We really should have ordered this tent three years ago before the rainy seasons of 2011 & 2012, since the last summer was one of the best in terms of weather – I am not complaining though! All in all, I think that the greatest benefit from the fully enclosed cockpit tent is achieved in rainy weather, when the oilskins, sailing jackets, life vests etc. can be left to dry under the tent and one does not have to take them down below. This is especially handy in a small boat, which is always short of room and doesn't have double heads/toilets or wet locker for hanging foul-weather gear.
On the other hand, the cockpit tent is also useful in good weather. We often raise it for the night to keep the moisture away, so we can leave stuff like cockpit seat cushions, dishes, life vests etc. outside for the night. This also helps to keep the interiors more organized.
In general, I think that the fully enclosed tent, which keeps also the wind away, gives an extra cabin to a small boat. Thus, I would consider it as the most valuable 'comfort equipment' that we have onboard. Furthermore, I think that the tent can be a wise investment in the way that it may even reduce the need to change to a bigger boat due to the shortage of room.
During the summer months, we ate basically all the evening dinners and breakfasts in the cockpit, which gave the nice feeling of eating outside and being close to the nature even if the weather was chilly or windy. Furthermore, this also helped to keep those new light-coloured saloon settees clean. However, during the late September/October when the temperature dropped below 10 degrees, we spent less time in the cockpit, since heating the tent is not very efficient. After all, there are pretty large holes for the winches, tiller and stern rail in the tent. I guess that in the spring or early summer – when the Sun is up longer – the tent works better, since it acts like a greenhouse.
Some things to consider, when buying or making a cockpit tent:
- Where do you store the tent, so that it is not on the way or damaged when not in use?
- Is the tent easy and fast to install from the storage?
- Make/order the tent with large windows, so you get more light inside and better views outside
- Make all the three sides/sleeves rollable or detachable, so that the tent can be used as a bimini in good weather.
- It may be a good idea to have the canvas fastened to the arch with zippers, especially if it needs to be removed frequently.