Artful Dodger(ing)

Among the many preparations I am making for my planned trip up the inside passage is making a dodger to mitigate the discomfort of motoring northward against wind and water.  Protection from wind and waves and rain over long, cold, rainy days is problematic on a boat as small as Ripple.

Then too, there are esthetic considerations.  I don't much like breaking up Ripple's classic lines with a stainless steel cage and canvas, so I am hoping to craft a suitably effective, easily removable solution without overly compromising her looks.

Searching for design approaches led me to a slim, if pricey, volume by Tom Hunter: Frame Design for Boat Tops.  Hunter is an engineer by training and apparently the leading frame architect in the field.  His book is not for the faint of heart... in fact it is pretty much for canvas fabricators only -- there are precious few nods to the DIY dodger-building public.  And you won't find it in your public library., a compendium of bibliographic records representing the majority of libraries in the developed world, shows no trace.

Still, if you are hankering to try your hand at making a dodger, or even if you are going to have someone else build a dodger for you, this book could save you a lot of money and disappointment.   Hunter's style is no-nonsense engineering, edging toward the abstruse.  There isn't much effort to build up the neophyte's vocabulary -- you'll have to pick it up as you go along.  He is clearly writing for practitioners, not wanna-bees.

But a couple of hours with this book will afford critical expertise about the decisions that have to be made to build a solid frame that enhances your boat and protects the people in it.  You'll be able to ask thoughtful questions of a fabricator, specify characteristics that are important to you, and appraise the work.  The fabricator will also understand that you are a discerning customer.  In a field where nearly every product is custom built for one boat, this in itself is worth the price of the book.

The drawing accompanying this post was the third of my early seat-of-the-pants efforts to proportion a dodger for Ripple.  Looking at it now, I understand many more of the nuances require design attention if I am to fabricate this complex and important structure in a way that is functional, esthetic, and safe.  I'm working on it, with rather more confidence than, say, yesterday.

One final note.  You can order the book through Amazon for under $44, tax and shipping included.  It is substantially more costly through Hunter's own website, as the shipping starts at something like $20.  He's selling frames, not books.


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