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Old 27-09-2006, 14:23   #1
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Cockpit Enclosures

Hey salts... We've all understood the need for protection in the cockit of a sailboat. Of course there is the spray when you beat to weather and that seems to be pretty well covered by the dodger or spray hood which most boats seem to have these days. They also over protection from rain going into an open companionway. And with removable panels (mine has the center removable) you can get more ventilation too at the risk of some spray.

The came the bimini which covered the back of the cockpit from sun mostly... and then of course rain. This works for those who use the after end of the cockpit for steering or sitting/lounging. (I use autopilot mostly so the main reason for us would be sun protection when we lounge about on a long sail in the cockpit... watching everything).

And now some are going to fully enclosed cockpits with roll up or removable see through side curtains. Complete enclosure doe present challenges for lines and winches and both running and fixed rigging.

I am considering doing a bimini next spring but the enclosure idea to me seems like gloing too far. I really like an open airy cockpit and the dodger seems to give enough protection when we have to sail in really bad weather.

Let's hear some comments about cockpit enclosure.. biminis, dodgers .. soft.. hard... etc etc. I think there is some good wisdom out there... kindly share it!

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Old 27-09-2006, 14:31   #2
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one word

!!!!bugs!!!!
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Old 27-09-2006, 14:58   #3
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I have resisted a full enclosure for years saying that I'd go to a trawler before I got one. They're certainly sprouting up all over though. One boat last season, on our annual migration to the Bahamas, started out without one and his wife wouldn't continue unless he got one so he got one in Nassau and they really love it. The cold and wind and rain got to them. I have a dodger, bimini and connector. I have thought of getting two panels on the dodger and bimini to break the wind when lying at anchor. I got a price on them and changed my mind! Might try sewing a couple of panels this year if I can lug the Sailrite down to the boat. Enclosures are great for happy hours especially if the weather doesn't cooperate. As far as bugs go we're lucky not sailing or anchoring where these are a problem. Tried the Bay of Quinte one summer, never again. You can't enjoy evenings. The best time of the day and the bugs drive you down below. We're lucky in Toronto. Bugs don't seem to survive in our environment. I wonder why.
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Old 27-09-2006, 15:04   #4
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Jeff

It really depends what you do with the boat. For years we just had a dodger and a sunshade to put up when at anchor and were happy.

Since moving to a center cockpit boat we initially did a hard dodger and bimini with connectors. Of course figuring the bimini would be folded most of the time. NOT. We rarely fold the bimini and most of the time have the connector in. Keeping the cockpit cool is great. This year we added a full set of side and back curtains for weather. Those are off most of the time so far however on cold rainy days the are real helpful and as we cruise south this fall I have a feeling we'll be glad we have them.

We do not have a great solution for bugs underway as non of the sides incl front or back have screens. So it's either hot underway or we get some bugs. At anchor we bought a screen tent for 30 dollars or so at a hardware store that drapes over the whole cockpit.
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Old 27-09-2006, 15:19   #5
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Our boat came with a brand new full enclosure (center cockpit) when we bought it. It wasn't on my list, but now that we have it, I would put it up near the top.

The enclosure does much more than any of the other items in Jef's original post. The key is that in any conditions you are kept dry and warm while at the helm. This dramatically recduces fatigue and helps with longer passages in nasty weather.

The enclosure also keeps everything in the cockpit dry. You can dry clothes out there even on semi-cloudy, drizzly days. Why? The heat. It's like a greenhouse all closed up in the summer.

The downsides are that you need a good design. Our guy wasn't so bright and didn't integrate the lines as well as he should have. We have to unbutton the foot of one of the panels on each side to run the genoa sheets. Also, make sure not to cheap out on the forward panels. Our guy did and I find myself having to remove them from time to time to get better visibility. Spend the extra $$ and get the best plastic you can for the front. The sides and stern panels aren't really as important, of course.

Another benefit - you can use your cockpit cushions all the time, or enjoy a dinner or cocktails in a heated enclosure with a view just about any time of year.

I'd say get one. They are fantastic.
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Old 27-09-2006, 15:38   #6
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Our first boat had a deluxe full enclosure. Screens and glass in 9 panels to do a 100% enclosure. Full canvas awning for on the hook too.

New boat has one that is trashed from UV. We will buy a new full enclosure. The admiral always wins these battles. She is right on this one too. They really are great. Under sail I don't like 100% and leave the front side panels off for better visibility and ventialtion. On the hook as noted "bugs". When warm the bimini , connector, and dodger are always up for us. It's nice if you can detach the glass on the dodger for more ventilation when the seas are not boiling.

Expect to pay more than you might think. They realy are not all that cheap when done right. Pay close attenstion to how tyou exit the enclosure and move along the side towards the bow. You don't want an awkward step to get in and out.

Get Strataglass for the clear plastic only and never use anything but what they sell to clean it. Amonia will ruin it before your eyes. Pledge spray is another old wives tale from back when the glass was pretty bad. Its plastic after all and harsh cleaners will fog it as in forever.

Demand Technora thread. It's made of Gore Tex and will out last the fabric (it's in the warranty). If you use matching Sunbrella thread the thread will go total belly up before the fabric does and you will remember what I said. Seams will magiacally open with the slightest touch down the road. It costs a little more. UV is a most destructive side effect of being on the water.

Don't skimp on the stainless steel structure. Consider adding enough to support a solar panel or 2.

Light colors last better and don't show the wear as much as dark colors. White shows the dirt. Our last one was Burgundy and I think it is too dark. New one will be a gold color.

Ask around and get referrrences if you can. It's not easy to make these correctly so they can take the beating you will give it. Done right you can get 10 years depending.
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Old 27-09-2006, 17:18   #7
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With full enclosures.. do you have feel closed in like being in a greenhouse?

I love to lie down and watch the clouds.. or the stars and the main's tell tales! And what about the delicious breezes?

I can see for the puposes of warm in cold and wet climates it would make the cockpit more usable as Scott has described... So the question is what are the downside to enclosure?

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Old 27-09-2006, 17:22   #8
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I don't think so. You can of course take them down and put them up as desired. Too much UV during a sunny day isn't healthy. Being cold or hot really isn't much fun eaither. Many times you want the shade when it's nice and the ability to stay dry when it's not.

Normally I don't put up side curtains unless conditions warrant. The good news is they last longer that way too.
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Old 27-09-2006, 17:34   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pblais
...Demand Technora thread. It's made of Gore Tex and will out last the fabric (it's in the warranty). If you use matching Sunbrella thread the thread will go total belly up before the fabric does and you will remember what I said...
As far as I know, technora is not made of Goretex. It is a para-aramid fibre... if anything, slightly similar to Kevlar.
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Old 28-09-2006, 03:24   #10
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I've been wondering just how much of a blow can they hold up to? At what point does one want to fold them down to keep them from getting damaged or blown away? The boat I had, had a hard dodger and I didn't have to worry about it.
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Old 28-09-2006, 05:14   #11
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In the slip I would expect them to handle 35 - 40 knots with the curtains on. If a full blown storm was coming I would remove as much as practical including sails just to reduce windage. There was a lot of canvas damage here after Ernesto came through. None in our marina but in general all the canvas guys are busy. It's hard to know all the circumstances as to why.

My dodger did fine in a cat 1 hurricane. On the water I think you can expect it to handle a lot more than in the slip. A large wave into the cockpit is not something it will handle well. About the same force as dropping a car on it.

I leave the curtains off unless aboard or the weather is not severe. I don't put them away unless they are totally dry. I have sailed in 25 knots in a light rain with it all on. Without the curtains I have sailed in 35 knot gusts and no problem with the canvas. You need to reef the cockpit canavas Much more than that and the adventure gets too exciting.
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Old 28-09-2006, 05:28   #12
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I delivered a boat off shore and we sailed through the beginning of Hurrican Emily.. She was but a deep nasty low.. but that was not fun. The boat has a bimini and when the winds pipied up it started to lift the bimini bow out of the socket. There were only two attachment points and straps if memory serves me correctly. And this was with the thing folded up for less windage! We had to jury rig some lashings to keep the thing on the boat for those 2 days... (wind was forward of the bean). It wast too big to store it any other place... so we had to deal with it as we did. It survived and... I am here to tell the story... but the attachments are way less than a dodger.

At anchor I will set up a cockpit cover which keeps the elements out but no side curtains... And although it takes but 5 minutes to set up and take down... one does get lazy and so the more permanent solution calls.

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Old 28-09-2006, 15:11   #13
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Originally Posted by Daddy's Dream
I've been wondering just how much of a blow can they hold up to? At what point does one want to fold them down to keep them from getting damaged or blown away? The boat I had, had a hard dodger and I didn't have to worry about it.

Ernesto's 60mph gusts didn't come close to rattling my enclosure loose. Not an issue for any storms other than named, I would think.

And to answer Jef's downside question: I had forgot to mention this!

Biminis are very difficult to get used to sailing with. I don't think one could learn to sail with a bimini up at all! I can't see my genoa telltales OR my mainsail at all when under the bimini. I have to trust my sailing instincts - you know - the wind on your nose that says if you need to alter course. I usually pick a course, set the sails appropriately, and continue steering this course. If you are beating into the wind and doing a lot of demanding course changes, you will not enjoy a bimini.

One improvement I'd like would be the expensive plastic Paul mentions put on the TOP of the bimini, just so I could peek through at the sails and telltales.
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Old 28-09-2006, 18:28   #14
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One improvement I'd like would be the expensive plastic Paul mentions put on the TOP of the bimini, just so I could peek through at the sails and telltales.
We have a cloth cover on the inside we can take off or leave on to to see the roach of the main. IT's worth having a sun roof option for sure.
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Old 28-09-2006, 21:55   #15
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Our aft cockpit Catalina had no cover. I couldn't get my wife on it because the weather was never quite right. Too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy, whatever. No fun sailing without her.

Our center cockpit Irwin came with a full enclosure. Now I can't keep her off. When we sleep over in April or May, the greenhouse effect makes it so cozy on chilly mornings that we usually have breakfast up in the cockpit. Delightful.

When sailing, we roll the plastic curtains up and down to suit changing conditions. Wet or dry; warm or cold; it's always comfortable sailing. I doubt that we'll ever have a boat without a full enclosure.

In the past three years, we've had a few 50 knot squalls come roaring through the mooring field with no damage.

A few of the nylon zippers have had some teeth that wore to the point where the two parts separated. I bought some zippers and thread from sailrite.com and a $89 sewing machine from Walmart. I'm no tailor, but I discovered that I am able to replace a zipper when it gives up the ghost. The stiches may not be as straight as an arrow, but they have all the strength needed.
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