Bow-roof Shed Project

If you own a boat sooner or later you're going to need a covered place to work in.  Some of us are lucky enough to have a nice garage or workshop, but there are many of us who are stuck with just working outdoors.  Unfortunately, the problem with doing projects outside is that your schedule is always dictated by the weather.  If it rains or if it is too cold or too hot, then you usually stay inside and nothing gets accomplished.  Therefore, one of the first things we did when we got Little Cruiser was to put together a simple and inexpensive shelter built from cheap 2 x 2 lumber and 6 mil greenhouse plastic. This covered space went together easily with a minimal amount of tools in the course of only one afternoon.  For better or for worse, no real plans were drawn up.  Instead, the rough dimensions of a simple gable roofed building were sketched out on a scrap of paper.  Then the wood was cut roughly to size, and the framework was quickly joined together with sheet rock screws.  When this somewhat crude 10' x 18' structure was completed, plastic was thrown over it and the corners were held down with all the loose cinderblocks we could find.  Unfortunately, it did not take us too long to discover that one of the main problems with our hastily constructed shelter was that it did not stand up well to heavy rains or snow because the rafters were too widely spaced.  This oversight necesitated that we periodically drained off the collecting puddles of water or cleared off the growing piles of snow on the roof.  Eventually, we remedied this design flaw by adding a few more rafters.  In addition, we noticed the building tended to twist a bit in high winds and the plastic cover would sometimes blow off!  Nonetheless, this simple structure served it's intended purpose for almost ten years until very strong winds from a passing hurricane toppled it over last summer.   

When it came time to getting a new building to replace the old damaged one, the first requirements were that it be strong and that it have good rain and snow shedding qualities.  This meant that the roof should be steeply pitched and that the rafters should be more tightly spaced.  Also, we wanted to make sure that it wouldn't get blown over like our last shelter; therefore, it would have to be well anchored to the ground. Since we knew from our past experiences that we would be spending a lot of time in our new shed, we also thought we should invest a little more time and money in our project.  Even before we decided to build a new wooden building, we investigated the possibility of using a metal carport or a prefabricated greenhouse.  However, the greenhouse idea proved to be too expensive and we felt that the carport with it's metal roof wouldn't let in enough light to heat the interior for wintertime use.  For this reason, we eventually decided to build exactly what we needed for under $400.  This turned out to be a 14' x 20' bow-roof shed designed by Stimpson Marine.  For only $18 and $2 postage and handling, we got a set of plans, a 25 page builder's manual and a shed design that has proven itself in 70 mph winds and 9 foot snow drifts in Maine.  

When the plans arrived, we were pleased to see that the manual was designed for the beginner, and therefore it was quite easy to understand.  The Stimson Marine website claims that one of their bow-roof sheds can be built in 40 hours; however, we took considerably longer.  This is probably due to the fact that we milled our own 1 x 3 lumber from 2x 6 stock and that we spent a fair amount of time making sure everything was fair and straight.  The only real surprise we had during the whole construction was that every one of our bows had a slightly different bend from the other ones. The reason this happened was not because we weren't careful in building our bows but because each piece of wood had slightly different bending properties.  Consequently, when we released the completed bows from the building form, each bow sprung back a different amount depending on the relative stiffness of each piece.  Probably the only real way to prevent this from happening would have been to make the bows out of many thin laminations of wood rather than the two 3/4" 1 x 3 that are called for in the plans.  In our case it was not be practical to do this because we did not want to incur any additional building time nor did we want to increase the expense of the project.  Therefore, to even things out, we paired up all the similar bows together.  Then, when it came time to make the arches, which are made up of two bows each, we put the stiffest and tallest arches next to each other while the more flexible and lower ones were stacked alongside their counterparts.  Ultimately, the tallest arches were on one end of the building while the shortest ones were on the other side.  

Though we pretty much followed the manual step by step, we did make some minor changes. One change was to build our arches with plywood gussets, which enabled us to raise them up as one unit.  Then after three of these arches were lifted up and braced into position, it was a simple matter to add the ridge pole and to install the remaining bows.  Another thing we did that was different was to stake the sills next to the bows rather than to anchor them underneath as the plan suggested. Since we felt that we could not drive a stake straight enough into our soil to accomplish this task, we opted instead to simply place a stake near each bow.  We also decided to use a lot of bracing to hold our sills in place to prevent them from moving around while the arches were installed and while all the horizontal and diagonal bracing was attached.  Finally, we included diagonal bracing to the rear of the building to make it even stronger, and we built a curved header to support a wide doorway to make it easy to roll Little Cruiser  in and out of the building.

The last thing we'd like to mention is that we made several jigs and quite a few templates to make things go easier throughout the building process.  For example, we used a drilling jig to insure that the one hundred and fourty 1/4" holes in the bows were straight and true.  Another thing we did was to make wooden hangers to hold the fourteen 20 foot long horizontals in place while we screwed them down.  To save money we used a stock grey poly tarp, which we cut down to size; and to insure the building's longevity, we used galvanized bolts and square drive deck screws.  Incidentally, we plan to swap out the grey poly tarp with 6 mil plastic to let more light in this winter.  Well, that's about it.  Below are some pictures of our first boat shelter followed by our brand new Bow-Roof Shed.

UPDATE: In 2008 we added a floor to our shed so that we could work on sails more easily.

Original Shelter

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New Bow-Roof Shed

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