1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Bow Seat

The bow seat on the larger 1960’s Chris Craft cruisers is, in many respects, the best seat in the house. The view is great, the wind’s in your hair and they’re spacious enough to serve as a picnic table or sunbathing lounge. While the 1969 Roamer 46 bow seat had all that, it had some areas in need of improvement, too.

For example, the 52′ Constellation we owned had two large hatches built into the bow seat. They were great for line storage, but we converted one into a propane locker that allowed us to have a gas stove. This was a huge plus from the missus’ perspective. The Roamer bow seat not only didn’t have hatches, it was also several inches lower than the one on the Connie. Not even 10# propane bottles would fit in the space between the deck and the seat, and when anyone over 5′ tall sat up front it would feel like they were sitting on a bench sized for children. The plan, then, was to cut out the bow seat, raise it a few inches and install hatches.

The original bow seat was too low.

It was also dead flat across, except for certain low spots near the center. No doubt about it, rain water would tend to collect there and so would dirt.

In October 2012, we reformed the bow seat.

There were cracks at the base of both window uprights, indicating they were high stress areas that were not strong enough.

The cracks were more than skin deep.

They went all the way through the fiberglass.

Plenty of room for a skinny man, but not enough for a propane bottle.

This was an early attempt back in 2008 to make the space more useful. Ultimately, we determined that the seat had to be raised.

Bow seat, meet Mr. Sawzall.

This old bow seat will make a nice piece of scaffolding some day!

Evidence of Chris Craft under-engineering on the underside of the bow seat.

With zero support under the seat, the 3/8″ plywood core eventually broke, as did the 9oz weave fiberglass that encased it. Simply fixing the cracks on the topside would not have resolved this problem. It’s a good thing we cut it out.

Test fitting the new bow seat plywood, which is 1/2″ rather than the original 3/8″.

I cut the bow seat opening at the base of the windows 3″ higher than the original on either side and 4″ higher at the center. This would allow me to put some crown in the seat, so water would tend to naturally run to the sides.

Time for bow seat vertical supports/compartment walls.

There will be four compartments under the bow seat: On the right is the propane locker, which will be accessed from a hatch that will be built into the top of the seat. In the center are two line lockers, which will be accessed from hatches in the forward lower panel. On the left is a storage locker that will be accessible from the galley.This is all space that was completely wasted in the original design. And the compartment walls offer excellent support where before there was none.

Bonding in the bow seat supports.

The supports are 3/4″ plywood that’s repurposed–it was originally a bulkhead somewhere on the Roamer. I cut the top edge of the vertical supports so the plywood seat surface at the back, near the windows, is 1/2″ or so higher than the leading edge. This should shed water much better than the original flat design.
I edge sealed the plywood supports with US Composites 635 epoxy, then bonded them to the cabin top and deck with cabosil filler. After making a nice fillet with the filler, I overcoated with a layer of 9oz fiberglass boat cloth wetted out with more 635 epoxy.

Bow seat plywood test fit completed.

Next I made the new leading edge of the bow seat.

This shot shows how much we raised it up.

The leading edge of the bow seat was difficult to make.

Not only is this a long, skinny piece of plywood, it has to follow the curve of the crowned plywood seat (X-Y axis) and the other X-Z axis curve along the leading edge. The upper edge is flat, to match the seat plywood, but the lower edge is cut at an angle to match the original FRP that goes down to the deck!I’m sure a master craftsman could knock it out in an hour, but it took me a whole day.

Time to screw and glue!

With all of the pieces fitting quite tightly, we added cleats (solid mahogany 1x1s cut to length) to the supports inside, then edge sealed, glued and screwed it all together.The bow seat was now high enough to accommodate a propane bottle and strong enough to hold a football team!

The new bow seat in 1810 biaxial fiberglass.

This shot also shows the two center hatch cutouts. Granted, it won’t be the most convenient storage to access, but for line storage it will be fine.

While the epoxy was still tacky, we also applied a layer of US Composites 635 epoxy with cabosil and 3M micro bubbles as fairing compound.

This allows the epoxy in the FRP layer to chemically bond to the identical epoxy in the fairing compound, which eliminates the need to sand the fiberglass. Since sanding breaks glass fibers, not sanding the fiberglass results in a stronger FRP matrix. Labor savings and a stronger finished product…nice.

Incidentally, this is the same process they use at Weaver Boatworks on their multi-million dollar sportfish models.

The bow seat, rough faired and ready for longboarding.

The black spray paint helps to guide the fairing crew by showing where the low spots are.

With the bow seat ready for primer, we moved on to the next big part of our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Salon Hatch Hole Problem Formulation.


2 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Bow Seat

  1. The level of thought and quality of her restoration continues to impress us all. Regarding the hatch hole, this feature of CC MYs have always bothered me (who likes playing footsie with such a protuberance?), but like the big fat, federally-mandated bumpers on mid-70s cars they did have a purpose: safety. No doubt a solution to the issue of fire escape has already been devised – look forward to viewing the results.

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Thanks Eric!
      The built-in hatch frames are a good design feature, I think, especially when repowering the diesel engines that frequently went into Chris Craft boats; old Detroit and Cummins V8s don’t just slide out the side windows or salon doors! Even disassembled, the blocks are just too big. The hatches make less sense on gas-powered boats, with their smaller engines, but I guess it makes sense to build for the worst-case scenario.
      The key, though, is to make the hatch just as strong after the repower as it was before. That’ll be the topic of my next post.
      Stay tuned!

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