Cockpit Arch and Solar Panel Installation - Part 3

29 12 2010 Posted by Daniel

Installing a cockpit arch and pair of solar panels onto an Allied Princess 36’ Ketch - How I saved over $5,000 and had a great time doing it myself.

This is the third post in a 5 part series on how I literally saved somewhere between $5,000 and $9,000 installing a cockpit arch and a pair of solar panels onto Aletheia, my Allied Princess ketch rigged sailboat. I’ll be posting this series over the next few weeks, so keep checking in for updates. Here is the previous post.

The day dawned bright and hot. Sweating hot. “Its December, for crying out loud,” I remember thinking. And I had outside work to be done. My buddy helped me as we wrangled the huge, but lightweight, frame over the stern rail and into the cockpit. I have no idea what it looked like from the outside but with its four jagged, awkwardly protruding feet, getting the arch around the shrouds and underneath the mizzen boom probably looked like a fool’s errand.

But we were no fools and I’d anticipated this issue ahead of time. Though I was expecting the entire frame to be “walked” into place through a series of iterations, the slight imprecisions between theory and practical application made it more challenging than I’d estimated. After raising the mizzen boom so high that it more resembled a gaff than a boom (and drew more than a few comments from dock passers-by), we finally got the pattern right. A few tweaks on the mizzen shrouds and a couple scrapes on our shins later, we had wrestled the awkwardly shaped spaghetti of aluminum tubing into place. But something didn’t seem right - the legs were definitely not matching up to where I wanted them on the deck. Panic started rising and I feared the worst - a total redo.

[ Read on for more… click continue below! ]


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Cockpit Arch and Solar Panel Installation - Part 2

19 12 2010 Posted by Daniel

Installing a cockpit arch and pair of solar panels onto an Allied Princess 36’ Ketch - How I saved over $5,000 and had a great time doing it myself.

This is the second post in a 5 part series on how I literally saved somewhere between $5,000 and $9,000 installing a cockpit arch and a pair of solar panels onto Aletheia, my Allied Princess ketch rigged sailboat. I’ll be posting this series over the next few weeks, so keep checking in for updates. Here is the previous post.

After receiving the materials, I pretty much just sat around for a while pondering the right approach to fabricating the arch. Battling “analysis paralysis”, I finally decided I’d had enough “thinking” and needed some “doing”. The first bit of doing involved bending two sections of pipe into the “bow” or “U” shape which forms the basis of the frame.

I took a test section of pipe to a local fabricator and asked if he could bend that to my specified radius. Now, I have to tell you a thing or two about this guy. He’s got a reputation for not caring about the “little folk” like myself who come in for random jobs. He’s got a fantastic machine shop, but his rates are pretty high ($100/hr) and he doesn’t commit to a time to complete a project (e.g. he’s been known to charge people for his lunch break, if you catch my drift). Also, he upcharged my friend on the spot after quoting him one price 5 minutes earlier and my friend agreeing to it. So he’s got a bit of a reputation. Nevertheless, he’s the only guy in town who can likely do a good job. So I went to him hopeful that with precise specifications in hand, more like a professional than a “little folk” he’d do it right and we’d be done with the least amount of pain.

Long story short, after taking the parts back to him after the first time wasn’t correct (and getting charged 100% extra for him redoing his own work) I was pretty much through with going to this guy, BUT the pipes were bent to the proper shape and ready for welding, so I was at least glad for that step to be over. However, it ruled him out for the welding process, and man, let me tell you, after what I went through to get this thing welded up, I am SO glad I didn’t use this guy. I was WAY underprepared for the welding…. Read on (click continue below) for the rest of today’s post.


Continue reading "Cockpit Arch and Solar Panel Installation - Part 2"


Cockpit Arch and Solar Panel Installation - Part 1

14 12 2010 Posted by Daniel

Installing a cockpit arch and pair of solar panels onto an Allied Princess 36’ Ketch - How I saved over $5,000 and had a great time doing it myself.

This is the first in a 5 part series on how I literally saved somewhere between $5,000 and $9,000 installing a cockpit arch and a pair of solar panels onto Aletheia, my Allied Princess ketch rigged sailboat. I’ll be posting this series over the next few weeks, so keep checking in for updates.

Recently, I’ve purchased some new solar panels for my boat and needed to mount them. At the same time, I’d been thinking about an arch over the cockpit for a variety of reasons. So, in a rare fit of practicality, I set out to think about a design that would be a suitable mount for my solar panels as well. Go go gadget engineering genius.

As any sailor who has owned his boat for any length of time can tell you, everything on a boat is a study in compromise. So too, the art of mounting a solar panel and cockpit arch. In particular, designing a cockpit arch on a ketch rig can be quite challenging. Having the mizzen mast to deal with in the cockpit area can be an adventure in and of itself. Then you have to consider the mizzen sheet and its swing arc, the boom height and proper clearance, and a number of other variables such as headroom clearance, access to winches and other lines, etc. In addition, its essentially impossible to find a location for solar panels on a ketch that will not at some point in time be obscured by a sail or in a non-optimum position due to some point of sail. Any position that thoroughly satisfies these requirements will inevitably be in the way of crew movement or be exposed in a dangerous manner to the sea and wind. Thus, you have to compromise some aspects of each in order to arrive at a safe, structurally sound, and still useful design.

Basically that means anything you try to do on a boat won’t turn out at all like you originally intended it, but if you play your cards right you might get something you actually like out of the deal anyway. (See what I did just there?)

But take heart! It is entirely doable, even if you have to give up a few things to get something in return. All it takes is a little bit of conscious thought, and some good planning. Nothing a couple Benjamin Franklins can’t do, I thought. Boy was I naive.

I called up a few local shops and received quotes ranging from $6,000 to over $10,000. After a few positions of anger-calming yoga (ok, actually I just took a few breaths and a nice stiff shot of rum), I realized that I could do a perfectly adequate job for much, much less. And so I set to it. After all was said and done, I got a better, more structurally solid, and more corrosion resistant arch for about $4,500 LESS than the LOWEST quote I got (which was for a much cheaper and less useful arch) - in total I spent under $1,400 and that includes tools that I’ll use on many more jobs, a LOT of extra aluminum that I didn’t need, and all extra components, coatings, fittings, etc. necessary to finish the job. Read on (click continue below) for the story of how I did it.

Continue reading "Cockpit Arch and Solar Panel Installation - Part 1"


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