Monday, January 4, 2016

Dodge This

To say I've been a bit concerned about this upcoming run south is probably an understatement.  It is not the trip itself, but the cold temperatures that make me not all that happy about it.  Last year when I made the run from Deltaville down to Georgia I said I didn't ever want to do that in November again...and, well, January wasn't the change I had in mind.  That time I had the soft bimini with the integrated front dodger and while it wasn't the most pleasant of trips, having the dodger to keep the chilly wind out of our faces was at least a little help. Now that we have this nice new hardtop with its increased forward view, the old dodger just doesn't fit.  That is, until now.

Deciding that we really need a dodger, I came up with a plan to retrofit our existing dodger to the new top.  It won't be pretty, but at least it will be something until we can get around to building a new enclosure.  Given neither my wife nor I want to take on another big project until we can get the fun to work ratio more in balance, I wanted this temporary solution to be able to last at least a little while.

The plan was to take the existing dodger and some of the pieces from the old soft top to create a new dodger that will fit the new top.  The old soft top already had the zippers that mate up with the old dodger and it also had a bolt rope where it was attached to the rear of the arch.  If we attached the old top to the dodger, cut it to fit the new top, and add the bolt rope to fit the yet to be cut slot in the front rail of the new top, we should have a solution.

To start I needed to cut the bolt rope slot in the bottom side of the forward handrail of the new top.  I created a gauge using some left over wood from the hardtop mold so I could draw a line in the center of the rail with a pencil.  I drilled two holes at the two ends of the slot that I will elongate so there is room to insert the bolt rope. I then used my vibrating multi-tool to carefully cut the slot.  In hindsight, I probably should have cut the slot before we mounted the top as it was more difficult to cut laying on my back on the deck.  After cutting the slot, I determined that the blade on the multi-tool created a slot that was just too thin and the bolt rope would likely bind while trying to slide it in place. I tried wrapping a stick-on sanding disc around the multi-tool blade and that widened the slot but quickly chewed up the sandpaper and left bits of it inside the slot.  Off to the store to see if we could find a solution.  What we found was a grout removal blade for the multi-tool.  This is basically a sandpaper looking metallic blade that should function like the sandpaper without wearing away.  It did the trick and widened the slot to about double the original gap.

The bolt rope slot and access hole in the front rail.

I used the multi tool to cut the holes in the ends into more of a teardrop shape.  This didn't really provide enough access to insert the bolt rope and so I took my rotary tool and a small drum sanding attachment and elongated the hole into an inch and a half opening.  That did the trick.

To clean up the cut of the slot, I took some excess 3/16 line and wrapped the stick on sanding discs around it.  This essentially made an abrasive segment of bolt rope. It was used to clean up the edges of the slot to allow the regular bolt rope to easily slide.

Getting the plastic shavings out of the slot was an interesting task.  After some work with the shop vacuum and a thin screwdriver, we were able to clean everything up and now we have a nice bolt rope slot along the bottom of the front rail.

The original dodger was slid into its original lower bolt rope track.  The old bimini was attached to it and pulled tight up over the new hardtop.  I carefully marked where the old bimini material met the lower edge of the new bimini rail.  It was a challenge to try figuring out how we could attach the old curved corners to the new, wider top, but we did the best we could.  After getting everything marked, the bimini was removed from the dodger and cut so there were two extra inches of fabric beyond the marks to allow for creating a double hem. Excess zippers, hardware, and other original mounting bits that are no longer needed were removed.

Marking and cutting the old bimini segment.

I used straight pins to temporarily hold the hem in place and then broke out the Sailrite machine and started sewing.  I finished the cut edges and then sewed on the bolt rope that was scavenged from the back of the old bimini.  I even tried a zig-zag stitch for one of the runs on the bolt rope, not because it was needed but more for the practice using the machine.

Sewing up the old bimini strip to make the "new" dodger.

The end result turned out pretty well.  Better than I expected in reality. (I wonder if my junior high home economics teacher would be proud?)  It isn't that pretty and a properly fitting enclosure would provide a better view, but it should provide us at least some protection from the wind and rain while we make our way south.

The temporary dodger. You can see how much larger the
view forward is now compared to the old dodger.

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