Ergo 1 : cockpit.

An Inanda projects post : thinking about the sail-handling and cockpit ergonomics.


Taking up the story of the delivery trip again Inanda is, as i write, moored in the river Frome at Wareham just outside Poole.  I have done one trip down to the boat to check her over and do the next round of ‘temporary’ jobs that i thought were essential before the long bash around Portland and across Lyme bay.             Although i will post my first attempt at woodwork repairs in another post a brief description for now is that i have made and fitted a ‘fashion-piece’ to replace the rotten section of coachroof at the awkward ‘break’ in the coachroof where one level joins another.        That turned into a larger and longer job as i ended up digging out a lot more soft wood from the cabin side and then both the beam shelf and the deck beam. It was also an ‘available parts technology’ job as the fashion-piece was made from another bit of boat that i had just removed.    However,  what that job really needs is for me to take the entire ‘lid’ off and replace the lower section of beam shelf and the deck beam completely (or scarph new sections in)  and then put a stronger (thicker) lid back on.  The alternative would be to completely rebuild the cabin sides and coachroof into a single level so that water runs off properly.  The second alternative is to take the whole cabin top off and rebuild it as a deck-edge design and thus gain more useful space inside.

The rotten section is just about visible from the inside here….in rain, water just runs straight through that complex joint and soaks that bunk.  I tried covering the outside of that whole joint with gaffer tape applied carefully but water always runs into that corner and finds its way along the wet joint.


Fashion-piece repair.


That whole larger project is a ‘sleepless nights’ and wakeful early morning planning sessions ones while i work out what all the problems and pitfalls might be.  At this stage i am thinking about a second stage coachroof repair once Inanda is home where i use it as a learning exercise to just make and replace existing parts. What i would do there is just take the lid off and replace/repair the soft bits.

The ‘Ergo’ part to the post is that the cockpit and companionway ergonomics (and sailing ergonomics) are generally poor and i would like to improve that to make her easier to work and more comfortable to sail.  As she is the main hatch is too short in the fore and aft plane because of that awkward stepped coachroof, such that moving in and out of the boat or standing in the galley, is uncomfortable.  A one piece coachroof with a longer and wider hatch would solve several problems.  An alternative approach would be to do the essential repair really well but at the same time actually raise the upper section of the coachroof to more like the profile of ‘Nomad’ which has become my gold-standard for this project.

Looks right to my eye.


This is the potential alternative design, a deck-edge cabin variant on another gaff-rigged Deben…so it has been done.  The obvious problems with this design are that the cabin inside is wider but lower (i am a tall bloke) and that going forward would be even more exposed.


Here is the current stepped coachroof design…water has to run into the angle of the step….the gaffer tape is covering the wet section. I have to do a serious repair one way or another and i keep looking at that coachroof shape and thinking that the raised section could go up a few inches.


The main focus of this post though is to start thinking about the cockpit re-design and rebuild because the cockpit is currently my worst ergonomic problem.  As it is the sail handling is difficult, there is no single place to sit and be comfortable while steering and the cockpit stowage just doesn’t work for what needs to be there.   Even more crucially the engine and it’s electrics are essentially exposed to salt and rainwater.  As part of the frames repair i will have to pull the cockpit apart anyway to get at some broken frames, it will be tempting although  maybe un-necasary to whip the engine out at the same time so that i can clean the bilge right out and re-paint. Having aligned one engine in the Frances 26 refit i basically know how to do that job and i know i have got to have a new fuel tank anyway. The cockpit area does have several problems that i want to attend to and i have already had to use valuable time to do temporary fixes.  On the trip so far i have had to repair the cockpit sole, rebuild the ineffective engine cover and i have already heaved the old galvanised water tank out from the port locker. This far though i have only had the time to do expedient repairs until i can make long term corrections.

There is a loose engine cover although i had to make battens to hold it in place and at the time i took this picture the cockpit sole, such as it is was creaking up and down…not connected to the central cross-bearing beam at all. The cross beam is actually either broken or it’s been cut and altered at some time.    The kind of new layout i am thinking about is a workboat style engine box and then fuel tank left (stbd) and battery’s right (port), and then a new higher cockpit sole right across the boat but no fixed seats.



As you can see from above the cockpit isn’t self-draining and the engine is vulnerable mainly to its electrics and salt water ingress but rain just runs over parts of the engine as well. The cockpit is also extremely awkward to work the boat being very narrow aft as you can see by Jackie’s feet.  The construction is poor too being based on some broken and odd-levelled deck beams and then essentially loose boards. The well sides are only T&G board nailed to some battens.      The great thing is that the whole structure would come out in less than an hours work and would be a nice project for my rehab time as i could make a complete mock-up in situ first.

There are essentially several problems to deal with.

Protecting the engine and dampening the sound.

Having a cockpit sole that allows me to stand and work properly.

Having somewhere to sit and steer when i have to hand-steer, at the moment i can’t sit comfortably anywhere except for perched on the coaming….not exactly comfortable but at least well braced.

Having somewhere to sit outside in good weather…the pit is just long enough for me to sit fore and aft with my back against the bulkhead and my legs stretched out.

I think that where i want to start is by making a proper engine box completely around the engine to protect it and contain it’s sound a bit.  That should be removeable such that i can work down on the engine and get to the current shaft greaser.    Next would be to fit a proper new fuel tank one side (stbd at the moment)  and a new battery box opposite although an alternative plan is to have the battery box just inside the companionway just as i did with the Frances.       For the working side i like the idea of then having a single level cockpit sole above that with none of the side box-work which are the current seats and cockpit stowage including the small fuel tank.  Initially i might have no cockpit seats at all and just plan to sit on the raised sole which is what i think the Pardey’s did with their first build.     I will have to improve the sail handling a lot in the cockpit as Inanda only has single sheets on cleats…zero winches and i need more control lines coming to the pit as well.

The battery box and ready tools box i made for the Frances 26 after i put the new engine in. Inanda doesn’t have quite the same width at this point and because i now prefer sealed AGM battery’s wouldn’t have to be as accessible so going in a decent box down near the engine might work and save me some cabin floor space.


Aft, the cockpit is so narrow and the tiller so short that when Inanda is carrying weather helm i can’t actually sit in the cockpit (aft) and steer…i have to either perch on the coaming edge (uncomfortable) or sit further forward which makes the arm-tiller angle really unpleasant. Sail handling, especially hauling in sheets is really difficult in that i have to lean right over the coaming too and can’t get a bracing foot where i need it.  Right now a simple and open cockpit sole is very appealing, i don’t know whether i can incorporate a draining cockpit floor unless i bring it quite high.   It might also pay to either reduce the cockpit coaming height a bit or have a ‘racing-seat’ arrangement such that i can essentially sit on the side deck to steer….i did that quite a bit during the trip with a folded sail cover as a bum-pad.

That awkward and leaky break in the coachroof and the short hatch.


With cockpit plan ‘A’ the eventual cockpit sole would i think be some 4 inches higher than where it is now.


The following photographs i have had to borrow and are of the much larger 28′ Taliesin and i think an Ed Burnett boat second but the cockpit design is where i might be headed.

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