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Making a Tent for a Sailboat


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Norma T is in the Dinghy Cruising Journal  —  (A 2nd time!)

I just opened my copy of the Dinghy Cruising Journal that just arrived (Roger Barnes’ organization).  I quickly flipped half way through the pages, making very quick glances.  Norma T popped out at me on page 43!!



This is the photo I had posted 2/3 the way down page 1 of THIS thread, stating that the newly purchased red tent shall be my camping solution for the boat (for now.)



And this is a snapshot of the journal posting my photo:



SO… I guess, given such attention in this “World-Wide” publication, I am even more “pressured” to actually follow through with camping out on my CS15 next summer using this setup. 

I have already been planning to do so.  I find that I enjoy thinking about where and how to pull it off… and to do so more than once… even though I recently purchased a CS17 Mark3 (Avocet).  I’ll bet my boys will give the red-tent-on-platform camp/cruise approach with Norma T a shot as well. 


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Interesting Article: Cabin or no Cabin?

Starting to look more closely at the 90 page winter edition of the Dinghy Cruising Journal, that just came to my house (all the way from England), the first article I noticed and read was about the matter at hand in this thread.  I thought I would post a photo of the read:




Consider joining the Dinghy Cruising Association.  (Roger Barnes is the organization’s president.). They produce a high quality, beautifully done quarterly journal.  It’s printed on heavy paper with great articles and photos… and no commercial ads within. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

A Way to Anchor a “Clothesline”

I spotted this on an article (Click Here) by a lady in New Zealand about the Nesting Spindrift 10 she built.  I am posting her approach to anchoring away from shore (or dock) so I don’t forget about it.  It looks clever and I might find it useful.  I’ve come up with a similar idea but not with a loop.  This approach could be more effective, and it could bring in a boat bow first.  ?



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  • 2 weeks later...

Roger Barnes — New Dinghy Cover Video


(About 20 minutes)

Some thoughts from watching:

Hmmm… adding weight to some of the seams, like chain or other, could be helpful. (Curtain weights?  Weighted cord?)
I still want to NOT have permanent hooks or eyes around the sides but the video sparks more ideas. 
End flaps still seem challenging, to say the least; some value, I s’pose, in making them overlap. 
And remember, cold water can cause… shrinkage.  (Fabric choice.)



I still plan to play around with making a tarp/tent for both of my sail boats… ‘cause I’m retired and enjoy these sailboat hobbies.


Here’s another video that just popped up from viewing Barnes’ video above:

Interesting and simple way to make a sleeping platform, and the vestibule extension (without a floor) could provide a space to sit with feet on the bottom of the boat.  Interesting. 

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I think Roger let nostalgia and British pride cloud his fabric selection process.  Ventile (cotton) is not waterproof until it gets saturated.  Sounds like it is heavy when wet, and prone to mildew.  I’m using coated ripstop nulon, which he calls “plastic”.  OK, nylon is try a plastic material, but I believe it is more practical than Ventile.  Granted, his fabric has a nice feel to it (when dry).  But mine is going to oack down real small.  We’ll see how it goes.

I watched the video below yesterday.  I’ll be cruising with this guy in February.  By then, I’ll have made mine.  

I’m well on my way.  Right now, I’m on the verge of having something photo-worthy.  I’ll take photos in a few days.  


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Rip stop nylon is the kind of thing I would want, being light and compact.  And, anything I’d make would not be used all that frequently anyway.  I’ve got a decent occasional overnight set-up for the CS15 (yup, the platform and tent, as I worked out last fall.)  The CS17 has a cabin. A tarp/tent for either boat is, at this point, a fun sounding challenge to see what I could do.  Being that both boats are in storage for three more months means I really can’t do much more for now than use my imagination, which I enjoy.  Well, I guess I DO need to work out effective rain covers for Avocet and Joe next summer since they’ll be outside, like Norma T. 


I look forward to seeing what you come up with in your project.  You have great ideas and do exellent work on things.

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There are a lot of great ideas in this video from Sailrite.  Have a look.  But be forewarned— it’s a long one.  


Also, in the previous video from “Dan”, notice how he attaches the cover to the boat.  On Wayfarers, they often have a line running just under the gunwales.  This is primarily to aid in capsize recovery.  But Dan Roeder uses it also to attach “most” of his tent to.  He still uses a girth strap amidships.  I hope to cruise with him in March.  Maybe I can pick his brain about it then.

As a warmup for sewing my tent, I made an awning.  I’ll use it whilst (a Brit word I NEVER use, until now) anchored.  We’ll see how that works out in real life.  It is made of a heavier weight ripstop than my tent.  We’ll see what this year’s cruising season tells me about these concoctions.



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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

OK, I’m pretty much done, except for a few tweaks. I’m considering this a prototype, which I will use for this season.  I will probably try different things on this tent throughout the year.  But it will do for my upcoming event.  I am joining the WCTSS (West Coast Trailer Sailing Squadron (Florida)) on their weekend trip to Cayo Costa State Park north of Fr. Meyers, FL next weekend. 

One thing I’ve discovered is that it is too low.  There is no headroom.  I wanted to keep a low profile, so as not to adversely affect riding at anchor.  But this will not do! Also, I shied away from including zippers, due to lack of experience sewing them.  I think I need to get over that.  But ingress/egress is going to be nasty with this design.  If you have any other observations or suggestions, please share them.  It will be interesting to see how this 1.1 ounce coated rip-stop nylon fabric performs.  Coated Oxford cloth is a lot more bulky, and space is limited on my boat.





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  • 1 month later...

I Got to Work on ALL Three Boats Today!


It felt like winter again today… 30’s… snowflakes… ?.  But, I cut and fit my my last plywood piece for my ski-boat build: the starboard front deck:




(Ski-boat build blog:)


I spent some time with Avocet, finishing the two mast cradles. Where I’m parking this boat this summer the mast needs to be up and “sail-ready.”  With two cradles, I can have the main mast up (for proper appearance) and the mizzen mast horizontal in the cradles over which I can place a rain-guard tarp:




(I’ll likely get a longer tarp for more protection.)

For fun, I then tried raising the front of the horizontal mast using the main halyard.  Didn’t take a photo… but the mizzen was angled up from the stern to bow.  I wanted to see if a tent-tarp could be thrown over the angled mizzen mast for camping.  Nah… didn’t like it. 


Then I remembered that the guy from whom I bought the boat last year was already playing around with designing a tent-tarp and he had tossed into the cabin his experimental inexpensive trial tarp. I got it out and tried to figure how what he had designed so far.  He had installed some strap eyes along the top. 

HEY!!  Nice!!  
Using halyards, the tarp could be hoisted something like this:





I could likely fit a longer tarp… providing more cover… maybe foot or two all the way to (or past) the mizzen mast.  Plus, perhaps the aft end of the main sprit could be hoisted with the mizzen halyard (maybe with the mainsail tied up to the sprit?) to provide a ridge over which a tarp could hang down to be tied to the strap eyes.  I could move the strap eyes on the top of the coaming tank to the top of the yellow rubrail, preventing a little sitting surprise to someone trying to hike out on the coaming tank for balance. ?


On to the Norma T to finish my sleeping platform.  I started this project last year and intend to place a small tent onto the platform and side seats… plenty of room.  (A photo of this is at the top of this page.)


So, from my last piece of plywood that I bought for my ski-boat, I cut a single piece to fit on top of the honeycomb support I made last year to make a large platform:





I then cut it longitudinally into three long pieces. After a couple coats of epoxy, I will use a “tape-hinge” to allow me to fold the platform.  I think I’ll start with duct tape and see if it’s enough. 



With the large platform folded in three and the honeycomb pieces disassembled it all nicely fits in the skinny section of the front cockpit, between the centerboard trunk and the seat. 

I’m really pleased with how everything turned out today.  If the weather is good tomorrow (it’ll be sunny, hopefully warmer) I’ll start getting coats of epoxy onto the ski-boat deck underside and the sleeping platform pieces. I just got a weather report indicating record lows for tomorrow morning. Luckily, I bought a large enough propane heater for my ski-boat build. 



Warm summer IS coming. And, I’m looking forward to trying out my two new boats, exploring lots of lakes and river systems, and trying some overnights and camp-cruising. 



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  • 6 months later...

open?token=eyJtIjoiPDIwMjIxMTEwMTgwMzIyLI got this email from Small Craft Advisory.  I tried a simply “copy and paste” to place it on this thread.  It seemed to work but I’m not sure if the photos come out right. (If I turn my phone 90 degrees the pictures become correct. 

I see some interesting ideas here, maybe the one catching my attention the most was letting a purchased tent hang out over the edges of the boat (since it doesn’t fit IN the boat.)  While my little red tent is only a little too wide for the back of Norma T, it is narrow enough to squeeze inside the inwales… the floor sort of sort of puckers some. The “bathtub” floor, however, should assure that rain stays on the outside of the tent, so my solution at the top of this page might be adequate. I should find a way to tie in the tent corners so the tent doesn’t blow away. I’ll experiment some more next season.  I’m done building boats so I can dedicate myself now to just Messing-About and playing in my boats. 

Maybe an idea below will spark some imaginative but effective ways to camp aboard a Core Sound. Or to add a roof covering to the back of a Mark 3. The “wheels” in the brain will keep turning these things over.


Open in app or online

Gimme Shelter

Some ways to stay warm, dry or out of the sun on your small boat

NOV 10

Nothing compares to cruising in a small, open boat, whether rowing, paddling, sailing or motoring. When underway or at anchor you are close to, sometimes almost in the water—seeing, hearing, feeling and occasionally even tasting the universe below. You’re not riding high above the surface in a boat-shaped apartment, removed. You are in touch, maybe excited but oddly relaxed, absorbing it all.

Okay, stop right there.

While these sentimental, ooey-gooey outpourings are permissible, we deserve to be slapped now and then, until admitting that the most beautiful days can quickly turn soaking wet, freezing cold, windy or all of the above. And when that happens, there you are, huddled in the sleet wishing you’d stayed home in your cozy bed, with the thermostat nudged up and a faithful dog asleep at your feet. About this time, cold and miserable, you might wander toward the dark side, almost admiring the monstrous boat anchored next to you, with its grotesque but dry and toasty cabin. And it’s possible you’ll begin to hate the boat’s skipper, who is probably watching a great Netflix classic on his iPad, while you face certain death via hypothermia. The bastard!

… it’s possible you’ll begin to hate the boat’s skipper, who is probably watching a great Netflix classic on his iPad, while you face certain death via hypothermia. The bastard!

If you’ve had that experience—soaked through, chilled to the marrow—do not despair. There are creative and simple ways to turn your small, open, adventure-seeking boat into a sorta-deluxe accommodation, with some kind of shelter from the elements. You know, a way to believably swear you had the time of your life when later sharing your adventure with friends, family, bus riders or anyone else who’ll listen.

Following are shelters some boating friends have come up with, in absolutely no order.


Sergei Joslin might have the most colorful small boat we’ve cruised with—shown here after he rolled his Scamp above the high-tide mark in Mystery Bay, near Port Townsend, Washington. Out on the boat’s veranda in the evening, Sergei was enjoying the boat’s generous, well-designed cover, with zippers and flaps to control air flow…and the ability to seal the cockpit’s sleeping platform from the elements. All pretty deluxe for a boat measuring 11’ 11” overall.


James McMullen emerges from a good night’s sleep aboard his Iain Oughtred-designed Sooty Tern. The boat’s nifty shelter, secured to the mainmast and mizzen, is fastened over side rails to keep water out of the boat and off of James’ sleeping bag. Nice, clean design and clearly functional.


Bob Miller’s Drascombe Longboat, shown at anchor in Montague Harbour, British Columbia during a small-craft rendezvous, boasts a shelter that has been clearly thought out and crafted: Zippers in several locations so that Bob can have full coverage, or open individual sections to improve ventilation or just seek UV protection when the weather’s nice. So while he mostly takes the cover down when underway, Bob has the option of cruising with one or two of the compartments up and ready for action.


Some folks, like this couple from Montana, keep it simple, in this case finding an off-the-shelf camping tent that’ll drape over the sides of their Michalak-designed Mikes Boat. The roomy solution has worked great during a number of camp-cruising adventures, this one being in northern Puget Sound.


Eric Tirion of British Columbia also made the most of a stock camping tent that somehow fit nicely atop his little 13’ 8” Crawford Melonseed. Eric was taking part in a three-day Palooza Crooza in South Puget Sound, setting up his tent home at Jarrells Cove State Park.


Here we have two views of Jim Tolpin’s 18-foot Poulsbo Boat—the first showing his initial experiment with a tarp stretched over battens (which could be wood or fiberglass), and the second featuring a custom dodger he had made by Best Coast Canvas in Port Townsend. (If you go with the tarp-over-boom approach, or stretch a tarp over battens, be sure you have good ventilation. Even if it doesn’t rain, dripping condensation inside the tarp might make you wish you’d slept under the stars.)


Here’s another Scamp cockpit cover, lower-slung than the one we showed in the first photo. Simeon Baldwin does fine with his custom-tailored approach, which fits the boat nicely and allows for fairly easy boarding from the side. (Side note: Simeon has been a generous and tireless Scamp proponent, answering endless questions of builders and launch-ramp passersby. And, with years of experience in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, he’s a valued buddy to cruise with.)


This camp-cruising sailboat opted for a sturdy, custom-made shelter from UltraShade, a small company that offers whatever dimensions are required for your small cruising boat. See www.crawfordboating.com for details. This boat was photographed during the first-ever 2019 Salish 100, a small-boat cruise from Olympia to Port Townsend, WA—100 nautical miles. For details on the 2023 Salish 100, email jesse@nwmaritime.org.


Bimini tops are a great way to shelter your open cockpit—often more against UV rays than rain. There are a number of different manufacturers and a huge range of sizes, height, width and length dimensions, fabric colors and other choices to be made if you like the basic idea. This Bimini fits Bob and Aleta Mueller’s AF4b outboard cruiser nicely, and they’re clearly enjoying the boat, and protection offered by the Bimini.


A lot of folks who are cruising with boats like this Redwing 18 outboard lack protection in the cockpit area, but not John Kohnen of Oregon, who has a standing-headroom hardtop and fabric side curtains he can deploy when overnighting. Pretty deluxe, turning the cockpit into a roomy space with complete privacy and weather protection.


When nothing seems to make sense for your small, open boat—or your craft is too small to sleep aboard—you can always default to the option of sleeping ashore. That’s what a lot of us do when custom fabric shelters, boom tents or other devices don’t work on our small boats. In this example, we beach camped ashore at Lake Ozette, in Olympic National Park, alongside Jo and Roger Beachy (background), who arrived aboard a not-so-roomy sailing canoe.

So, plan now for an active 2023 season, camp cruising aboard your small but weather-protected craft. After a few pandemic-affected seasons, aren’t all of us eager to get out there and explore? I sure am…with a new boom tent aboard my 14-foot camp cruiser. —Marty Loken SCA


© 2022 Joshua Colvin
PO Box 8958, Moscow, ID 83843 

Get the appStart writing



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I didn’t post on this thread photos from my sons and me camping out in the lake one night this past summer. 








I also made a little video of our venture:

I’m already looking forward to the 2023 sailing season. However, I have a lot of downhill skiing to do first. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Nice work, but here's an opinion.........the high sprits help, but not making these tents more boxy really makes them tight inside. It's a bit more work to run a spreader or a hoop, but they are a game changer for comfort. If you are going to go through that much work, I'd drape a blanket over the sprits and imagine if I could live with that first. When I watch Roger Barnes videos, I get claustrophobic......

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I would prefer having a spreader/rounded/boxy tent approach to avoid a narrow inverted V shape. My imagination comes up with various ways to do this but I’ve not managed to conceive actual details on HOW that could be done. It’ll be an “ongoing theoretical problem” for my brain to play with. 

Steve, do I recall that your son came up with a tarp approach with two flexible poles going between the opposite corners for your CS20.3?  I thought I saw something like that for shade and some protection for sleeping on the cockpit seats. 

I just learned that a friend (I did his wedding and his wife worked with my wife) is retiring from the local police force and wishes to expand a side business of his: making custom boat covers.  I guess he enjoys solving the challenges of making two dimension material work effectively in three dimensional purposes.  It might be fun for me to hire him for a tent project for Core Sounds. I like what I have come up with so far but I enjoy at least imagining other solutions. 

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Having someone who is a "pro" is a nice asset. My son is a much better seamster than me, but design is on me. Experience is valuable and saves paralysis by analysis. 


I think I'd take inspiration from the excellent tents available to figure a more boxy or hooped encloser. You have some advantages as the anchor points can be fixed and tension can be higher.


I love this awning. We made it with collapsible shock poles, but I found out it would slip into the cabin rolled up and lay along the hull on the bunks and I never take the poles out. 

On my sun shade I use this to tension the ridgeline. It is easy to both setup and tension (like a piano wire!). Facing aft with my back to the cabin with a cold beer under that thing after a long hot sail, waking to no dew on the forward part of the cockpit or or standing up or sleeping in the cabin hatch while the rain sheds over the side is fantastic. I like the Dodger idea, but for now this works and is simple.   I might also add it's good so far in 30 knot winds. I haven't had it deployed beyond that. 

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