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From a Bare Hull:  The Deck:  Details

Companionway Hatch

Much earlier, I had cut the opening for the companionway in the cabin trunk.  Now, with all the final details coming together, it was time to manufacture a sliding hatch and traditional swashboards to finish off the opening.

After some thought, I elected to remain simple, with a pair of rails, one on each side, over which the hatch would slide.  To begin, I milled some mahogany to about 2" in height and 4' long, and cut the bottom at a bevel to match the angle of the coachroof.  This profile seemed too tall, so I lowered it by about 1/2", which was better.  A straightedge laid across the two pieces still cleared the curve of the coachroof at the centerline.

The companionway slide would only be able to open as far as the back of the mast, which location I had just determined with the arrival of the mast and the opening of the cabin trunk for the mast partners.  With this location pegged, I found I could cut off a few inches of the rails.

After fine-tuning the rails' location, I installed them with mahogany-colored 5200 and bronze screws that only slightly penetrated the relatively thin coachroof, and served mostly to hold the wood while the adhesive cured.

To provide a surface on which the hatch would slide, I bought an 8' length of 1/4" thick aluminum, 1-1/2" wide, and cut it to the appropriate lengths to match the lengths of the rails.  After grinding the ends smooth and with a slight radius, I installed the aluminum with stainless steel screws, which I set in a countersink so that they heads would be flush with the surface.  I was careful to check the screw spacing beforehand to ensure that the screws did not interfere with the bronze screws holding the rails in place beneath.

I made the edge rails for the hatch from mahogany.  I could have just cut a dado in the wood and allowed that to ride on the overhanging aluminum channel, but I thought it would be better if I lined the dados with VHMW polyethylene.  To do this, I milled a 1/2" wide by 1/2" deep dado in the rails, and then epoxied in a square profile of the VHMW polyethylene.  While I would not ordinarily choose to attempt to epoxy this material, I figured for this low-stress application it would provide enough adhesion over the long haul.

After the epoxy cured, I milled a new dado in the center of the plastic insert, 5/16" wide and a bit under 1/2"deep.  This left a U-shaped lining of the slippery material inside the groove.

Next, I epoxied a piece of mahogany plywood to the tops of the rails, taking care to ensure that the rails slid properly without too much or too little clearance on the rails.  Despite this caution, the hatch ended up being a bit tight in its closed position, annoyingly.

I continued the hatch construction the next day, and milled and installed trim pieces at the forward and after edges.  The forward piece was scribed to match the curvature of the coachroof, with moderate clearance beneath; I cut the after piece to allow a handgrip above, and milled the top edge to match the curvature of the cabin trunk.  Since the hatch itself was flat, the slight curve on the trim added much in the way of appearance.  It would have been nice if I had built a hatch with a cambered top to match the cabin trunk, but I just didn't have it in me at this stage of the process.  Maybe I'll rebuild the hatch later.

With the fore and aft trim complete, I installed them with epoxy adhesive, and then milled some final trim pieces for the sides of the hatch to cover the plywood endgrain.  To allow for water drainage from the hatch field, I milled some grooves in each trim piece, even with the hatch top, that would hopefully promote water runoff.  I installed the final trim with more epoxy, and when all the glue was dried I sanded everything clean and smooth, and rounded over the outer edges of the side and end trim for a pleasing appearance.

Companionway Trim

Once I had the mahogany bulkhead trim and panels installed, I could continue with the final companionway trim.  The trim, in addition to finishing off the opening, also had a functional purpose in securing the eventual hatch swash boards (drop boards, if you prefer).

The companionway trim comprised more than a half dozen different pieces of trim, all cut and milled to fit the areas in question.  I began with interior trim, adding trim that encircled the inside of the companionway opening.  Then, I cut a horizontal sill piece that covered the base of the companionway, and extended past on each side, fore and aft, to create a nice profile and promote water drainage. 

With these pieces installed, I moved on to the vertical stiles, which also incorporated a 13/16" groove to accommodate the swash boards later.  I held the edge of the vertical stiles even with the surrounding bulkhead stiles for a relatively seamless appearance.  Using the stile as a guide, I marked the lower sill piece accordingly, and then sanded a slight angle into the portion of the sill that extended into the cockpit, hoping that it would be sufficient to promote water drainage off the boards and down into the cockpit well.

With all pieces appropriately milled and sanded, I installed them with bronze screws and, where applicable, polysulfide sealant.  Then, I plugged the screw holes and, when the glue was dry, removed the excess bung and sanded everything smooth with 220 paper.  Finally, I began the varnish process, incorporating the varnish with that of the cockpit bulkhead and seating areas.

Next:  cabin ladder and a small water stop on the sill.



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