no place like home

dawncraft chronicles

no place like home

the princess and the pea...

I said that I wasn’t going to do anything to the interior over the winter. In fact, I stated that I could achieve more in a decent day in March or April than I ever could in January or February.

However, spurred on by pictures of fellow boaters on the internet completely refitting interiors and remembering that mine is shabby – the chic bit having been missing for years,  I bit the bullet - but this time with a little bit of wisdom and experience.

Also, it’s the winter panto season and I suppose the Princess and the Pea is as good as any. Mrs W playing the part of the princess who can’t get comfortable and Dawn Treader's shabby interior the pea.

First: measure and measure again, then take a sheet of A3 and draw out your boat to scale or at least the bit you wish to work on. If you have the advantage of a garage or large shed – go one further, chalk it up on the floor in full scale. If only to show you that we don’t have as much space as we think. Top tip older boats are built in feet and inches (suits me) stay in feet and inches - 2000000.85 mm confuses things from the outset. This measuring will also allow you to work out exactly all the timber, screws etc. you will need to complete the job and save the most valuable resource for any weekend boater – TIME!

Second: think long, deep and hard over a period of days or weeks. What is it that I want to achieve, need, desire and for what purpose? Before ripping out any existing structures.

Next download or at least look at original manufacturer’s brochures and their layout. These people were professional they knew how to squeeze out every inch of living space and had the advantage, having built the thing, and they knew which parts were structurally integral: bulkheads, strengthening beams, large slabs of glass fibre in the floor. No matter how inconvenient these are, it's best not to cut them with an angle grinder to make a cool box, or removed because you smack your head on them.

Third: Set a budget. This is often overlooked and an idea of doing the whole interior in teak faced veneer is appealing until you look at the cost. Remember that time is the most precious of resources and Mrs W would not thank me for spending every hour of every weekend working on the boat. Because I have learnt one thing. Once you start it becomes addictive and you won’t stop until the whole boat has been transformed in your own image. The latter point being often overlooked. What I think looks good doesn’t mean that another person would like it. Indeed, if we go back to the original article, they won't and will comment as such.

OK mine was refitted in the early 90s - nothing essentially wrong, bunks, table seating and a half decent galley. But no attention was paid to comfort , the backs of the seating were upright, the table a bit of an after-thought to the point where we abandoned it in favour of a picnic table, and its deep under bunk storage did nothing but grow mushrooms and mould. (Whilst having to remove cushions every five minutes meant whatever got shoved down there stayed down there and was seldom or if ever used proving that we didn’t need it in the first place.) Coupled to this and from a previous article it was all made of out of scrap 12mm ply – the weight alone being an issue.

dawn treader interior fittingsI took out the original table and chairs 4 years ago and put in camping chairs so I could lean back in comfort – it worked ok, but sadly the cabinets were not ply, they were faced MDF so soon swelled. Note the Freeplay wind up radio with solar power. I have had it years and is my main source of entertainment.

However, after 4 years thinking I bit the bullet and did my take on a table and seating area.

From a budgeting point of view, we need to look at what we already have in the way of cushions and if they can be used down below. In my case the cockpit cushions – after all most people I met have only one bum and it saves trying to store these down below in the winter. Making things dual purpose on a boat saves so much room.

What I needed was a seating area that could have adjustable backs, easy access storage beneath, was light (as Dawntreader is currently on a new year’s diet to shed half a ton and improve her performance) and easily moved around if required to make bunk, chaise lounge whatever. I need comfort. Somewhere to relax after a voyage.

Basically, I built two wooden frames from inch by inch and a half deal. The backs are hinged so that the rest can be set at various angles from lean back to prostrate. They are not fixed so can slide, in fact they can face for and aft or mid ship depending on what I want. The two frames with their backs folded down flat meet exactly in the middle and form a bunk. Which is where the chalking on the floor is a must. Plenty of 45 degree strengthening points and two coats of wood stain varnish. I actually used white faced hard board as pads for the cushions, I know this isn’t water proof, but it is half way there especially with a coat or two of PVA on neat and it's dirt cheap and weighs nothing.

dawn treader sofa frameworkVery simple light weight frame work for the seating- I can pick this up with one hand -you can see the back folds down -note the table supports which are glassed to the hull at the base and the 3inch shelf as the boat widens at this point. Simple plastic boxes slide in under for storage – you can even get them in different colours.

I didn’t bother with sides – the open frame work allows air to circulate under the cushions preventing mould and condensation and simple plastic tubs slide easily under the frames – seeing as I used these in the original lockers to keep things dry from condensation it seemed a logical step.

fold back table support on Dawn TreaderNext some form of table support. I made mine fold back against the hull and when I am on my own which is more often than not, just a simple wooden tray is enough to hold the radio and a coffee mug. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, having built it I settled back – moved the end one to form a foot rest and promptly dozed off for a few hours in front of the Propex heater. That has to be perfection!

Fold Back table supports – there are now two hinges per bracket this was first fit – they are made from hard wood tree stakes

table and seating on Dawn TreaderThe whole thing was designed to utilise the existing cockpit cushions and to be mobile. The backs even though they are hardboard have worked as long as they are given a good coating of waterproof PVA. I haven’t sorted the drains yet for the condensation drip but they will lead out to the bilge via conduit.

Mrs Woollen aboard Dawn TreaderFinally, someone is sitting comfortable with a cup of tea and some where to place it and she didn’t have to make more cushions. The Princess and the pea final act.

OK it sounds idyllic and a job well done but as always here’s the reality.

Even with two weeks off for Christmas I only managed 2 actual days on the boat construction time; glues required the heater to be on for them to set and as for the Varnish stain, it stayed tacky for three days -even though it is supposed to dry in 20minutes (covering a decent shirt before I realised it was still wet). I even resorted to heating the wood up with a paint stripper in the hope of getting it to dry quicker.

Most of the work was completed at home in the shed, cutting, pre-drilling and sanding. I would have constructed the whole thing at home but knowing it would not fit through the door of DT, I made it in sections with the minimum of screwing together on board.

Working after 4pm in winter is OK but you need better lighting than LED cabin lights. I used work lamps. None of it is finished properly and drip trays had to be screwed in to catch the condensation from the channels and they are still there awaiting attention. They will have to wait until its lighter and warmer and I can achieve more in the day.

Meanwhile, a window vac makes short work of condensation. A suck and chuck type approach, I now wouldn’t be without it. I even clean the decks with it, canopy, anything where I have to suck up and remove dirty water. White vinegar cleans the mould off the canopy better than anything I have tried.

The replacement engine started leaking fuel. This did interest me. As an ex ag engineer I could probably have fixed this myself,  BUT if my diagnosis was wrong and the boat caught fire, I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, so some things are best left to a professional - if only for the paper trail.

However, it has inspired me to fit a proper bulk head mounted fuel filter and water separator and drop the transom height by 4 inches so that it tilts better. The under-sink foot pump water tank is fantastic, a welcome addition rather than draining down each time in the winter. It also increases my capacity by a third.

I tried replacing some of the old carpet side in super new lining only to find that because of the condensation, it wont stick properly!!

feet up and idle drillOh yes I forgot having done all this it's back down the bilges shifting sand bags about to level up. Remember what ever you do will have a huge impact somewhere else.

Yep that works for me – you can see where I started the headlining but its all too cold and damp. Some things are best left until spring. The upright hand hold was an idea from my sailing days. I have to say every small boat should have one down below, even though I have noticed it's not up level it makes moving around confined spaces so much easier.