14 April, '07

Design is really interesting. For me it’s a process of trying to convert a mental image into a set of plans with the object of having that image produced in full three dimensional reality. Now that sounds a very obvious thing to say, but to mentally design and proportion something like a cockpit, a place where the skipper will spend a lot of time with comfort dependent upon subtle and small variations in shape, dimension and proportion, then to see it built and sit in it finding that it feels right, and that it is consistent with the original image is very rewarding.

I drew the cockpit of Sundowner with shelter, comfort and workability in mind. This boat is going into waters where all of these will be very important. Keeping the man on watch out of the wind in a cold climate reduces the chance of wind chill causing hypothermia, keeping him sheltered from spray does the same, having the controls ready to hand and enough room to stand braced to wind a winch or haul on a rope without bending too far or knocking a knee is essential, even things like having the tiller to hand but enough space to step past ahead of it when going about has to be considered.

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click to enlarge

All this and the safety issues of keeping the cockpit volume down so she wont carry too much water if pooped, big enough drains to clear any water that comes on board , and the cockpit layout such that it keeps the crew secure when the boat is pitching and rolling about.

One of the very early exchanges of emails between Charlie and I included a request from me for his height, weight, reach and so on. All that was to enable me to design both cockpit seating and the boats interior to suit, and at this stage she’s looking good. We pulled the cabin top down a little, he still has standing headroom down the middle of the main cabin and plenty of space over the bunks and in the cockpit the seat height and widths seem about spot on.

The coamings come up almost to shoulder height, the corner formed by the cabin aft bulkhead and the coamings is a great spot to relax into, and the footwell is wide enough to stand up well braced and stable with enough space to move about clear of the tiller. The camber in the seat tops feels good, and should still do so when the boats heeled over under way, the height of the seats is about right so the edges of the seats don’t constrict the circulation when sitting for a long time, and the backrest angle seems comfortable.

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click to enlarge

We have yet to site the sheet and halyard winches, the sheet and halyard cleats and the big quarter cleats that will be used not only to tie her up in the marina but also to trail warps in extreme weather. That deck made of two layers of 6mm plywood is stress bearing, and the two mini Sampson posts that she will have are well braced by foot wide quarter deck.

That quarter deck will also have a “hard point” built in so a vice can be bolted to it, the cockpit is not only where the crew works when sailing, it’s the recreational space where guests sit relaxing and chatting, the safest place on the boat in a hard moment, and the place where much of the maintenance is done. I started off writing this intending to say that Charlie has one of the coaming fronts in place, the transom in and all the seat tops on so I’d climbed in and sat there to see what it felt like, but I’ve been a bit sidetracked here. No matter, you get the picture; it’s a comfortable space that feels as though it’s going to work well.

There is work going on in other areas as well, alongside the engine bay there is a battery box being built and the same space on the other side will become a tool and spares locker handy to the mechanicals when required, note the semicircular cutout in the front of the engine box that allows the starter handle of the little Bukh to be swung without barking the knuckles and the neatly accessible filter, cooling and exhaust systems. Just as I began writing this we had a discussion as to how to proportion the companionway steps that form the remainder of the engines enclosure, and that will be shown in a future diary.

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click to enlarge click to enlarge

Forward there is a big double bulkhead that not only forms the forward end of the main cabin at deck level, it braces the mast tabernacle and makes two baffled airvents as well as a pair of deck lockers. That’s been started but as yet it does not amount to anything visually so I’ll get photos in a week or two.

We had Blair Cliffe here for a couple of days to help out, he’s been here before and must have been infected with JWBoatitis as he has just bought Dave Perillo’s Navigator “Jaunty” (you can see her on Dave’s website at www.openboat.co.nz). He spent all of our coffee breaks telling of his first cruise away with Barb and Frank in their Pathfinder which got me all keen, it’s a while since I’ve been able to go cruising and I miss being out on the water and not having to be home for a few days. Charlie had him very busy spreading glue and such, nice to have extra hands here. By the end of day two the transom had been laminated double thickness, dry fitted and all the 90 odd screw holes drilled and countersunk, then the whole thing glued and screwed in place. I was interested to see how the cockpit felt with the after end closed in and the backrests in place so climbed in and relaxed in the corner, which is where this began.

John Welsford