Morgane’s dodger was very much old-school i.e. it protected the main hatch from the worst of the spray from ahead but offered no real protection for the crew unless you were the lucky one able to sit on the top step of the companionway. See the earlier article in fixing up when I bought the boat in Puerto Williams
I have long planned on improving the protection and have a long term concept where the very long bridge deck between the cockpit and the companionway will be dropped to the same height as the top of the engine and fully enclosed by a weather proof pilot house that will comfortably sit two crew. That requires more resources than I have at presents and I want to do several thousand miles in hot weather before making that step.
Therefore the current plan evolved with the goals of providing a temporary hard dodger the full width of the coach roof with enough room for two to sit under the roof out of the weather or in the shade; which ever need was greater. The existing mainsheet track is located, in the same place as many old-school boats, just behind the companionway – right in the way of just about every activity! It was also right in the way of any dodger design that I could come up with so it would have to be moved to the roof of the new construction. Various criteria had to be met:
- it must provide shelter for two people
- there must be good visibility from the tiller
- strong enough to mount the main-sheet on the roof
- strong enough to walk on and mount hand-hold rails etc.
- not be a greenhouse in hot weather
- not impede access to the companionway hatch
- the windows should be steep enough to shed water quickly
- ideally provide enough roof space to mount a 100W (ish) solar panel
- be simple and cheap to build
- not use any exotic materials
- be lightweight.
- provide space to mount some useful instruments outside in a protected console that are more use outside than down below!(radar display, fish-finder display, GPS and sailing instrument.)
Right from the start I decided to build the dodger based on function rather than aesthetic considerations. It was unlikely that the final result was going to be pretty.
After a lot of discussion with just about everybody offering an opinion I decided to bite the bullet and get to work. Paula and I unbolted the old dodger, lifted it onto the pontoon and “Morgane” was naked.
I had already decided to build the structure from marine-ply coated both sides with fibreglass/epoxy. We would use 9mm ply for the sides and 18mm ply for the roof. The mainsheet track would on the roof and supported by an internal roll bar fabricated from stainless steel tube.
Stage one was to build a skeleton from scrap timber sized to be the external dimensions of the finished structure minus the thickness of the ply. The only dimension that we really had to work to was the overall height as this had to be kept to about the same as the old dodger to allow for boom clearance plus the main-sheet block to block distance (this may be a bit tight but I have some ideas to shorten the block-to-block distance if necessary). What followed was a day of Paula and I holding pieces of wood in various positions then taking turns to climb over, duck under, sit under, squint past, take walk to the end of the pontoon and have another look, recheck sheet leads, etc., etc., but by the end of the day we had a skeleton in place and braced up strong enough to support the ply panels.
Day two was relatively easy – we sat the,, over-sized, sides in place and scribed the bottom edge to match the curve of the deck, and then followed up with a similar procedure for the two front panels. The roof line was marked and cut and the panels tacked into place with more drywall screws. We sat our roof panel in place and stood back to have a look. Our original idea had been to overhang the roof to the same footprint as the base of the dodger with the idea that the overhand would provide a lot of shade and keep rain off the windows. However the large overhand looked terrible and would have made moving around the dodger more difficult; so roof panel got a drastic trimming. We curved the aft edge of the roof to improve access to companionway hatch which also improved the appearance, then removed the sides panels and curved the aft vertical edges too. Satisfied with the overall appearance we called it a day.
The final design day was spent choosing and marking the window locations, cutting them out, then cutting a bit more out. rounding off the edges of the roof panel with a router, giving all the edges a rough sanding, and putting in extra braces. We then lifted the whole think off and onto a borrowed trailer (thanks Karl) and carting the whole think off to a shipping container that we had borrowed to use as a workshop for the fibreglass stage of the project. We soon found that we just couldn’t get the container up to a temperature high enough to cure the epoxy without having massive problems with surface waxing. Asking around for workshop space we found an insulated shed with enough space at my Aunt Greta’s so back onto the trailer again went the dodger.
With the dodger now in a warm shed the epoxy work could start. Paula first of all applied rounded fillets to all the joints using thickened epoxy (we used baby talc as we didn’t have any of the ‘proper’ stuff). With the joints all fastened into place with the fillets and the three vertical fwd corners jointed with fibreglass tapes we could remove the skeleton. We covered the outside faces and joints with fibreglass cloth then flipped the whole thing onto its roof and in one hit layed up the inside cloth.
And that is where we are now – more to come.