How to make a reliable frame tent for wintering
Theory and practice

How to make a reliable frame tent for wintering

Instructions for creating a frame tent to turn a boat deck into a greenhouse and live on board even in snowy winters.
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Phil Gutowski lives and works aboard his boat all year round. He is not in sunny California, but in the snowy northeast of the United States, bordering Canada and the Atlantic Ocean. To protect his boat from the weather, Gutowski made a frame tent and posted a step-by-step guide to its creation on the Sail Magazine website.


While most yachtsmen eat the annual duty of lifting their boats to kilblocks for the winter, the rest are carefully preparing for the cold months by installing a fixed shelter on board. I live on a yacht in the snow-covered northeast of the United States, where most of my associates cover their decks by installing a seasonal framework, which is then covered with plastic film. Such shelters make the crew's stay on the ship more comfortable, provide protection from rain and snow on the ship itself, allowing precipitation to flow overboard, reduce condensation and provide sunlight and warmth throughout the day.
Last winter I decided to build a seasonal structure that can be used for several years. A structure that would provide enough space for the only thing I love more than sailing - working on a boat. In this article, I will sign step by step all the steps that I have taken from design to implementation in the construction of a functional under awning space made of plastic film for my Tayana 42, Eclipse 1 yacht. Even if you do not have the goal of equipping a workshop on board, in general, this concept is suitable for any task and for any boat.

Materials selection

Usually, the material for making a shelter frame is galvanized tubes designed for laying electric networks. This is a really good choice, easy to assemble. In addition, the frame made of metal pipes is quite strong, and in the disassembled state the pipes do not take up much space. I used to make the frame this way, but eventually I decided to replace it with something else. The wood turned out to be cheaper, not requiring pipe bending and less weight.

Roof corner

Snow pressure on the frame can collapse, so you need to tilt the frame so that snow and rain can slide freely from the roof. However, too big an angle makes the structure very high, making it difficult to get to the top. My design involves a roof angle of 30°. And all the remaining snow I can easily throw off the foil by hitting it from the inside.

Space for elbows

From previous experience, I have learned that the height of the tent is not the only parameter to pay attention to. The amount of free space on the side and the width of the shoulders of the frame are reminiscent of each time you try to walk on board.

Easy to assemble.

If you are going to use a tent more than once, be sure to mark every part of it. All parts of my frame are designed so that they can be folded up after I unscrew all the bolts. For easy assembly-disassembly, I recommend the use of wing nuts, which speeds up the process considerably.


The mast had to be removed for the frame to be easily covered with a film and to make it completely airtight. But it was already necessary to install a workbench on deck in the reinforcement area under the mast. But if you do not plan to work directly on board and want to leave the mast, you need to think about how to make a frame around the mast and the cables.

CAD programs .

I am superficially familiar with CAD programs and drawing in general. However, modern computer programs for drawing have really made it easier for me to work with the project. I used OnShape ( it's a free drawing program and it's easy to learn to work with thanks to the huge amount of video lessons on the Internet. To draw the frame, I took the deck drawing file of my yacht and put it in the program. Then I scaled it to the length of my yacht. I circled the deck outline and drew the lines of each edge of the frame on this base. I also used this program to draw the joints of the bolted frame parts and then cut them out in the Artisans Asylum workshop.


The deck at the mast area on my yacht is strong enough for me to place my desk there without fear. And while the mast is gone, I can install it. Having a workspace on board has been the main reason for upgrading the shelter structure.

Manufacturing manual

I took the dimensions from the drawings I received in the CAD program and made templates for each bar that make up my frame and then cut them out. Each frame stand was cut at the end so that they were securely fastened to the footer. To do that, I made templates for all the slits, and it made the work much easier and faster.

Working on the mistakes.

The main mistake was that the saddle of the hull from the stern and bow was not taken into account initially. When I did the drawing in the program, it was done in flat projection. The assembly was a little more complicated than expected as the longitudinal beam had to be bent in place at the bow and at the stern of the frame. In the end, however, the entire structure was still assembled and proved to be the best it could be.

The only thing I'd like to note about the assembly is that the more hands, the better.

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