Conversion to all-digital helm on a 2007 370

LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 6,564 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited June 2017 in Rinker Custom Projects
Over the past couple years, I have upgraded my 2007 Rinker 370 to a fully digital dash with autopilot, engine monitor, broadband radar, two radios and other goodies.  For people considering similar projects, this detailed post might provide some ideas.  I'm pretty sure some readers will think "this guy has completely lost his mind!"



First off, why upgrade?  Well, I am a confirmed gadget freak who loves customizing his boat.  I don't need much of a reason, but I had several.  I was never happy with the 2-kW radar, which struggled to pick up small targets such as crab pot markers.  An autopilot is a must-have for me, as I've said many times on this forum.  Also, I wanted a modern engine management system for "situational awareness" at a deeper level than the analog gauges could provide.  

So: autopilot, radar, and an aircraft-grade digital dash.  Easy, right?  Actually, this was a major undertaking.  I think I spent two years dreaming and planning.  After finishing half of it, I took a long break to spread out the costs over a couple years.  And now, finally, here we are!  

I'll start with the upper panel, which has a Raymarine es97 chartplotter and a VesselView 702 engine monitor.  Both have touchscreen plus buttons, because I want buttons for when I'm cruising in bumpy water.  All of the analog gauges are gone, gone, gone.  



To the left of the chartplotter is a Blue Sea Systems battery monitor.  I installed new TPPL house batteries, a new battery charger, and the battery monitor.  The monitor shows the status of the house bank and both starters.  You can read details about that project here:


Obviously, I wasn't able to re-use the original plastic woodgrain helm panel.  I bought a piece of 1/2"-thick Starboard marine lumber, screwed the old panel to the Starboard, and used it as a template to mark the outline with a scribe.  I did a rough cut-to-size using a power jigsaw, and used a straight bit on a router to hand-trim the excess.  After sanding the edges smooth with 80-grit paper on a random orbital sander, I rounded the edges with a 1/4" roundoff bit on the router.  Working with Starboard is super-easy.  

Just in front of the main panel, I have two MercMonitor engine monitors that were there when I bought the boat.  They are SmartCraft engine monitors that can show most of the same data as the VesselView.  They are primitive by comparison, but I kept them for redundancy.  

The lower panel has the original depth gauge, the bow thruster control, the searchlight control, and a voltage gauge showing voltage at the helm.  The thruster control and searchlight control were originally in the left panel, but I relocated them when I installed the autopilot.  I had to reinforce the plastic panel with a backing plate of 1/4" Starboard before drilling the new openings.  



In the left panel, I have an i70 data display, an r70 autopilot controller and an iCOM M604A VHF radio.  I use the i70 to display data such as depth, sea temperature and (coming soon) generator data.  

I chose the M604A VHF because I wanted a keypad so it's easy to switch to a working channel.  The M604A is one of the best radios out there, and the sound quality is fantastic.  I wanted it positioned at the left so it's easy to reach when I'm not seated at the helm.  The radio has a mic connector on the front, but because it's next to the stairs, I relocated the mic cable next to the steering wheel where it's less vulnerable to damage.




I kept the original VHF, so I have two independent VHF radios that each have their own antenna and GPS.  Both have always-on power for the radio and GPS, so in an emergency, there's no guesswork and no waiting for the GPS to boot up.  I also mounted two small external speakers for the two radios.  Redundancy is a good thing. 




Up on the hardtop, I have the radar, two VHF antennas, two GPS receivers for the radios, and a hailer.  The radar is a Raymarine Quantum 24C, which is their relatively new broadband (chirp) radar.  I opted for that rather than a conventional pulsed radar because it's better for seeing small, close targets.  (I often cruise at night, and I need to see crab pots and small markers.)  I don't have a lot of stick time with it yet, but it seems to perform well.    




Behind the scenes is the Raymarine Evo autopilot with ACU-200 control unit, EV1 heading sensor, M81105 rudder sensor and Octopus linear drive.  This was the first component I installed a year and a half ago, and it has been absolutely wonderful.  Details on that project can be found in a previous post:




To go all-digital, I needed to bring fuel tank levels into the system.  This change was easy on my Merc 496 engines.  On each engine, I installed a Mercury 84-859743T03 fuel/paddle wheel harness ($60 per engine).  It connects to a plug on top of the engine, and has a wire that runs to the fuel tank.  All I had to do was cut the original wire from the sender and connect the new wire.  The harness includes a wire for a second tank, so I'm planning to add level sensors for fresh water and the holding tank.  (Note - some engines use the 84-864218 harness, which has a 3-pin connector instead of the 6-pin connector.)

I also needed digital outdrive trim.  To do that required replacing the senders with digital versions.  It's an out-of-the-water job.  The Merc part number is 8M0095310 ($100 per engine).

That pretty much sums it up!  
Post edited by LaRea on
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Comments

  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 6,564 ✭✭✭✭✭
    One last thought: you might be wondering how much I spent on this project.  

    I bought top-of-the-line stuff, and I paid retail, so you can do that math if you want.  But I did not pay one cent for labor.  I did every bit of the work myself.  That's the only way I could afford such an extravagant luxury.  A pro installer probably would have charged me $20K or more, which is why setups like this are usually found only on much larger boats.  

    More importantly, I enjoyed the journey from start to finish, and now I know my boat at an entirely new level.  I'm really loving it now that all of the hard work is done.  Until my next project ...
  • BellevilleMXZBellevilleMXZ Ontario,CanadaMember Posts: 732 ✭✭✭
    Beautiful job!! I'm a gadget geek to, so know where you are coming from. I haven't done much to my 270, as really its a small boat, and hope at some point to go bigger. LOVE projects like this.
    2005 Rinker 270 FV Volvo Penta 5.7Gi
  • BellevilleMXZBellevilleMXZ Ontario,CanadaMember Posts: 732 ✭✭✭
    I would rather do this too, than buy a much newer boat.....this way can get exactly what u want.
    2005 Rinker 270 FV Volvo Penta 5.7Gi
  • davidbrooksdavidbrooks GermantownMember Posts: 1,128 ✭✭✭✭
    Awesome. I like your style.
    It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere!
  • jbschmalz23jbschmalz23 Parkersburg, WVMember Posts: 219 ✭✭✭
    Looks awesome! The technology is amazing!  I got the opportunity to check some of it out at the Miami boat show this year. Looks like you're about as up to date on technology as you can get! It all looks great! Nice work!
  • Cableguy GregCableguy Greg Pittsburgh, PAMember Posts: 4,747 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Looks great!!! I hear you loud and clear on wanting more information from the engines. I have the VVMobile unit and now that I can see what information it provides, I am hungry for more. I would love to get rid of my tach and replace it with VV4 or VV502. Unfortunately it's not in the budget right now. All I can do is drool all over the keyboard looking at your amazing setup.
    2008 280 Express Cruiser, 6.2MPI, B3, Pittsburgh, PA "Blue Ayes"
    Go Steelers!!!
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 6,564 ✭✭✭✭✭
    @Cableguy Greg - sounds like you are in the "dreaming and planning" phase of your project.  That's part of the fun!

  • Handymans342Handymans342 Oakland MDMember Posts: 10,114 ✭✭✭✭✭
  • Dream_InnDream_Inn Annapolis, MDMember, Moderator Posts: 6,896 mod
    @LaRea - Great job!  Love seeing the details and pictures in this post!  I'm sure it will help others get to their dream as well.  I need to take the time one of these days and just add the fuel connection on my vesselview.  It sounds simple and I'm quite handy.

    Dream 'Inn III -- 2008 400 Express

  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 6,564 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2017
    A pointer for anybody using Starboard to build a custom helm panel:  When you drill screw holes in the Starboard to attach it to the fiberglass, the hole should be the same diameter as the screw, or slightly larger.  You want it big enough that the screw can spin freely in the hole.

    If you accidentally break off a screw, you want to be able to pull the Starboard off without it getting stuck on the broken screw.  
  • califcocalifco MIMember Posts: 59 ✭✭
    Nice job, how many manhours invested in the two year project?
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 6,564 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The number of hours spent happily "messing about in boats" was ... a lot.  Ridiculous.  Overkill, like everything else on this project.  

    It was probably 15-20 days of labor just for installation.  And that does not include time spent on system design, non-recurring engineering, shopping and other stuff.  A pro wouldn't take that long, but I had more fun than a pro would have.    
  • califcocalifco MIMember Posts: 59 ✭✭
    Time well invested, it looks great and the functionality added makes your boating experience more pleasant.
  • YYZRCYYZRC Georgian BayMember Posts: 2,916 ✭✭✭✭
    I love what you've done!!  While I would love to mimic everything, I would really like to upgrade to DTS - I have the Merc 350s with Bravo 3.  How hard was that aspect of the conversion?
    2008 350 EC on Georgian Bay
  • Black_DiamondBlack_Diamond Holland, MichiganMember Posts: 5,305 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Putting in. VV-903 on my 342 this week. No
    more gauges!

    Past owner of a 2003 342FV
    PC BYC, Holland, MI
  • StodgeStodge Lake St. ClairMember Posts: 2,738 ✭✭✭✭
    Putting in. VV-903 on my 342 this week. No
    more gauges!
    I "STILL" have to put the fuel tank interface on mine otherwise I would not have any analog gauges.

    2002 FV 342 on Lake St. Clair - Past Commodore SHC - Vessel Examiner USCGAUX

  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 6,564 ✭✭✭✭✭
    @YYZRC a conversion to DTS can be done, but Merc doesn't publish DIY info.  Your biggest challenge will be figuring out what you need.  Best bet, call Merc and ask to speak to a tech.  Web research will leave you frustrated.  

    DTS is a fantastic option.  It really transforms the feel of the boat for the operator.  
  • YYZRCYYZRC Georgian BayMember Posts: 2,916 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November 2019
    LaRea said:

    To go all-digital, I needed to bring fuel tank levels into the system.  This change was easy on my Merc 496 engines.  On each engine, I installed a Mercury 84-859743T03 fuel/paddle wheel harness ($60 per engine).  It connects to a plug on top of the engine, and has a wire that runs to the fuel tank.  All I had to do was cut the original wire from the sender and connect the new wire.  The harness includes a wire for a second tank, so I'm planning to add level sensors for fresh water and the holding tank.
    You mentioned that you installed the fuel/paddle harness on each engine - is that necessary, or can one harness be used (and attached to the Starboard engine) to provide both port and starboard fuel tank readings?

    I installed one harness but couldn't get readings from either tank.  The instructions with the harness were quite explicit about running the ground wire direct to the battery, which I didn't have time to do, so that could be the problem.

    Thanks!
    2008 350 EC on Georgian Bay
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 6,564 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I guess you could use them both for fuel tanks, but then VesselView wouldn't know the second one was fuel.  You wouldn't be able to use some of the fuel management features, and the display would say "water" instead of "fuel."  

    On not running a wire to the battery:  it might affect accuracy, but the sensor should work.  Maybe something else is wrong.  
  • YYZRCYYZRC Georgian BayMember Posts: 2,916 ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    LaRea said:
    I guess you could use them both for fuel tanks, but then VesselView wouldn't know the second one was fuel.  You wouldn't be able to use some of the fuel management features, and the display would say "water" instead of "fuel."  
    I discovered that there is no pin in the engine harness on my starboard engine to support a second tank. So two harnesses for fuel are needed as you indicated. I now have both fuel senders working. 
    2008 350 EC on Georgian Bay
  • YYZRCYYZRC Georgian BayMember Posts: 2,916 ✭✭✭✭
    LaRea said:
    @YYZRC a conversion to DTS can be done, but Merc doesn't publish DIY info.  Your biggest challenge will be figuring out what you need.  Best bet, call Merc and ask to speak to a tech.  Web research will leave you frustrated.  

    DTS is a fantastic option.  It really transforms the feel of the boat for the operator.  
    Did you have to replace the ECMs? I know that the control and throttle bodies are necessary at a minimum but trying to get an idea how much more. 
    2008 350 EC on Georgian Bay
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 6,564 ✭✭✭✭✭
    My boat was born with DTS.  I'm not sure if you'd have to change the ECMs, but it would not surprise me.  I've always figured it would be easier to change boats than convert to DTS.  
  • YYZRCYYZRC Georgian BayMember Posts: 2,916 ✭✭✭✭
    My bad, I thought you did the DTS conversion as well. I think you might be right - next boat for sure!
    2008 350 EC on Georgian Bay
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 6,564 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited April 2021
    Since last summer, I've made a few tweaks to this system.

    I rerouted the 12V power feed for the VesselView 702 display.  The normal installation grabs power from the SmartCraft junction box.  Every time I cranked the starter motor, it rebooted the display.  Now the display is powered from the helm electronics circuit, so it turns on with the MFD instead of with the engines.  

    I also took out the MercMonitors and replaced them with Raymarine i70 displays in a custom panel with a phone charger-mount in the center.  This mod involved removing the compass and installing a dash-mount at the right side.  It's a work in progress:  the i70 displays are hard to read from that angle, so I need to tilt them down more.

    Also installed a fishfinder transducer that plugs into the MFD's built-in sonar processor.

    Oh, and I relocated the horn switch to a more prominent position (the red rocker switch).


    Post edited by LaRea on
  • YYZRCYYZRC Georgian BayMember Posts: 2,916 ✭✭✭✭
    @LaRea you've got a screw loose.
    2008 350 EC on Georgian Bay
  • DanD2DanD2 Member Posts: 836 ✭✭✭
    YYZRC said:
    @LaRea you've got a screw loose.
    That should be plural........."Screws".... :smiley:
    No longer a boat owner.....previous boat - 2005 Rinker Fiesta Vee 342
  • aero3113aero3113 Long Island, NYMember Posts: 7,436 ✭✭✭✭✭
    @YYZRC and @DanD2 I actually do see loose and missing screws in the picture! LoL 😂 
    2008 330EC
  • YYZRCYYZRC Georgian BayMember Posts: 2,916 ✭✭✭✭
    This is just @LaRea confirming what we've all long suspected.
    2008 350 EC on Georgian Bay
  • Aqua_AuraAqua_Aura Lower Columbia River, WashingtonMember Posts: 2,152 ✭✭✭✭
    Your last picture gives me the idea to move my compass as well. They gave that compass way too much real estate especially on the 280
    2007 280 EC Volvo 8.1 Gi-H
  • oscar1oscar1 Miami FLMember Posts: 318 ✭✭✭
    I love your set up. But i Am wonder do you install the two hardtop hatch or it is a factory made it
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