Friday, March 21, 2014

Staying Warm When It's Cold, Rainy, and Windy - Cockpit Enclosure

Old Helm Enclosure
We've been taking LUX south for the winter, going from Annapolis to the Bahamas in the fall. LUX came equipped with a badly weathered "dodger", which was actually a vinyl insert that installed between the cabin top and the hard top. It allows the helmsperson to see out while being somewhat protected from wind and rain. It didn't cover the helm position very well.

The First Enclosure

For our first trip, Carol created a simple vinyl shield that provided some protection to the helm. It only encompassed the starboard side of the cockpit area, so its primary purpose was to break the wind (i.e. reduce wind chill) and to help keep us dry from driving rain or spray. It used all the existing track and screw holes. Some screws were replaced with screw snaps.

Old Helm Enclosure - From the Inside
One of the enhancements that Mike did at the last minute was to replace the yellowed vinyl of the old dodger with Lexan from Home Depot. It significantly improved visibility. We really appreciated the improved visibility when running down the Chesapeake at night and when negotiating the ICW while it was windy and rainy. The addition to the stbd side of the dodger was especially effective and we kept it in place even after we found warm weather and removed the side panel.

The side panel used snaps mounted on the hard-top sliding panel, making it easy to quickly open the slider for improved visibility. The top part of the panel outboard of the helm seat was Lexan, for visibility, while the bottom part was vinyl. The panel aft of the helm seat was vinyl and zippered to the sun shade. (See Old Helm Enclosure - From the Inside.) The panel at the helm could tie back when the weather became warm during the middle of the day. While not pretty, it was functional and provided good visibility.






The New and Improved Enclosure

We wanted something better. Pictures of the enclosures on other boats made us envious. We also wanted to use the panel templates to make screens, allowing us to use the cockpit area as a sun room or a screened porch.

Carol and Mike did research and ordered the parts to create a full cockpit enclosure. They used the template process described in the SailRite video on creating enclosures. The sewing machine was an old Consew straight-stitch acquired from Mike's brother, who runs a canvas shop. Carol has been sewing since childhood and decided that this would be an interesting exercise and extend her knowledge and sewing skills. Design and construction took about a month and materials were about $2000.

There were several key goals in making our own enclosure:

  1. Use as much of the existing track hardware as possible.
  2. Provide easy access to the winches and stoppers at the helm station so that we could sail with the enclosure in place.
  3. Allow the hardtop slider to be quickly opened and closed.
  4. Easy access to the side deck beside the helm station in the case that someone needed to quickly go forward.
  5. Roll-up doorway in the walkway to the aft deck.
  6. Allow access to the storage area under the aft cockpit seat (the liferaft storage area).
  7. Keep the hand-holds on the aft hardtop support struts available for use.
Carol and Mike decided to use Makrolon (a polycarbonate with excellent visibility characteristics). The cloth parts were done with Stamoid, which is a vinyl covered cloth. (See Sunbrella vs Stamoid vs WeatherMAX, vs Coatguard vs Recacril.) Gortex thread was chosen; if we're going to spend this much time and money on an enclosure, let's not skimp on the thread.

Extreme Sewing

Heating Makrolon While Sewing
The sewing started with a problem. The thread was melting when sewing the Stamoid to the Makrolon. Enter the realm of Extreme Sewing. After some experimentation, they found that heating the Makrolon prior to sewing would allow the needle to penetrate without generating enough heat to melt the thread. The sewing took a slow and deliberate pace as a section was heated and slowly sewn. The process requires care to prevent overheating the Makrolon. In retrospect, they think that a thinner gauge of Makrolon may have been better.











Winch Access

The design around the helm was particularly challenging. We wanted something that allowed us to sail with the enclosure in place, requiring access to the winches, winch handles, and stoppers. The whole panel unzips, allowing quick access to the side deck if we have to quickly go forward.

The red line in the photo is the jib furling line. The lower part of the panel must be unzipped in order to bring it to a winch. The lower part of the panel is vinyl while the upper part is Makrolon.












Stopper Access
The stopper access is provided by another panel that incorporates both vinyl and Makrolon. There is a rectangular cutout in the Makrolon into which vinyl is sewn across the top. This forms a vinyl flap that allows our hand to reach out to the stoppers while providing water protection. The stitching is not in a very good place - it falls right into the line of sight for crab-pot-float-watch. We're discussing options for changing it. Fortunately, this is a small panel and we can try several different things to see what works best. This panel stays up all the time, just like the dodger panel to its left.












Helm Zig-Zag
The hardtop has an interesting zig-zag at the helm sliding top. Carol and Mike came up with a great design to handle it.




















Hand-Holds Are Accessible

The hand-hold on the hardtop support also needed to be exposed, which was a big item on our safety list. You can see how the side panels slides into the track that the side sun shades use. There are zippers at the top of the panels, allowing us to change to bug screens and to include the side sun shades that expand out to the lifelines.















Hand-Hold Interior Strap
A velcro strap holds the enclosure in place around the hand-hold on the hard-top support.


















Aft Seat Locker Access
Access to the aft seat locker (Liferaft locker) is also accommodated. Unzip the two panels that connect to the locker, including the zipper between the two panels, reach between the panels for the seatback support 'handle', then lift the seat.
















Port Side Panels
Aft Panel
The port side panels keep the rain water out. The runoff from the hard top used to come down next to the seat, making it a wet place to sit. It is now "dry and comfy".


















The aft panels fit very nicely. The Makrolon is almost like looking through glass. We can't roll them up, but with the zippers all the way around, it is easy to unzip a panel and stow it. Mike & Carol used an old sail to build a storage bin in the forward v-berth area to store all the panels.












Here is Carol, adjusting the fit of a panel.
Fitting a Panel

Working With Dodger Template

Carol used the SailRite recommendations for building templates. Here she is, working from the Dodger template to make a new dodger, the panel that runs across the front, connecting the cabin top to the hard-top.















Finally, here is the enclosure during final fitting, just before adding snaps. The vinyl door is zippered on both sides and across the top. It can be easily removed or unzip the sides and rolled up. On our trip south, it was just like sitting in a sun room. Sometimes we had to remove the rear panels to cool off.
Enclosure Fitting
The next project is to make bug screen panels to transform our sunroom into a screened back porch.

  -Terry




2 comments:

L Smith said...

Great post. Will be doing similar project on our 43 when we can get boat and sailrite in same place. Fair winds, Larry and Lynda, SV Harmonia.

snowbird said...

Very good, we will create something like our L40 2007 as we just bought. Johanne and Asbjørn, SV Snowbird of Norway