1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: The Hardtop

The hardtop on our Roamer 46 was in surprisingly good shape. Unlike the gelcoat on the cabin top, the gelcoat up above wasn’t cracked or otherwise degraded. I’m a bit stumped as to why it was in such good shape. The only thing that occurs to me is that the cabin top probably got buffed and waxed, unlike the “out of sight, out of mind” hardtop, and aggressive buffing may have broken up the surface of the gelcoat, leading to its ultimate demise. In any case, all we had to do on the hardtop was repair a bunch of holes previous owners had put in it for dinghy mounts, a crane for the dinghy, and a few different kinds of antennas, integrate the spotlight mount into the FRP layup, and then sand the whole thing with a DA. Then it was ready for a coat of Awl Quik over the repair areas, a final sanding in 180 grit before applying the Awl Grip 545 prime coat.

In early 2008, the crane was still on the hardtop.

I can understand the necessity of storing a dinghy on the hardtop in certain circumstances, but that crane was a horrible blight on the aesthetics of the Roamer. I still have it if anybody wants it, because it’s absolutely not going back on the boat.

Fast forward to April 2013…the hardtop is primed.

We closed up all of the holes by first grinding down the repair areas, then filling the ground out bits with a layer of fiberglass topped with the US Composites 635 epoxy + cabosil + 3m microballoon fairing compound we used to fair the cabin top. Once that was longboarded flat, we applied Awl Quik, sanded that and sprayed the Awl Grip 545 you see here. The fairing crew and painter did the work so quickly (while I was preoccupied transforming the tent into a paint shed) that I didn’t take any pix of the process.

All evidence of crane bolt holes and antenna mast base fasteners are gone.

This area of the hardtop was absolutely riddled with holes from hardware I removed, including at least six different antenna mast bases, of which only one still had an antenna attached to it when we got the boat in 2007.

When the painter sprays, we put filters over the the inlet of the box fans attached to the tent. They’re very effective at catching spray particles, though the chemical smell does go right through.

Integrating the searchlight base into the hardtop FRP.

One of the maintenance headaches on classic Chris Craft cruisers with searchlights is the mahogany searchlight base on the hardtop. Originally, the mahogany is finished bright and bedded in Dolphinite or some other kind of goo that eventually gives up and leaks. If you don’t maintain the varnish, the wood degrades and eventually you have a mess on your hands.

On this Roamer, the mahogany base hadn’t been maintained in 20 years. The wood was still solid (i.e. not rotted), but it was cracked down the middle. So we removed it, sanded it clean, epoxied the two halves together and bonded them with US Composites 635 epoxy and cabosil to the original position on the hardtop. We topped the mahogany with two layers of 9oz boat cloth fiberglass, then put a nice fillet all the way around. As with the fillets around the cabin top-to-deck joint and at the dashboard, this approach will shed water and lessen the amount of dirt that collected before in the seams between the two parts.

Awl Quik on the cabin top.

There was some Awl Quik left over from the hardtop, and this stuff (like all Awl Grip products) is expensive! So, rather than tossing it out, I rolled it onto the cabin top in the area where the salon roof hatch was rebuilt as part of the Cummins 450 repower (or more accurately, repowers, since the hatch had originally been cut out in 1973 and was again removed in 2008). We did a lot of work making the cabin top bulletproof, and when longboarding (with 6′ long, two-man longboards!) we discovered highs and lows all over, albeit the height difference between the peaks and valleys is very small fractions of an inch (2 mm or less). Still, that sort of variation would show up as waves in the shiny paint, and we’d like to minimize that if we can.

Most of this first, rolled-on coat of Awl Quik will get sanded away before the final coats of Awl Quik and 545 get applied, but it works well to fill the low spots and pinholes in the fairing compound.

The view from the bow deck in mid-April, 2013…ready for primer!

The view down the side.

The second story scaffolding outboard of the aft deck enclosure will allow us to prime and paint those areas easily. The plywood scaffolding deck overlaps the Roamer’s deck where the mahogany toe rail will go, and I’ve put screws into it through the bolt holes for the toe rail. This effectively ties the upper scaffolding to the boat and makes it very stable.

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Cabin-top, dashboard & Hardtop Details


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

  1. 1969roamer46 says:

    Your elbows ache? I passed that phase months ago. When everything but your hair aches, then you will have achieved Roamer Looney Bin greatness. lol

    Have you tried Mirka Autonet or Abranet sandpaper? Cuts like razors and lasts a loooooong time.

    Acrylic enamel? It’s a metal boat, so maybe it doesn’t matter if things “show”? I thought polyurethanes retained their gloss, tend not to crack, and have better UV protection than enamel. What factors led to your decision?

  2. Boy ur making me ache all over – sanding down the Tin Tonic at Ft Belvoir as we speak – and boi do my elbows ache.
    We’re at 180grit rite now and filling and a’fairing – you know how that goes. Painter wants to go with a an AXIS Coating acrylic enamel – worried it gonna show “too much”. Maybe I pay the local boy scouts to hep me git down to 1100 block sanding, no?
    Hope all is well.

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