Depth sounder transducer mounting alternative      Back to Terry's Articles

 Avoid ANOTHER hole in the bottom of the boat


 Mounting the depth sounder transducer in a fiberglass boat in a conventional, through the hull fashion, may give optimum performance of the instrument but has a few shortcomings. Another hole in the bottom of the boat doesn't thrill me, though failure should be rare. The angle, at which the transducer faces the bottom, and the resulting readings, will be influenced by the angle of the bottom of the boat where it is installed. Although the effects of heeling produce greater than actual readings, if the transducer is aligned with the vertical it will read correctly when the boat is on an even keel. Finding a horizontal area on the boat's bottom isn't easy on a sailing vessel, especially one with a long keel. Some means of mounting the transducer in a vertical orientation will be required.

Another consideration is that optimum performance happens only when the face of the transducer is kept clean of marine growth, a continuous chore.

Placing the transducer inside the boat can, according to some manufacturers, cause slightly degraded performance. But I have done this on three occasions, using different techniques, with perfectly reliable performance.

 Oil bath versus adhesive mounting

The method I used on two installations was oil bath. In the first case the transducer was mounted inside a pipe, shaped at its junction with the bottom of the boat to be vertical and the pipe filled with vegetable oil. I used a short section of PVC pipe and an end cap to seal the entire unit. In the second case the transducer and through-hull fitting were separate units. I cut off the bottom of the plastic through-hull fitting to fit the desired shape since there was enough height within the fitting to allow the transducer to seal. It was also filled with vegetable oil. Performance was fine in both cases.

On my most recent installation the transducer and through-hull fitting came as an integral unit. The transducer is quite large in diameter (2 inches) and, with the bottom flange, would take an overly large PVC pipe to use the oil-bath method. I decided to try adhesive mounting.

On the left is the area I chose for installation. It's a locker well forward in the boat and has about a 25-degree slope up to the right and a vertical side on the left. The mushroom flange on the bottom kept the  transducer from fitting nicely into the space. I carefully cut the flange sides (shown on the right)  to permit mounting it as low as possible in the V-shaped area.

In order to get a vertical orientation of the transducer; it was necessary to fill the void between the bottom of the transducer and the hull with something that would permit direct contact between the transducer and the hull. As with a cored hull, I knew that wood would NOT work. I chose to use an underwater epoxy compound, Splash Zone, as the filling material. I wasn't 100% sure this would work so I did not want to make it a permanent job from the beginning and, perhaps, waste the investment in the transducer. My approach was to do the job in stages.

Prior to putting the transducer into the epoxy filler I covered it with plastic film, taped securely in place to make a smooth covering of the surface.
I did not want any voids between the surface of the transducer and the filler material. This, I knew, could cause a degradation of performance.

After filling the area with Splash Zone, I pushed the transducer firmly into place.

On the left is the transducer in place during curing and, on the right, the result after curing was completed and the transducer removed. The bottom of the mold is a perfect image of the bottom of the transducer.


To give myself confidence this would work before taking the fatal step of gluing the transducer in place, I filled the mold with water and inserted the transducer.

With a bit of trepidation, I turned on the unit and was relieved to see that it worked!

To complete the job it was only necessary to use a thin coat of epoxy glue to affix the transducer to the molded shape in the filler material.

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