test the depth of the water with both feet."
If there is
one thing worse than a cabin that
leaks, it is one that looks like a box.
While it is worth taking pains over the caulking of joints
them watertight it is just as important to take care over the shape and
The structure also needs to be strong
enough to withstand whatever the
throw at it and to take the weight of crew members walking on top.
Oh, I've just remembered, there is one place that is the worst of all
that's a nasty, fiberglass cuddy dripping with condensation.
Cabin to Deck
two methods of fixing the cabin-trunk to the deck.
Inside the carlines,
which case the callings will need to be shaped or canted
to conform to any tumblehome.
On top of the deck, fixed
to a sill which
is through bolted to the
There are many variations
on both methods.
The first method will make
for a neater finish on the
inside but will be more prone to leaks and the carlings will require
shaping before fitting.
The second method should
make for a dryer interior
and be simpler to construct.
Back to Top
A simple box shaped trunk is
simplest form to construct.
However, that box will
ruin the look of even the most
A well shaped
on the other hand enhance the appearance of any hull
Much of the shaping is
needed to counter the optical
illusions created by building on a shapely hull and deck.
Sides which are
vertical built on a sloping
deck will appear to slant outwards.
So the sides need to be
built slanting inwards
towards the top, just a few degrees is all that is needed to offset
Many boats however are built with a more pronounced
A flat horizontal roof will appear to be hogged,
and look hump backed.
So a small amount of sheer
curve is needed and the
top will look much better if it slopes slightly up towards the
And a curved top to the
cabin will not only look good
but drain water away much more quickly than a flat top.
The sides also need to
curve in a horizontal plane to
reflect the curve of the hull not only for looks but to allow for
Some of the most elegantly
beautiful designs have
only very subtitle amounts of sheer, tumblehome and curve.
It does make for extra
work but the finished look
will be very much worth the effort.
Back to Top
The sides, front and back of
deck-houses were traditionally built from
solid planks of wood.
This is an excellent method particularly if you want a bright natural
However, it does have its drawbacks.
First there is the problem of finding suitable full length planks of
Then, there is the problem of bending the plank to fit the fore and aft
curve of the carlines.
Because there is the possibility of warping any wide planks will
vertical stiffeners or drifts run through the width of the plank.
When I came to renovate Mignonne's
cabin-trunk, the solid mahogany sides had not only bowed but there were one
two longitudinal splits.
The splits were treated by forcing a gap filling glue into them with a
blade fortunately they were not wide enough to need filleting.
To correct the bowing I through bolted 2inch by 1 inch decorative
on the inside with thinner slats on the outsides.
can be made
up using tongue and groove or splined, but the joints will have to be
perfect and well glued to avoid the danger of splitting.
Another method which has successfully been used to build trunk sides is
This can look rather good if done properly.
However, getting it right is rather complicated, and the port-light
openings cannot be cut until afterwords.
easiest material with which to build and can be most satisfactory.
Just remember that if you spend a lot of time and effort building that
cabin you want it to last, so use Marine grade ply and seal the edges
especially around any openings such as portlights.
The thickness of the ply you can use will depend on the amount of
you need to do.
Trying to bend plywood thicker than ½ inch over a short distance will
be difficult and it will induce stresses which could result in
Laminating the sides from ¼
inch ply will be much easier and result in
a stronger panel.
Back to Top
The next problem is how to
join the corners.
It is possible to make a 'box' with
simple butted corners but this wont be very strong, any exposed end
will be prone to rot and it will look cheap.
The preferred method is
with a nicely radiused,
rabbeted corner post.
The best posts are made
from a solid piece but this
can be tricky as you will have to allow for any desired
It will be much easier to
laminate them up from two
The lower end of the post
will have to fit the
carling and beam and be beveled to allow for the tumblehome.
The top will need shaping
to conform to the slope of
Leave some extra material
the outer radius so that it can be fared to the sides after
Back to Top
is another area where the traditional cambered look combines looks
But again a certain amount
of subtlety and compromise
Too much camber while it
will allow more standing
headroom below will tend to look too much like a barrel.
And any force pushing
down, such as foot traffic will
have a tendency to force the cabin sides outwards. This is why church
builders had to resort to the flying buttress.
So, a gentle curve well
supported at the ends and
with supporting beams in-between.
It is unlikely that you
will have access to
sufficient lumber with the grain running in the correct curve so,
about sawn beams.
an extremely attractive overhead feature.
And a cabin-top laminated
up from layers of ¼
inch marine grade plywood will have great multi-directional
Mignonne's main-cabin had
covered with tongue and groove boarding which, had then been covers
As the boards, once they
were cleaned up looked
rather attractive on the inside I retained them but covered the whole
top with painted plywood.
On the aft part which, I
had to rebuild I again used
tongue and groove as the first layer, for its decorative effect then
laminated plywood on top.
Whether you are modifying,
restoring or building from
scratch, do take pains over the design of the superstructure, dog house
whatever you build on top.
An ugly, boxy, dog kennel
stuck on top of an elegant hull will draw everyone's eye including
I have seen too many that
I would love to take a
chain saw to.
A well designed cabin will
enhance the beauty of any
wooden boat and enhance the owner's pride.
Have your say.
Please share your thoughts or comments about what you have just read on this page.
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