Cockpit tent – are we getting old?

We have had the cockpit tent for one summer now, so I decided to make a blog post about our experiences after the first season. After it was delivered in June, we have been using the cockpit tent – often referred as 'Pappateltta' (Old man's tent) in Finland or 'Supstuga' (Drink cabin) in Sweden – basically every day, when on the boat. Thus, I am not quite sure, if its nickname especially in Finnish is very telling or felicitous; I definitely think that it is something of which also younger sailors can greatly benefit from!

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.
Here is more information and photos on our cockpit tent, made by Juha Lahtonen Oy from Turku.

The cockpit tent in Bimini mode


  1. I was a cruiser, now really into racing and I can see that I will be returning to cruising in the future! I have never been on a boat with a cockpit tent and always perceived them as cramped inside. However, looking at your pics that is not the case at all, very nice indeed. My only question is how does it handle in storms sailing or do you not have it up (kind of a like a pilothouse on a motor sailor)?

    1. Hello, normally we use the cockpit tent only when moored in a harbour or an anchorage. However, we did use it a couple of times during the season, when motoring at calm sea and even tried it once when sailing a longer leg offshore. Then, we kept the windward sleeve down and the leeward sleeve was rolled up to give a better visibility for keeping a look out. We did not experience too strong winds this season when at the sea. When sailing in winds above 20-25 kts, I probably would not dare to use the tent anymore. In storm conditions, I would remove the tent from the arch and store it in the locker. So in this respect, it will not replace the real pilothouse. I think that it is the same case with the sprayhood; it is not as good as a strong hard dodger in rough conditions.

  2. At ClubMates Cruising we take the hassle out of getting away together, there's no cooking, cleaning or organizing - we take care of all the boring bits.


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It would be very great to hear your opinion or comments. Thank you in advance for commenting! -Antti & Minna