Volume 1, Issue 2, February 2015 - Page 14


February, 2015

Actuators, relays, and switches

Make life easier by incorporating these labor saving devices

by Pete Gregoire

Pushing and pulling, it’s a pretty simple concept when you can use your hands and muscles. Many everyday actions require these forces and it's second nature to make it happen. However, if you spend time on a boat steering a tiller outboard, a trolling motor, or a pusher fan you realize after a few hours that there could be a better way.

Many of us grin and bear it, knowing that we have control over these functions and can make adjustments instant-aneously as needed. We settle for the fatigue of holding the fan against the wind, or the throttle handle as we push through grass beds.

Years ago on my first bow-fishing boat, I used a foot-controlled trolling motor which required me to stand on one foot while using the other to steer, all while attempting to shoot fish. This was getting old fast and luckily Minn Kota had the answer. It was called the Co-Pilot and after installing this device on the side of my troller I had wireless

control at my fingertips for thrust and steering functions. I was no longer tethered to my troller and I could roam the boat as needed. I vowed that my next boat would be even more advanced.

I purchased my custom 2072 flat-bottom jon boat in early 2013 with the intention of guiding bowfishing clients as soon as there was open water in Wisconsin. In that first year I relied on a Minn Kota trolling motor with iPilot wireless controls. It worked very well under certain conditions, but like most things I realized I wanted more power.

I contemplated a pusher fan, but on most of the lakes I fish there are just too many houses. I decided on a kicker motor to give me more speed, cover more water, and push through tougher places, plus I had a 20 hp Yamaha outboard staring at me already.

I spent time researching how to rig for this set up, but there wasn’t a lot of information on the subject. I was determined to control actions like steering, throttle, and shifting through the use of a joystick, as well as wirelessly. In order to make that happen I needed an education in three things, switches, relays, and actuators.

I purchased a custom, industrial joystick through PQ Controls in Connecticut. It is what they call a bang-bang joystick because you have to move the stick a certain amount in one direction to activate a microswitch inside.

There were four of these microswitches on the X and Y axis of the stick. I wired the X axis (side to side) to control my steering and the Y axis (front to back) to control my throttle.

The joystick also contained

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Switches come in many varieties. This switch is a standard single pole rocker switch that works well with a static load, like lights. Another nice feature here is that the switch is lighted, making it easier to find in the dark.

Switches have ratings. Make sure that your switch is rated for the current value (amps/A) and the voltage (V) for the load you are placing on it. Four 50 watt LED lights would be all that I would put on one of these switches as they pull in nearly 5 amps each.

Actuators come in all shapes and sizes. Pay attention to static and dynamic loads, speed, stroke, and voltage requirements to find the best option for your application.