1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Steps to the V-berth

I had a day or two to burn while waiting for the glass to show up and for a weather window to paint the blue accent stripes  on the exterior. So I set to work on the steps from the galley to the V-berth.

In the original configuration, the steps forward were center-line.

The pic above was from back in 2008, when we had decided we were all in.  Even if the boat needed more than just engines and a paint job(!), we decided to make it exactly the way we wanted.

My concept for the galley put the steps to the port side

From late 2009 through 2011, when the paperwork SNAFU had me thinking I might have to give up on the project, I spent quite a bit of time messing with interior concepts using google sketchup. Being a “concept,” there was a lot of wiggle room in how these things would end up being executed when the time came to actually start building the interior. Of course, “wiggle room” also means a lack of specificity. For a pro this might have been a one-day job, but with the devil being in the details, making the concept for the steps come to life was a weekend project all by itself for me!

First Step (literally)

First Step (literally)

I used the same process to figure out rise for these steps as you might for any stairs. But the run (how deep the step is) has to be made to fit the available space and irregular shapes of a boat. It also has to take into account hard parts overhead. In this case, because the aluminum bow deck extends all the way to the galley bulkhead,  the first step down has to drop down enough to allow passage to the V-berth without conking your head on the deck framing. Anybody over 6′ will pay for their freakish height with either a sore neck from ducking down all the time or a bump on the noggin, but the missus and me are in the clear.  🙂

Track saw fun

Track saw fun

My Eureka Zone track saw allows me to make absolutely straight cuts with outstanding precision, and it does funky angled cuts as easily as 90 degree square ones.

Step Two risers, supports and cleats

Step Two risers, supports and cleats

The 1″ x 1″ mahogany cleats above are parts we kept when we disassembled the boat back in 2008. Since they’re already drilled and counterbored, recycling the old parts for “out of sight” uses like this is economical in both time and money. I also had to add a new section of marine ply for the floor to fill a gap between the frames.

Steps are roughly framed out

Steps are roughly framed out

Step Two...basic fit looks good

Step Two…basic fit looks good

There are lots of different angles and curves going on here that make the big step panel a challenge to fit. One of the toughest parts is cutting the panel so it will slide over the 1/4″ thick aluminum frames. Because these were production boats, the frames moved around when they were welded in and none of them is parallel to the others. You can mark the cut by putting the panel down as far as it will go and running a pencil along the top of the frame. But the frames aren’t perpendicular to the steps (or anything else, near as I can tell) so it takes a lot of trial and error cutting and grinding before the pieces finally fit. The gap between the step and the first riser tells you how much more material has to be removed before the two will come together and make a stair.

First frame cut at the bulkhead

First frame cut at the bulkhead

I use a jigsaw to make the cuts that go all the way through to make space for the aluminum hull framing. Then I hit the underside of each cut with a grinder to make a sloping slot. When I do it right, the sloping slot just rests above the top of the curve of the frame member below.

Frame cuts 1, 2 and 3 are almost there

Frame cuts 1, 2 and 3 are almost there

The gap shows that some more trimming is needed

The gap shows that some more trimming is needed

Even 1/32″ of material left in the wrong spot can cause the step to be high by an inch or more.

Et Voila!


It took six tries, but I finally got the step panel to click into place. With the entire assembly rough fit, counterbored and screwed together, the next step was to disassemble and then continue framing and cleat installation.

Cleats, cleats everywhere

Cleats, cleats everywhere

Keeping with Chris Craft’s assembly schedule, I’ll fasten all of the interior bits together with #8 screws every 6″. That means I need cleats at every horizontal and vertical joint on the floor surface and each step and riser. That’s a lot of cleats…

Next, I took the steps apart and edge-sealed everything. I’ve got lots of old cans of polyurethane varnish, paints etc. that I’ll never use again. They come in handy for sealing the edges and back sides of panels and cleats like these that nobody will see. I think it’s better to use the stuff as intended rather than throwing it away partially used cans that end up in landfills. The following day, I came back to the tent and reassembled the pieces.

Edge sealed, back-side coated and screwed together again.

Edge sealed, back-side coated and screwed together again.

We haven’t decided on the floor covering yet, but whatever it is, it will be a breeze compared to pretty much anything else on this project so far!

Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Painting the Stripes


4 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Steps to the V-berth

  1. One big step for man,…
    .., one giant step for Roamerkind.

  2. Bill Large says:

    Beautiful workmanship on those relocated stairs but I have one question that may just reflect my lack of understanding. You slotted the step panel to allow for the 1/4-inch frames. But won’t the frames be potential stumbling points when you are using the completed stairs? Will the frames be covered or framed out somehow?

    Love the blog and the whole project. I do feel a little guilty looking forward to reading each new post knowing that you have sweated away another weekend to produce it.

    I brought back two Chris Craft Sea Skiff (31 and 32 ft.) so I know at least a little of what you are going through.

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Thanks, Bill!

      If you brought back two Sea Skiffs, you paid your dues to the goddess of the seas. Good on ya! When we’re done with this Roamer, I’m hanging up my refit hat for good!

      On the frames sticking out above the lower steps, the paneling and cabinetry in the V-berth will cover most of it. I’ll probably have to make short (~2-3″) bits of mahogany to fit over the middle frame before it disappears below the step. While in theory that could present a tripping hazard, I suspect that the proximity to the cabinet and paneling I intend to install will put most feet safely away from it.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s