Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Formula 330SS update story, you can always make it work, you just have to be inventive!

The moral of this little story is that almost anything is possible, if you do some creative thinking. Hard work, and a little luck is always helpful also. The subject is an 2005 Formula 330SS. It is a pretty boat, with a large cockpit, and nice hull lines. The new owner is a nice guy, and I think he purchased it for a good price. I was originally contacted to update the electronics. The owner had very carefully measured the space available for a new chart plotter, and had purchased a new Garmin 4210 unit. It will fit, and I mean just fit into the console. He also bought a new transducer, GSD22 sounder module, GXM51 weather receiver, GFS10 fuel flow sender, and a Garmin 100 VHF (boy I wish it was a N2K unit). He also wanted a autopilot, and I said no, possible, but no. My reason for saying no was two fold. The first was the boat was cable steered, (I/O) and the second was there was no room in the engine room for an over sized linear drive, or anything else, so sorry, no.

A few days later, I get a call from the owner, and he tells me the engines are being removed. Is an auto pilot possible now? The answer is now yes, and we will now buy a Garmin autopilot system.

With the engines removed, and the hatch off, the compartment now feels like the boat equivalent of being on the open western plains, and I can now almost feel the winds sweeping down, and see the big skies. Room galore, everything is accessible, and in installer terms, sheer heaven. 

The first task is to install a new transducer. With the engines in place, the options would have been very limited, and the task difficult. At the same time, the AC water pump was mounted under the generator, and looked pretty beat up, so the AC guy removed it and put a new one in under the hinged panel, making it accessible, and installed a valve to boot to break any airlocks (the boat lives on a storage rack).

The boat had a cable steer Teleflex system, which had to be removed, so it was detached from the power assist steering pump, and back pulled up to the helm. It took some real gyrations, and effort by two of us to get this 25' cable out, because at install time, it was tie wrapped with other wiring inside the combings. Who would have every thought it might break, or need to be replaced in the future?

Teleflex makes a special hydraulic cylinder to replace the cable steer system, and here is the catch. You can see the the cylinder, now attached to the power assist pump in the picture, and the outboard end is now about five inches from the hull. To install it, the whole power assist module, had to be removed in order to slide the shaft into place. Easy now, impossible with the engines in place. And as a personal note, many thanks to Marc Adams from Teleflex for his patience, and most excellent advice. It was most appreciated.

Now on to the hydraulic helm pump. The steering system attached to a round fiberglass protrusion formed into the console. If the new helm pump was just mounted there, the helm would have stuck straight out. This would have been both ugly, and awkward for the driver. As an additional point, there was not enough room behind the console to use a tilt helm unit.

Teleflex makes a 20 degree mounting plate, but it has a square mounting flange, and would not fit in this location. So, when you look at the picture above, the 20 degree angle piece, that the new helm is attached to, is the plastic housing from the old cable steer system. I took "all thread", and cut four new long custom mounting studs, and epoxied the old steering base to the new helm pump. Just so there is not any wincing from my colleagues, the plastic base actually fit, with some minor carving, pretty tightly around the new studs, and the epoxy was more to hold it in position, than to attach it to the new helm. It worked a treat. The fall back plan, would have been taking the other 20 degree aluminum mounting flange to a machine shop, milling off the flange, drilling holes in the top, to allow long bolts to attach it, and did I mention the whole part would then have to be stripped, primed, and repainted? I think it all worked out great, and looks good.

The hydraulic plumbing was a real pain. There was little space behind the steering system to install the hydraulic lines, and despite my best efforts at planning ahead, it took three trips to a large hardware store, to end up with a configuration that would work.

There are now two problems left to go. Yann, my new aide, is now removing a vinyl padded trim strip from the boat. The new Garmin VHF radio's foot print is much larger than the old Standard Horizon VHF, and so it goes bye bye.

The solution was to take 1/2"  white acrylic, and have it milled to the same shape as the original vinyl panel, with a curvaceous lower extension to allow the VHF to be flush mounted. Good looking, and it closely matches the original panel.

The time for final battle has come, and the one I was dreading the most, installation of the Garmin 4210. The original panel where the Garmin was being mounted had a 1/4" aluminum wood grainy looking panel, that matched the the other panels in the console. There were two problems with the panel. The first was at the bottom of the panel, there was some oxidation occurring, and it wouldn't be long before the wood grain looking stuff started to fall off. The second problem was when the hole was cut out in the panel for the Garmin, there would be very little panel left. I was less than confident I could cut out the panel myself, and option number two was to take it to a machine shop, and have a milling machine do the cut out, and time was of the essence.

The fall back was to have a gray acrylic panel made to take the place of it. When the panel cut out was made, there was little left, but it looked good. 

So attach the plugs to the unit, and set it in place. I already knew what was going to happen. The plugs stuck out too far from the back, and it missed seating all the way down by about 3/8'. Although I knew the answer, I called Garmin, and inquired it the were any shorter plug options, and I got a terse no.

So when depth fails, a sharp utility, and a band saw prevails. Step one. The worst depth offender was the marine network plug for the GSD22. I cut off the old plug, and took a new field replaceable plug, and lopped off about a 1/2" on the band saw, and threw away the spirally thingy that came with it. I re-terminated the cable, and had a 1/4" to spare. Now the power cord. A utility knife carved away the upper part of the wire sheathing until we got to the place where the wires were molded into a white plastic material. This allowed the two wires to bend over without straining, and the second problem was solved. Just a little carving on the N2K connector, and the unit fit, without cramping the wiring. The last step was to tab the corners of the unit with silicone to hold it in place. It was not possible to bolt it in.     

It looks good doesn't it? Everything is factory appearing. The auto pilot head, at the owners request went into the location where a pitot tube driven speedometer was located, and there really wasn't any other place for it to go.

There is a wart. The Garmin 100 VHF only has the old NMEA 0183 interface, and there was no way, the huge NMEA cable was going to be carved back to fit. There is, theoretically, some space behind the console, and a cut out might be possible to allow this cable to work, but the boat is going on a trip, and I was happy to have gotten done, in time at all. 

All in all I am pleased with the work, but it was the most fiddly job I have done in a long time. A lot of stuff, crammed into spaces that they were not designed for, and it seemed everything needed some  modification.

And to all of you chart plotter makers, It is not a contest to see who can make their plugs stick out the furthest. Shorter is always better, or at least sell me 90 degree adapters.

A final look at the engine room with the engines installed. Everything looks brand new. It is spotlessly clean. I wonder if I could train spider monkeys to work in these tight quarters? No, they would probably just complain it was to hot, and cramped to do the work, and go back to the organ grinder.


  1. Good looking install. Quite the challenge.

  2. Looks great, Bill.
    This was about a 3 hour job on a workbench that turns into a 3 day job on a boat due to the lack of space.
    Garmin does make 90 degree cables available as accessories....they are a little pricey but maybe worth it for this install.

  3. John, thank you, I will look. Some of these may be 7000 series connectors which have 90 degree plugs, but thread on, instead of twist locking.