1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Helm Station Door Openings

Since 2007, when I cut off the old aft deck enclosure with a chainsaw, I’ve been developing a vision for how the helm station side door openings would work. Finally, over one week in 2013, the vision coalesced into pretty much exactly what I had in mind. I love it when a plan comes together! 😉

The helm station entry circa 2007 when we first got the boat.

The helm entry on both sides had been radically altered back in the 1970s. It was cut off vertically where the big C-channel beam comes down from the roof after that looooong 45* run.

Circa 2008: Reconfigured steel C-channel beam supporting the helm roof.

After cutting 3′ off of the sides of the fiberglass cabin-top as part of the deck and aft enclosure project, I cut and rewelded the steel C-channel beam so it’s vertical over nearly all of its length. This makes a stronger structure than original and also provides the forward edge of what will become the door opening.

Circa 2008: the stbd helm door opening

Fast forward to March 1, 2013.

Not much had changed here in the intervening years, but by 2013 I had a definite plan for how it would look in the end. The large, curvy block of wood is 8/4 mahogany stock that Chris Craft used to provide vertical structure to the sides of the cabin top. I’ll end up using it for molding somewhere. 😉

Weld area, FRP cut and rotten mahogany

When we replaced the teak side decks with new aluminum plate, we had to cut some of the fiberglass from the sides of the cabin top so we could fit the new plate and access the weld area. When we removed the old teak deck and rotten plywood underlayment, we found just a hint of rot in the bottom edge of the 3/4″ x 4″ mahogany board that the bottom edge of the cabin top screws to where it meets the deck. This rot, which was much worse in the bulkhead below it, was the result of the seam failing where the aluminum side deck transitioned to teak–a poor design if ever there was one.

2 sheets of 3/4″ Douglas fir marine plywood make up the filler piece between the fiberglass exterior and the helm door opening.

The fiberglass piece we cut out to weld in the new aluminum deck in 2008 is back where it should be…in 2013.

Ideally, we would have fiberglassed the plywood at the same time as the FRP panel, but the carpenter needs to finish making the “3rd side” of the box surrounding the steel upright. Once that’s in, we’ll FRP the whole thing and put in the final fillets.

Marine plywood frames out the helm station door opening in late March 2013.

Rather than using 8/4 solid stock like Chris Craft did to make up the filler piece between the side of the cabin top and the steel upright, instead we sandwiched two layers of 3/4″ doug fir marine ply bonded with US Composites 635 epoxy and wood flour/cabosil. The filler piece is screwed and glued in using the same wood flour epoxy mixture.

For the boxes around the steel uprights, we’re using 19mm okoume marine plywood that’s also screwed and glued in place. We have one more piece of okoume to cut for each side, then we’ll fiberglass and fair the entire thing in preparation for paint. On the inside, we’ll use solid mahogany stock rather than plywood and finish it off bright.

The window track drain is cut out and all edges are radiused for FRP coating.

The inside surface of the sides of the FRP cabin top is ground and ready for 1708 FRP.

The epoxy gluing the plywood to the sides of the cabin top is strong, but the joint will last forever if we put a layer of 1708 bi-axial fiberglass cloth over the joint.

The top o’ the box is bonded to the helm roof.

We will fiberglass this joint, too, but first we need to put a 3rd side on the box–a piece of 3/4″ okoume plywood on the steel beam that the door will slide up against when its closed. The 4th side of the box–on the inside–will be a solid piece of African mahogany. The outside face of the box and the solid mahogany facia board inside will be wide enough to provide a pocket into which the door will fit when closed.

Window track drain made of 1708 bi-axial fiberglass cloth wetted out with US Composites 635 epoxy.

All that remains to do is fiberglass and fair the plywood at the helm door.

With wet epoxy all over the boat, it was time to go home. I’m beat.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Fillets!


4 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Helm Station Door Openings

  1. 1969roamer46 says:

    Hi Eric!

    If, by “new salon area,” you mean the aft deck enclosure, you bet I considered it. In fact, if you look at the “concept” pic at the top of each article, you’ll see that extending the indented side molding thing-a-ma-bob all the around was part of the original plan. But then reality struck.

    In addition to the significant additional cost (both time and money) of cutting and welding those out of aluminum, there’s also the strength consideration. Each weld presents an opportunity for a crack to develop. Welding also puts lots of heat into the panels, which causes warping that has to be faired. And the more fairing compound there is, the heavier the boat will be and the greater the likelihood of the fairing compound cracking at some point. It would also consume valuable interior volume. The list of both actual and potential “cons” gets to be pretty long for something where the only “pro” is that it’s a cute little styling ditty.

    By comparison, flat 1/4″ sheet stock with box tubing welded to the back of it is cheap, easy and strong.

    I’ve thought about painting something on to the aft enclosure that would continue the line from the cabin-top sides, but I’m not sure if I’ll do it.


  2. Realize itz a bit late in the game to consider extending the CC (Dick Avery) style of indented side molding back to the new salon area – but have you given this a thought?

  3. Craig Lindberg says:

    Tremendous respect for the attention to detail and forethought. Great work, looking forward to seeing the final product as I’m sure you are too.
    Craig Lindberg

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