Post Vacation Project: Engine Control Panel

The engine control panel on Moonrise had definitely seen better days. After 37 years of  sun, rain and the occasional kick, the plastic was cracked in several places. The location of the panel, behind the helmsman’s legs has always been inconvenient for reading gauges. It was always a little embarrassing when we were showing the boat and I started the engine.

Original Engine Panel

After 37 years, this is what the engine control panel looks like. What kind of owner would let such horror continue?

What had me stumped was finding a replacement for the panel itself. After our vacation I got serious about finding this part. Sailing Specialties Inc. ( turned out to have a panel that had dimensions close to the original. The part was about sixty dollars with shipping.

Some assembly required.

Reading the gauges had always been difficult since they were low and behind the driver. I bought new gauges and installed them in a small project box just inside the companionway.  I chose not to install the ammeter thinking that I would buy a digital battery monitor at some point. This freed up a spot for the fuel gauge which used to be tucked in a corner of the quarter berth. This location at the companionway makes it much easier to check the engine’s vital signs but of course it would be nice if they were more visible while steering the boat.

Locating the Instrumentation just inside the companion way makes it easier to keep an eye on the engine.

So, with a minor adjustment to the old engine panel opening, I installed the new panel. To update the boat, I replaced the old engine power switch with a keyed switch. That makes Moonrise more secure as well. Since the instruments are tucked away inside, the panel now just houses the engine start controls. If at some point I want to add a gauge, I can always do so. For now, I think I’ll just enjoy the clean, uncluttered look of the new panel.

It can’t get much simpler than this. From left to right; Turn on Power, Heat Glow Plugs, Start Engine.

This weekend, our traditional rainy weather arrived. I buttoned up this project just as it began to rain in earnest. Now I won’t have to worry about water finding its way onto the electrical system, causing corrosion or worse.

13 thoughts on “Post Vacation Project: Engine Control Panel

  1. So I’ve always had my reservations about panels that recess with a lip like that. We have one too. How do you perfectly seal it? Caulk? Butyl Tape? Etc? What did you use here.

    • I know what you mean. And this material is a bit thicker than the old panel so the lip extends out further. Also the old panel has a bit a slope at the bottom to help shed water. The new panel is flat so a little water will collect there.

      For sealing I used a one inch closed cell foam tape. We’ll see how it works. I would not use a caulk because I like the idea of being able to remove the panel to check connections. If the caulk were too tenacious, I could break the panel. I am not totally sold on the tape though and reserve the right to continue tinkering.

  2. oh Yay!! Engine Panel replacement… It looks alot better. It’s funny watching you refit your boat because our friends the Seaflowers are also refitting theirs.

      • I know you have probably discussed this somewhere, but do you have an Atomic Gas engine or Diesel? Seaflower has an atomic that was original with the boat.

        • Dani,

          We have a Westerbeke 4-91 Diesel (27 horsepower). The engine has been one of the most educational parts of owning Moonrise. During the early years I seemed to be challenged daily with some new engine issue. Now things just work and we seem to have come to an understanding. We don’t push her too hard and in return she remains pretty reliable.

  3. We have our engine control panel located just below the companionway and I must say at that angle it is difficult to see the tiny numbers and indicators (of course that has nothing to do with aging eyes!). One thing that we have that I do like is a plexiglass cover that snaps into place just inside the lip. To get at the iginition keyhole there is a little hole with a small round disc that can swing open and closed (parallel with the plexiglass cover). Everything is quite protected with that cover. Good luck with the rest of your refit.
    Right now we are having many bits and pieces done to our boat, Terrwyn (Pacific Seacraft Crealock 37) in New Zealand where it is on the hard. We had all of our wind instruments etc. moved to just above the companionway and we are looking forward to having them so visible.
    Fair winds

    • I like the plexiglass idea as well and am actively cogitating about how I might install such a thing. For a coastal cruiser, this is perhaps not so important, but for ocean work, such protection would be needed.

      Good luck with your instrumentation project. With nicely sized displays, placement on the seahood or on a dedicated arch should give everyone a great view. As our boat is not set up with an autopilot or windvane, we just have a GPS at the helm which prompts continuous calls from the crew for the speed.

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