Put Yourself on a Pedestal

Posted: February 1, 2013

Installing a pedestal seat is a great way to improve your helm ergonomics.

By: Capt. Wilson Sheppard

While I drove my boat 30-plus miles from Marina del Rey, Calif., to Catalina Island, every jolt reminded me how uncomfortable it was to sit at the helm. My old box-style seat was too low and too close to the steering wheel. I could drive with my knees while I was seated or with my thighs while I stood. Inspired to improve this awkward situation, I purchased a pedestal seat and moved this project to the top of my to-do list.

Natural Selection

If you want to install a new pedestal seat, you — naturally — need to choose a seat, its accompanying mounting hardware and a pedestal. Start planning your installation by measuring your current helm seat. My old seat was 27 inches wide and 25 inches deep, and the seat bottom was 22 inches high.

Make sure you measure any potential new seat’s width and depth, and its height off the floor, including accessories such as armrests, cushions and hardware. The previous owner of my new seat didn’t do any of this, so the seat was too big for the intended installation area. I had plenty of space to install it, because it measured 25 inches wide and 20 inches deep.

Next, consider the mounting hardware for your seat. There are many fixed, sliding and/or rotating mounts available for pedestal seats, and the one you select should install within the dimensions of the seat bottom, without leaving any sharp metal corners exposed. My new seat already had an adjustable slider mount.

Last, you need to consider the diameter and height of the pedestal’s post. Its diameter should match the diameter of the connector on the mounting hardware. The mount on my new seat had a 27/8-inch connector, so I needed a pedestal with the same post diameter.

I initially wanted an adjustable-height pedestal, but I wasn’t sure if the locking mechanism would hold while I pounded through the rough seas we sometimes encounter in Southern California. Set on buying a fixed-height pedestal, I took my new seat to the nearby West Marine store and mounted it on a few pedestals to find the best one. I selected the 18-inch Smooth Series Pedestal by Garelick. My new helm seat would stand almost 2½ feet tall. The staff at West Marine helped me determine the proper pedestal height and select the correct bushing for this installation.

Out with the Old

The only items standing in the way of installing your new throne are some bolts (four, in my case) and sealant. (If your helm seat is like my old one, it has suffered damage from sun and moisture exposure.) Remove the bolts and then use a thin metal paint scraper to break the sealant between the seat’s frame and the deck. You will fill the bolt holes with resin later. Once the seat is out of the way, carefully use a razor blade to remove the remaining sealant, without scratching the deck. Apply acetone to clean the installation area, and then thoroughly rinse the deck with fresh water. Be sure to wear protective eyewear and chemical-resistant gloves when you work with acetone.

Ergonomic Installation

Chances are excellent — almost 100 percent — that you want your seat centered on your steering wheel, so draw a line on the deck in line with the center of the wheel. Temporarily secure the seat to the pedestal, and center the pedestal on the line you drew. Move the pedestal fore and aft until you determine a position that is comfortable for sitting and standing, and once you find the desired position, use a pencil to outline the pedestal’s base and mark the holes for the mounting bolts. Remove the seat and the pedestal, and drill one of the marked holes. Insert a bolt through the base of the pedestal and into the drilled hole, to check the alignment of the remaining mounting holes with the remaining pencil markings. Insert a bolt immediately after drilling each hole to keep the pedestal from shifting. (Drill through a piece of cardboard to protect the base.) Once all the holes are drilled, remove the bolts and the pedestal. Fill each hole with a marine-grade sealant, and place a bead of sealant along the outer edge of the base. Align and mount the base and insert all the bolts. Secure them with a backing plate or oversized washers and properly sized nyloc nuts.

You are now ready to mount your new seat. Place a bushing at the top of the pedestal post. Doing so allows the mounting connector to be secured to the pedestal post without direct metal-to-metal contact between the two. Check the stability of the seat on the pedestal. If it’s loose, the mounting connection usually can be tightened with a bolt.

The 6-inch height improvement compared to my old seat allows me to sit high and look down on my watery kingdom. I may have to do this installation again to accommodate my queen with a throne of her own.

To install a pedestal seat, you have to remove the old seat (1) and then use a razor blade to remove the remaining sealant (2). Next, clean the area with acetone and rinse the deck with fresh water (3). Mark the centerline of the pedestal base and each hole with a pencil (4). After the first hole is drilled, drill each subsequent hole through the base to ensure a good fit (5). Secure the base into the first bolt hole, and then align the rest of the holes to ensure they still line up (6).

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