Drilling into my pilothouse...

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Well-known member
Feb 17, 2006
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Normandy Beach, NJ
I will want to drill into my pilothouse to fasten a buoy-bracket, much like Dale's. The inside of my pilothouse is grey tweed carpeting. Any ideas how to go about doing this? Perhaps a step by step on what tools, bits, hardware, etc? Man this makes me nervous, but after doing it the first time I will be better about it.
Sal: I first make an "X" cut with a sharp razor in the spot I plan on drilling. This opens up the carpet so it doesn't get caught on the drill bit.

Good Luck.

John :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

What are you going to hold? The reason I ask this is that you could drill through just the frp and not have the drill or fastener go through the carpeting. But ... this method would be limited by the weight of the object you're going to hold AND the forces from the seas the object will be subject to. Some tips ...

Drilling fiberglass or "frp", fiberglass reinforced plastic:
1) It is always advisable to "step up" in drill size when drilling holes > 1/8" and always use a variable speed drill.

2) After you chuck up the drill you're going to use, put the drill into REVERSE and slowly wear a slight dish into the glass where the drill will go through. Remember, gelcoat is 3-10X more brittle than frp and it tends to fracture or chip if you dig right in and the cutting edge of the drill grabs the material.

3) Once you've dished out a dent in the glass roughly equal to the drill diameter, switch back to Forward and drill through. Always back off your pressure here and there to allow the drill bit to clear itself of chips.

4) What I do and recommend, is now go in with a countersink and make a c'sink just over the diameter of the hole I am going to end up with. Makes all subsequent drilling go fast and you'll never have a chipping problem.

5) If in an area you really don't want to chance screwing up ... you could apply 3M blue tape over the glass first.

Self-Tapping Screws:
You could use these to drill through the bulkhead but NOT have the point of the screw extend through or into the carpet. A few CRITICAL points here though ...

1) If you do it this way - drill size of the hole is very important. You must go through with a drill where the drill diameter is a hair larger than the BODY size of the screw ... not > then that threaded part or teeth part, but the body size. If you were to hold a size 10 screw up to the light away from you, you would see that the body looks to be < 1/8" in diameter, but around the teeth part, it's probably 3/16" to almost 1/4". If you attempt to put a self-tapping screw into a too small hole ... it WILL break off! Yeah, I've done it and yes, I've removed the broken stub with a dremel tool and yes, it was a mess and I needed to re-gelocat the surrounding area.

2) Now, take your screw and cut it down so that it's overall length would allow it to go through the item it will hold and the thickness of the bulkhead and maybe another 1/16" or more for good measure. Better too long, you can always cut it down ... "removal" tools work much better than "add on" tools for metal working, hehe.

3) Put some candle wax onto the threads as a lubricant. Slowly attempt to drive the screw in. If it binds, step up one size in a the drill, or use a Dremel tool and small cutter to ever so slightly expand the hole without cutting into the carpet.

4) Once I'm sure I have the right size hole and my screw length is right, I make sure the screw has lube on it, I use a good screwdriver with a good (non-worn!) tip, I lean into it and I start installing it. I use the technique like tapping metal, go in 1/2-turn or more, then back off a touch, and then another 1/2-turn and repeat.

5) Note, no self-tapping screw will ever hold the amount of weight or bear the same amount of force that a through bolt will withstand. But, they can be a cosmetically superior alternative in the right application.

Through Bolt:
Drill through the glass like 1st part above. Getting through your carpet can be tricky.

1) No real tricks but try not to use the drill. It will grab the threads and it could twist it or create a thread pull ... and then you'll have a permanent scar. I had best results on the "fake fur" interior that my old Pro-Line had by using an icepick and making a small hole and then gradually forcing it larger.

2) An exacto knife can also be used to cut a hole.

3) When tightening the nut, make sure that the washer or item being held doesn't rotate, as that action too could cause a ripple in the carpet.

4) What I do on nylok nuts, the self-locking ones with the little clear/white ring on the top (that's all you should ever use on a boat) is simply "snap" off the extra thread by using an intentionally too-long bolt and then grabbing the excess with vice grips, and then giving it 2-3 good quick rocking twists to snap off the excess. Do it quick and fast so that you only impart force to the exposed threads and not to the bolt going through the glass. If still sharp, I just dress the top of the nut with a file.

Whew ... that's me, that's how I do it, but I am sure there are other methods and tips out there. Sal, don't worry about drilling into the boat, you have other worries as a new Parker owner to worry about ... like hitting the dock too hard ;) !
Not sure if it would work with the carpeting, but folks who drill through t-top fabric 'melt' it with a soldering iron or hot knife before drilling.
Doing something similar to the carpet before drilling might work.

BTW - I found out the hard way that just drilling through the carpet ends up with a big pull and a ball of fabric on the drill bit.

Don't ask me how I know... :cry:

I have a related question...

I have an emergency equipment bag that holds all of my pyrotechnics, and related safety items. The bag came with a velcro mount that would allow me to 'hang' the bag on the inside of the pilothouse wall, but I haven't done so yet because I'm not sure how thick the glass is on the Parker pilothouses. (mine has the carpeted walls)

Here is the bag...


I'd hate to drill my pilot hole to attach my mount, only to find I've drilled right through to the outside. :shock:

Does anybody know how think the side walls are?

I will be holding an orange buoy type IV , just like the one you have attached to the exterior rear pilothouse wall on the Lady Catherine. What did you do exactly?
Megabyte":3lem3ph4 said:
Does anybody know how think the side walls are?

The sidewalls on my '92 are 1/4" thick. Too bad you can't do this ... as I put the same model "ditch" bag on the inside of the door - it fits! In this way, if when running and the door is open, the bag is already in the cockpit. If running with the door closed, it's in there ... where I am.

With the open back Parker (hence no door!), you'll have no chance to do like I did. Regarding mounting on the side wall, without drilling through (I think a thru-bolt would look lousy on the side cabin outside), if you have carpet, maybe you could make a large "spike" thingy that grabs the carpet and hold the mount, or consider sewing and/or glueing the velcro mount to the carpet. I'd use gorila glue and if sewing, I'd use a suture (curved) needle with heavy or waxed linen thread.

If no carpet, 5200 or epoxy a mount to the inside side wall.

ParkerSal":3lem3ph4 said:
... will be holding an orange buoy .. what did you do exactly?

I don't have carpet, so I just used a thru bolt, just one sized #10 I believe.
DaleH":1qn3caav said:
The sidewalls on my '92 are 1/4" thick...

Thanks Dale. Guess I'll have to come up with another idea. :(
I'll take a fresh look at it this spring, and if I come up with something useful, I'll post it in a project thread.
Instead of drilling through the PH sides (or back), you might consider making a 1/2" - 5/8" panel of wood, sized for the area you are working on. Then remove the 'carpet' for the exact panel size using an exacto knife, prepare the exposed glass (clean and roughen) and 'glue' the panel to the exposed/prepared fiberglass. I have used epoxy for a permanent attachment and have used silicone (aquarium sealer) for less permanent applications. Now you can attach whatever, to the wood instead of through the boat. If you make the panel larger than needed, you'll have room to put other stuff on as well, while maintaining the integrity of your PH sides/back.

I'll post some pics when I get mine in.
I have the same ditch bag and I hung it on the inside of the pilothouse door................oh, you can't do that, but it works great for me!

Thank you guys. A lot to chew on. I liked someone's idea of just glueing starboard or nice wood to the wall (inside or outside) and drilling into that for mounts. I'll post pictures of the mods I end up making.
Parkersal, I think Im going to go that way too. I have a new Parker coming in a couple of weeks and Ive got to add a lot of gear including that ditch bag in the picture. West Marine sells teak strips that should work out . They call them battens and they are 3/4 inch thick and from 1 to 3 inches wide. I figure to cut the carpeting and 5200 them to the inside hull and screw whatever Im installing to them.
windy":37ei08h2 said:
West Marine sells teak strips that should work out ...
Make sure to 'wash' the teak a few times with acetone to remove excess oils and roughen up the edge/side you want the 5200 to stick too.
Sal, In my 2000MVSC with the curtain as apposed to the bulkhead v-berth I glued the rod holders right to the inside of the hull to the left of the companion seat on the port side. Used the same type holders that are used under the gunnels. No wood, screws, drilling or anything else involved. I think I used 5200 and it never failed in the five years I had the boat. I put the rods butt end toward the rear of the pilothouse. Not sure how your boat is set up inside, but there was no headliner/carpet where I mounted mine to the left side of port seat.
So guys, I drilled into the sport cabin today, and I through-bolted. I hope I made the right decision; I am thinking I should go down again next weekend and seal under the washers to make it watertight? Necessary?

Actually the utility hook on the inside of the cabin is slightly off. Sigh.


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Lots of great info and very timely...... I've ordered the Lee Jr. wishbone outrigger holder and will be ready to drill quite a few holes...... with this info I ought to be an expert....... at least by the last hole drilled anyway. :D

I feel for anyone drilling into the pilot house. It's just not natural. :shock:

There's a couple pics here on how to minimize the drilling. Also some pics of how to turn the bench into a bed, and some pics of a ladder we use at the ramp.

http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/jeff_nich ... /my_photos

Oh, and one of the switch we put in for the port wiper. The red light lets you know the panel switch is on; the wiper may then be controlled by the passenger.

The next project is a roof mount air conditioner - we've already got the Honda 2000i generator.
Nice job Nick! I really like the dual cuoholders. Raising the stern cleats will really help to secure lines when in the locks.
I found this explanation on an automotive refurshing site. I'm interested because I have to put a few holes in where the carpeting was and wanted to get some ideas. While I don't think this will work for larger holes (for a dorade), it will work for most smaller holes. Anyway, I'll let you know how it works out.

The best and easiest way to put bolts/screws through carpet and insulation is to "mark" the holes you plan to drill with small nails and then do the following. Take a small piece of steel tubing with a diameter just slightly larger than he bolt/screw you intend to use. (I used an old piece of a golf club shaft). Holding the tube with pliers, use a propane torch to heat the tube. Center the tube over each nail and press through the carpet/insulation until you feel it hit the material you are drilling into (metal, wood, fiberglass). Twist the tube a bit to make sure you have burned/cut completely through. Make sure you always hold the tube perfectly upright. Then lift the tube out and you will have a remarkably clean and perfectly round hole for your bolts/screws. The nail and cut-out carpet/insulation material will come up inside the tube. Drop the tube in cold water, then remove the carpet/insulation material and nail from inside. You have to do this because you will need to reheat the tube for each hole and if you reheat with the material inside, it will catch fire.

Sounds easy doesn't it? :roll:
I got the Lee's wishbones a few weeks ago and have a little advice for your installation.
Make a template on thin plywood or heavy cardboard for the hole patterns. I used plywood and mounted the rigger holder to it to be sure it would'nt bind up when deploying or retracting it.
I have a 2007 2320 and did not have the room to properly space things as they recommend in the instructions...but it worked out just fine.
Placing the first side is easy....just put it where you like it. The hard part is placing the other side in the exact same location and at the exact same angle as the first.....there just aren't any places to get firm dimensions from when locating your template.

What I didn't do, and suggest you do is make your template oversized so that you can mark the back corner of the pilothouse onto it once the first side is located....you can the cut your template along your mark and simply line it up with the back of the pilot house on side #2.

I tried to measure things out and wound up placing my template at a slightly different angle on side #2, and now when you view the boat from the side my riggers are way off. :evil:

1 degree of variation at the base translates to several inches 20 feet out at the rigger tips.

BTW- I love my riggers...plus the boat looks super tough with them!
Something that will make a install like this just a touch cleaner is instead of using standard nylon lock nuts is a dab of lock-tite on stainless acorn nut's.

It's just a little added touch to clean things up. :)