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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
Thanks, Jon!

Here are the Fir 'L' flanges; 2 pieces of Fir marked on the template - cut to shape - and sandwiched in epoxy.



Test fit to the new cockpit in the shop,...



...and test fit to the coamings and cabin, on the boat (the new paint that looks blue is in fact, gray, with a green tarp overhead). This 'L', with epoxy and screws, will attach the new cockpit 'deck' to the boat. The 3 beams below(3rd aft, is out of the frame), will support the cockpit well, and the bulk of the weight (as Alden designed).



Back at the shop, the new transplant - all caulked and sanded - is just about ready to go out the door (9' wide door). I'm talking to the boatyard to arrange a hoist out of my truck and into the boat, first of next week.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
This will be quite an upgrade to our old boat. We spend most of our time in the cockpit. The old one is in tatters around the base of CHRISTMAS in the yard. The original joint between the teak bridge deck/seat decks was screwed -up- into the coamings and cabin back. That joint, dry with a sealant, failed some time ago. I re-screwed it some years ago. Still, it leaked. I think we have made some gains in boat building technique using epoxy today. With these newer techniques, I've tried to improve the cockpit design in the areas where I saw problems. First priority was a drier cockpit, especially the lids and drain design.

Second was a stronger platform. The old one had some weak areas, especially around and outboard of the locker lids.



None the less, the original cockpit, lasted well. The cockpit 'burned out' all at once, with rot and failed joints. In this close up of a section outboard of the locker lids, you can see the thinness of the teak from 53 years of use. Next to it, a nicely dove tailed cockpit well corner that has given up. Nothing lasts forever.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
The cockpit went in the boat, yesterday.

I had a friend, Aled, kindly give me a hand. Here he is guiding the new cockpit along the deck, toward the void.

Aled guiding the cockpit into place (1 of 1).jpg


It's a pretty short story - it fit! There was enough space (I got paranoid with a plane the night before,...), to wiggle it around and get an equal-ish clearance, all around.

Then I headed in one direction with a drill - Aled headed in the other - and we drove pilot holes through pre-sunk counter bores in the cockpit flange and into the mating ledger, below.

Then the crane operator raised the cockpit - we applied a bead of West 6-10 to the ledger - and he lowered the cockpit one last time.

We sealed the deal by driving two boxes of screws through the flange and into the ledger.

The hitch was some warping in the plywood deck. I had to stand both feet on the edge(even pulling myself down via winches and cleats!) as Aled ran the screws through the high side. It all went down - completely - with a nice squeeze out of West along the joint - all the way around.

Screwed down into epoxy (1 of 1).jpg


A quick dry fit of final outer perimeter deck boards and I was pleased to see that with a little scribing and trimming with a hand plane, everything will fit nicely. It was a good day!

Margin boards dry fitted.  (1 of 1).jpg


There's a lot left to do,... but a big task is behind me.

In place and fastened (1 of 1).jpg
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
I'm as excited about the 'new' cockpit lockers as I am about the cockpit. I removed an old worthless built in ice box in the port locker. With that large added volume, the new trapezoid shaped lids are wider at the forward end. Not only will that make loading large items easier, I can get in and out of the lockers easily. With the access panels reconfigured inside, there's better access to engine, steering, etc. I've spent a lot of time inside them these past weeks and appreciate the increased size and fresh paint.

The original mahogany ceiling that Alden installed was all shot. I replaced it with Cedar slats. I added blocks between the ribs so the ceiling can be walked on without breaking.





Last winter, I hauled the locker contents out in $1 grocery bags. That got me thinking: I thru bolted rope hooks into the deck supports. As an experiment, I've kept the stuff in bags and hung several from the hooks. This might be a handy way to utilize all the volume under the side decks. Soft light stuff like PFD's, coils of rope. Also may be handy for onboard recycling. We accumulate quite a bit over a week or two.





We'll find out how it all works, soon. CHRISTMAS launches, today.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
CHRISTMAS was launched last week, the spars stepped, and I haven't done much since. I haven't even bent the sails on. I've just been enjoying the floating boat at the mooring.

We've had a couple of heavy rain storms. In the past - the old cockpit was leaking so badly - I would have been out pronto to bail gallons(disconcerting gallons) of bilge water. Now, I can't even get the bilge pump to prime. That's very satisfying.

Opening the lockers, I can't find a drop - not one drop - inside(nor beneath the bridgedeck, below). That makes me smile. I know our life under sail will be much improved by this.



I'm enjoying walking all over the cockpit, lids, edges - even jumping a little and onto the sole. The old cockpit had some soft spots(more than a few). Not anymore. The cockpit is very, very strong and stiff, everywhere.

This project is over. It's history. The cockpit is a part - now a very, very satisfying part - of the old boat.

Maybe I'll bend the sails on this weekend. Thanks for following along.
 

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TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
This cockpit is working out better than expected. "It's like a new boat", according to my wife.





One of the more curious results has been a slight change in the boats trim at rest on the water. Despite weight estimates to the contrary, the stern is slightly higher. This is evident in rain water collecting on the forward edge of the bridgedeck. The trim change is slight so the puddle is miniscule. The small cockpit bench scuppers(which I located about 6" forward of their original location), soon drain off the puddle as the boat rocks a bit. None the less, the new cockpit is tight as a drum so no leaks below the bridgedeck(an impossible state with the old cockpit).

Was the old cockpit heavier due to holding moisture? Is my new cockpit in fact lighter? Did I remove more junk than I thought in the demolition? Who knows. It's 'all good' now. The new dry stowage below has been an absolute joy to use.



We've been putting the new cockpit to good use.
 

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May 21, 2008
30
Alden Challenger Portland
Hi Tom what an excellent job you did,I did similar jn Black Star with the gutters around the hatches in glass but as i had no patterns and was a long way from home a lot of it was guesswork but it still turned out ok using old teak decking from a big old motorboat all done on site.Now I have got so far with the boat I have found a crack near the starboard chainplates from rust under the surface,I filled the holes on the portside 8 years ago and cannot get going on this latest setback so I may sell her and go back to the UK next year with my other boat I shall be 77 then and its a bit late to get deeply into it again.
So seeing the other enquiries you had about buying a Challenger mine is almost up and running and I will take $8000 for her if you come across anybody that wants to look,she is in the yard in Portland CT ald covered over.
Philip Dann
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Hi Phillip. Do you still have your Challenger? If you're still trying to sell it, please post it here.
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Cockpit gray (1 of 1).jpg
Going gray.


The 'new' cockpit at haul out was turning a nice light gray. With a full seasons use I'm very pleased with the results. After several torrential summer rain storms, I still didn't tire of going onboard, pumping the bilge pimp to find - no prime - no water. Then to open the new lockers and find the contents bone dry, is still a delight. The drips in the galley are finally gone as well. These are personal triumphs though, the overall fun, especially for my family, was in sailing the boat with the new cockpit. Quite an improvement.



I'm looking forward to wooding, staining and varnishing the cabin house and cockpit (long overdue), this late winter-spring. I love working on this boat almost as much as sailing it.

 
Jul 8, 2016
22
That cockpit you built looks absolutely beautiful, Tom! :D

You have to be really proud of how it's turned out and this construction thread is full of good information. One of the things I was curious about, though, was your mention of small bench scuppers. I don't think I recall ever seeing any scuppers on the seats themselves in Iolaire, and I can't seem to find them in the photos you posted of your new cockpit. Are these bronze fittings, and how do they drain?

I was also wondering about your decision to get rid of the rear seat lids that provided lazarette access in favor of the door in the aft bulkhead of the cockpit well. After a full season of using the boat, do you think it has improved access and made that space more usable?

Adam
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
1,940
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Stormalong said:
One of the things I was curious about, though, was your mention of small bench scuppers. I don't think I recall ever seeing any scuppers on the seats themselves in Iolaire, and I can't seem to find them in the photos you posted of your new cockpit. Are these bronze fittings, and how do they drain?Adam
The bench scuppers or drains are small bronze thru-hulls Alden installed in my old cockpit. They actually had ports cut in the pipe and were incorporated in the original wooden gutter drain. None of that worked so it doesn't matter if I'm not explaining it well enough. I simply close the ports by fitting 1/2" copper tubing inside thru-hulls, and soldering it so they act like the larger cockpit scuppers(just drain into hose). I re-connected to the hose that is tapped into the fiberglass pipe (2 per side) that drains the decks through the small bronze deck grills. Here's a close up of one. It's effective because when the boat is heeled sailing, spray-rain-spilled drinks,... collects along the gutter formed by the bench and coamings during heeling. The drains are let into the wood below the surface and the surrounding hole is chamfered to catch water along that 'gutter'. They do the trick keeping the leeward cockpit bench dry.


I was also wondering about your decision to get rid of the rear seat lids that provided lazarette access in favor of the door in the aft bulkhead of the cockpit well. After a full season of using the boat, do you think it has improved access and made that space more usable?

No. The door in the cockpit well hasn't improved access there. The seat deck doors were handier. However, they were the most leak prone in the old cockpit with no hope of ever working well in the original design(ineffective convoluted channels in wood causing rot). I kept some things in there that were handy but always soggy wet and molding. I'm adapting to the doors though and it's a useful, dry storage now if a little awkward to get to.

The only way to access the area under the aft deck (exhaust hose for example), is through the starboard cockpit locker. I've enlarged an access hole in the bulkhead the secure the aft chainplate to access that exhaust hose. Not the handiest but doable. I have CNG tanks in the port side so that is closed off with tank supports. There was no way through the old bench doors to that area anyway.
 

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Jul 8, 2016
22
Tom Young said:
I re-connected to the hose that is tapped into the fiberglass pipe (2 per side) that drains the decks through the small bronze deck grills. Here's a close up of one. It's effective because when the boat is heeled sailing, spray-rain-spilled drinks,... collects along the gutter formed by the bench and coamings during heeling. The drains are let into the wood below the surface and the surrounding hole is chamfered to catch water along that 'gutter'. They do the trick keeping the leeward cockpit bench dry.
Thanks for the picture and explanation as to how your bench scuppers work. I really like the setup you've described, and it sounds like a nice improvement. Next time I'm onboard my boat I'm going to have to remember to take a look for the drain pipes you mention.

No. The door in the cockpit well hasn't improved access there. The seat deck doors were handier. However, they were the most leak prone in the old cockpit with no hope of ever working well in the original design(ineffective convoluted channels in wood causing rot). I kept some things in there that were handy but always soggy wet and molding. I'm adapting to the doors though and it's a useful, dry storage now if a little awkward to get to.
Dryness over convenience seems like an excellent tradeoff when it comes to the Alden Challenger cockpit. I was reading through the posts here on the forum from the owner of PRION/MOHAWK from a few years ago in this thread, LINK, where he talks about employing a shipwright to rebuild virtually the entire cockpit. This despite the fact the included broker photo from the listing seems to show a handsome cockpit that had a already been rebuilt at least once before. It really does seem to be a thorny area with the design. Usually, I'm the type who tends to look for ways to keep things as original as possible, but this seems like one place where it's only prudent to consider a different approach that makes good use of all the developments in boatbuilding since the 1960s in order to keep things as dry as practical. I really appreciate the efforts you've taken to document your own solutions.

Adam
 
May 25, 2012
2,247
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
tom, your pictures are the best. it was nice to see the mizzen staysail flying in that one shot. love the staysail. mine is all pink. its a yawl thing