Hard dodger build/install

I don’t know how some of you people do it. And by “it”, I mean how you manage to get shit done on your boat and take pictures of the process along the way. When I start working on something, I do think to myself, “I should take pictures of each step or each major step as I do this. Then I’ll post in on the web and make the world a better place”

I never do.

What I normally end up doing is taking a beginning photo….then approximately 7/8ths of the way though the project, I take a couple more photos with nothing in between. My current project is a perfect example of this.

Right now I am working on replacing our old worn out canvas dodger with a shiny new hard dodger. Well, top half will be hard. Our current dodger is your average one inch steel tube frame with canvas and vinyl stretched over it. The problem with it is that it is well over 10 years old and absolutely falling apart at the seems. Which is to be expected of 10 year old canvas.

The other problem is, we want to mount two additional solar panels on top of the dodger and that is not really doable on sun rotted canvas. So, we decided to build a hard dodger. At first we thought of building it out of fiberglass. Which turns out to be a bit more work than either one of us really wanted to do.

The other option I came up with was to make it like you would when making a skateboard; using 3 or 4, 4×8 sheets of 1/8th inch birch board and laminating it together with tightbond 3 water proof glue, then cutting it to shape. That was the way I was planning on doing it, until Tawn stumbled across a webpage of a guy that did something very similar using a plastic product called Starboard.

Starboard turned out to be the way we were gonna go. So bought some poster board and taped it together to make one big sheet and laid that over the top of the existing stainless tubing, which is to remain in place and serve as the base/frame for the new hard dodger. I cut the poster board into the shape I wanted to use as a template. I then went to Tap Plastics down on Lake Union and got a 4×8 sheet of 1/2 inch think tan colored Starboard.

Using the poster board template; I simply cut the Starboard to the outlined shape I wanted using a jig saw. The Starboard material can be worked just like wood. I routed the edges to get a nice smooth round edge and did a little light sanding.

To mount the Starboard to the frame, I am using 1inch stainless steel “U” clamps and counter sinking the screws from the top.

The dodger frame is curved, so I lined up and fastened the starboard to the flat portion on top and center of the frame as seen in the picture above.

Using a set of ratcheting tie-down straps from my jeep; a couple heat guns and a infrared heat lamp I was able to get the perfect bend in Starboard. I’m actually very surprised it turned out as well as it has.

And another view

I will be finishing up installing the mounting hardware this weekend. And we are having someone come out to measure and give us a quote on how much it will be to make the bottom window out of canvas and vinyl.

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3 Responses to Hard dodger build/install

  1. Gary Nelson says:

    CB thanks for taking to time to post pictures of the hard dodger install it gave me the confidence to build one myself using your Ideas I used 1/4 inch starboard heating pads and a heat gun to bend the top on a jig in my shop. Instead of canvas sides and windows I used 1/8 inch lexan in place easy to cut with tin snips . Many thanks Gary Nelson

    • Andy Cross says:

      Hey Gary,
      I’m thinking about building a dodger like this. How has it worked for you so far? How did you attach the Lexan to the top of the dodger and to the deck? Any other tips or tricks you can share would be much appreciated. Cheers. Andy

  2. John Lewis says:

    Thanks for posting the pics of the hard dodger project.
    We completed our 6 year circumnavigation (Tayana 37 pilot house) in sept 2014 and our fabric cockpit cover, that we had made in Mexico in 2009 is falling apart.

    I was chatting about possible vendors for a hard top cover project with Angela at Dockside solutions and she was kind enough to pass along your web site address so I could see how you pulled this off.

    It looks like the perfect solution for us. We have a couple of 130 watt solar panels above our cockpit cover.

    Our cover is not built like a dodger since we really dont need a window on the front end. Our pilot house takes care of that. Our cover is built on a ss frame that attaches to the stern rail and to our radar arch.

    Have you been happy with the 1/2 starboard material?


    s/v Active Transport
    D37 Shilshole Bay Marina

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