Owning a 1987 Malibu Sunsetter has been a fun venture. I really enjoy slalom skiing but another fun watersport we have enjoyed is surfing. When owning a direct drive you learn surf on a less than massive wave. I decided to add gates to the boat after experimenting with some fixed gates and being very happy with the results. The issue with manual gates is a boat this size is very difficult if not impossible to turn against the gate that is out. I quickly realized that an automated solution would be needed if we wanted to continue running gates. This would allow the gates to retract as the boat came off speed )or exceeded a high speed limit) and deploy as the boat reached surf speed. I also has many other ideas up my sleeve when I kicked off the project including controlling the gates wirelessly from the wave to allow the rider to control the surf side and initiate transfers as they wished. The project took my about four weeks. It turned out to be a lot larger project that I originally had thought, but then again I kind of went all out with it.
I built the gates from teak wood and used 2" stainless bar to fasten them together. I polished all the stainless to a mirror finish including the hinges. The amount of time I have in polishing is insane.
The side of the boat is pretty close to a 17 degree angle. When designing the gates I realized that that 17 degrees would be a bit much to lean the hinge line over to. With a 17 degree from vertical hinge line the end of the gate would rise almost 6 inches. I designed a wedge block to go between the gate and the hinge line to reduce the hinge angle to 9 degrees. This brings the gate elevation change to 2-3 inches. It also allows the actuator mounting point to be under the teak deck. At a 17 degree angle, the actuator angle was so great the transom mount would end up above the teak deck....not good.
I designed the gates to be level with the teak deck when stowed and then "dig" a bit deeper when deployed. The gates stow at 27 degrees and deploy to 30 degrees. This 57 degree swing is accomplished using Lenco 102 actuators. When designing the angles and mounting points of the gates and actuators, I realized that the actuators mounting point on the transom would need to be exactly where the swim platform was. I came up with a solution by welding the existing swim platform brackets to a larger 1/4" aluminum plate that would offset the bracket toward the center line of the boat. This also allows the actuator to be mounted to the aluminum plate. I had them powder coated along with the brackets that mount on the platform. The finish turned out great.
The gates had to be cut with several angles, it is probably best to let you look at the pics instead of describing the angles in text.
I mounted the gates to the transom and the new brackets along with the actuators. The meant drilling 14 new holes in the transom per side. That's right, there are 28 new holes in the boat! You can rest assured they are very well sealed with 3M 4200. I also had to do gel coat work on the transom where the swim platform brackets mount. The old brackets were mounted with 4200 and required a lot of scraping to remove. It also pulled a few small bits of gel off the transom. I re-gel coated the area so the new brackets would have a good surface to seal to. All holes were pilot drilled in reverse and then over drilled the OD of the screws being used through just the gel, and then countersunk to prevent any gel cracking.
As for the control, I designed and build a custom controller to run the gates. it has the following features...
1. GPS Receiver for speed input
2. Speed based gate control (deploys between 7-13 mph by default but is configurable)
3. In boat 3 way gate switch control
4. Wireless gate control from the wave with a wireless remote worn by the surfer
5. GPS speed output for converting paddle wheel cruise systems to GPS.
6. 4 Line LCD Display (shows # Satellites locked onto, speed, actuator currents, surf status)
7. Maintenance Mode to allow controlling the gates on the trailer for testing, boat waxing, etc.
I sell these controller under a company called Wake Logic Limited. You can drop me a line about the controller at email@example.com.
The gates are finished with Star Brite's Tropical Teak Sealer. The wood turned out beautifully and really shows off the grain and knots in the wood. I also cut compound angles in the teak platform to match the gates when stowed and finished the fresh cuts with the same teak sealer. I remounted the teak deck and it now comes right on and off the mounts.
Well here are the pics of the project….
Here's a video of the gates in action.
Here are some pics of the wave after I got the boat in the water. I put 300 lbs in the locker, and about 500 lbs on each side of the dogbox for this run. I have since learned that a 750 on the regular side give just a bit of list and a bit better wave on the regular side. The goofy side on a Mabu is really good due to prop rotation so this balanced out the wave nicely. In these pics we had the weight mentioned above and 5 passengers on board and me on the surf board. At rest, the boat sat perfectly level (with dual 500’s). Any listing in the pics is from the gates.
I have the gates set up to deploy at 7 mph. If the speed exceeds 12 mph they go back to the stow position. If the speed drops below 7 mph they go back to stowed. I also set up my switch bank to allow the surf side to be swapped while underway.
Here is what I noticed while behind the boat....
1. The wave is as good with my new gates if not a bit better than my prototype gate from the Poorman's Surfgate thread.
2. With the prototype gate, I had to weigh the surf side a bit heavier than the non-surf side to get the same wave I had last night.
3. I had two more people last night than I ever had running the prototype gate.
4. The wave is longer, cleaner, and has a lot more push than our non-gated wave.
5. I finally tried surfing goofy - the wave is actually really good without moving a single person or bag.
6. It takes about 4-5 seconds to switch from one side to the other.....on an 87' Sunsetter.
7. I'm pretty darn happy with the wave....especially considering it's a 25 year old direct drive.
8. Stow the gates, set the Perfect Pass for 30 and enjoy a slalom run back to the dock with no disturbance to the wake whatsoever.
Now for the good stuff....
Here's the wave this spring in April with no gates and just listing. Me wearing the same wetsuit. 300lbs in the locker, 800lbs on the surfside, and 4 people in the boat (3 on the surfside and 1 driver). Both gated and non-gated waves has the floating wedge down.
All other pics are with the Teakgates….
Some arial footage of the gates in action....