Cockpit tent / conservatory

by Adrian on March 20, 2013

A boat extension wasn’t really planned – but that’s been one of our projects this winter.

We’ve had a number of panels made up that attach to the bimini and sprayhood to form a covered ‘room’ across the whole of the cockpit.

Inside view

Called bimini extensions or cockpit tents, these are fantastic when living aboard in colder climates and during the winter. They create an extra space that instead of being cold, wet and windswept is less cold (!) dry and sheltered.

The cockpit tent

Whilst you wouldn’t want to eat dinner in there mid winter, it does provide a welcome buffer from the elements and a place to shelter and get ready to go out its when pouring with rain. In spring and autumn it will provide another very nice living area.

Extra room in cockpit

You can’t sail with it, but it only takes 20 minutes to put up, so is very quick and easy way to be sheltered and comfortable when in port.

In addition to the side panels and panels to connect the sprayhood to the bimini (to make it not totally, but virtually draft proof), we had a “sprayhood backdrop” made up, which is completely independent of the bimini, and forms an enclosed ‘wall’ at the back of the sprayhood.

Sprayhood backdrop with centre panel rolled up

Made up of 3 panels shaped to connect between the sprayhood and the floor and seats, this is a great solution for sailing in the cold and during those long cold nights.

Inside the sprayhood backdrop

We wouldn’t use it when the weather is very windy, but in settled conditions it will make an excellent place to huddle up and shelter from the wind and elements.

We had a few quotes and chose a Portsmouth based company called TecSew to design and make it. Whilst it sounds trivial, cutting and making panels that zip onto the bimini, in reality it is pretty tricky getting exactly the right shape and cut to fit and attach to the irregular surfaces of the boat – around winches, ropes, steps, windows and seating areas.

A neighbour’s boat had had a similar setup created by TecSew, so we had a good look around, decided what we wanted and got in touch.

The service was excellent, and they came over with a hi-tech measuring device that captured hundreds of points in 3D space which they fed into their CAD system to produce a completely accurate computer model of our cockpit and the entire rear of the boat.

From this they ran through with us various design options and were able to make interactive changes to the layout whilst we watched on computer. This was technology really working well, and allowed us to verify and approve the design from where we were in rural Spain the weekend before Christmas.

The standard Bimini and Sprayhood

The CAD design process
Revised back drop Main bimini tent

Installation of panels
Working out what goes where Attaching the panels to the bimini

We are extremely happy with the results and it is extremely well made and constructed.

Mindful of the warm places we’re heading for (and boy will they be a welcome alternative to cold Northern Europe), we also had sun shade panels made up that also zip onto the bimini to shelter us from the blistering heat. That seems such a long way from here and now, but it will be a major problem at some point.

It was not cheap, and at £3600 is a major investment, but it is a flexible system that’ll be very useful on our travels over the years to come.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dan Hacking April 27, 2013 at 06:08

Somewhere to grow tomatoes?


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