Next on my "things to build" list are the helm and storage boxes in the cabin. I have to admit I like electronic gadgets so I wanted a little more instrument panel area than the plans provide. I decided there was no reason not to run it the full width between the berth entryway and the cabin wall. This will allow me the space I need to mount the gauges I want. The list include two 3 3/8" gauges - tach & speedometer and four 2 1/8" gauges - fuel, voltage, trim and fuel flow. The Horizon Fuel Flow meter is somewhat of a luxury but I am justifying it because of the scarcity of fuel along the rivers I plan to cruise. It hopefully will allow me to keep accurate track of my fuel burn.
I also have a Eagle Fish ID 128 depth sounder and a handheld Eagle Explorer GPS that I want to mount on top of the panel and a handheld VHF radio I need to hang somewhere. This is a lot for a small panel but I think I can get it to all fit.
But the first problem was to decide on the dimensions and height (from the sole) of the panel. The minimum aft projection from the bulkhead is determined by the steering system. In my situation (18 ft hull) I needed a 12' cable and when it arrived I used it to set the location of the face of the panel. I also wanted it slanted at a 20° angle. I should have mentioned before that in preparation for building the panel (and glove box on the other side) I had left the 1/4" plywood of the berth top long enough to extend aft and form the top of the panel.
To find the height of the center of the steering wheel I needed to establish the seat height. One thing I have found when "winging it" without the benefit of the plans is that you need to plan ahead and order materials. In order to build the panel I needed to have the steering system AND the seats. Also I needed to have a fairly good idea of the gauges I wanted and any additional switches etc. I wanted to mount on it. If I didn't have these I would have to wait until I obtained them before I could proceed. It is aggravating to have to stop working on an item and wait for parts to come in.
I placed the seat on a 5 gallon bucket and then used blocks to raise it to the desired height. With this determined I was able to position the wheel at a comfortable height. This is all a matter of personal taste and will vary from builder to builder.
With the helm in place I moved to the other side to build a structure for an open storage area and a glove box. I wanted the same overall size with the upper part at a matching 20° slant. The glove box was ordered from "Overtons" and is an all plastic unit. I wasn't real thrilled with the quality but it is serviceable. Above it is just an open shelf to throw sunscreen and other miscellaneous stuff. If I was doing it over I would make the opening a little smaller and higher to provide a taller lip at the bottom to prevent items from bouncing out. It will probably be OK as is but a little higher wouldn't have hurt.
In the side of this structure I mounted a four switch/fuse panel. I really would have liked this on the helm side but there just wasn't room. Also, I plan to have a double door arrangement for entering the berth. These will be hinged along the sides and open out flush to the sides of the instrument panel and storage unit. Because of this I had to recess the switch panel into the plywood.
the instrument panel and storage area don't really look like much it took
many hours to lay them out and build them. Every piece is rough cut
and then recut (sometimes SEVERAL times) to get a decent fit in the shape
I wanted. Behind every plywood joint there is a 1" X 1" cleat for
support. I am glad I took the time to make these but still it did
take a lot longer than you would think.