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Building a new cockpit for a Challenger.

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
I've been planning this for a couple years and have finally started. Xmas is outside under tarps so I'm hoping to do almost all the work in a warm shop at home. I've watched the boat builders at Rockport Marine build some components outside of the hull to install finished. In fact they did a cockpit a while back that inspired me.

My plan is to remove everything from the base of the cockpit coamings-down. Once the entire old cockpit is removed, to the bottom of the coamings and the cabin back, I plan to install a ledge-all the way around. It will be screwed and epoxied -from below- into the coamings-cabin. That ledge will be L shaped and result in a 1" wide continuous flange on all four sides.

Upon installation of the new cockpit(this coming spring), the entire cockpit-bridge/seat deck - attached to the footwell- will be lowered onto the ledge(and the existing cockpit support structure below of 6 posts and 3 beams).

First step: Fit a template to the existing cockpit. Carefully scribed and fit out of 1/4" plywood. Support pine legs were placed and marked that upon assembly should be the exact shape I need to achieve to allow lowering the new cockpit onto the support below and flange.

Next was to build the footwell to the exact size of the existing well. I'll used 3/4" Marine plywood for the well and bridge/seat deck. Except for the well sides that will be glassed for painting, all horizontal planes will be strip decked in the traditional method. I'll resaw Ipe for the decking as Teak is too expensive.

Here's the cockpit well dry fit.

Here are the well pieces after adding a layer of fiberglass cloth and 2 fill coats of West system.

Finally(for now), the well sides sanded smooth(ready for paint-later) then reassembled with epoxy and screws. The sole is still dry and will be removed for - Ipe decking, fitting binnacle and pulleys, fitting bronze manhole and cover etc. before it's finally epoxied and fastened to the well for final installation(with all parts removed for weight).

The template assembled and placed on top. Now it's ready to begin fitting the bridgedeck/seat height deck structure with two cockpit lockers. I'm making some changes to things like locker lids in shape and size. Some I'm determining as I go. If you have any ideas, don't hesitate to chime in.

I tried to place these photos in their correct order but can't seem to make the uploader cooperate. They're in a reverse sequence, sorry.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
This should make more sense.

I have a finished cockpit carcass. This leaves the 'finish' work-and there's a lot of that to do. You can see the template I carefully scribed on the boat, hoisted overhead to lower for measuring. The biggest change is going to trapezoid shaped lockers.



The well sides are fiberglassed and clothed-ready for paint. All the rest of the horizontal surfaces will be decked in Ipe. At this point, here's a sketch of the direction I think I'll be going. a 1" bullnosed radius around the interior perimeter. 1 1/2" decking and wider margin boards outboard against the coamings.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Cockpit locker drain channels.

That was the next step. I used Doulgas Fir 1 1/2" x 1 3/4" with a 5/8" x 1" drain channel plowed out. A shaped plastic tool formed filets of West in the bottom of the channel. I made these strong enough to add needed stiffness to the seat deck aft of the lockers(always a soft spot on my old cockpit).
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Ipe is very heavy, very dense and hard, very rot resistant, and 1/3rd the cost of teak. I decided to look into it to quite a bit of $. Having sawn a bit of it on my band saw, it's slow going - but doable. At least at the 1 1/2" thickness. Resawing some wider margin boards, I may have to seek out a bigger machine.

One concern I had was it's ability to adhere with Epoxy. I spoke to a boat builder who said he'd use Ipe on his own boat(for the cost savings). He suggested trying an adhesion sample.

So using the system I intend to employ; lay the 1 1/2" x 1/2" thick decking in a bed of thickened epoxy -both surfaces - and 'clamp' with round head 1" # 8 screws. After the epoxy sets up the screws are removed. The pilot holes then bored with a 3/8" bit to the depth of the plywood substrate. Then full depth Ipe plugs epoxied into the hole. This the teak veneer system the local boatbuilders have been employing with good results for decades.







Good bond. I've decided to wipe the Ipe with Acetone solvent before each strip is adhered. The idea is to remove the oils(like Teak, that make tropical hardwoods so rot resistant) in the Ipe. There's not a consensus on this step but enough people use it that I'll take the precaution.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Thank you, Iain! I hope we meet again one day. I've started the finish work. The trim around the interior of the cockpit is a 1" solid Ipe bullnose cut with a router. The 2 1/2" wide trim has a 1/2" rabbet cut out of the back to allow it to meet the 1/2" decking. It'll soon be epoxy adhered in place. It's very strong and more than up to body bracing feet in any condition. I've made provisions for secure attachment of two clasps per lid. With 3 3" butt hinges per lid, it'll stay closed for any conditions I can foresee.

The bullnose should be easy on shins, the back of legs and feet on a heel.



Here's a closer detail of the bullnose, the back band, and the drain channels. The back band under the bullnose. That band - 1" - which goes around each lid as well as the cockpit, leads water into the drainage channels. I have high hopes for dry cockpit lockers in the future(a first).

You can see, the bottom 3/4" marine ply is removable to allow easier decking, fitting binnacle, manhole, etc. It will be epoxied and screwed last.
 

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Oct 15, 2010
45
Beautiful! You should turn this into an article for Classic Boat or Wooden Boat magazine. Do you have room for a Caravelle in your shed?
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
SKraft said:
Do you have room for a Caravelle in your shed?
If this works as well as I hope, you can just send me the template. I'll ship you the cockpit. :)

Before adhering the finish trim, I lowered the template onto the rough cockpit in the shop. With a very sharp long plane and some time, the two outlines - the template and plywood cockpit deck - are now virtually the exact same shape.

But the template has never been on the boat since I scribed and marked the pieces, and assembled it in the shop. Carefully, I loaded it into my truck.

Untying the back of the cover, I hoisted the ungainly template - carefully so as not to jar it's shape - into the cockpit, and nestled it into place. It's a nearly perfect fit(if I do say so myself). It slides fore and aft 1/8". Athwartship, it moves 1/16". I'm certain(now) the new cockpit - if I stay with it's present outside edge - will fit with a small margin space all around. The well location was double checked - all good.

Satisfied, I threw the template overboard. It's task is complete, it's wood scraps now.



The plan is to leave the outer margin boards(soon to be cut) dry fit/fastened then remove at installation time and scribe-adhere-caulk in place. All other decking and caulking will be finished in the shop this winter.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Fiddly bits of trim.

Nearly ready to begin filling in the field with 1/2" x 1 1/2" decking strips. This step shows the lid trim dry fit. The #8 pan head screws are removed, thickened epoxy applied to trim and plywood and the pieces 'clamped' with the screws turned back in. All screws holes will eventually be counter sunk 1/2"-full depth wood plugs in epoxy inserted and finished flush.



The hinging has been a project onto itself. I chose 3"x3" SS butt hinges for a few reasons. The screw (#8 1 1/4") locations center in the 3/4" thick plywood sub-deck. To add more strength I bored 2 pair of holes per leaf that are centered in the 1/2" perimeter trim. The trapezoid shaped lids are a little tricky to hinge and fit as I'm keeping a 1/8" clearance around lids(I hope this isn't too snug).

The lids will be quite heavy once the decking(about 3 pounds per square foot) is applied. A sure way of securing them up(lanyard to the life lines?) will be important. Someone has suggested gas cylinder lifts.
 

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Dec 4, 2007
52
Hodgdon Bros. Alden Caravelle Seabrook, Texas
I secure mine open with a loop of shock cord that I loop over the winch when the locker is open. It seems to work for me.

Keep up the good work.

JZ
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
The decking going down, turns a corner.

This is my first installation of veneer marine deck. The task is something between laying hardwood flooring and ceramic tile.



Starting the first 'plank' inside the bullnose, things went well outboard. The 1/8" space is created with strips of 1/8" plywood.



So far I'm pleased! The work - at this standing height in a warm shop - has been a pleasure, so far. This would be brutal work, onboard the boat.

After all the decking is fitted dry, it will be removed. Each piece then set in epoxy and re fastened.

Once dry, the screws removed and their pilot holes bored full depth in the Ipe, full depth plugs set in epoxy. Then all sanded flush ready for caulking.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Winter in Maine is long.

I think that's helping me move slowly on this project. When it's 15 below outside, I don't feel springs pressure to pick up the pace.

A few hours here, a few hours there. The tools to fit the decking are pretty simple. A bandsaw is a pleasure to make the tiny cuts and trims. Strips of 1/8" plywood spacers keep the joints uniform.



Finally the upper deck pieces are fitted.



Next step is to remove pieces, spread thickened epoxy on the plywood and Ipe, and fasten them back down. The pan head screw method advised by a boatbuilding friend proved valuable at this step. Each piece returned perfectly to it's place without adjustment with spaces.

That made this step go faster(and with less mess) than I expected. The look of the Ipe is surprisingly variable. Even the type of saw it's come through (band or circular) leaves a different color. When wiped with acetone, it all looks the same. I'm sure it will all gray together nicely.

Once the epoxy is dry and screws are removed, I can finally get it all flattened out with random orbital sanders. Then it is time to remove the plywood sole and put that on horses for easier decking.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Still plugging along,....

The screws are removed(with the help of a hot soldering iron tip to loosen the epoxy), the holes counterbored to 3/8" x 1/2" deep. Then Ipe plugs, in epoxy, are inserted full depth. Once dry, the plugs and the decking will be one.



With the plugs cut off flush - with a fine hand saw - it was finally time to sand it all smooth. My biggest mistake (so far) has been some wonky resawing. The Ipe thickness varies a bit and I don't have a thickness planer. The Ipe laughed at 60 grit paper in a 6" RO sander. 40 grit did the trick. The surface flattened.



Followed by a pass with 60 grit, the Ipe is as smooth as glass. This close up shows how dense and tight the grain of the Ipe is.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Being able to raise and lower the whole cockpit has been helpful.



Eventually,.... the seat/bridge deck level are decked, plugged, sanded, and ready for caulking. Bench dogs are handy.



Then the dry fit plywood sole un fastened - onto horses - decked - and ready to fit manhole, binnacle, etc.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Once the cockpit sole was ready for caulking, I had to tear it up for the engine access manhole. Does anyone have any history of these bronze manholes Alden used in a few of their designs?

Cutting the gain into the Ipe decking for the rim, was a bear of a job. In hindsight, it might have been worth it to cut and set up a template for a router.



But it is now nestled - flush - into the decking, waiting for me to fit 3/4" decking into the recessed pan.



Sick of decking, I picked up another of a near endless stream of details yet to be completed. The cockpit ignition panel. Using the existing original as a model, I changed everything, a little here - a little there(after 16 seasons with a boat you know where to make small improvements).

Instead of the finished and varnished mahogany panel Alden designed, I used Iped scraps from the decking with the intent of leaving it all raw, to weather. The old one was badly beaten up by toes climbing over the bridgedeck into the the companionway. I think the Ipe - which is much harder - will hold up better to the foot abuse. And there is no finish to beat up. Plus the outer sliding door has a jamb - all around - to keep it more water tight. The actual new ignition panel (Lexan in the back still with protective paper on it), is more steeply angled for easier viewing, and it is a little bigger. I plan to sand and paint the back of the Lexan piece, before drilling holes into it.

Now it waits for me to disconnect and remove the old ignition panel and re - install gauges and switches. I should do that when I remove the binnacle - soon.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Then the binnacle has to be 'removed'.



The autopsy in the shop revealed an aluminum plate sandwich - slathered in goop - was tightened down beneath the binnacle about 20 years ago, to strengthen it a bit(notice a patch in the plywood as well). That worked, well enough, until the rest of the cockpit turned to compost.



Removing and cleaning the steering parts, the cables showed a few broken strands. Another detour: a new set. Other than that, all the old stuff is still in good condition.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Lots of side trips in steering, etc. But things are moving along.

The old cockpit is on the ground outside the boat.



There is a lot to repair and prep inside the open hull. Cleaning and prepping for a couple coats of paint, etc. Re placing a few posts, re-glassing bases,setting the 3 carrying beams at the correct height.





The new cockpit is coming together in the shop.
 

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May 25, 2012
2,247
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
tom, you are an amazing yachtsman of great skills. thank you so much for sharing with all your wonderful photos of all your masterful work. jon