A Two Year Journey – Wookie’s Dodger Completed
Ever since I purchased this Flicka-20 I have dreamt and designed various ideas of what my dodger would look like. I wanted to build one that would: –
1) Be a functional dodger to protect the hatch from incoming water and also to allow me enough visibility on either side of such a structure while seated by the tiller;
2) Incorporate a hood to protect the sliding hatch that was strong enough to stand on and be removable so as to clean inside this cavity;
3) Have the compass and other nav-equipment protected under the dodger in a “compass bridge” with all necessary wiring incorporated;
4) Have solar panels incorporated on the dodger with all the wires hidden;
5) Be built of excellent materials and mounted in a manner to take a full-on wave offshore;
6) Finally to have protection on the top that would prevent the boom from swiping at or bouncing on the solar panels (on the stern side of the solar panels there is a teak rail that acts as a hand-hold and has a piece of stainless strip screwed on to the top edge in the event the boom hits this area).
I wanted to avoid a canvas dodger with countless snaps on the deck and the usual stainless steel brackets that hold solar panels on the stern of the boat.
After much effort and with the assistance of some excellent craftsmen I ended up with one that met all my criteria. Obviously many Flicka-20 aficionados may consider me somewhat crazy or eccentric for having mounted such a monstrosity on the beautiful deck of this vessel. However, I believe it adds to the beefy look of this tough little vessel. One important aspect is that the curve on the roof, the compass bridge and the hood hatch all match the curvature of the deck. This one factor makes it all look as if it belongs.
The Following Were Built & Installed
The compass bridge was built at the same time as the interior liner and electrical wiring were being refurbished on the boat. This allowed for all the wiring to be incorporated into the bridge. This includes a terminal board for the depth sounder, compass light and nav-equipment and also the cable for the depth sounder transducer. This way there are no exposed wires internally or externally to this bridge. In the images below you will note that the top of the compass bridge is gelcoated. This is because once the dodger was installed there was no room to varnish this section. The opening above this compass bridge allows for air to flow through on those hot days and is easily blocked up with a piece of foam.
Mocking Up The Dodger & Cutting The Teak
Using sheets of starfoam a mock-up was made of the dodger. Once this was finalised it became the pattern for all of the teak pieces to be cut. Strips of 3/4″ thick teak were laminated together and these were then cut to make the sides of the dodger.
The dodger top, as was the case with the hood for the sliding hatch, had to be cut and then curved into shape using vacuum bagging methods. This is a technique employed to create mechanical pressure on a laminate during its cure cycle by removing any trapped air. Once this stage was completed the whole top had several layers of gelcoat applied to it.
Hood For Sliding Hatch
Solar Panel Controllers & Wiring
I needed two solar panel controllers. One 12v for the house battery and a 24v controller for the engine batteries. The controllers are housed inside a cabinet that has a mirror on the door. This is mounted on the bulkhead in the head and is therefore easily accessible. Each solar panel is only 30 watts and these trickle-charge the batteries. The engine batteries require several days to recharge but the house battery only a 9-hour day as my load is minimal. I had good quality labels printed which I cut out as required and used on the wires from the batteries to the solar panels. On the deck the wiring ran up the side of the dodger to the panels. These wires were covered with teak. The hole on the deck was fibreglassed and then gelcoated. This rather permanent installation is not difficult to cut away with a dremel-tool if ever required. In my mind, having the wires sealed and hidden from the elements outweighed any future inconvenience.
Varnishing & Verathane
One of the most time consuming aspects of this type of project is sealing areas that are hard to maintain and then applying the 6 to 10 coats of varnish. I used several layers of Verathane (epoxy) on areas which are not exposed to sunlight or difficult to varnish. I use Cetol Marine Natural Teak varnish on the teak strips attached to the sliding hatch and its hood. I use Epifanes Clear High Gloss varnish on the rest of the wood. Once this was all finished the glass for the dodger was installed.
This dodger could not have been built to such a high standard without the assistance and advice from many sailors and craftsmen. However I would like to give a special thanks to:
- Pacific Seacraft in North Carolina, for building the compass bridge and installing the wiring and liner on Wookie. Most importantly they indulged my strange request recognising that the dodger was still being designed in my head. They kindly used my scribbled drawings to make this.
- Thomas Kronsperger and his assistant Brent (skilled shipwrights) for all of the carpentry and vacuum bagging required to shape the pieces. Their workmanship was a pleasure to witness and they never once called my crazy.
- Carl Humbert and the team at Elite Marine in St. Petersburg for their superb work in applying gelcoat to the top of the dodger. One of the best fibreglass shops I have ever come across.
- Jeremy Kerecman at eMarine Systems in Ft. Lauderdale for their advice in relation to the solar panels.