Friday, April 1, 2011

Lighting up the trailer.

Tail lights for the trailer.
A new boat will always have a few things that need to be altered or added to make it ones own, and there can be much quiet pleasure in doing that. With a boat that comes home on its trailer that puttering around with tools brings the pleasure home into the backyard thus extending the involvement with boating and the water into time that should really be spent mowing the lawn or whatever.  It’s a much more pleasant way to spend an afternoon.  Agreed?
However, boats on trailers also have trailers to customize, and while I’m not as enthusiastic about that prospect it has to be done.  When I got this wee boat of mine  she had a piece of white plastic square section tube, all wired up and looking nice, but it had no way of properly mounting it on the after end of the boat, it bounced around chewing up the varnished coamings and toe rails and, to be honest was not that secure when under way on the road.
In the end it dropped off and destroyed one of the lights which meant that doing something about it came abruptly to the top of the “to do” list which was feeling good about having reduced to  about 2 pages long.
So,  with bottom lip out, I dragged a piece of 20 x 90 ( ¾ in x 3 ½ in about ) pine out of the rack and cut it to the same “beam” as the trailer across the mudguards.  Went down to Super Cheap Autos (the Wal Mart of the Australian and New Zealand motor parts world, you can have cheap or good quality, one guess what they have!) and bought a pair of tail lights with tail, indicator and stop lights plus a clear window for the tail light to illuminate the number plate.
The cable and plug from the old system was ok, I checked all the wires for continuity using a 12 volt battery charger and a spare bulb from one of the discarded lights as a test rig to ensure that although it had the dreaded black corrosion on what should have been bright copper wire at one end, it would work.  I had plenty to spare so cut it back to the bright stuff at both ends and after tinning the ends with solder coated the ends of the insulation with silicon to try and avoid that in the future. While it wont ( hopefully) be coming into contact with salt water it will be out in the weather so some care was warranted.
Now, the real problem here was how to mount said lights on the back of the boat, and while the boat itself does not present much in the way of opportunity the outboard motor bracket is just right.  Right height, aft of the transom, nothing to obstruct it and clear of the boat at the sides so the forward facing clearance lights would be easily visible.
I’d recently changed the woodwork on the bracket, it had been such that the power head of the outboard motor had not sufficient clearance from the transom to allow it to be easily operated so I’d made a new wooden pad that moved the motor out 20mm and up 50mm which made life very much easier when using the little 3 hp longshaft Tohatsu.  ( I’ll tell you about that motor another time, I’m quietly reasonably impressed with it.)  That meant that the top edge of the motor pad formed a 180mm wide, 36mm thick tongue sticking up 120mm from the metal part of the rise and fall bracket.
I made a couple of pads, just a couple of mm thicker than the “tongue”, each pad the depth of the  light board and about 80mm long, then screwed a section of the same 20 x 90 across to form a socket into which the “tongue” fit reasonably neatly.  I didn’t want to fight with it to get it on or off, but I didn’t want it too sloppy either and it took a couple of dry assembly runs to get it right.
Glue and screw, screws overlapping where they went through the spacer pads and the two main pieces so it cant split off, added a piece of plywood as a number plate mount and painted it with white housepaint.
Mounted the lights and wired it up.  Electricity was invented just to annoy me, did you realize that?  Other people have no trouble at all, but me?  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr! 
But I got it done, all ends tinned, all insulation silicone at the end of the shielding, all wiring properly secured and with some slight faffing around SURPRISE ! It all worked!  !  Drawing a circuit diagram before I started and being very careful with the many colours in the wires must have paid off.

The outboard bracket, yes I should have reorientated the pic before I put it in here, but you can see how it works.



The 20 x 90 light bar with the bracket ready to trial fit . Thats scrap plywood left over from a house project, you use what you've got.



Same again with the orientation of the pic, sorry. But thats the lightboard all mounted up, shock cord stabilising cord visible at the far end, I tried to secure the wiring with hot melt glue but it doesnt want to stick and I ended up with stainless steel cable clips.



The finished result, looks good, nice and tidy, easy to mount and dis, highly visible and about 3 hours work in total.

I added some reflectors so it will be more easily seen by following cars, stabilized the rig with a couple of shock cords through the fairleads on the stern quarters to the mooring cleats, run the cable to the car along the side decks inside the sheet and stay points and out through the bow fairleads, through the trailer winch post and thence to the car, all nice and secure but will only take a couple of minutes to rig.
 Should I wish to use the trailer without the boat, the lightbar will simply be strapped across the back of the trailer frame with the shockcords, and when left in the car park while I sail off into the sunset will fit comfortably into the car, cable and all.
Tick. One less job on that %(*^%#  list.
Good, now to go sailing.
John Welsford


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