Small Projects

This page is dedicated to small projects - those that don't necessarily justify its own page. Each project on this page are simple, cost less than $100, and should not take more than an hour to complete. If you are not too sure about doing projects on your boat, these projects might be a good starting point to help you get your feet wet. So, get your hammer out and start modifying your boat!

Upgraded Steering Wheel


This is one of those projects that really doesn't need to be done - but it is something that if you do it, the boat becomes customized to your personality.
The steering wheel is a Grant model 404, with a Grant marine adapter. I purchased these items from Lane Automotive - a local high performance shop. They do a lot of mail order, and you can look them up at The total cost of these items was around $90, so it just came in under the one hundred dollar mark.
To complete the project, you will need a steering wheel puller. You can purchase an inexpensive one for under $20 from one of those discount automotive stores. I found that the bolts holding the old wheel were metric, so I had to purchase some 6mm x 2in bolts for the wheel puller as well.
The center button is actually a horn button - if used in automotive applications. For the marine application, the button simply clips to the hub. it seems to be sunk in a bit, and I have not decided whether or not to replace it with something else. To set the project off, I removed the Four Winns logo from the old wheel, and with a fresh application of 3M VHB (Very High Bond) double-sided tape, I applied it to the new wheel.



After taking a couple of painting classes in college, I learned that to make things blend in, you need to make the items complement each other. In other words, the wood on the steering wheel blends with the dash, and the black spokes match the black instruments. This cross-linking ties the look of the wheel into the surrounding dash, and you'll have to agree - it really looks like it belongs - even more than the original wheel.
As incredible as it seems, the new wheel is actually slightly smaller in diameter than the old wheel. Although the original wheel's photo is a bit older, and does not show the stereo remote I installed, the new wheel seems to allow more visibility of the remote unit.
I like it!

Upgraded Hitch Pins

These hitch pins were purchased from Overtons, and they are positive locking mechanisms. Unfortunately, they only make one length, and I really need two lengths. However, wherever I can use them, I have. The basic idea is the end of the hitch pin is a toggle, and with the spring, keeps the pins from coming out. Last year, one of the stock hitch pins fell out during a wind storm and the bimini top gouged the side of the boat. These pins prevent this from happening. The pins cost about $4.00 each, and comes in far less than the hundred dollar limit.

Porthole Holder

Here is something that only costs $5, which is cheap by marine standards. The button works with Beckson portholes. It is Beckson part number PC-A, and available from West Marine for $5 (although I bought mine directly from Beckson for less than $4). The button is made of bendable vinyl, and simply holds the porthole lens open. That distortion of the button you see in the bottom photo is the button in action. When the porthole is closed, the button returns to the shape shown in the top photo.

Canvas Snaps

This mini-project fixes one of those many little problems. On my boat, the ising glass fastens across the top with a hook-and-loop (velcro) strip. This is inadequate. Anytime a strong wind comes up, the hook-and-loop comes undone, and the ising glass acts like a funnel to let wind and rain in. To fix this problem, I simply added three snaps across the top of the ising glass panel along the velcro seam. Problem solved.


OK, so this is not a big project. However, it can sometimes be hard to find the right part. West marine makes this nifty flag pole with a cast aluminum cam-shell mount that works on almost any rail. Unfortunately, the nylon insert did not fit my rail size, so I had to customize it by making my own insert out of a piece of foam padding.

Overhead Cockpit Light

Here is an el cheapo idea. This is a Coleman "tent light" Model 830-250 which is designed to attach via a magnet to a steel plate placed on the opposide side of the tent. I simply placed the steel plate inside of the zippered bimini bow channel. It is battery operated, and while it has a xenon bult, it isn't really bright, but it does provide some lighting. For a cost of under $10, its an inexpensive improvement. You can find these the camping section of most department stores.
I don't leave this light attached when under way - it is simply used at the dock. It takes about 10 seconds to remove the light, unzip the channel, and remove the steel plate. The plate has rounded corners and the ends are covered with a vinyl boot so it should notg damage the canvas.

Dock Box Lettering

While the dock box itself doesn't qualify for an under $100 project, the lettering of the dock box does. While it's no biggie project, it does add that nice touch to make it complete. Now, all of the fiberglass on my dock has my boat's name on it.
If you have never applied vinyl, here is a trick. The vinyl name usually comes with a peel off on both the front and back. The peel off on the front is somewhat like a piece of masking tape. You leave both pieces on, then align the graphic the way you want it to be. Then, put a piece of tape across the top of the front peel off. This then becomes a hinge. I also like to cut large lettering jobs into 2 or 3 pieces.
After the piece is aligned and "hinged", get a squirt bottle and put one or two drops of Joy liquid detergent with water in the bottle, and wet down the area to be applied. Obviously, to wet the area down, you have to lift up on the vinyl graphic - which is what the hinges are for. Be careful here, because some backing paper that comes with some vinyl graphics is not water proof, and if let to soak in, will ruin the vinyl (the backing will come off on the vinyl).
Next, remove the backing of the vinyl, and slowly from the top, lay the vinyl down on the fiberglass, using a squeegie to get all of the bubbles out. If you do not use water, the vinyl will instantly stick. If you use water, you have some leeway in moving the graphic around (a little bit). The only problem is you have to let the the front "backing" piece set awhile before removing it - or the vinyl may come off with it.
After the water has evaporated, peel off the front "backing" and you are done.

Fix Rear Berth Curtain

This is something that needs fixed. The curtain track in the rear berth is about the cheapest installation I have ever seen. I did not get the best angle on the photo, but the plastic track is all wavy. We also broke it at least once, since the curtain at the head end gets pulled on, and the track broke where it was screwed into the ceiling.
The solution - Purchase a new curtain track (Four Winns Part Number 033-0535), inlay it into a fine piece of 3/4in cherry, high gloss finish, and put back into place. Total cost -about $15.

Brighten up Bright-Work

If you were not aware of it, the term "brightwork" as it applys to boats refers to wood finishes. To me, brightwork should indicate the wood should shine. When you look at the first photo, this is how the factory did the job, with maybe one or two coats of varnish. I sanded down the trim piece, and added 3 more coats of Minwax Polyurethane finish. Now it looks like brightwork!

Install Fiddle in the Head

Here is a nautical term not everyone is aware of - a Fiddle. A fiddle is a device that keeps stuff from falling off a shelf due to the rolling and pitching of a vessel. The idea for this fiddle came from my wife (although she did not know what it was called). She likes putting toiletries in the rear corner of the sink in the head, but when we come back from an outing, the stuff always seems to fall on the floor.
This fiddle is made of left over Corian from other projects I have done. I cut out a fancy shape, then finished and polished it as I have done on the other projects. I located the aluminum standoffs from Home Depot, then using Jeweler's Rouge and a buffing wheel, polished them to a high shine. I also found some chrome hole snaps that cover the screw holes. Another low cost project that really makes the boat much more classy.

Hanging Locker Trim

With all of the Cherry projects I have done on the boat, I have some leftover scrap. Here is a neat idea to use up some of that scrap. It is simply a Cherry top trim piece for the hanging locker. I simply cut a piece to fit, milled in a slot, and finished the piece. The piece came out so perfect that it simply fits in on the top of the cabinet and is held by friction. No need to glue it or anything.

Shorepower Adapter Cable


Electrical work should only be accomplished by qualified persons. If you are not qualified to work on electrical equipment, refer to a certified marine electrician.


Sooner or later, you may have to figure out how to power your boat's 30 Amp shorepower system from a standard 15Amp or 20Amp outlet. This might be while the boat is in storage, "on the hard", or some other location away from the marina. Wouldn't it be nice to plug the boat's shorepower cable into the outlet in your garage so you can work on it during the off season? Well you can with this adapter cable.

The limitation to using this adapter is that you will only be able to supply either 15Amp or 20Amp service to the boat. But this is just a temporary hook up anyway, so you really don't need to run the air-conditioner, do you?

As long as you use 12AWG cable and the connectors as specified, this adapter should handle 20 Amperes without any problems. Even though the boat shorepower system and shorepower cable is rated at 30Amp, assuming you are connecting to a 15Amp or 20Amp outlet, you will not be exceeding the current capacity of the adapter cable.

Another Warning

Please note that some connectors are not MARINE RATED. The so-called Industrial grade connectors may not have the plating on them to withstand outside use, and may corrode. Therefore, if you are using these connectors, this adapter should only be used in controlled conditions, such as inside storage.

One way to tell if the connector is an industrial grade is by its color. Typically the black body connectors, as shown in the photo are industrial types, typically found at the home-improvement stores. I only use this cord to charge the batteries while the boat is being prepaired for summer launch - before it goes in the water.

Zipper Pull Tabs

This is a project anyone can do. It doesn't take a whole lot of time, very inexpensive, and adds that little extra to your boat. You can purchase these zipper pull tabs from a company called Sailrite Enterprises (, route the nylon cord, then snap the covers in place. The part number for these tabs is 99546, and they only cost a few pennies each. I put them on every zipper on my camper canvas.

Maintaining your Sacrifical Anodes

This is not so much a project but a maintenance item. On the ohter hand, whats the difference? A sacrifical anode can only do its job if it is in good shape. The first anode you see here has been neglected to the point that it may no longer be effective. For the anodes to protect your drive, it must not be painted or have a build-up of gunk on its surface.
A quick sanding job with a NON-METALLIC wire wheel will restore the anodes to their full protective potential. A non-metallic brush is required so that metal particles from the brush do not end up embedded in the anode. I use a WolfCraft Nylon Wheel.

Even in fresh water, if the boat sits in a slip all summer, and especially if the water it sets in is polluted, or the boat is connected to shorepower, the potential for corrosion raises. So its a good idea to check your anodes every time you haul your boat.


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