Cockpit Awning

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January 2005 --
After having a new dodger made by a professional (no point doing that one myself)
I could finally make my awning. I learned an important lesson after making the awning for my last boat.
That awning was an engineering marvel, but it was a real Pain In The A__ to put up and take down.

This one goes up in three minutes, and comes down in one. Much better!

Okay, so it isn't perfect and pretty,
However, it goes up in three minutes,
and down in one minute.
(Yes, I'm repeating myself but
it *is* a key point!) When it comes to awnings, form follows function!

The fundamental short term objective
is to provide protection from the Northern California winter rains, and be strong enough to be left up even when a front blows through and 30+ knot breezes blow sideways.

The front edge zips to the dodger.
The rear is 6.5 feet over the cockpit sole -- a fundamental design element.

Here's a plug for the Ultrafeed sewing machine from SailRite. Mine doesn't do zigzag, because they didn't make a zigzag machine back when I bought it.
This machine can chew through major layers of sunbrella and leather. It's a serious tool,
and I've never regretted the purchase.

Some folks look askance, as if
sewing is "women's work."
But when it comes to boat canvas
it's more like carpentry.

Another handy cheap tool is this hot knife.
It's really just a soldering iron with a flat tip.
When cutting synthetic fabrics like Sunbrella it's a bit slower than scissors, but it seals the edges
and makes the work less messy.

The first step was to make the back edge, with supports for a pole. I had an old two piece 3/4" awning pole in the garage,
with a nice little bend in the center.

Everything is sewn with Tenara
(aka Gore-Tex) thread. It's rather expensive, but UV doesn't bother it, so the threads won't fall apart after a few years.

There's a 72" zipper along the back edge, to attach a back section.
I'm not going to make a full enclosure or anything, but it'll be handy to zip panels on the back and sides that come down to the lifelines, for when it's really raining.

The loops that attach to the boat are nylon webbing, with a Sunbrella cover for UV protection, and a bit of leather on the inside for chafe protection.

There's a thick strap like this running the length of the awning, along the ridge.

About 8 years ago I bought a whole bag of these toothed grommets.

That turned out to be a lifetime supply!

The *translucent* Tenara hides my messy stitching!
(I have a real hard time sewing in a straight line.)
It's slippery thread, and I used a much smaller needle
to get good stitches.

It was breezy and rainy the day I traced the front edge,
so no pictures.

As it turns out,
the breeze really messed up my tracing.

For a few moments I thought I'd done it exactly perfect on the first try. . .

After the back edge was finished,
the whole thing was hauled to the boat,
to figure out how to cut the front edge where it zips onto the dodger.

. . . but then I noticed that the middle
was all bunched up.

So when the thing was unzipped a bit and the center was properly tight, the edges were about 5 inches off on both sides. Obviously, I shouldn't have marked it up on a breezy day!

All I could do was laugh.
Ah, another opportunity to get creative!

I didn't want to mess up the overall length, so rather than cut more fabric out of the center I decided to add fabric back on the sides.

It worked out okay. I sewed the original pieces back on, then cut it at the right spot.
A nice side effect is the seam -- when water runs forward on the awning, the seam helps shunt water off to the sides.

Yeah, that's it. I *planned* it this way.

After another trial fit at the boat to make sure it was right the second time, (it's not perfect but it's good enough)
I finished the sides.

On the front corners, I added another hunk of Sunbrella for reinforcement.

That reinforcing piece extends past the awning just a little bit, with leather on the back. It's fastened to the dodger with a twist-lock fastener.

The facing piece is a "Permalock" fastener. It's an experiment to see how it holds up to UV. They're easy to attach!

The twisty part is a traditional Stainless Steel fastener, attached with stud rivets.


This snap fastener tool from SailRite works great to attach twist-lock fasteners, too.


The stern end of the awning
is supported in a couple of ways.

Primarily, it's snapped onto the back stay, with a nylon strap covered with Sunbrella and leather passing around the back stay. Originally I had a cleat on the stay, I think this is better as it won't nick the rod rigging or foster rust.

The other nylon strap runs down the length of the awning,
to support the ridge and keep it in shape.

The awning pole is kept in place with Sunbrella sleeves, lined with leather so they don't chafe through. There's a thick leather pad on the ends.

After fussing with it for a bit, I decided to add some 3/4" Stainless poles, heading down to keep both ends up high. When disassembled, the support poles swing right up parallel to the awning pole,
so it's easy to store.

At the bottom, the support poles attach to clamp braces on the stern rail.

Note the thumb screw.
It's from McMaster-Carr (part# 99607A193), is made of 18-8 Stainless and has a little groove next to the knurled knob so that
a piece of string can be tied on.
That should keep it from falling overboard.

I spliced a snap onto the end of some 5/16" polyester rope. The idea was to snap it onto one of the stern rail bases,

then loop it through the grommet in the back corner, keeping tension with this
little teak block.


There's a nylon strap and loop attached to the bottom of the awning as well.

It's really handy to tie the ridge of the awning up and tension it, so that getting the zippers started is quick and easy.

There's leather chafe protection over the dodger's grab rail.
The leather is also hiding and reinforcing the big seam from my measuring mistake.

Later in the evening I moved it to the back corner of the stern rail.

We'll see where it ends up after I live with it a while.

On top, there's yet another loop
on the ridge line.

The awning can be unzipped on one side and rolled up, with one of the side grommets
tied to that loop.

That makes it really easy
to get in and out of the boat
without having to take the awning off.

I have a feeling I'll just unzip it
and flip it over the top, though.

It can be tied right to the back of the boom, so the whole awning can be unzipped and raised
to 6 feet 5 inches.

I have a feeling that I'll just
push the boom over and
clip a halyard on it, though.

I probably won't figure it out until summertime,
when I'll have the awning raised up most of the time.

For now, with the rainy season in full swing, it'll stay zipped down.

Next -- make the extensions to zip onto the back and sides, so that I'll have a nice little dry tent back there.

It will take some time to figure out how to rig the front corners without making it a pain to move about the boat.

I like this setup at the moment, with the corners pulled forward and clipped up high on the lower shrouds, and a bungee going over
to the stanchion.

February 2005 -

Here's the back panel.

It zips onto the back edge of the awning, and is bungied to the new stanchion bases on the
new stern rail.

It's not for shade,
but to keep rain out.
Here in Northern California, we have no rain for 8 months, and a *ton* of rain in the winter.
So it makes sense to have an awning setup for the winter.

Now the rain coming from astern drains to the deck,
and stays outside the cockpit.


Speaking of rain,
here it comes!

It was dark enough at 2 p.m. to make my flash go off, which caught the drops in mid-air.

Some knowledgeable friends have pointed out that I *could* actually sail the boat with the awning and back up. That wasn't a design criteria,
but maybe someday
it'll come in handy.

Next... the sides.

Here's the view
from inside.

If I get ambitious next summer, I might cut a hole and put a window in there, or a shade screen, or both.

I doubt it, though. This will only be up when it's raining.

The primary purpose of this is to create a little tent over the cockpit, so the boat's more comfortable when it's raining.

A week later. The sides are on.

I know this is unusual,
and looks a little wierd.
But the whole point is to cover to cockpit during the rainy season,
so I can be on the boat when it's pouring rain and still
be able to use the cockpit.


The edges are tied down to the center bar on the stern rails, and the center lifeline (when I get the lifelines back on!)

Right now they're just tied down
with nylon tie wraps, but I'm making little ties out of 1/4" three strand nylon rope with nylon hooks, so that it'll come on and off fast.

I'm going to add another Permalock fastener at the leading edge of the sides.

That'll eliminate
some wrinkles.

But I have to wait
until it stops raining!

The poles extend
outside the awning,
and the holes
are lined
with leather.

And when entering the boat, I can take all the wet stuff off before going inside.

It gives me an extra
three feet of interior space in the winter, as the aft cabin stays dry and makes the boat a lot more comfortable.

Here's a picture from the companionway, after it's been raining for
eight days straight.

It *know* it looks kinda wierd,
but what the heck,
it keeps the cockpit dry!

Besides, it's only going to be up in the winter months, and the only folks around here during the winter are the ones who appreciate dry boats!


In March 2005
I siezed the shock cords onto the awning, by drilling a small hole in the end and lashing some whipping cord through.

Here's a view
from inside.


The nice thing is that it's pouring buckets of rain, and I'm sitting in the cockpit taking a picture.