1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Tent Model XXX

I hadn’t planned to still be in the boatyard this winter, but the 34′ Searay that exploded next to my Roamer in July 2015 threw me completely off schedule. In addition to blowing out a window and damaging my brand new paint, the explosion also shredded my tent and broke a few frames. With winter coming, I’ve got to once again remodel the tent into the version with scaffolding going around the perimeter so the paint can be repaired, and then I’ve got to put a new top on it. I’ve also got a few more tweaks IĀ  came up with that should make Tent Model X even better than it is already. So I’m now calling it Tent Model XXX.

I know…it’s goofy naming tents, but with all of the exploding boats, thieves, fabricator incompetence, and window problems I’ve been having, I’ve got to get a chuckle in where I can. šŸ˜‰

I learned way back when I started this project that poorly made boatyard tents can take more time to fix over and over again than just doing it right and making a strong tent from the get-go. My article on all of the various tents I tried before settling on the current one–Tent Model X–explains the evolution of the design. Though it would be nice to just make one tent and call it done, the modular design makes it fairly straightforward to convert it from a tough winter tent that can withstand a snow storm to a giant paint booth that can hold up to hurricanes.

The basic tent upright

The basic tent upright…inspired by the pyramid glyph in ancient Egyptian

12′ and 8′ 2x4s are screwed together to make the basic upright.

3/4 plywood triangles add stability

3/4 plywood triangles add stability

"3rd leg" stabilizes the upright against wind

“3rd leg” stabilizes the upright against wind and tension from the shrink wrap skin

I use the 3rd leg version when I don’t need scaffolding. It makes a tent that’s just a bit wider than the beam of the boat, which is good in winter when snow loads are a concern. Smaller roofs have smaller snow loads.

In scaffolding mode, height and width of the scaffolding are easily adjustable

In “scaffolding mode,” height and width of the scaffolding are easily adjustable

I’ve been using these uprights for five years, and they’re holding up well. Time to swap out the old shrink wrap film and change the tent from 3rd leg to scaffolding mode.

Dawn breaks on Tent Day 1

Dawn breaks on Tent Transformation Day 1

One thing to note in the picture above is that there are four exhaust fans running near the top of the tent. Like many boatyards, my tent is sited on gravel and it is near water. The surface of the gravel dries out during the day, but dig down a couple of inches and the gravel is always wet from water vapor leaving the water table and condensing on the gravel on its way to the atmosphere above. When I put a plastic film over the top of my tent frames, it captures all of the water vapor inside. Without the fans running, my tent drips like a rain forest. So one of the improvements I’m going to do in the transformation from Tent Model X to Model XXX is to re-use old shrink wrap as a vapor barrier under the boat from stem to stern.

Re-using last year's shrink wrap as a vapor barrier

Re-using last year’s clear shrink wrap as a vapor barrier

Scrap pieces of 2×4 and plywood hold down the edges of the shrink wrap all around the perimeter.

Every scrap of plastic sheeting gets layered across the gravel

Every scrap of plastic sheeting gets layered across the gravel

With the boat already blocked, I can’t just lay out a single continuous sheet of plastic. So instead, I put layer after layer of plastic sheeting under the boat, with scraps of wood holding everything down. Most of the water vapor should be stopped by the first layer, but each subsequent overlapping layer will help. Needless to say, the best approach would have been to lay out a sheet of plastic in the shape of the footprint of the tent structure, then block the boat and build the tent from there. Hopefully I’ll never need to do this again, but maybe this information will help a reader of this article who is similarly afflicted with a big boat refit and needs to make his own tent.

July 2015 explosion damage to the tent skin

July 2015 explosion damage to the tent skin

That Frankenstein-looking stitching on the top skin was where I repaired the plastic after it was blown apart by the exploding Searay. There’s no way that repair will hold up to a snow storm.

Remove battens from the bottom of the skirt and start relocating uprights

Remove battens from the sides and bottom of the skirt and start slicing

After the theft in May 2014, I’m very leery of just taking down the old tent and building a new one, since doing that would leave the boat wide open to intruders. I’ve got great alarm systems on board now, but I’m a fan of “out of sight, out of mind.” So I’ll start by relocating the uprights and replacing the skirt plastic that makes up the walls of the tent. Then I’ll cut off the top, reposition the top frames, and reskin the roof.

Relocating the uprights

Good looking Awlgrip paint job!

Disconnect uprights from 1-1/2" PVC pipe roof frames and move out

Disconnect uprights from 1-1/2″ PVC pipe roof frames and move outwards

Leaving the PVC roof frames in place will hold up the old roof skin while I relocate the uprights and reconfigure them for scaffolding. Fortunately, we got a warm spell with zero wind while I was doing this. Finally, the goddess of the seas is smiling upon me. Either that, or the bitch is setting me up for another zinger like she’s done so many other times on this project. šŸ™‚

Reconfigured for scaffolding

Reconfigured for scaffolding, and note that vapor barrier all around

Access door zipper is worn out

Access door zipper is worn out

Zipper doors are fine for shrink wrapped boats that are visited occasionally over a winter, but they suck for a big project like this. This zipper door at the front of the tent is how I access my ShopSmith Mark V table saw/bandsaw/sanding station/router/shaper/planer, so I’m going to use a hinged door here instead.

End of Day One

End of Day One

Uprights are repositioned and skirt framing is done

Uprights are repositioned and skirt framing is done

I used strips of scrap 1/2″ marine plywood to tie the tops of the uprights together. They follow the shape of the gunnel and provide a top attachment point for the walls/skirt sheeting, which I’ll install next. But it’s been a long day, so that’ a wrap for now.

Next up on our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Tent Model XXX 2

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