what the helm?

I could have bought a steering console — official name: helm — from the marina, but had all the materials for building my own. So several knuckle-busters and lots of colorful cup holder circles later, I had a laughable but functional helm for my boat. I had ordered an extra sheet of marine plywood for this purpose and used most of it. And, I’ve had the vinyl for this and other projects for quite some time. So.

I started out on Google Images looking at pictures of pontoon consoles to get even a rudimentary idea of what I wanted. . . At this moment, I was envisioning myself seated behind a square appliance box steering my boat down the Flowage. But I found a drawing with some dimensions so I donned my tool belt, picked up my trusty Porter Cable circular saw and got ‘er going.

Since the 4×8 plywood was still down near the lake and I wasn’t about to be hefting that up Killer Hill, I made my first cuts down there. That reduced the size enough for me to wheelbarrow the remainder up the hill. With rest stops.

My trusty dusty 40-year-old sander with some super-rough sandpaper did the trick of rounding off the rough patches so the plywood wouldn’t eat the upholstery. I also bought a $16 Diablo saw blade specifically for plywood, which was well worth it. No splintering.

After three cuts, I could see something coming together.

I used scrap wood for the inner structure. I know it’s not pretty, but I really didn’t want to run to the lumber yard, plus this wood languishes and needs a purpose in life. Most of it was treated deck boards. Some was questionable, but solid.

My idea is to have a door on the front with hinges on the bottom so it swings open for access to the inside (and maybe some storage). The top will be removable. The front diagonal will hold the steering wheel. I added boards so I could screw this piece on from the inside so no screw heads would show.

Now to beautify it

First I put on its underwear.

Found low-loft batting in my stash. This will prevent the corners from wearing through the vinyl.

I want the boat’s color scheme to be green, but since vinyl doesn’t come in the color I want, I decided navy blue would be the next best thing. I also wanted some color variance in the console — hopefully I’ll be able to continue this throughout the boat’s cushions and paint, but we’ll see. True kelly green is a rare color indeed.

Several years ago, I made patio furniture covers out of some vinyl that I’d gotten who-knows-where. It’s not exactly kelly green, but it’s not lime (yecchhh), so I Frankinsteined a strip of it from the bottom of the patio cover.

And made a green stripe in the middle of the console.

Along with a white stripe. I had a roll of white in my stash.I put some iron-on batting on the back of the green, since it didn’t have a backing at all and I was afraid it would rip. Although I guess it’s spent the last four winters outside, so what me worry.

I rolled that rascal around the cabin for a while stretching and stapling . . . until I got this.

Then began my hourly trips to the hardware store. I wanted to mount the diagonal steering wheel board from the back so as not to have visible screw heads, but also not to have little leaks and therefore mold inside the vinyl. I’ve seen that already. It’s a rerun.

2-1/4″ screws were too short. 3-1/2″ were too long. Countersinking wasn’t working. Adding washers for depth didn’t cut it. So I ran to the hardware store — twice — to Goldilocks the Just Right screws for this so they didn’t pop through the top, but buried themselves cozily into the front plywood. The steering wheel will be mounted here and it has to be solid.

I am now the proud owner of every single size of deck screw known to the modern world.

On one of my HS trips, I picked up a box of these little dudes

and spent copious hours lining them up so the top of the console snaps on and off. My plan is to build a little shelf inside for storage. This will need to coordinate with the steering cables and other wiring, so I’ll do that at a later date.

Then I made cup holder holes. You can see my crop circles here because I can’t absorb the concept of flipping over a board and having the opposite side facing me. This is a flaw in my synapses, I’m sure. Having ordered two cup holders from Amazon, I drilled a hole with a spade blade and used the jigsaw to cut 3-3/4″ holes per the cup holder description on Amazon. I used an Ikea flower pot to trace the holes. I’ll cut the fabric when I clap eyes on those cup holders just to be sure they’re the right size. Good old fabric has the ability to cover so many flaws. Paint has that attribute as well.

After scrunching and pushing, I managed to get the whole helm sticking out of the trunk of my car, secured with bungee cords and delivered it to Shell Lake Marine. Tom unloaded it onto my pontoon. Of course I failed to take a picture because I suspect he’s ready to call the loony bin for me and my construction antics. I just didn’t want to prolong my stay.

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