Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cockpit Enclosure Project: Phase Two

I finally finished the cockpit enclosure. It was by far the largest, most difficult sewing project I have ever tackled. It was not fun.

Phase two did not start out well. The extension (connects the bimini to the dodger) was the last shade panel finished so it was the first window panel I attempted. I followed the instructions on the Sailrite video. I cut the panel out of O'Sea 30 mil vinyl, used seamstick to bast the zippers on the panel, cut the 2" binding strips to cover the zippers and sewed everything together. Then I walked down to the boat and tried it on. It didn't fit!!! I needed at least an additional inch to reach from the bimini to the dodger. I was dismayed not only because this panel didn't fit but I wondered if any of the panels would fit using the patterns I had made. I gave up for the evening and went to bed. The next day I ripped the zipper off of the top of the panel, sewed a strip of 1" binding onto the panel and attached the zipper to that and tried again. It still didn't fit. I ripped the 1" binding off of the panel, ripped the zipper off of the 1" binding, sewed a strip of 2" binding onto the panel, and attached the zipper it that. It finally fit.

I wrote a post to a FaceBook group, Sewing on Boats, about my problems and received some very good support and advice. One of the responses suggested that I cut the side of the panel that attaches to the bimini according to the pattern and cut the other edges 1" larger. Then sew a zipper on the side that attaches to the bimini, take it to the boat for a fitting, then trim and sew on another zipper. I should continue fitting and sewing one zipper at a time until it is done. This was an excellent suggestion and it was how I sewed the rest of the panels. I made numerous trips back and forth until all seven panels were constructed. I have to give credit to George for helping me with the fittings during brutally hot and humid weather. Thank you, sweetie.

Shortly after I started sewing the window panels I began having problems with my Sailrite machine. It was skipping stitches and breaking thread. I read the instructions and watched the dvd that came with the machine. Sailrite provides instructions on how to adjust the timing. I tried to follow their instructions but was terrified that I would mess something up and never get it working properly again. I am not mechanically minded and had to ask George which way to turn a screw to loosen it. (I know, I know--lefty loosey, righty tighty. I seem to be the only person who can never remember that.)

One thing that seemed to happen frequently was the needle would hit the cap spring. This created a burr on the cap spring which would lead to skipped stitches and broken thread. I ordered three additional cap springs and went through those pretty quickly. I ordered 10 additional cap springs before I finally figured out what I was doing wrong. In the end I believe it was my turning the wheel by hand to give it an assist when starting a seam that was causing the problem. It is something I have always done on my regular machine, especially when sewing something heavy. For some reason, the Sailrite machine doesn't like it. Now, instead of giving it an assist I step on the foot pedal and hope for the best.

I ended up losing about a week trying to sort out the issues but finally got it working well. The panels are done and I just have some final tweaking to do. I have to decide whether I am going to attach Velcro straps at the bottom to secure them to the supports on the boat or use adhesive snaps. I am also making some adjustments to the zippers to help them work better.

The window material is quite expensive. The panels were large, heavy and unwieldy. I was very concerned that they would get scratched on the edges and corners of the sewing table and finally resorted to sewing on the floor. It actually worked much better.

This worked much better than trying to move the panels onto and around my sewing table. The plaid sheet is something I bought at a thrift store. I roll the panels in old sheets to protect them.


We gave the extension panel a test run this past weekend during a thunderstorm. I have to say it worked really well keeping some of the rain out. I was wishing I had brought the other finished panels. I do believe we will enjoy the enclosure this fall.




Friday, August 12, 2016

Cockpit Enclosure Project: Phase One

I became seriously interested in a cockpit enclosure for Breeze On during our Delmarva circumnavigation in May. The air temperature was in the low 60's and the water temperature was in the upper 50's. I couldn't get warm even while wearing 7 layers of clothing at times. An enclosure would protect us from the wind and help keep us warm in the cooler weather. Since it is likely to be cool when we start out for the Bahamas, I would like to have an enclosure made before we start out in November.

This past Spring I bought a Sailrite machine, when the intention of using it on small canvas projects. George suggested I buy it so that I wouldn't ruin my Huskvarna machine (which didn't like sewing canvas one little bit). Now that I own a Sailrite machine I felt compelled to make that cockpit enclosure myself, even though the project seemed overwhelming.

One of the most overwhelming aspects was deciding how to pattern the panels. Our bimini is much larger than our dodger and I couldn't figure out how to connect the two together. Every time I would step on the boat I would look at the area between the bimini and dodger and try to imagine the enclosure. I purchased and watched Sailrite's video, "Make Your Own Full Boat Enclosure". I looked at other sailboats and took photos. I finally decided that if we could install collapsible rigid struts on the bimini and remove the webbing straps, I could make egress doors that would work. One afternoon while on a day sail, I took paper and pencil with me to draw the bimini, dodger and location of the panels. George helped me take the measurements. The drawings have proved to be very useful. I have referred to them several times.

In addition to the enclosure I was also interested in making cockpit shade curtains. I thought I could use the same pattern for the shade curtains and window panels. I decided to make the shade curtains first (out of Phifertex). I would see how they fit, tweak them and then make the window panels from the more expensive window material.

I spent four full days patterning and and making the shade panels. I finally finished all eight panels and I am pleased so far. I made some minor adjustments to the panels transfered those changes onto the patterns.

Here are the steps we have completed so far:

  • Install collapsible grab bars on bimini.
  • Measure, cut and install tails on forward and aft edges of bimini and aft edge of dodger. I used a hang down tail on forward edge of bimini and tuck down tail on aft edge. The Sailrite video, "Make Your Own Bimini", was helpful for this.
  • Install zippers on bimini and dodger.
  • Use Dura Skrim to make patterns.
  • As per the Sailrite instructions, I started with the aft panels. When these were finished I installed them and used them to mark the side panels. Then, I installed the side panels to use for marking the egress panels.

Next up, the window panels.

Patterning the aft panels using Dura Skrim
Egress door panel pattern laid out on Phifertex


George did not want to drill holes in Breeze On to attach snaps. The panels are secured using Velcro straps that wrap around the back stay, stern pulpit and bimini supports.



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Return to Wye East River

Two years ago we anchored on the Wye East River for our first week-long trip on our own. We both had very fond memories of our week on the Wye East River, in spite of the numerous challenges we experienced on that trip. After what seemed like a long, hard day sailing from the Choptank to Shaw Bay, we bickered while dropping the anchor at sunset. When George questioned my driving as I was motoring past crab traps on the way into Granary Creek, I threw up my hands and walked away from the wheel (I don't remember this episode but George does). We ran out of fresh water mid-way through the week. Last, but not least, we dragged anchor in the middle of a very windy night in Boby Owl Cove on the Choptank. It is a wonder that we continued to sail together!

Last week we returned for a week on the Wye East River. We laughed about our trip from two years ago and both commented on how far we have come. Both in our abilities handling the boat and also in our teamwork. We don't bicker any more and George trusts my abilities at the helm. We had more challenges this week, of a different sort, but still very much enjoyed our time there. We had a few days of extremely hot and humid weather, making it difficult to get comfortable or sleep at night. One day the thermometer read 110 degrees in the cockpit and 95 in the cabin. I spent most of that day in the cabin parked in front of a fan. We cooled off by swimming in our Nettle Net Pool and dinghying to Wye Landing for ice cream.

Schnaitman's at Wye Landing. They serve ice cream bars in addition to night crawlers!


We had a few thunderstorms, but one was especially intense. The maximum wind gusts were 60 knots. We had a brief period of small hail. We turned the engine on and put it in gear to keep Breeze On pointed into the wind. We made it through without incident, although soaking wet, and did not drag anchor. Phew.

The storm as it was approaching


We both find the Wye East River especially peaceful and beautiful. We saw bald eagles where ever we went. I watched one fishing and later saw a young osprey chase the eagle away.


The Wye East River remains one of our favorite places on the bay so far.