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How do I my modify cockpit electronics?

2009 June 1
Dear Boat Doctor,
I own an Ericson 35 and I am planning a large electronics upgrade. I would like to place a radar display as well as speed, depth and wind instruments in a pod at my helm. It appears that there are many nice pods on the market but I can't find one that fits the rail on my pedestal nor a replacement pedestal rail. The dimensions of my existing rail just don't seem to match the standards available. What should I do?
Tom Guerts
Green Bay, Wisconsin

Dear Tom,
I think I can help you, but the answer is not as cut and dried as you would probably like. Your boat has a pedestal made by Yacht Specialties, and unfortunately the company went out of business in the late 1980s.

I assume the dimension problem you are seeing has to do with the center-to-center spacing on the pedestal guard (the stainless rail in front of the helm). The Yacht Specialties spacing was roughly 12.5 inches on center, while Edson uses 9.5 inches and Lewmar uses 12 inches. Your rail is closest to the Lewmar standard, but that half-inch difference is enough to make the pod not fit correctly.

The good news is that you likely want to replace the pedestal guard anyway, and replacements are readily available. You'll want a taller guard to hold the pod, as well one with at least one bend to make the pod easier to see. New rails are typically 1.25-inch tubing, giving just a little more room for running cables. I really like the rails from Navpod (www.navpod.com, (949) 588-1470).

The bad news is that you'll need to replace the plate that typically slips under the compass and provides holes to support the pedestal guard. The new one will have correct spacing as well larger holes to support the larger tubing. Unfortunately this part is not readily available for your pedestal. The closest match is the plate from Navpod but the holes don't line up well and the plate will not maintain the same for-and-aft spacing as the original.

The best answer for a new top plate will be to have one fabricated. I know of two marine stainless fabricators that could handle this work, but there are likely lots of local alternatives for you also. I have done business with Tops In Quality (www.topsinquality.com (810) 364-7150) in Michigan and Kato Marine (www.katomarine.com, (410) 269-1218) in Maryland, and have been very happy with the results. You will probably want a fabricator that can cut the part out with a laser or water jet cutter. You have the choice of making it in polished stainless steel or white powder coated aluminum.

Since you are changing the spacing and the tubing size, you will also need to change out the rail bases. The spacing is close enough (the legs will be a little closer together, but the tubing wider) that the old holes will very likely be covered up.

When you put everything back together remember to use proper isolation between the stainless and aluminum parts. You will likely have several interfaces between these metals. The pedestal itself is cast aluminum, the fasteners are stainless, as is the rail, and the top plate material is at your discretion. I like to use Tefgel (www.tefgel.com, (561) 845-1086) isolating compound on the fasteners and you'll likely need to use some mechanical isolation at the other interfaces. Plastic bushings will work well on the tubing, and sheet mylar is a nice insulator between flat surfaces. Sheet mylar is available from plastics suppliers, but flexible cutting boards work nicely too.