Sunday, November 6, 2016

Project Report - Cockpit Enclosure

You do the best you can. You plan. You design. You make a list of materials. You source the best price and delivery. Inevitably, the project takes twice or three times as long and at least 30% more materials than you estimated. But once in a very, very rare while you get lucky and a project takes exactly what you ordered and much less time than expected. <gasp> did I just actually say that?

I've been sitting in the cockpit for the last two years trying to figure out just exactly how I was going to design a cockpit enclosure and, I admit, I was exasperated. Our cockpit is not square-backed like so many of the newer production boats. It curves. It also has a two-step coaming that starts out from the bulkhead at one height and then, halfway toward the aft end of the cockpit, it drops down a couple inches and narrows considerably as it curves toward the helm seat. I wanted to have the screen outside of the bimini frame, but, due to the way we mounted the solar panels, that wasn't possible. I'd been putting off the project just because I was so frustrated with trying to figure out how I was going to do it.

A couple of weeks ago, while waiting for a coat on the floor to cure, I took my Sailrite patterning plastic and my rolls of tape and began to tape it in place on the frame to see what I could come up with. Doing this in 95° Florida sun was probably not my best idea since it acted like a greenhouse and nearly roasted me to death, but after a couple hours I had what I though might work.

This past week I could no longer put off the project so I gathered my materials, moved my sewing machine out into the cockpit and began the work. After a bit of a slow start, something that always happens on any custom fit job, I found my stride and in just 5 days had the project finished. To say that I'm pleasantly surprised and that both the Captain and I are immensely pleased with the outcome would be the understatement of the century.

For those of you that might be thinking about tackling this projecct, here are the materials I used. My total project cost was somewhere around $350. I can't tell you exactly because some of the materials I used I already had in stock, like the thread as an example.

  • For the screen I used Phifer Solar Screen from Lowe's. I thought about using the Phifertex that everyone else uses, but this fabric is a little less than half the price and that was a big factor for us. I could also get it locally without freight.
  • For the framework I used Sailrite's 2" facing. It would have been much cheaper to make my own facing, but time was a huge factor to balance against expense and the pre-made facing would cut my time by almost half. I also didn't have a good place to cut facing or an iron to press it.
  • For the needle and thread I used a #20 needle and V-92 thread.
  • I used #10 YKK plastic zippers, some of them double pull and some of them single pull depending on the need
  • I used 1/4 and 1/2" seamstick tape. You have to tape every seam and zipper on a project like this so don't skimp.
  • I used stainless snaps cloth to surface where I snapped to the outside of the coaming and in some of the smaller areas where I couldn't use zippers to connect to the bimini I used the stainless cloth to cloth.
  • I used Flex Rail to attach the screen to the coaming where it dropped down in the aft area. I used Dow Corning 795 as a sealant and #6 screws every 8".
Fitting this area was the hardest. Our mainsheet and traveler run along the forward edge of the cockpit so there was a long discussion about whether to try to rig the screen so the mainsheet came through it in some way, or whether to disconnect the mainsheet shackle from the traveler and stow it on the genoa car track. We decided to do the latter for awhile and then we can always modify that screen panel to include some type of pass-through for the mainsheet later. Having the mainsheet out of the cockpit also gives us more living room. By the way, that lovely custom Bristol 57 in the background is for sale if you can afford to fork over a cool $599K.

I ended up with five total panels. Two on each side and one across the stern. The vertical line / zipper you see in the middle of the photo is the end of the first panel and the beginning of the second panel on the starboard side. If you look at the bottom of the photo you can see where the coaming drops down and narrows.

The lower section of the coaming is pictured here with the track mounted on top.

The aft lower section also runs in the track on top of the coaming and inside of the stern. The wind vane autopilot and the outboard are all outside the screen.

When we're parked for a long while the wheel is mounted on the rail. It fits nicely outside the screen. There are several places where I used short velcro strips on the outside of the screen to mount to the bimini frame to give it extra stability.

The view from the starboard outside.

One of the zipper seams which I designed to completely cover the zippers to protect them from UV damage. You can see one of the velcro straps there as well as the snaps that attach the screen to the outside of the coaming.

Before we did the new bimini and the connector, this is the enclosure we had for the dodger. Converting the upper corners of the dodger to accept the new enclosure was the hardest part of the job. 

Here is the outside of that corner with the new enclosure.

And here is the inside of that corner.

This was the second most difficult part, dealing with the aft stay. I ended up using two pieces of screen and doing the facing below the stay and a zipper above the stay. The whole piece slides into the track, then the middle zipper zips, then the top zippers, then the sides. It's a bit of a puzzle assembly, but it's pretty bug tight. We're pretty excited to have another living space for when the grand kids are with us next month. It will also provide us with good shade in the Bahamas. At some point when we head north again we'll do the plastic portion of the enclosure, but for now there was no reason to expose it to UV damage when we don't need it yet. All in all, next summer here at Snead Island will be much more pleasant with a place to sit in the evening.


John Clark said...

Great job! Ready for the 6 degrees of separation? I worked for Phifer Wire back in the 90's while finishing my very protracted college degree.

Robert Salnick said...

Nicely done!

I am always fascinated by the topological considerations of this kind of project.

s/v Eolian