very firm and even over the 8 layers didn't appear to give more than 3/4 of an inch in a small area, so when spread over the wide surface of the entire strip I'm sure it will be fine.
I wouldn't imagine the ends should expand much due to it only being roughly 19" x 21".
Now that the tank is in and padded on all side we added the top strapping to hold the tank in place. The original bracing was in good shape, but the angles were not suited for this tank so we modified them to fit.
We also padded the bottom of these braces as to not wear into the plastic. Next we clamped on the fuel line and vent hoses using three high grade stainless clamps. Be sure to leave extra hose for any possible movement in the tank or future use.
Below the tank we ran padding about every 12 inches. This will help with movement, as well as wearing of the plastic against the fiberglass.
I'm pretty confident in this tank install, and took some extra precautions such as securing the padding not only with the self adhesive backing, but also used three zip ties on each incase the adhesive comes free, which I doubt will happen, as the original was still well bonded in place and took some muscle to peel it off.
This Moeller tank appears to be very well built and when standing on the top it barely gave way. Being a rotationally molded, cross-linked polyethylene plastic, it looks and feels super strong. The molded in hose fittings are very strong, and when forcing the hoses on the plastic didn't give much at all.
Be sure to read my full review when I get it up. In the meantime checkout the article on plastic vs aluminum fuel tanks.
Now let's move onto the non-skid, we've got to lock in the final center piece of the deck. To do so, we chose marine putty because we were getting low on epoxy. As shown in the previous steps, we glasses the backside with 1708 and left the overlapping edges bare for better adhesion. To go a step further, I always cross drill holes into the bonding areas to create a dowel pin effect. By drilling 3/8 inch holes every 6 inches on angles, and smaller holes in between, it allows a very effective bond to take place. Be sure to push the putty down in the holes and fill all voids, and then put ample amount on the area to be joined. We also predrilled the center piece to avoid the screws from lifting the wood while screwing down.
The biggest mistake people make here is to fasten the adjoining pieces with too much force, which closes the joint too much, thus not leaving enough putty between the joints. I use enough putty that it oozes out of the joints, and only drive the screws in until the deck is flush. Keep in mind that when I cut the lap joints I removed not only the blade thickness of the saw, but I also took another 1/8 off to allow a nice bed of putty between the lap joints.
Now that all pieces of the deck are in, it's time to throw the grinder on it and clean it up in preparation for the original factory non skid to be laid down. As you can see below, we sanded off the dirt, old epoxy, and other debris, as well as flushed up any high points. Many people will want to fill the voids to create a smooth surface, but just leave it, as the voids will create additional bonding structure for strength. The original non skid top layer that we will be putting back on is about 3/8 thick and pretty stiff, so you won't have to worry about it being wavy and picking up any cracks or small voids. The next few steps we unfortunately lost the photos due to unreadable file format (hate when that happens), so I'll explain. To further prep this floor, we wanted it as rough as possible, and a high speed grinder with 40 grit will not do the trick. High speed has a tendency to smooth it a bit more, ultimately making that 40 grit more like 100. We took a belt sander to it on low speed with 40 grit and really raised the grain. The final step was to take my skill saw and set the blade depth to about 1/4 inch and angel it to cut a 45. I then ran the saw from bow to stern every 12 inches, making about 10 passes. Each cut was opposite of the next, thus forming two groves opposite each other. I then ran the saw from port to starboard repeating the same. The end result is a very nice # hatch pattern across the entire deck. The purpose of this is to add more epoxy to the plywood for strength, allow it to get down in the wood and grab rather than just surface bonding, and the reverse angle cuts act in the same manner as toe-nailing. Final step is to vacuum the dust up and mix your epoxy.
Be sure to really work the epoxy down in the cuts, and of course, dry fit your skin first! When dry fitting the skin, place several marks in each corner extending from the skin onto the outer deck for alignment. This is important, as you want to set it in place and not disturb the epoxy by moving it around. Moving it around too much can create flat spots that will be weaker and may not adhere properly.
Getting this skin down looks a bit easier than it really was. It took a full gallon of System Three's Silvertip Gel Magic non sagging epoxy to fill all the voids and give us a nice bed of epoxy to lay the skin on. The non sagging Gel Magic is a fantastic product, as there is no need to mix in fillers. Both parts come as self leveling, but when mixed together form a non sagging mix. This stuff mixed up with its counterpart and stood nice and tall. In order to lay this large piece in place we were not able simply coat the deck and then lift into place due to the flimsy nature of the piece, and if you'll notice, the area nearest the transom is wider and actually sits back in, thus making us have to install the skin one side at a time.
The other aspect that I wanted to avoid was laying the skin on wet epoxy and having the pressure flatten the epoxy, thus leaving a void or low spot. To do this and allow a nice even bed of epoxy, I first placed two 8ft 2x2's from bow to stern on the deck, then lifted the skin in place and laid it on top of the 2x2's. We then raised one end of the 2x2's and placed another 2x2 from port to starboard about midway back to hold the skin off the deck. The 2x2's were sitting about 1 foot aft of the raw deck so I could coat the entire deck without the lumber getting in the way.
This created a fort-like roof that I could then crawl under and start spreading the epoxy. It was a little tight near the back where the lumber met the deck, but it worked great. I had my buddy Reggie mixing the Silvertip Magic Gel at a 2 to 1 ration (not 1 to 2 Reggie!!!) while I did the spreading.
Be sure to use the slow cure, as this is going to take some time, both in mixing and spreading. Be sure you are prepped in all areas, and have laid down plastic so as not to track epoxy onto the deck. It will get messy, no matter what you do!
Before spreading the epoxy, I ran a test on some scrap wood and used a 3/8 notched trial. After placing another piece of wood on top, I could see by looking at the side that both pieces mated, filled the notched voids, and left about a 1/8 -3/16 bed of solid epoxy. This was what I was shooting, as I wanted the extra layer to also act as a solid sheet rather than just adhering the skin. Before using the trial, I used a regular flat plastic spreader to force the mix down in all the cuts, and followed back with the notched trial.
NOTE: Be sure the back of the skin is super rough as mentioned in the tear down section, as this is important for adhesion.
Once the entire deck is coated in epoxy, you'll want to roll the 2x2's onto their sharp edge and slide the entire section onto the epoxy coated wood. By rolling the wood to the sharp edge, you won't disturb much of the epoxy in the next step. Have the other person lift the two 2x2's while you remove the center support. You'll then need to have one person on the opposite end holding the skin as the other person pulls the lumber out slowly. Be sure to align the marks that you placed on the skin and deck earlier. As the lumber slides out the skin will gently lay into place.
After the lumber is fully out and the deck is in place, do not walk on it. Let it settle for a few minutes while you gather your weights. We predrilled and countersunk all of the screw holes about 7 inches apart in the skin, and also sanded off the gel coat when we prepped it. Lay on the weights and then start screwing the skin down. If you sanded the skin to the right depth to allow a 1/8 inch bed of epoxy to lay beneath, just screw the skin down until it's flush. You should see epoxy start to ooze out of the seam and screw holes. Hopefully you've prepped the edges with tape!
After all the screws were in place I carefully walked on the deck, but only in the center and where the center console will sit. I wanted to ensure that the epoxy wasn't being forced into the center and also evenly use my weight to ensure all areas bonded by lightly stepping out to the sides. Now, sit back and admire your hard earned work, and stay the heck off your deck for a week! I'm sure it'll cure out in about 3 days, but I gave mine 7 before I walked on it.
After a week we removed all the weights and excess seepage of epoxy with a grinder. We also flushed up both sides in preparation to laying the fiberglass finish cloth over the seam. As you can see, this turned out super nice. In fact, I can assure you that the deck is stronger now then it was new.
Below is the finished seam work. I laid 2 ounce and a half matts and followed with the gelcoat. Being that the deck isn't really shinny, I saw no need to buff and polish the gel. The end result is a very smooth and flat seam that, after some time in the sun, should fade into the same color as the deck. I may be putting down some soft deck padding that will cover the entire deck, so the color difference isn't that big of a deal to me.
I just got started back on the build after a 6-8 month delay. I skipped finishing the deck seams for now, as I just bought a motor and the transom needs to be done first so I can mount the motor. The major issue with the transom was that I found some rot in the upper part of the transom where the plastic cap sits under the motor, as the plastic was old and cracked, thus letting water through. In addition, they had aluminum "L" channels on the outer edges that, in addition to looking like crap, was also letting in water. Rather than cutting out the transom, I decided to leave the two shells in place and just bore out the rot. The inner and outer glass was in good shape and both over a quarter inch, so it was very strong. The rot only went down about half to 3/4 of an inch, so it wasn't a big deal to bore it out.
After boring out the rotted wood I mixed up some system three epoxy and coated the inside wood so that it would penetrate deep into the wood. I kept adding system three epoxy until it was fully saturated and no longer absorbed the epoxy. From there I laid a piece of 1708 inside, wrapped up the sides to the inside edges, and poured in more epoxy mixed with some chopped glass and filled the remaining void. I mixed the final pour thicker so I could get the epoxy above the outer shell for later sanding.
Once this was cured up, I sanded and shaped the epoxy. The outer edges where the "L" channels were had very little rot, so I just hollowed out the edges and filled with epoxy there as well. The glass was a little separated from the inner wood down about 3 inches, so I took a file and roughed up the inside and cleaned it out, then filled any voids with epoxy until it filled the entire void.
Rather then buying new plastic and putting metal back on, I wanted the entire transom to be glassed and gel coated like the new boats, so I had to cut away the old gel coat down to glass to prepare by 1708 overlay. Yes, I was intending on using poly resin for the final glass coat, and I know many might bring up the fact that poly resin wont bond to epoxy, but there are reasons I did this. First, I don't need a strong bond, as this is more decorative than structural. Second, I do feel a small area like this would bond just fine. Third, the 1708 going over the top with multiple coats of poly resin would make this very stiff, and being wrapped 6 inches over both sides will certainly create structural strength and bonding. Lastly, System Three makes a product called SB-12, which is meant to go over epoxy and create a secure bond, thus allowing poly resin or gel coat to bond without a tie coat. In addition, I sanded the epoxy with 40 grit paper to give it a rough bonding surface.
As you can see above, I laid 1708 over the transom and kept it in the area that was prepped. Being that 1708 is pretty heavy cloth, and this transom had some compound angles, this step is a bit tricky if you've never laid glass. First thing you'll want to do is pre cut the 1708 to fit, leaving about 3/4 of an inch above the old gel coat. The1708 will stretch a bit when wet with resin, and you'll want to pull it a little to get it to conform to the bends. You'll need to cut relief cuts in the angles. In my case, they were needed on all four edges where the transom drops down a few inches. If you mess up the cut and have a gap, just cut another piece for that gap. I was able get all angles to match up except one, in which I cut a triangle piece about 1 inch to fill the void.
After you've got the cuts made, work the material to form the bends and create creases. Make sure you wax the old gel coat and cover it to avoid the messy cleanup. Mix up your poly resin and roll a coat on the transom, then roll a coat on the back side of the 1708, ensuring that you saturate it. Carefully lift it into place and start forming, pulling, and whatever you need to do to lay it on straight. Roll on your top coat and then use your bubble remover tool to roll the 1708 tight against the transom. Be careful not to roll too much or you'll push the resin away from the areas needed and cause your 1708 to raise up. If done right, you shouldn't get many, if any bubbles. If you find any gaps between the transom and the 1708, you can either grind it out and putty it in, or shoot it with a syringe and resin to fill it.
After two coats of resin over the 1708, the surface was pretty smooth and all fiber was covered. I used poly resin putty to go over the low spots as you can see above, namely over the edge where the 1708 meets the gel coat. The gel coat was just a tad bit lower so I feathered the putty in. From there I sanded it with 80 grit to level it out. Now comes the gel coat!
As you can see above, I sanded the majority of the putty off so it was level with the gel coat and the glass, thus making as level as possible for the gel coat application. The end result turned out pretty smooth, with the exception of a few areas where the 1708 met the old gel coat. I actually rushed the putty job, and should have put another coat of putty on and sanded again, but I was trying to beat the rain and also had to mount my motor in 2 days, so I really didn't have time for another putty coat. Also, the putty was taking all day to dry due to cloudy days, so I took the short cut and skipped dusting it with primer to see the low spots. I made the choice and planned to apply the gel a little heavy to accommodate these slight low spots.
A good tip to know when masking off the area to be sprayed is to roll the tape so only half is sticking to the surface. By using the rolled tape edge you don't get a sharp edge tape line, though it is still a straight edge, which makes the edges much easier to blend. I put the gel on thicker than needed to about 33 mils, which is too think and would crack if left be, but I planned on sanding down to about 26 mils anyway to ensure I had enough on to cover any uneven areas such as where the 1708 met the old gel coat that I rushed on. The gel was hardened in a few hours and good to go. The next step is to dye the gel and start sanding, but be sure to wipe down the gel with acetone to remove the stickiness that will clog up your sand paper.
Adding gel coat dye is like spraying primer over putty to showcase the low spots when sanded. I like to use a light color and put on a light coat so it doesn't soak down too far into the gel coat. Once you run your DA sander over the surface you'll see all the white high spot and the colored dye showing the low spots. From here it's just a matter of sanding evenly until all the dye is gone, as you see in the pic to the right. You'll want to use 320 wet/dry paper to cut it down, and then hit it with 600 on the DA sander. After you've hit it with both dry methods, grab a bowl of water and some 600 wet paper, get it wet and start sanding again by hand. I like to do about a 1 square foot section at a time and sand until the water becomes milky and kind of soapy looking. The 600 wet sand isn't taking much if any gel coat off, but simply polishing. After I hit it with 600 grit wet paper, it was shining as if I just buffed it. After that, hit it with a high speed buffer around 2500 rpms and use something like Aquabuff 2000 to bring out the shine and remove any scratches. Mine turned out like a mirror finish, just as if it rolled off the showroom floor!
The final image on the left doesn't show the true shine, but trust me, she is blindingly beautiful in the "rear end!" I plan on redoing the entire boat in the near future, but I may paint it rather than gel coat due to the amount of work that's needed for gel coating. I also gel coated part of the console where I made repairs, and will post those later. It's a lot of work, but when she gleams it's all worth it!
CENTER CONSOLE EXTENSION
Now that the transom work is done, I'm moving on to the center console, as I have some additional work to do. The original console size did not have enough room to add the additional components, two Faria M3000 4 inch digital gauges (later will be replaced by Faria's Mach-7 touchscreen gauges), BEP's touchscreen switching control unit, and two rows of BEP's rocker switches, so I first made a mock up out of wood to get the size I needed, as shown below left. The cup holders were right at 4 inches so I used those to simulate the gauges. Rather than trying to glass over this, which would be a mess and too much work, I chose to build a plug and mold, which would allow the final part to come out smooth and to the exact shape I needed. While the actual console has only two angles in the slight shape of a "V," I needed three angles, with each having a flat surface.
I also took into account the size of Faria's Mach 7 unit that I'll be getting in the near future. Once I determined a good fit, I took some old Styrofoam that I had laying around (home depot 2 inch thick) that I used to make crown molding, I glued up enough pieces to make the block of size. I used the two pieces of wood that I scribed to the shape of the console to make the mock up piece, and lined them up top and bottom on the block of foam, and drove in some 2 inch drywall screws to hold them in place. The purpose of the two jigs is to trace the edge and give a perfect clean shape, but to do so I had to fab up a hot knife. I took some 44 pound wire leader and wrapped it around two wooden handles, securing it with, what else, a 1 step bimini twist. Be sure to cut notches into the handles to keep it from sliding off. You don't want this wire touching you while it's hot. I attached a 20 amp DC power supply, which was a little excessive, but that's all I had. The wire got red hot quickly, but while cutting it didn't get red hot. Wear thick leather gloves incase it touches you, and keep the gloves off the wire that's wrapped around the handle.
I made another jig, as sown on the picture to the right, which was to get the overhang that I wanted. Being that this piece had three angles as mentioned above, there was no way that I could shape the piece as a whole, so I cut it in three sections as shown below. I used the two jigs and fastened to each side, then took the hot wire and shaped them. I did the two outside piece first, then pushed them together to trace a line, just to be sure my jigs would make the connecting piece match up perfectly. I then glued them back together with spray adhesive. That's the plug! Now, you'll need to make the mold from this, and in order to do so, you have to ensure the plug doesn't stick to the mold. I sprayed 3 coats of hard shell varnish over the foam, then used plain tinted packing tape and taped the entire plug with one layer. Don't worry so much about the rough edges of the tape on bends, just try to get them to lay down as much as possible, as you'll fix this in the mold. Once completely taped up, I spray a layer of olive oil over the tape and then wiped off the extra.
Since this is a one time use plug and mold, I chose to use 20 minute joint compound rather than fiberglass. If you've never made a mold before, then I suggest that you read up on it, paying close attention to positive and negative angles, as one slip up and your plug and mold will get stuck together by fighting angles. In this case, though I did prep for it, I wasn't too concerned because a little acetone dumped inside will dissolve the foam and the rest to be pulled out. As shown above, I put on a thin base coat and allowed 20 minutes to set, then added about 2 more layers for a rough thickness of 1- 1 1/2 inches. I used fiber tape on the second layer to keep the plaster from cracking off when I start pulling it.
Since there is a lot of plaster, I let it set up for 3 days before moving forward. As you can see above, I left an open section in the plaster, which is the bottom. There was no need to cover this area because it's the bottom, and I designed it to have a 2 inch flange so I can bolt it to the console. At this point, there are two ways to travel. You can melt the foam and leave the mold as one, which means you'll be sanding, gel coating, and glassing through that one access hole. Or, you can cut the mold in two and work on each half, then rejoin the part later. I've done both, and this mold doesn't have enough room to work through the access hole in the bottom. Another thing that I had to add to the plug is the to half round shapes you see in the primed piece below. This was cut into the plug to allow the part to fit around the T top bars that run in front of the window.
Once I cracked the mold open I did a little sanding, minor filling, and slapped on a coat of primer. Again, I still wasn't too concerned with perfection, as fixing minor issues after you pull it out is very easy with putty. I then put a few coats of carnuba car wax on over the primer, buffed it out, and started glassing. I laid each side up before clamping it together. I coated the inside with a few layers of just resin, letting each tack up, then laid down a layer of glass mat. For the overhang, I used a piece of Nitecore cut to shape and inserted it in after the mat and 1 layer of 1708. I then filled the remaining space with resin. I followed with 2 layers of 1708 and let it kick a bit, then clamped the two halves and laid a strip of 1708 over the seam, and a final layer of 1708, for a total of 3 layers of 1708, 1 layer of mat, and extra corner strips, seam strips, etc.
Once it came out I set it on the console for a dry fit and it fit like a glove! I just finished the final shaping/ filler and sanding steps, which took about 4 hours. I then cut out the holes for my switches and center screen. Final steps will be to cut the last hole for the gauges, gel coat it, then bolt it on.
So here is the final part, fully gelcoated and polished. I also glassed all the old holes in the console, as I will be moving my steering and binnacle a little further over than the original placement, as original placement had the wheel nearly touching the T Top. While the T Top is in pretty good shape with no pitting, though it doesn't look it due to green mildew on it, I am looking to put a more modern style T Top on so I haven't cleaned this one.
The cutouts above, from the right on the extension piece I built, will be 4 sets of rocker switches, for a total of 16 circuits. The center screen is a controller for the BEP CZone system settings and switching if desired, but I will be running switching from the HDS unit. On the far left, I will be adding the Faria Mach 7 touchscreen gauge and monitoring system. It's a thing of beauty and has a ton of features that I am excited about installing. If you are wondering what the two circles are on the rear of the box, it's where my T Top bars cut into the box, so i had to mold it around the bars. Stay tuned, as I'll have more info as soon as I bolt the part to the console and install the components.
On the console itself, the Lowrance HDS 12 Gen2 touch will be on the left where the small cutout is. That hole was left open to make glassing the backside easier. On the right side, I am not sure what I will put there yet. I am considering installing a touch panel PC so I can run diagnostic software on the NMEA system, and also for many other PC related programs. I may even venture into running a software based radar system. Time will tell.
In the meantime, here's a near finished picture of the boat. I'll post more detailed pictures in the near future.