After many years of seeing some of the oldest Sanderlings coming back to us with rot in the plywood bulkheads, seats, or cockpit sole, we decided it was time to come up with a better method of construction to avoid this problem. In the summer of 2008 we began the research and design of a significant modification to the Sanderling cockpit. The idea was to keep as much of the same look as the existing cockpit as possible, but build it out of fiberglass with molded gel-coat surfaces for increased longevity, reduced maintenance and more comfort. The feedback to-date has been very positive and in the first two years we produced a dozen Sanderlings with the new style cockpit.
To replace the plywood floor frames we created a molded fiberglass grid which bonds to the hull. The grid has engine beds incorporated in the frame so if the boat is getting the optional inboard engine installed, there is no additional work installing separate engine beds.
The sole is fiberglass construction with a closed cell foam core. A nonskid surface was built into the mold and ridges were placed under the seats to keep any gear stowed under the cockpit seats from sliding out. The gel-coat surface is a much cleaner finish than the painted surfaces of older Sanderlings and much easier to maintain. We also installed flush mounted bronze scupper fittings at the forward corners by the centerboard trunk to allow for proper cockpit drains leading to thru-hulls with seacocks. By doing this we eliminated the need for the old style scupper tubes which required rubber plugs to keep water from coming into the boat when underway.
The next part we created was the seat and coaming. In the previous Sanderlings these were separate pieces. From the standpoint of both construction and comfort it made sense to combine these into one part. We widened the forward end of the seats by 4” and dropped the outer edge down an inch. So that water won’t collect in this comfortably angled seat, a drain hole was added at the forward end. One of my favorite spots on the boat has always been sitting on the leeward side with my feet up on the seat and my back leaning against the bulkhead and the wider seat makes this even better. The trade off is that the companionway doors now cannot open flush against the bulkhead, so we changed the hinges to a type that allows you to lift the doors off and stow them in the cabin if you so choose.
To complete the shift away from plywood we now use a high density foam board to core the transom and stiffen the bulkheads. The same teak trim is applied throughout the cockpit as on all the previous Sanderlings in order to maintain the same appearance.
If an inboard engine is desired we have created a molded box which is placed under the starboard seat which houses the engine panel and controls. We have also created a molded engine box which is slightly smaller and lighter than the previous ones built of plywood and glassed over.
One of the most important criteria for this project was to have the ability to install the new cockpit in an older boat. To ensure that this goal could be accomplished, we purchased an older boat with cockpit rot issues and used this boat in the process of developing each new part. While the cockpit dimensions of all the older Sanderlings are slightly different, we were successful in developing molded parts that will fit any older Sanderling. As a bonus, we found that the cost of replacing a cockpit with the new parts is about equal to the cost of using the old method, but the result is a more user friendly finish and more comfortable seating.
Another important factor we had to keep in mind was the overall weight of the boat. Since many of these boats are used for racing, it was critical that the displacement of 2200 lbs. remain the same. We found we had to over build some of the parts in order to reach the desired weight, but we were more comfortable doing this and having stronger parts, than adding more lead to the ballast.
This was a time consuming process that was researched with a great deal of care. Many Sanderling owners were consulted and a lot of different ideas were considered. We are extremely pleased with the results and don’t see anything we would have done differently. I hope this gives you a good overview of the project, and if you have any more specific questions please feel free to contact us.