Return of the cockpit canopy queen

Just when you thought it was safe to venture to the cockpit to get some fresh air….

Those who saw the first Mariadz, the dufour 455, will have had the benefit of seeing that marvel of modern engineering, the Maria Smallwood (now Dunlop) cockpit tent. In the future, these designs will be right up there with Concorde, the harrier jump jet and the Sinclair C5 🙂

Maria’s original design was not, as it appeared, inspired by a greenhouse or conservatory. It was in fact a carefully thought through design imageto ensure that the tent could be used in all conditions and could also be used when sailing. The join of the spray hood and Bimini were made of clear plastic to aid visibility. The vast amount of clear plastic prided excellent visibility. Unfortunately it didn’t prove Clyde-proof who took approximately seven seconds to escape and end up on the pontoon!

This fundamentally changed out of season sailing for us and allowed us, if you will forgive the mental picture, to go out sailing in pyjamas when everyone else was wearing full wet weather gear.  This also had the advantage of allowing us to defy the doubters and go out in most weather (not too much wind obviously….).  The cockpit tent was equally suited to life on imageanchor or in a marina and provided additional outside living space.  The easy access provided by the aft cockpit and stern-to mooring worked well.  We even found that the saloon stayed warmer since the companionway was protected from the outside elements. We had the work done by Jeckells, not the sailmakers – the other one, they were competitive and the job was to a reasonable quality.

So it was a little bit of a surprise when, just a few short months after having this wonder fitted, we decided to change the boat! It was no surprise when Maria subsequently insisted that we have the same again fitted to the Moody.

This time we spent some time talking to Paul Gray at Dolphin Sails. In the interim we had seen a beautiful Moody 49 called Mornin’ Gorgeous (a lovely boat owned by a lovely couple).

Enjoying the 20 mins of English summer

In their cockpit tent they had a back drop from the spray hood which acted as a mini tent – a porch for the companionway door or a very nice sheltered spot with good visibility if the weather got bad. Maria loved this and had to have it incorporated into our design. Paul also persuaded her to go for the mosquito nets that replace windows in a hot climate at night (normally at anchor). The Bimini part of the design works really well and removed the need for the supporting lines by incorporating this support into the legs of the Bimini.  When the sides were zipped in, it becomes a garden room, I guess the sea is our garden though :). We subsequently had ventilation added since the tent was so good it could cause issues with damp and heat creating black marks. Hopefully the ventilation pockets will resolve that.

The cockpit tent has been fantastic come rain or shine and incorporates the drop that allows a “porch” or more importantly a dry safe area in bad conditions.

As for construction, we had this made with weathermax and strataglass which apparently will not get tarnished like the clear panels did on our old dufour.  I guess time will tell.

However, it does look different in different weather conditions….

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