Binnacle Upgrade

The binnacle has been through many changes and upgrades. Several of them were completed a long time before I started updating the web pages, or for that matter, even before I had a web page. In fact, when we first purchased DREAM AWAY on February 7th, 1992, the World Wide Web was not much in use.

INSTRUMENTS: One of the first things I did to the binnacle, after we reached Texas, was to remove the engine instruments from it. When we purchased DREAM AWAY, the engine instruments were in the binnacle, but they were directly under the wheel. You could not really see the instruments unless you got out from behind the wheel, laid down on the cockpit seat, and stuck your head under the wheel. A bad setup, and an accident waiting to happen. What made the location of the instruments in the binnacle even harder to understand was that there was an obvious place for an instrument panel right in the port cockpit cubbyhole, which was just to the left of the binnacle. When steering the boat, had the instruments been in the cockpit cubbyhole, all you would have had to do was turn your head to port, and look at the instruments. So, the move was on to relocate the main engine instruments.

I started by purchasing a complete new set of Teleflex Instruments. Next on the list was to purchase the wires to run from the instrument panel to the engine. I checked the ABYC Standards so that I would have the correctly colored wires, and the right wire sizes. I had a friend, who is a former Marine, volunteer to take the new Teleflex Instruments and wire I had purchased, and fabricate a panel that fit into the space of the cockpit cubbyhole. He fabricated the panel so that the main engine instruments were on the right, and the generator instruments were on the left. When Jimmy had the panel fabricated, we got together on a weekend and installed the panel with the new instruments and wiring. We also removed the old engine instruments and all of the old wiring. When the installation was completed, we tested the start switch, which started the engine, and confirmed that all of the instruments were functioning. We tested the stop switch, which also worked. The last item for this project was to start the engine again, and calibrate the tachometer to the correct RPM.

FOLDING TABLE:  The next binnacle project was to rebuild the folding cockpit table. DREAM AWAY came with a folding cockpit table, but was in really sad shape, and needed to be replaced. Being a frugal person, I had saved all of the teak wood that was removed from the aft deck, so I used that wood to fabricate the new table. I had to purchase some teak trim to finish out the table, but the new table was a vast improvement, and very functional.

HYDRAULICS:  This next upgrade to the binnacle is inside the binnacle, so it is not visible unless the binnacle is taken apart. I have hydraulic steering on DREAM AWAY. When she came from the factory, all the hydraulic fittings and tubing were brass and copper. The installation was very pretty, but due to wear and vibration, there seemed to be some very small leaks in the tubing. When we purchased the Autohelm autopilot system, the autopilot pump had to be "T-ed" into the existing hydraulic lines. While doing that, I decided to replace all of the hydraulic lines with Aeroquip fittings and Aeroquip hose.

Replacing all of the copper tubing with the new hose and fittings was a lot of work, and very messy. We had to take the binnacle apart to get to the fittings at the back of the pump, which is located inside the binnacle. We then had to drain the tubing as best we could. That meant getting to the lowest point of the system, which was at the ram on the rudder. To get there, the aft cabin bunk had to be dismantled, and all of the pieces moved out of our way. It took all day, but we finally got the old stuff removed, and all of the new hoses and fittings back into the system, the new autopilot pump installed, and then the system bled to get out all of the air.

Naturally, being Overkill Kenworthy, the new hoses and fittings were way more sturdy than was required for the pressures involved. And, I also purchased extra fittings and hoses in case there is a need for them in the future. The Aeroquip fittings and the Aeroquip hose are reusable. No special tools are required to make up a new hose.

COMPASS:  In 2000, I removed the old, barely readable magnetic compass from the binnacle, and installed a new Aqua Meter Galaxy compass. The new compass installation was very easy as the new compass bolt pattern was the same as that for the old compass.

AUTOPILOT AND GPS MOUNT:  Once I finished the autopilot installation, I needed a place to mount the control head, and to mount my Garmin GPS-45XL. Here again, I used left-over deck teak wood to build the mount. I have only one picture. of the mount, which also shows the adjustable cup holders on either side.

AUTOPILOT AND GPS MOUNT 2ND EDITION:  We used the original autopilot and GPS mounts for many years, but they had one major problem. The instruments were not moveable. Also, I had upgraded from the Garmin GPS-45XL to a Garmin GPS 126. Since we had the autopilot with a remote, it was nice to be able sit to the side of the binnacle, where it was more comfortable, and steer DREAM AWAY from that position. But, we had to get up and move behind the binnacle to check our course or position. Not ideal.

I came up with a modification to the binnacle. I built a platform that circled the compass, went forward to the stainless steel pedestal guard, and out to the sides of the binnacle. This platform, was fabricated out of Starboard. Next, I purchased a NavPod housing for the ST6000+ autopilot control head. This unit was installed on the starboard side of the platform. I also installed the Garmin GPS 126 on the port side of the platform. I also installed cup holders on the outboard edges of of the platform, suitable for our giant, insulated cups. Initially, the GPS 126 did not rotate, but that was fixed in a subsequent upgrade. So, now I have a platform that does not need maintenance, and both the GPS 126 and the ST6000+ autopilot control head can be rotated to be viewed from either side of the cockpit.

CUP HOLDERS:  There is a pedestal guard in the cockpit that is attached to the binnacle. We were always having a hard time finding a in the cockpit in which to place random items and drinks. I solved this problem by installing a four-cup holder on the pedestal guard, and two-cup holders on each side of the binnacle. Now we could store stuff like sun block, sunglasses, and drinks.

iPAD ENCLOSURE:  I have been doing some experimenting with mounting an iPad Enclosure on the binnacle. This is an ongoing project, and is covered in the iPad Enclosure installation section, under Construction and Projects page.

ICOM COMMAND MIC:  I installed the ICOM HM-157SW COMMAND MIC II on the port side of the binnacle. This unit allows you to control the ICOM M502 VHF radio, which is actually located in the navigation station below deck, from the cockpit.

AUTOPILOT REMOTE:  In November 2005, I installed a Ratheon Autopilot remote on the binnacle. With the attached 30' cable, you can control the autopilot from either side of the binnacle, and even from outside the cockpit.

BINNACLE TOP HINGE:  This project is one I had been wanting to do since I first had to work on the hydraulics inside the binnacle. In order to check the hydraulic fluid level, it was necessary to unscrew the top and take it off of the binnacle. To remove the top, the compass and the platform with the GPS 126 and the ST6000+ had to be removed. It was so much trouble to get to the hydraulic pump inside the binnacle, I always put off checking the hydraulic level. The solution was to hinge the top of the top of the binnacle so I did not have to remove any thing except a few screws.

My biggest concern for this project was that the wires that went to the compass, the GPS 126, and the ST6000+ would be too short, and I would have to splice in extra wire. To start with, I removed the top with everything still attached. I then went under the binnacle to check all of the wiring. The really good news was that I had extra wire for everything on top of the binnacle. I cut all of the cable ties to loosen the wire. Then it was just a matter of installing the stainless steel piano hinge. When the hinge was installed, I then put weather stripping around the remaining three sides of the binnacle top. I dressed all of the wires back to the side of the binnacle and under the binnacle so they would not chafe. I screwed the top back on, and the job was done. Now, in order to check the hydraulic fluid, all I have to do is remove nine screws, lay the top over on its side, and check the fluid in the pump.

PLATFORM CUP HOLDERS:  On our passage to Georgetown, South Carolina, one of the cup holders for our giant insulated cups was broken. Naturally, I could not find an exact replacement. In fact, I could not find a single adjustable cup holder. So I purchased a double adjustable cup holder, and with a saw, constructed two single adjustable cup holders. I then installed the cup holders, and the project was complete. I even have a spare cup holder.

Wiring Under Binnacle

Hinge Installed

Hinge Installed

Completed Hinge Installation

Gasket On Binnacle Top

Cup Holder Before Modification

Cup Holder Before Modification

Cup Holder Cut In Half

Modified Cup Holder Installed

Cup Holder In Use

Cup Holder In Use