1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: A Celebration (and condemnation) of Tents!

With the refit on hold for two years while I tried to secure the documentation, I thought I’d go through a review of the various tents we’ve used in the course of this project. We tried everything from a blue tarp to your basic winter land storage shrinkwrap tent and even free-standing, gargantuan structures the likes of which would awe (or maybe just terrify) Cirque du Soleil!

It’s worth noting that almost all of the tent ratings are more of a reflection on my poor planning and/or execution than on the tents themselves. šŸ˜‰

Tent Model I (circa January 4, 2008). Your basic cheap blue tarp.

Model I lasted roughly five minutes (grommets failed when lashing it down for the first time). This “tent” rates about half of a star, and that was being generous. Almost a total waste of time and, at $35, not really cheap, either.

Tent Model II (circa January 6, 2008) Your basic boatyard in winter-time white mushroom

Very good as a basic structure to keep out wind, water, and animal life. Fine for inside work, but absolutely precludes hull work. Similarly, deck work is seriously hampered by the confined overhead spaces along the deck–you just can’t stand up in these things unless you’re centerline.

Still, all things considered, including storm worthiness, this tent was a solid three-star performer.

Another view of 2008’s Model II

By April 2008, Model II was ready to retire

With even a hint of east coast spring, it gets hot in these things!

Tent Model III was a welding tarp, with scraps from Model II tied down to cover the cabin top

Model III kept the wind out and sparks in when we were welding up the aft deck in summer of ’08, but it really kind of sucked at keeping rain out of the salon. Not that it mattered, since the entire interior was out while sandblasting happened.

Tent Model III scores a solid 1.5 stars.

Tent Model IV was doomed from the start

The winter of 2008~09 was when we had the big push to get the exterior hull faired and primed. The initial idea was to cover the whole boat with shrinkwrap, but leave it loose and long at the bottom so we could roll it up to work on it and secure it at the end of each day. Yeah…right. Mother Nature and the Goddess of the Seas had other plans.

Every single weekend of that nasty winter of ’08 began with half of each day (both Saturday and Sunday!) spent trying to fix the tent. From November to the end of December, nothing was getting done and the shrinkwrap was taking a beating.

This was a one-star tent, and that was being generous.

Tent Model V, on the other hand, was a beast

By late December 2008, I’d had enough with Model IV and had to re-think my approach. Basically, we left the scrappy remains of Model IV from the deck up, and I built a 2×4 frame around and over the top of the whole boat. We ran a tensioned line around the whole frame at the Roamer’s deck level and welded and taped the upper white part to it. We shrank the upper white part so it was a reasonably well tensioned shrinkwrap tent, but it was completely open at the deck level. One little breeze and things would have gotten exciting… Then we welded and taped the lower section of clear shrinkwrap to make up the rest of the structure all the way to the ground.

Model V was ungodly sore on the eyes but functional as all get out. And tough, too, lasting from December 2008 to July 2009.

All of those shots of the Roamer being faired and primed were taken from inside Model V.

Not the prettiest tent, but Model V did have a certain…presence

Aside from the aesthetic concerns though, Model V also had a horrible design flaw: we gave another shot at trying to have the bottom of the tent loose so it could be rolled up as necessary. While at the bow I used 1×2 battens attached vertically to the uprights to keep the plastic in place, on the sides we only secured the bottom edge using concrete blocks (and anything else heavy that could hold it down).


The thing is, Tent Model V was HUGE and so was the “sail area

When the wind kicked up, it tossed that whole row of concrete and 12x12x12 wooden blocks along the bottom edge like they were made of styrofoam. Then the wind got up inside the tent and…holy smokes… I still spent a lot of time on tent maintenance and repairs, but Model V was so good in most respects it easily deserves four stars.

By order of the marina management, Tent Model V was decommissioned in July 2009

But I kept the white plastic to use as a temporary shelter (AKA Tent Model VI). I also kept the 2×4 structures and scaffolding for reuse later.

Tent Model VI was an obvious rip-off of Model III

But the now-finished aft deck enclosure structure made for a slightly more aesthetically pleasing result than Model III. The method of securing it was vastly improved, too, with the plastic held in place around the base of the cabin top with a highly tensioned cord. I also had 2x4s arranged across the still-open salon hatch hole so rain ran off..sort of. The 2x4s are absolutely critical for keeping the world’s largest water balloon from forming inside the salon. I’m talking…like…75 to 100 gallons in the shrinkwrap sagging precariously through the salon hole.

Don’t ask how I know about that.

Tent Model VII rated a solid three stars

OK, so the boat shed at Colton’s Point Marina doesn’t technically count as a tent, especially since Tent Model VI was still on duty. And it didn’t have anywhere near the panache of Model V. And we couldn’t do any work in Model VII that generated construction noise or dust on account of the neighbors. But, for a brief moment in time, “Tent” Model VII made the Roamer fit in with the other, normal boats. It was a nice reprieve after two decades on Purgatory Row.


You wouldn’t know it from this picture, but Tent Model VIII was basically identical to Model II: a white boatyard mushroom

But its first year in service (winter of 2009-20010) was the year of Snowmageddon in the Mid-Atlantic. Am I the only one who just shuddered at the memory?

Under a 36″ cumulative load of snow, Tent Model VIII collapsed onto the cabin top, resulting in a broken wooden center support for the port side salon window opening. The salon hatch was still out and, in anticipation of forthcoming repairs back in early 2009, there was very little structure remaining in the cabin top. I wasn’t making regular visits to the boatyard because the process of documenting the boat in my name simply wasn’t progressing, but I went out after the big storm and taped up the tent. It was disheartening to see the cabin top structure further damaged, but without clear ownership I wasn’t going to spend any additional time fixing it. My primary concern was to protect the rebuilt Lehman engines, Fischer Panda genset and other things that had value above scrap. This picture was of Model VIII after two and a half years of hard service.
Model VIII gets four stars because even though it was really just a Model II in a different marina, it took Snowmageddon on the chin and kept protecting the Roamer for another 30 months with very little support from yours truly.

Tent Model IX, the current 2013 iteration, is by far the best, gnarliest tent of the bunch. I’m talkin’ so superior in every possible way to any tent ever made…well…Cirque du Soleil is no doubt envious. But that post will have to wait just a bit. šŸ˜‰

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Interior Concept Drawings

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