Build a New Nav Station

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Here's the way it was: The starboard quarterberth.
C&C LF38's had a few different interior layouts here,
but I have the charter boat layout.
Actually, I don't like any of the stock Nav Station layouts
for this boat, so my vision is as good as it gets.
(In My Humble Opinion.)

There were some serious
milestones to be met
before starting.

December 2002 --
First I had to
Remove the Old Holding Tank
then add a bulkhead (left) and turn the after portion of the quarterberth into additional cockpit storage.

January 2003 -
Next, the New Holding Tank to create
the seat for the Nav Station.

After the bulkhead for the tank was tabbed in
I could cut away the plywood for feet
to get into the new area.

Good gosh, it's impossible to describe
the planning and execution required
to get to the starting point
for this little project.

With the space cleared, I could start work. Because every angle is odd, it's being made one piece at a time, one weekend at a time. Slow.
And it's spring (2003), so this isn't a top priority.
I have a new rig (standing, running) and sails,
so sailing is now a lot more fun.

To the right, there's the compartment to move and expand
the electrical panel. It's made of 3/8" marine ply,
with a strip of 7/8" mahogany at the bottom
where the hinge for the desk top will attach.
Underneath is the plywood bottom for the inside of the desk.

The compartment bottom is tabbed to the hull using Knytex tape from Tap Plastics. It has a layer of mat and unidirectional fabric sewn together and is really easy to use.

The construction will be primarily supported by interlocking with other wood parts, but this is holding it in place for now and will keep things inside the desk from escaping.

It's epoxied on
(the plywood fits into the notch)
and tabbed onto the hull again to keep the compartment sealed.
The front edge of the desk is made of mahogany.
To the left you can see how it's assembled.
The little area for pencils and stuff
is higher than the bottom of the compartment,
mainly so I don't have to worry about
banging my knees (I have long legs) and to allow
easier access to the space under the desk.

Anyway, here are the existing electrical panels.

I'll move stuff over, but am wrestling with it.
Currently there are only 16 DC breakers, and some are doing
double duty. Moving the instruments over to the new panel will only free up a few breakers... but a 24 breaker DC panel in addition to the new stuff will make this area look like an airplane. However,
I'd like to have separate breakers and wire runs for each device
or class of devices. Hmm. Thinking.

On the outboard side is a dedicated DC panel for electronics. The A/B switch is between the house bank and a dedicated instrument battery. If my whole electrical system goes out, I can flip a switch and my radio and nav stuff
will be on a separate isolated system. It can also be
isolated from surges when the engine starts,
though to date that hasn't been a problem.

This AC plug is permanent, as it can power a laptop off the inverter. Above it is two 12V DC plugs.

May 2003 -
New electrical panels.
They aren't wired in yet, and won't be
until I feel like getting around to it.
To be honest, I'm not pleased with my craftsmanship.
I rushed.

Perfectionism can drive one nuts. (Nuttier?)
It's fine.

Note that I don't intend to have two AC outlets here when finished, but for now it's great to have
a plug right by the companionway.
(I seem to spend a lot of time using power tools.)

Both of these panels are mounted on mahogany plywood. I think it's Philippine mahogany, vs. the African mahogany I've used elsewhere. Honduran Mahogany is something you find in estate sales,
(although I do have a nice 4 foot wide 100 year old table top that I'm dying to use.)
Anyway, it's the only mahogany plywood I could find locally. If I were to do it again I'd build a plank.
My whole standard of finish-detail craftsmanship is slipping.
On the other hand, who really cares?
I'm only doing this for me, as it isn't increasing the value of my boat.
In the meantime, I think I'll slow down on the projects, spend some time sailing.
I don't really *need* this nav station right now.

To make the desk top, I took a 12 x 1.5 foot African Mahogany plank
and ripped it into 4 inch wide strips. It hurt to do that with a beautiful plank, but it wasn't quarter sawn and I want to flip alternate strips to prevent warping.
When I made the table on my last boat, I used two different planks which looked identical when raw but turned different shades when varnished.

I recently read that
Our Planet's Rainforests are being stripped of good Mahogany,
and the best of it is being sold to the *casket* makers here in the USA.
What a waste.

For the counter top part of the desk,
I'm going to insert a strip of birdseye maple,
just to make it pretty.

The desk top lid
is all mahogany.

Rather than use biscuits, I just routed a lap joint
on the edge. I'm in a hurry, trying to move forward
after work in the evening.
I screwed up.
No big deal, but that meant gluing it all together with epoxy thickened with colloidal silica
instead of a wood glue.

The epoxy has better gap filling properties
and won't shrink. It's as strong or stronger
than wood glue, so screwing up isn't actually a bad thing.

Next to the companionway is the AC panel.
It's located here to make it easy to move wires between old and new.
Ideally, the AC panel would be out of the way,
but this is a good time for a practical compromise.
There's a breaker panel for shore power and inverter,
and an 8 breaker AC panel. It seems like a lot, but I think I will fill it.
(I'm going to do some surgery on that AC panel
before hooking up the inverter.)

This AC plug will go away eventually. For now, I need that plug!

So the counter top is finished, and fits into place perfectly.
That's satisfaction!

Note the the forward end
(to the left) is a trifle low, but after taking this pic I moved the bulkhead brace up and
it's now perfect.

The desktop fits
as planned. wow. Cool.
Time to put the finish on.

July/August 2003 -- Time out on this project, due to the massive 2003 haulout
that included replacing all the transducers.
Then it was important to wire up the 12V electronics panel, then install the
new Nexus Server
and get the cockpit display installed and working.

Plus, it's Summer, and I have new sails, so..

This brace for the counter looks funky, but it's set up this way to ensure that the lid over the holding tank
can be removed without a problem.

The counter is *seriously* attached
to the mahogany strip under the electrical panels. I used my Handy Dremel Tool to form a loose groove in both pieces, then packed the groove with epoxy thickened with colloidal silica and fiberglass chop from Tap Plastics.
The chop wasn't really necessary,
but it was just sitting there so I played with it, trying to learn something.
What I learned is that I shouldn't have tried it. Colloidal silica is enough.

Mainly, I want the pieces to be super secure, and not leave a crack where water could drip down into the table.

October 2003 --

Gee, it took three months to put the finish
on the desk lid and get it mounted.
Well, I've been busy.

You can also see the 1/2" mahogany piece that'll be the bottom of the cabinet/shelf assembly.
Just checking to make sure it fits right.

Getting the piano hinge perfect was pretty easy.
After lining it up where it belongs, a drill bit that just fits through the hinge hole made
the countersink.
That made it easy to center the smaller hole
for the screws.

The lid is supported by teak strips on either side, which are wide and grooved so that any water that hits the lid will drain out the back and not go down into the storage area.

November 2003 -
Holy cow, this is
starting to look like
a real nav station!
I'm *very* happy with that strip of Birdseye Maple.

The hull behind the shelves is just painted with dark brown Rust-o-leum. I couldn't see the value in getting fussy back there.

I added a new Garmin GPS, since I want to wire it up to the Nexus system and don't see the point in wiring up my old one
that's really destined to be a backup..

I set the panel back a little bit to allow room for a pencil stash spot.

(That's a big ' First-Grader' pencil --
it says "My First Ticonderoga.")

The bookshelf has a
hinged teak batten to
keep the books from spilling.

I couldn't find a hinge that I liked,
so I hacked this together
out of a scrap of piano hinge.
It's just temporary,
while I look for the right hinge.
Right now I need to hit the milestone.
Finding the perfect hinge
could take a while.

The GPS is held at a good working angle with this little wedge of mahogany..

... that started out
looking like this.

(My bench belt sander
is my second favorite tool, after my Handy Dremel.)

Making the new shelf fit the hull was pretty easy, since it's actually sitting where the old quarterberth shelf was!
I used the old shelf as a pattern for the back edge.

Here are a few earlier pics during construction.

Note that the end piece is just 1/2" marine ply, since it's not visible. The shelves have a
teak fiddle in the back,
made from the
old teak trim along
the old quarterberth.


The shelves are 10 inches wide.
I was running short on 1/2" mahogany, and didn't want to spend more money, so they're made deeper by lapping
a piece of plywood on the back
where it can't be seen.
It's a good 1/2" lap joint.

The plywood came from the old quarterberth lid, so it's actually a nice old marine grade veneer.
It adds a little bit of spiritual continuity to the whole thing.

This trim
actually does more than just look nice, I want a round corner to protect the laptop screen that's going to slide back behind there.

December 2003 --

I added a Cole-Hersee 'On/Off/On' switch, hidden in shadow just to the left of the Nexus Multidisplay.

'Up' turns on a bank of Amber LED Lights. For details on how they are constructed see the Main Cabin LED Light page.

'Down' turns on a bank of Red LED lights. The red LEDs were way too bright
and hurt my eyes, so I stuck a strip of black electrical tape over the top of them and just let light out the sides.

Actually, methinks the Amber works fine for night vision, and Red may just be a waste of effort.
This is the second time I've felt this way about Red LED lights, and I don't think I'll futze with them again.
It was worth a shot.

The cabinet under the nav station
is a piece of leftover
teak veneer from
the U-Shaped Galley project.

I glued two strips of scrap
marine ply on the sides to provide strength for brass piano hinges.
On the top is a wide piece of scrap mahogany, as a door-stop and
a place to attach the latches.
On the bottom is a little strip of teak.

I have a garage full of scrap wood, and this part doesn't need to
match and be pretty.



The drawer is made from marine ply, mated to a 7/8" thick
teak face plate.

The drawer slides (below, left) are 304 stainless ball bearing slides from McMaster-Carr. The smallest available were 12 inches long, which comes within an inch of the hull on the back side, so there's no box to support the slides. Instead,
there are 3/4" thick marine plywood supports, screwed and epoxied to the cabinet. I epoxied a little block of wood for support, and laid a huge fillet of epoxy thickened with colloidal silica. It looks a little yellow in the picture below
because it's covered with
three coats of varnish.
I hope this doesn't break. (grin)

When epoxying onto veneer, use a Handy Dremel Tool to sand through the veneer so the glue attaches to the real laminate underneath.

The cabinet doors are trimmed top and bottom with a little strip of teak.

Sanding it smooth was tricky, because the veneer is only 1/64" thin (sometimes the latest and greatest ain't so great)
so the veneer is protected with masking tape.


Detail on the
interior latch.

Here it is, mounted in place.

It's finished with
Minwax Spar Urethane.

I created a plethora of epoxy-sealed teak and mahogany blocks to attach this part. That worked, but the bottom edge was a bit wiggly (expected) so there's a little glob of super thick epoxy/colloidal silica to the right of the door just to make it strong. If it ever has to come out, that'll be a PITA, but I think this will be here
as long as the boat lives.

Now I can measure for
little teak trim strips to
make it look pretty,
but there are a few other things to do first.

The drawer is painted with Green Polyurethane,
only because an open can handy was handy.

The cabinet is at an angle, so the drawer opens out nicely and
you can get at the entire contents without having to lift the desk.

The face place presented a bit of a challenge, as it's 7/8" thick and it was difficult to get a finger through and trip the latch without risking a broken finger. So after the teak hole was in,
I used my Handy Dremel Tool to sand it back on the left side, creating a nice smooth channel that
guides the finger towards the latch.

I had planned on cutting
the old liner way back,
but after looking at it
it's fine the way it is.

It forms a bit of a shelf on the right side, which nearly reaches the back of the cabinet.

Everything in here is going to need to be stored in a container or a bag anyway, so the lip is acceptable. I think I'll just
sand it down and paint it.
Paint is good.

It was a good time to make the pattern for the cushion, then pull everything off and
go put a finish on it.

The bench seat is lined with low
premanufactured 'C' Rails.

The corner angle was tricky (22.5 degrees)
so I pulled the belt sander down to the boat
to make the job quicker.

So here's my first cushion, which has it's own web page at:
my first cushion
Note the handy location for a fire extinguisher.

This is also my only error in this project, and it's annoying.
I made the bench about 1" too high.
I'm going to have to do the whole thing over again. (grin)

When I laid out the dimensions for the nav station, I was thinking of making a fancy teak bench seat,
but eventually said 'heck with that.'

The cushion is made of 'dry fast' foam from Sailrite, which doesn't absorb water. It also doesn't compress like the good old spongy stuff.

We'll see. I might replace it with the old kind of foam. But this stuff doesn't absorb water, and that's kinda nice.

I'm so close to being done with this project I can taste it.

The little storage space next to the cushion has a simple door.

It fits as shown, and snaps into place with the usual finger-spring-latch.

The little brace at the bottom is trapezoidal,
i.e. sanded back at an angle, so that the top edge holds the door in place, but when you unlatch it there's room for the door to be pulled out at an angle to clear the counter.

Note the interesting epoxy palm print inside the storage space.
Aw heck.

When I ripped up the galley bulkhead during the U-Shaped Galley project, I noticed that the teak trim is shaped differently than anything that's currently available, so I saved it.
(This is why I can't fit my car in the garage.)

It came in handy here, to finish the edge of the bulkhead by the foot well.
The color of the wood matches, as does the bottom layer of finish,
so I can just sand the joints flush and add a quick top layer of finish.

I made a Sunbrella curtain to protect the nav station in the event of nasty weather.

Details are on the Nav Station Curtain page.

So the floor's being painted.

Here's a handy tip. If you ever cut a hole with a 4.5" hole saw,
save the cut out disk.
It fits on top of quart paint cans, and you can use it to tap the lid
back on without deforming it.

Before painting the floor, I glassed in a little bit of plywood at the far end to cover a spot where
things might fall down and get lost forever.

I also packed the groove between the liner and the engine room bulkhead with putty.
That makes it totally permanent,
but, well, yes.

This area is very much out of sight. When sitting at the nav station, my feet can't reach this far back.
I intend to mount a new charger/inverter on the new bulkhead (i.e. under the desk), and the floor
area down here is probably going to be a place
where duffel bags get tossed.

I put a second coat of the lighter paint inside the cabinets and in the back of the foot area, because light colors make it easier to see.

But where feet go,
I used Petit 'Brightwork' colored polyurethane,
cut 1:1 with Interlux flattening agent.

The threshold is covered
with a little bit of
1/4" fiberglass sheet from McMaster-Carr,
ground into shape and
painted to match.

January 2004 --


Well, here it is and
I'm officially calling it done.

Of course it never really ends,
and there are little bits to finish off, but those bits are associated
with other projects.

But it's now actually useable,
and that was the whole point.

The darn cushion has wrinkles.
Maybe another layer of batting will help.


I put a lot of thought into designing
a trick place to keep the laptop,
but every idea just didn't feel right.
I think laptops have changed a lot
in the last 5 years, and in another 5 years they'll be smaller still.

So I just made sure there was a nice place
to push it out of the way.

Having a counter top with
lots of room works.

I'm looking for small brass ring pulls
that have a flush closed position,
and I'll mount them into the table top
and use bungee cords
to hold the computer in place.

That's a nice generic solution that should work through many generations of laptops.

I can't seem to find the right ring pulls, though!


The little space above the electrical panels
is painted but not finished.
There's room there to fit an SSB/HAM setup,
if that's something I decide to do.
Or perhaps it'll be a good dry spot for
a laptop docking station. Whatever.

Right now it doesn't matter, as there's a lot of wire that needs to be pulled through there. When the rewiring's done, I'll finish up that corner.

The desk lid extends about 5 inches beyond the edge of the interior pencil tray.

With the desk lid up,
there's enough room to crawl back there.

I worry a bit about falling down on the corner and breaking the lid, but I've leaned on it
pretty seriously and it's fine.

Well, that's that.

(This picture sucks. It looks much nicer.)