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Hidden Ballast Install on a 1996 Sunsetter LX Direct Drive


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23 replies to this topic

#1
ecadwell

ecadwell
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  • Boat: 1996 Sunsetter LX
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I wanted to share my experience on how to create custom ballast install that can wakeboard and/or surf in a direct drive. I spent most of this past winter installing mine on my 1996 SSLX, and I've been very pleased with the results thus far. Thanks in advance to WakeMakers for all of the ballast parts, and to members of this forum for the insight and suggestions on this project.

The Goal
Since I am primarily a slalom skiier, but I also like to surf and entertain, I wanted to create a wakeboard AND surf setup for my direct drive boat without compromising the seating or the ability to use it as a ski boat. Basically, I wanted the system to be invisible when not in use

The Parts
I called up the guys at WakeMakers and ordered all the parts I needed for this setup, which is 2x 400# Fly High V-Drive Sacs for the sides and 1x 370# Fly High Tube Sac. I used 6x Tsunami 800GPH aerator pumps, 1 1/4" brass intake through-hull and ball valve, 110 feet of 3/4" ballast hose, and all of the other parts necessary to complete the install. I created my own manifold using 1 1/4 PVC fittings. I would be happy to share any other parts used, but the WakeMakers guys know what you would need to finish out this system. Basically, there's a ton of other parts, such as Y-fittings, check valves, stainless hose clamps, lighted switches, etc.

Manifold
Because I wanted the whole setup to be hidden, I was able to mount all 3 fill pumps on a custom manifold that tucks under the oil pan under the motor. The intake thru-hull and brass ball valve are mounted along the port side of the motor, and I used a 1 1/4" PVC union between the ball valve and the manifold with a short piece of 1 1/4" flex hose to the manifold in case I ever needed to remove the manifold in the future. I ran the fill hoses aft along either side of the motor and along the mufflers to be tucked (tightly) behind the gas tank in the rudder area, where they could be run to the left and right sides behind the gas tank to the gunwale areas (more later). I found that it was easiest to unscrew the brackets holding the gas tank to the floor so that the tank could be moved just enough to allow the hoses to be slipped through. The fill hose for the ski locker sac was run through a 1" hole in the access cover to the bilge area, and then I drilled 3x 1" holes in the wall between the bilge and the ski locker (for fill, drain, and vent lines). Some Pictures of the manifold and install:

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Ski Locker Sac
The ski locker sac was installed by drilling 3x 1" holes in the divider between the ski locker and the bilge area for the drain, fill, and vent lines. I then drilled 2x 1" holes in the floor of the battery compartment right next to the starboard side wall to put hoses directly through into the ski locker from the battery compartment. This allowed me to mount a vented loop above the water line to prevent auto-filling of the bow sac. I also zip-tied the drain pump back to the aft wall of the ski locker to cause it to take up the smallest amount of space in the ski locker as possible. The drain and vent lines joined in the bilge area with a check valve and Y-connector, and the drain/vent combined line then run through the standard starboard stringer (with all the other wires, throttle cables, steering cable, etc) to the driver's footwell before being piped to one of three thru-hulls on the driver's side. Some pictures:

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V-Drive Sacs for Wakeboarding and Surfing with Custom Trap Door Storage
Now, here was the hard part: I wanted to create a ballast setup that is (1) enough weight for wakeboarding and surfing, (2) could allow for flexibility of sac placement for wakeboarding, right side surfing, and left side surfing, (3) Did not eliminate the back seat or walkways, and (4) was almost completely invisible when not in use. To this end, I designed a "snorkel" system where all the hoses (fill, drain, and vent) were zip tied together with enough slack that they could allow for placement of the sac either to the side of the engine compartment, or swung around to sit behind the engine compartment. I then purchased 1/2" marine plywood and some midnight grey boat carpet to create trap doors that are connected to hinges on the floor in the gunwale areas. By using flush mount ring-pull latches from JMS Marine, the trap doors could either be latched into the up position, or swung down to sit flat on the floor during ballast use. The sacs would tuck behind the trap doors when empty and be invisible, while still keeping the walkways and back seat intact. Basically, all I have to do is unlatch the trap doors, let them fall to the ground and hit the fill switches. Confused? Here's some pictures:

Trap door up and latched:
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Trap door down:
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Stowed Position:
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Wakeboard configuration:
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Surfing Configuration:
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The critical measurement is to make sure that the trap doors are not taller than the distance between the hinge mounting location and the engine cover, so that they can actually lay flat without interfering with the engine cover. In my case, the height of the doors was *approximately* 18" carpeted, but each door was cut out using an individualized cardboard template of the opening. It because obvious to me that these boats are indeed hand build due to the imprecise nature of the parts and mounting locations. In fact, I had to re-drill the holes for the engine cover hinges, struts, and guide bumpers because the cover was installed in the boat more than 1" off center.

Dash/Switches/Radio
I felt that switches (and new depth finder gauge) would fit best where the radio cutout is on my '96, I had to re-wire the stereo and create custom mounting brackets to move the radio over to the side near the driver's armrest. I then contacted Marcus at Central Composites to again make me a new carbon fiber panel for the old stereo hole, which I then cut holes into for the 3 ballast switches and the depth gauge. I also left room on the panel for future uses. I wired the switches to a direct power line to the main engine battery through 3x 10A fuses (one for each switch). Through this process, I also learned that I had to re-wire the entire stereo system due to the shoddy job that someone had done previously, so I ran new speaker wire to each of the in-boat speakers and to the tower speakers. This took a while because I wanted to run all wires through the stock wiring looms to keep things as pretty as possible. I also wired up a 2nd amp dedicated to the tower speakers, bringing me up to 1100 Watts for the boat. And since I was was re-wiring everything, I also added a new stereo head unit - a JVC KD-R820BT with bluetooth and integrated Pandora contols :) Hey, why not? Here's the pictures:

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The Result
I've been pretty pleased. I can get a decent surf wake with wedge down, all sacks full, without many people in the boat. However, when we had 5 people in the boat, with 3 of them in the back corner, the surf wake was AWESOME. Granted, you could do better with a V-Drive, but I can still spend a few minutes emptying everything out and still have a world-class slalom wake with no impact on the usability of this boat as a ski boat or family boat. Basically, it works perfect for my situation, when I want a slalom boat with enough space for taking out all of our friends, that can still be turned into a really great wakeboard and surf boat. Here's our surf wake with only 3 people in the boat:

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Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback. I had a very specific goal for my ballast install, and I'm happy with the results - for my situation. I learned a lot a made a few mistakes along the way. I also learned that to create a beautiful, clean, hidden ballast install takes a crazy amount of time and effort. The time is really spent making the hoses invisible, wiring clean, and building the custom manifold and trap door systems. It's certainly doable as a DIY project, but I will admit that it took longer than I expected - as projects always tend to do.

I hope this helps someone.

Eric

Edited by ecadwell, June 12, 2012 - 08:24 PM.

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#2
parkcityxj

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Very slick! I really like the trap doors, I just roll up the sacs and stuff them in the back locker, it'd be nice to regain that space. Any problems with people stepping on the drain pumps? Estimated fill/drain times would be great. Thanks for putting that together!

#3
ecadwell

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Very slick! I really like the trap doors, I just roll up the sacs and stuff them in the back locker, it'd be nice to regain that space. Any problems with people stepping on the drain pumps? Estimated fill/drain times would be great. Thanks for putting that together!


Hmm... I guess I'm not sure what you mean. When the sacs are out, the pumps are always hooked up to them, so I guess there's always some chance of someone stepping on them. But the nice part is that I don't have to unhook the bags at all - they just fold up into the trap doors along with the pumps. So, there's no chance of anyone stepping on the pumps when the doors are up.

Fill times are about 5-6 minutes for the whole setup - less for the ski locker sac. I like being able to fill all of the sacs at the same time. Drain times are about 1 minute less than fill times. I could have cut times off by going with the 1100gph pumps and 1" hose, but I was concerned about plumbing the wider hose into the tight spaces that I did. My primary concern is keeping the system hidden, and I was okay sacrificing some fill time for that.

#4
BoBeLiTe

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Great Job.. Looks great

#5
ecadwell

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Great Job.. Looks great

Thanks!

#6
parkcityxj

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A few quick questions- Are you running just check valves and/or vented loops for the rear sacs? Also, are your rear drain lines and vent lines Teed together or separate?

There was no way I could fit my rear hoses behind the tank due to it bulging, so I took out the old 4" blower hose and replaced it with 3" hose so I can route the hoses along side of it.

I'm slowly piecing mine together with old parts I have. I ended up using my reversible Simer for the front bag and going to run aerators for the back sack. Currently I have two 3/4" intakes in my hull and plan on adding a third the next week or so. I'll post some updates once it's 100% complete.

Thanks,

Jay

#7
AdeL

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Great job, I have a 94 Echelon and installed a similar bag configuration last year, but yours looks really neat. You've given me some ideas!

#8
CumminsBu

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This is a slick setup, props to you!

#9
martinarcher

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Gotta love a good DIY project that is well thought out. Nice job!

#10
LS-One

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I am very impressed, I also like your dash upgrade.

#11
ColinP

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Wow you did an awesome job! It's very well thought out.

#12
ecadwell

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Thanks everyone for the compliments - I really enjoy learning from this community and giving back when I can. Sorry I'm a bit late on responses, as I've been out of town for the past 5 days or so.

A few quick questions- Are you running just check valves and/or vented loops for the rear sacs? Also, are your rear drain lines and vent lines Teed together or separate?

There was no way I could fit my rear hoses behind the tank due to it bulging, so I took out the old 4" blower hose and replaced it with 3" hose so I can route the hoses along side of it.

I'm slowly piecing mine together with old parts I have. I ended up using my reversible Simer for the front bag and going to run aerators for the back sack. Currently I have two 3/4" intakes in my hull and plan on adding a third the next week or so. I'll post some updates once it's 100% complete.

Thanks,

Jay


For the all of the sacs, I have the drain and vents teed together (actually a 3/4" "Y" rather than a "T"). I also have a one-way check valve on the sac side of the tee on the vent line, to prevent the drain pump from pumping water back into the sac. The front sac is set up the exact same, but I have a vented loop mounted in the battery compartment (as shown in the pictures) that is in line with the fill line. This is to prevent (in theory) the front sac from auto-filling. I think I will have to mount mine higher, because the front sac does seem to get some water back into it following draining.

I'm not quite sure how your tank is different than mine that prevented the hoses running behind it - it certainly was a tight fit and required unbolting the tank from the floor to give barely enough slop to fit. Even so, it took a long time to get the hoses threaded properly. However, your method should work, although it sounds like you may have some venting of the stringer area that vents into the boat by the gas tank rather then out the vent hole, due to the fact that you are now using 3" ducting that won't seal off the stringer as well.

I hope that answers all of your questions. Let me know if you have any more. It's really cool once you get it done.

Eric

#13
parkcityxj

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Thanks for answering the questions. I've got mine functional now with a two pump system but I'm having concerns with the ventilation issue. Air doesn't flow out the back with the blower as much as I'd like becuase the blower hose is crammeed alongside three ballast hoses. I tried to move the tank again today, this time with a crow bar to see I can get some room. I can't even fit a wakeboard rope behind the tank!

I think i'm left with two options for routing hose to the back. One option is to cut a notch in the removable rear access panel, that's the easiest. If I make the cut clean, the seal up where I cut it shouldn't be too bad. Or I could route everything through the ski locker, through front storage area and back to the stern. But then I'm looking at probably 80 feet of hose since I want to add a third pump for filling.
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Edited by parkcityxj, June 20, 2012 - 06:06 PM.


#14
ecadwell

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Thanks for answering the questions. I've got mine functional now with a two pump system but I'm having concerns with the ventilation issue. Air doesn't flow out the back with the blower as much as I'd like becuase the blower hose is crammeed alongside three ballast hoses. I tried to move the tank again today, this time with a crow bar to see I can get some room. I can't even fit a wakeboard rope behind the tank!

I think i'm left with two options for routing hose to the back. One option is to cut a notch in the removable rear access panel, that's the easiest. If I make the cut clean, the seal up where I cut it shouldn't be too bad. Or I could route everything through the ski locker, through front storage area and back to the stern. But then I'm looking at probably 80 feet of hose since I want to add a third pump for filling.


Sorry I can't see it in person. I can't imagine that our hulls or tanks are any different, so I'll take some pictures of my setup and see if I can squeeze a camera into the area between the transom and the tank so you can see how my routing is done. You have to have some room, because the fuel line has to go through there as well. Just trying to figure out what the difference might be. I may or may not be able to get those pictures today. If not, I'll grab some in the AM. If you can, please post a picture of your fuel tank with the seat back flipped up, and see if you can fit a camera behind the fuel tank from the top, as well as any other pictures that might help show where you're having problems routing the hose. In the meantime, here's what it looked like when I had my fuel tank out while installing the wedge. You can see where the fuel lines have to go between the tank and the transom in order to get to the top of the tank. My ballast hoses are run near them:
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If it really comes down to the 2 options you discuss, I'd cut the notch in the access panel. Not ideal, but still preferrable to all the routing and holes you'd have to do in order to go from the ski locker. However, I'd prefer to help you figure out why you can't get hoses behind the fuel tank first.

Edited by ecadwell, June 21, 2012 - 01:29 PM.


#15
parkcityxj

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Thanks for the pic! Looks like you have a different tank and transom floor than me. My fuel line is routed though the same hole as the blower and I don't have the notched area where your carpet ends. My tank is completely flush to the transom and the floor. I've poked all around with a wall fish stick and flash light trying to find a passage, oh well.

I've already drilled holes in the hull for the intakes, so cutting a notch won't be the end of the world. I figure if I notch it just big enough for four hoses to pass though it won't be too bad. The only time the back seat is removed is to pull up the acess floor, so it won't be an eyesore.

I'll try to get some pics before I go cutting into things but I'm pretty positive our tanks/transom are different.

I'm more into surfing these days than wakeboarding and I've found that adding a 750 on the surf side and 600 on the floor (I plan on getting another 750 soon) nearly double the surf wake. I'm really not listing to where it's unsafe either. My surf wake is taller and bit longer than a Tige 21V and new Supra 22V that I ride behind frequently, although they're not exremely sac'd out and need some more work to get the weight dialed. It doesn't have quite the push the mentioned boats have but it's much much cleaner. It's crazy what this DD is capable of!

I'm 6'3" for comparison. This is with the wedge, tube sac in locker, my 110 lb wife driving, 220 lb buddy on the dog house, 750 on the side and 600 on the floor. It gets even bigger with more people in the boat.
Posted Image

Edited by parkcityxj, June 21, 2012 - 09:06 PM.


#16
alxmlr789

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Can you post a wakeboard wake pic at around 21 with the ballast full and wedge down? Curious to see what my wake will look like with a similar setup...

#17
ecadwell

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Can you post a wakeboard wake pic at around 21 with the ballast full and wedge down? Curious to see what my wake will look like with a similar setup...


Sure - but it will have to wait until this weekend at the earliest, since that's probably the next time I'll be out at the lake. I did take someone wakeboarding who used to be an instructor at a wakeboard camp, and he thought the wake was great. We ended up pulling him at 23.5 using the longer section of my wakeboard rope.

#18
alxmlr789

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Sure - but it will have to wait until this weekend at the earliest, since that's probably the next time I'll be out at the lake. I did take someone wakeboarding who used to be an instructor at a wakeboard camp, and he thought the wake was great. We ended up pulling him at 23.5 using the longer section of my wakeboard rope.


Good deal! Thanks.

We had 11 of us out in my ss lx last weekend and the wake was awesome!

#19
AdeL

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ecadwell

Thanks for the idea. I liked it so much I've done it, well almost. Here's a photo of one side completed on my Echelon. I am off out now to complete the other side.

Closed.

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#20
AdeL

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And open.

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