March blew by in a hurry, and April seems to be going the same way. There’s a LOT to catch up on here on the blog, but I’m still short on time to really convey the progress. I hope to write better single-topic articles on some of these endeavours before too long, but don’t hold your breath. As is the norm for now, here are some photos with brief captions.
In early March, the masts went in and a variety of preparation projects took place, including mast wiring, some electric motor troubleshooting, and the like. More interestingly, the yards and booms were crafted from Douglas-fir, but that was really just a simple matter of taking appropriately thick lumber, cutting it with a circular saw, sanding, routing, and painting. Nothing particularly fascinating or challenging there. The REAL items of interest came the weeks following. Today’s post is about one of them.
First, the sheeting arrangement for the mainsail required access for the sheets from the aft end of the cockpit. No big deal, as the mizzen already sheeted from there and the Junk rig’s loads are not radically worse. I just needed to strengthen the sheeting point and be done with it… except there was the issue of the solar panel arch, which was right in the way of the sheets and could not be accommodated in the new rig.
The arch in question can be seen above the cockpit in this image… if you look hard enough.
So the solar panels needed a new home, and I took advantage of this disruption to begin constructing something I’ve wanted for quite some time - a hard dodger. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what a “dodger” is… it’s sort of like a “windshield” for the cockpit - in the photo above you can see how effectively exposed the cockpit of the boat is, and since it’s the point of control for the sails, rudder, and other important aspects of the ship, the crew needs to be there regardless of the weather. Having a bit of protection from the wind, spray, and even the occasional overly friendly large wave is no bad thing, and can help keep the crew safe, warm(er), dry(er), and generally in better spirits.
The vast majority of sailboats out there, if they have a dodger at all, have a cloth one stretched over some relatively lightweight frames made often of stainless or aluminum tubing. This, in my opinion, is both a pain in the ass to make and easily destroyed if a person falls on it, the sun shines on it too long, or even a reasonable, moderate wave comes aboard with some intent. Any dodger, hard, soft, or otherwise, can in theory be carried away by the wrong sort of wave entirely, but the type of dodger I had in mind would be vastly less easy to coerce off the deck.
Now, a lot of people have talked about hard dodgers on sailboats before, but often what they mean is a dodger with a hard top that they can get up on, but retaining the cloth “windshield” portion. Again, not something I’m interested in.
I consulted with the eminently sensible and general expert in getting-things-done-right-for-cheap Bob over at Boat Bits
(I’ve mentioned him before on this site a few times - he really is a sharp chap and thinks waaaaay outside the box as a matter of habit). His idea was clever: just build the dodger with plywood, using the “stitch and glue” method I’d just built my dinghy with. Then cover the whole works with fiberglass inside and out, and hey presto! you have a dodger which will stand up to most any abuse, look great while doing it, and be easy to build.
Now, I know that Bob can turn one of these out in about a week flat, and to be fair, I was able to do that for the basic frame and glasswork as well. But my finishing has really taken some time (not to mention I’ve been distracted by some other side projects which I’ll get to talking about shortly) so it’s not fully complete. That said, here are the photos of the templating, layout, and initial build.
I lay out the template using Luan doorskin plywood, 3-layer at about 1/4” thick. The heights will be adjusted later, here I’m trying some various angles and combinations to see what looks good.
Another view of the templating process.
Capping the final template with a roof piece, prior to trimming. I set the camber of the roof piece using a laminated curve of the same doorskin plywood, glueing two pieces back-to-back for stiffness, and then stitching that using aluminum electric fence wire to the roof piece. I tried two different camber heights before I got the look and companionway clearance I needed.
Another view of the template as I did some last minute fiddling.
I added some extensions to the sides and top to help keep a bit more spray off an occupant huddled behind it as the boat heels over a bit.
Here you can see the height of the dodger versus the old height of the arch, which is shortly to be removed.
The inside of the dodger after the fillets and glass layers cured.
The dodger gets a heavy coat of fiberglass and fillets inside and out, to encapsulate the template as a core. Now the dodger is a very strong, rigid structure with its own 3-D integrity and durability. It weighs about 35-40 lbs with the glass, wood, and all the epoxy on it. Not bad for something that started as two sheets of plywood!
In the next installment on this subject I’ll cover the companion piece to the dodger, the cockpit arch.