Replacing the Coamings

Following some online discussion, I opted not to make the coamings out of plywood. Do I hear a sigh of relief? I found some very nice Honduran Mahogany and went the traditional route. However as the photos will show I went a step further.

My contention is that the tail ends of the coamings represent a design weakness in that without any support, they are liable to splitting if any heavy impact is made upon them at the tail end. This would appear to be exactly what happened to mine. There had been an attempt, somewhat unsightly to remedy the break with a second overlapping piece of wood which also split over time. My solution has been to build a timber that spans the deck immediately aft of the cockpit, thus tying the tail ends to a solid beam and, I hope, reducing the likelihood of damage as a result of a sideways impact. The extra three inches also improves my backrest though I am still working on the idea of a removable, lightweight "chair" back.

The crossbeam is fashioned from five 2-and-a-half inch by half inch edge grain fir strips laminated with waterproof glue over a form that was curved to conform to the camber of the deck. I got the profile using a piece of doorskin (my favourite) and trial and error with a sharp blade until it fit. The shape was transformed to a 2x6 board. Once the beam was fit to the deck and tails it was given a coat of epoxy. The top mahogany covering board was then glued to the beam. The beam is held to the deck with bolts through the traveller and two larger bolts at each end of the beam. Long screws are fastened through the tail ends into the beam ends.

The winch blocks were quite rotted so I totally rebuilt them using some fine edgegrain fir 2x6 built up, epoxied and again capped with solid mahogany to protect the fir.They were replaced with new bolts as the originals had rusted almost right through!.

PS. Just as an afterthought. Probabaly the most useful tool for the coaming install, lacking another pair of hands, was a telescoping pole made by TASK, HomeDepot. Normally it is used in the construction industry for holding panels and suchlike overhead prior to fastening. However the 5-foot unit is exactly a snug fit for bending those coamings into place prior to drilling and bolting. Anyone sailing offshore might add one to their gear for emergency bracing in case of holing!!. They expand from five feet to over nine feet.

Offshore Sailing book cover Offshore Sailing by Bill Seifert with Daniel Spurr

We went to a Windjammers lecture to hear Bill Seifert and I was impressed enough to buy the book on the spot. I've heard a lot of people talk about ways to improve a boat, but I've never heard one person suggest so many good ideas that I hadn't considered. Part of the charm is the specificity of the suggestions. Everyone says you should secure your floorboards, hatchboards and batteries. Bill shows good suggestions on how to do so.

The suggestions are very practical for the do-it-yourselfer, too. Many show how to make or adapt inexpensive solutions. Tip #12 on closing the deck blower vents is one that will pay off for me without ever going offshore. I'll implement that one to stop the wintertime storms from finding their way belowdecks.

Besides modifications, the book also includes advice for operating offshore, cooking, boat selection, dealing with bureaucracy, and more.

Bill Seifert has worked at Tartan, TPI, and Alden Yachts. He's a veteran of many Marion-Bermuda races and now runs his own yacht management company. His tips are born of experience--not of book-learning--and it shows. He obviously knows his stuff.

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