My ketch Silverheels didn’t have any cockpit canvas when I bought her, just an old two-bow dodger frame. I had visions of installing a hard dodger and bimini, but a lack of time, patience and skill caused me to opt for a hardtop for the dodger frame instead.
I wasn’t confident I could lay up a fiberglass hardtop from scratch, so I used a couple of sheets of white prefab glass panels from Home Depot. Normally used to panel bathrooms, these handy 4.5 x 8.5ft sheets aren’t especially strong, but they’re wonderfully flexible, and I was able to bend them around the outboard ends of my dodger frame. On one side the panels are smooth, on the other, they are textured.
I made templates, cut out the pieces with a jigsaw, and clamped the first piece onto the stainless steel frame with the textured side down. Then I spread an adhesive paste on the panel’s top side and clamped a matching second piece onto it, this time with the textured side up. I also laminated in a 3/8in plywood core in the center section of the hardtop so I could later mount a boom crutch there. Alternatively, I could have cored the entire top with high-density foam. Once the cored section had cured, I drilled and fastened the hardtop edges to the frame tubes with self-tapping screws. Finally, I painted it top and bottom with off-white deck paint to provide extra protection from the elements. The result is a strong good-looking dodger top that should last indefinitely. As I write, it’s six years old and still as good as new.
Tor Pinney has logged 150,000 miles under sail and is the author of Ready for Sea: How to Outfit the Modern Cruising Sailboat.
Visit him at www.tor.cc