Between the flakey gauges, the intermittent switches and the non-existent alarm buzzer I have decided scrap the Total Command System in my 1972 '41.

First I will preface that this is not a project for the faint of heart.  However, I am lucky enough to have the original schematics for the boat, along with the TCS service manual.  It really comes down to a matter of confirming what is there from the factory, what has been removed and what has been dealer/aftermarket added.  Luckily, Viaggio is pretty original minus an updated fume detector, and a (dealer installed?) Benmar Course Keeper.

As an electrical engineer, for once with my boat, I am right in my wheelhouse (no pun intended).  With schematics in hand, I have been working on the new helm design in CAD.  My plan involves removing the TCS circuit breaker/junction box unit.  Yep, the one that's door cannot be opened with the helm installed....not one of Chris' finest engineering accomplishments.  Everything runs to and from this box.  Each switch receives power from this box, and the load is switched back through this box on out to the consumer.  The result is a hundred extra connections to corrode and seemingly miles of wires to trace.

The good thing is that all of the ships' systems are terminated to terminal boards at the helm before connection to the box.  This makes for a tidy break point between old and new.  The engine harnesses home-run from the box to terminal boards in the engine room, so I will be cutting off the TCS connectors at the helm and installing new terminal boards there.  The result will be the ship side totally terminated to terminal boards at the helm. 

The circuit breakers on the new design will be integrated into the gauge panel (where they should be in my opinion).  For now, I have marked what couldn't be found on the schematics and pulled the dash today:

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WOW John looks great!


You are now my new favorite Commander Owner!  Absolutely Beautiful in every regard!  Up, Down and Sideways!  The original Chris Craft "Integrated Electronics System" was a nice idea...but...

You did it right!

Thanks Paul and Paul!

A nice idea indeed, though I plan to have a celebratory drop-kick of the TCS connection box when I'm done with the refit.

I feel like the project is really turning a corner a now, and best of all its 100% documented.  This means that if I ever sell the boat or simply forget what I did in years' past (not out of the question with me), I can turn to the electrical schematic I created in CAD.

All the wires are numbered and reconcile with the schematic.  Additionally, all new port battery wiring starts with 1000 and starboard 2000.  This way I can look at wire 1002 for example, and know its fed from the port engine battery.

Now, don't get me wrong - gutting the boat electrical system like a fish still gives me some anxiety, but keeping the tasks small and measurable keeps panic at bay!

Helm panel is all wired up.  Next step is to unit test the assembly.  Taking a page out of my software engineering book, by unit testing each assembly, the aggregate will work - theoretically of course!


This is fantastic. Great job. If you ever want some additional fun (that seems like it would be up your alley) take a look at the opensource projects SignalK and SensESP (if you haven't already).

Thanks Steve! I checked out the open source offerings and they are very impressive. The challenge I have was having NEMA2000 and J3919 CAN devices coexist on the same network. I wrote the drivers and UI from scratch to insure I got only what I needed and nothing more. This kept everything lightweight. I powered it up last night:

Love what you did! Looking to do something similar. But not sure about digital engine gauges yet. 
do you have any insight on how to take the old helm and make it like you have. I have a full gut and re do of my 1977 CC commander 41 . Beef up electrical, clean up the CB panels and re do the helm panel.

So any tips and tricks and how to is greatly appreciated!

You can certainly do a nice, modern, analog dash out of nothing more than a nice sheet of ABS plastic or  a slab of wood.  The key to any electrical project is in the planning.  Also, it is critical to know what problem(s) you are looking to solve by upgrading.  For instance, if you have bad wiring to the engine sensors, then new gauges aren't going to do much for you except look pretty.  

For this project, the scope was easy - remove the TCS system entirely.  No splicing old with new, no compromises.  The TCS in my boat had cut wires, tired switches, loose connectors/pins everywhere and a few modest upgrades over the old stuff which makes diagnostics a pain.

 As much as I moan and groan about the TCS, one thing it does offer is granularity on the alarm front. Prior to TCS, each engine had a buzzer and when its buzzing it’s either oil pressure or engine temp - your guess.

I decided to build my own alarm module that breaks out each engines’ alarms into:

Oil pressure low

Water temp high

Drive temp high 

Fuel pressure low (a new one!)

The single buzzer and flasher on my helm is triggered from this module. The alarm signals go to the SeaGauge module and on to the helm display. Additionally, the alarm module has status LEDs for each individual alarm. This way if I ever lost the helm display and had to drive “blind” I will have the hardwired alarms functional and should an alarm occur, the LEDs in the alarm module will direct me to the problem.

Are you for hire? Or simply put can you build me one? 

I'm flattered for the ask, but its one thing to pack my own parachute, its another thing to pack someone else's.  For this reason, I suggest using off the shelf, big brand components - they are rugged, robust and supported.  I know I wanted to convert to digital switching but when I added up the cost of all the components it was going to be close to $10K + the custom helm panel.  My home-grown system, including the custom helm panel has cost just about $2500.  I have an electrical engineering background with a concentration in software for the last decade, so this type of work is right up my ally.  Now, ask me to build some custom cabinets and they wouldn't be suitable for the doghouse!  Play to your strengths, I always say.. 

Justin Mcgeachy said:

Are you for hire? Or simply put can you build me one? 

This is my analogue to digital dash on an iPad. All alarm perameters are programmable. $600 Seagauge unit with free wilhelmsk virtual dash.

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