Monday, April 15, 2013

How to Install a Recessed Trolling Motor Tray on a ZX202C Skeeter for Motorguide/Minn Kota

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Even at 30 and spending limited time(what can I say, I'm lazy) on the front deck, I still get a sore back from standing on the trolling motor in my limited time. Most of the problem is that most trolling motor panels aren't recessed on old boats and it causes the operator to stand at a weird angle that backbones and muscles really don't like. While the Skeeter certainly isn't old, these ergonomic trolling motors are really just now becoming standard equipment on boats. Our old Stratos certainly didn't have one.

We bought one probably 2 years ago, but discovered we would have to cut in to the front livewell if we wanted to install it. That wasn't something we wanted to do, so we shelved the piece.

When the new Skeeter came home, we KNEW it was something we wanted to do. But, both dad and I were a little hesitant to cut in to the deck of a boat we had just bought. But, we got over it....

Here are the tools and equipment we needed and used:
  • PPE (safety goggles, latex gloves, masks)
  • Carpenters Square
  • Tape Measure
  • Masking Tape
  • Exacto Knife
  • Power Sander
  • Dremel
  • Sawzaw
  • Butcher Paper
  • Sharpie
  • Silicone
  • Sprayable expanding insulation foam
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Wood Screws and washers
  • Small machine bolts with lock washers
Here are some basic steps for what we did:
  1. We installed the Pro Pole and seat, moving the tray around until we located where we wanted the pedal. We then used masking tape to note the location front and back
  2. We then used a square to align it properly, then marked this with a Sharpie. As you can see, Griffin decided to help us...and get in the picture
  3. Before we cut the whole hole, we cut a smaller hold in a location that knew would end up being cut regardless of the front to back location. First, we used the exacto knife to remove the carpet. You don't want to catch the carpet with your dremel or sawzaw and rip all the carpet on the deck off. We did this to see if there were anything under there we needed to avoid cutting. We used a Dremel tool to make small precise cuts. ***Don't do what my dad and I did! Wear long sleeves, gloves, and mask! He is wearing safety goggles, at least.***
  5. After we removed this small square, we felt around under the deck to check for wires, beams, and stiffeners. Naturally, Skeeter has fiberglass stiffeners every six inches across the deck. They run from the front bulkhead to just behind this small square. So, if you are squeamish about cutting into structural members....too bad. You are in it now. We were also nervous about it, too. Believe us. Being NASA engineers, we started over thinking the problem. Luckily, boats are not rockets and carry significant amounts of safety margins. Furthermore, the metal tray will carry load too. So, it's not like you are removing all the load bearing structure. Lastly, the stiffeners aren't load bearing for the load on the boat itself. Just the deck. So, don't worry about the end of the boat falling off. Just tell yourself: This has been done on thousands of boats.
  6. After we had an idea of where the stiffeners were, how to avoid them as best as possible, we adjusted the square and marked the large square. ****Remember not to think of the total dimensions based upon the top of the tray because it has a 1 inch lip around the whole tray. You need to cut for the inner mold line.****  We cut the rest of the carpet off and got the sawzaw. The stiffeners you have to remove are over 3 inches tall, so the dremel won't cut it. They are thin fiberglass Pi bonds (whoot for composite manufacture classes!) and are foam filled. Honestly, judging by the relative resin poor structures, they were never meant to carry much load. In fact, I believe the deck is stronger with the metal tray than without it.

  7. Now that the basic hole you need is cut, its time for final fitting. Undoubtedly, your hole isn't exactly square despite your best efforts. That's ok. Just try to err on the size of caution. We noted that several areas weren't straight and rather than go to cutting on them, we pulled out a power belt sander. We knew we needed to use it to smooth it down anyway. So, we sanded down the edges around the square hole. You don't want sharp edges and you do want it straight...for several reasons. We sanded a little, then tried to fit the tray. Then sanded a little more. Eventually, with some elbow grease, the tray dropped in to place.
  8. Now, it's time to mount the pedal to the tray. This tray was a universal design, so, with the help of my wonderful wife, we used butcher paper to map the mounting holes of the pedal. Then we transferred them to the tray. With a drill press, we cut the holes.
  9. We then mounted it using 1" long,  1/4" machine bolts and lock washers. You could also use Lok-Tite...or both. After all, you don't want it to come loose. Ever. Get these tight, but not too tight. The tray may be metal, but the pedal is still plastic and you dont' want to bust off the mounting feet.
  10. Everything look good? Great. Pull it back out. Now comes one of the most critical steps that I don't think anyone would ever tell you to do. Luckily, your good buddy BFZ has a lot of experience with high performance composites at NASA. What's the worst thing you can do to a fiver reinforced polymer composite? Leave exposed fibers bare to the elements....notably, water. Now, this is where sanding will do you a great service. If you didn't sand it, you will be sporting a lot of fiberglass splinters after this. So, sand it good. Alright.
    1. Now, look at the exposed stringers. I bet you will notice that there are gaps in the foam inside of those stringers. Get you some spray insulation foam. Fill in these gaps in the stringers. While we will silicone in the next step, you can't fill these large gaps with silicone. Expanding foam is the key. Get your gloves on.
    2. Get your silicone  tube and rub a very thin layer of silicone around all the exposed fiber glass edges. Don't over do it. Just a very light layer all the way around.
  11. After you let the foam and the silicone dry, drop your tray back down. Get your drill and wood screws. I applied a dab of silicone on the threads of the screws to seal against the fiberglass. I also applied some to the filleted head of the screw that will be resting on the lip of the tray. You don't want it to rust.
  12. Clean up time! And clean good. Not just the carpet, but the gel coat. Don't wipe it. Vacuum it or blow it off first. That fiberglass is just like sandpaper and if you go wiping it, it will scar up your gel coat. Not enough to notice right now...but over time....And lastly, go jump in the shower. Now. You will thank me later.
Well, that's it. Here is our finished project. I hope this helped you!