Fabricating a Tablet Holder

Sail News

During the pandemic, I was stuck aboard Guiding Light, a Lagoon 410, in St. Lucia for over a month. During that time, as I worked on the boat, I started by doing a spring cleaning in my spares locker and finding some parts and material that I forgot I had. As soon as I saw them, I knew they would be perfect to build a bracket I wanted at the helm to hold the tablet that had replaced my chartplotter.

Many people have asked why I replaced my charterplotter with a tablet using Navionics software. The answer is simple. My chartplotter is a Garmin 4212, which came with Guiding Light when I bought it 11 years ago. I figure the Garmin is probably 13-15 years old. The screen had started to go dark and pixelize in the middle. I tried for a couple months to find a new screen, because the rest of the chartplotter still worked great. But I was told this model has not had parts available for years. This left me with buying new as the only option. Well, comparing a GPS enabled tablet with waterproof case at around $300 and a new charterplotter at $4000 to $5000, it didn’t take me long to decide which way I wanted to go. As an added benefit going with the tablet saved me a ton of battery power.

The author’s new tablet holder (top); the frame was constructed out of old bits of aluminum (above)

The author’s new tablet holder (top); the frame was constructed out of old bits of aluminum (above)

Now, though, I needed a place to hang the tablet as I sail the seas. That is when I found the L-shaped aluminum angle iron in my spares. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for what I had in mind, and with that I was off. It took me about eight hours total as I used a hacksaw to cut the aluminum to the lengths I wanted and sawed one side down on the three pieces to the proper depth. I was also able to use one of the sawed-off pieces as a backing plate. With the pieces all cut to length, I used my vice grip and slowly bent one of the L shapes to form a curved lip. That done I used a grinding wheel on my cordless drill to smooth out all the edges and corners and then drilled a set of holes to rivet the whole thing together.

After that, all that was left was to take a pair of aluminum bars and bend them to the right length and angle so I could attach the bracket to the bulkhead. The first one went great, but the second one was more brittle and kept snapping every time I bent it using the vice grip until I ran out of material. Also, one of the butterfly bolts I had used to attach the old charter plotter to the bulkhead broke. At this point I had to stop until I could get to shore to obtain some new material.

Turns out aluminum bar is harder to find in the islands than I expected, and I was shot down after visiting five different hardware stores. That was when it finally dawned on me to check the metal shop at the boatyard. I should have gone there first (and will in the future), because what I needed was sitting right there. As soon as I got it back aboard, I fixed the broken bolt with the parts I had been able to find at one of the hardware stores and bent the new bar perfectly. After that, I drilled the requisite holes, ground down some of the rough edges and riveted everything all together. With that I had as sturdy a tablet as you could ever ask for and was ready to go! 

Ed Note: Captain McClellan is currently sailing the Caribbean. To read more of his stories and learn about life among the islands, go to svguidinglight.com

June 2022

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