Forward Hatch (aka the hatch from hell)


Apologies for not keeping the blog fresh and updated as of late.  Things have been less than ideal around here and all the projects seem to be dragging.  However, Erin and I have recently made a huge effort to get the front hatch cleaned up. Its been an absolute bear of a project.

The hatch was so difficult to get off that I uncharacteristically did not even document the process.   However I did manage to bend the hatch frame on accident! 😦  It was a real mess.

Then came the process of taking off the teak base,  this we documented in Teak Hatch Base.  As you can see I was a bit more careful this time!

All that left us here:

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The interior was even more of a mess and after months of work I have to confess that it still hasn’t even seen its first coat of paint!  Were getting close though, and that feels good!

Just like the previous hatch the filler between the hatch base and the molded fiberglass headliner was failing badly.  With just a little poking and prodding it was apparent that most of the filler had de-laminated and needed to be cut out all together.

Then began the never-ending epoxy/sand/epoxy/sand cycle of filling and fairing the new joint.  As detailed in our previous post Hatch Bases we filled the gap with thickened epoxy for strength (404 and 406) and adhesion and then fared it with 407.

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Worth noting is that the fiberglass from the deck does not curve down and create the walls of base here as it did with the saloon hatch.  The saloon hatch has a molded fiberglass base that has a flange that curves down to join with the headliner on the interior.  Since this fiberglass mold was not used on the forward hatch in favor of the teak, the entire base looks like it was laid up by hand using 90% to 100% filler.  I found this out the hard way when I was removing part of the failed filler and a whole chunk of the base popped right off!!!

Here I am re-securing that part:

After that set up we did quite a bit more epoxy/sand/epoxy/sand work and ended up with this:

At which point I was finally able to paint on a clear coat of un-thickened epoxy:

We are going to have to do some more sanding at this point and keep our fingers crossed another layer of epoxy isn’t needed.  After it is 100% flush and smooth we can paint it and it will look brand new plus it will be much, much stronger than it ever was before!

In between all of this we have been carefully restoring the teak.  The teak base is a carefully constructed box of four pieces of wood that are perfectly planed to match the exact contour of the boat and provide a perfectly flat surface for the hatch to adhere to.  In the process of taking off the hatch and then getting the wood off it was all but destroyed no matter how slowly and carefully I progressed!

None the less I was determined to salvage it and that is exactly what I did.   I first removed all the sealant stuck onto it and then sanded everything flush.  After that there were some chunks missing that decided they wanted to come up with the hatch.  These I filled with thickened epoxy and sanded flush with the rest of the wood.  Two of the joints were in bad shape so I drilled out the rusted fasteners and repaired the join with new fasteners, wood glue, and epoxy.

Here’s a midway progress shot showing what a mess it was!

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Then it was back to cleaning the hatch.  This hatch was about 5 times harder to clean than the saloon hatch.  The adhesive used to bed it was something else and absolutely did not want to come off not to mention a different type of adhesive was used to seal the rubber gasket and this stuff was equally as bad!  Not to belabor the point as we have described it already in Hatches Coming Along but it took weeks to clean this one!

And of course once it was clean it was still all bent out of shape!  So, like most problems, this of course required a good old sledge hammer!  My go to for any stubborn issue. 😉

With the head wrapped in a rag and after some loud banging we had a nice fair hatch frame once again!

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This morning, determined to make some unmistakable headway I cleaned the aluminum for the 100th time, laid down the Dow Corning 795 bedding, and adhered the acrylic lens!


After this cures I will put the new gasket in as we did on the saloon hatch and bring it back out to the boat where the refinished teak base and newly fared fiberglass awaits!

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