Companionway Hatch Slides. It was time to rebuild the hatch slides. I was sick of the folding 1/2" plywood cover I have been using for the last couple of years. I thought I had kept the old rails as a pattern. But, I must of tossed them when I gutted the boat. To build new ones I reached out to some fellow CD 36 owners I have corresponded with on occasion and they were kind enough to send some photos of the factory set up. Thanks David VanDenburgh, Victoria Younger, and Jim Brady. After looking at the original design I decided I could improve it without too much extra work.
I started by milling some inexpensive 2x4s I picked up from Lowes. The forward end had to be angled slightly (6 degrees) to fit the molded cabin top lip that supports the assembly on the front end. I next cut a 1/4" dado in the side of the rails for the flange on the hatch to slide in. Then, I trimmed the rails to length. Next, I decided to cut a rabbet for the sea hood to sit in as it would look better but it would also allow the rails to be a little thicker. Why is that important, because instead of having the hatch flanges slide on bare wood I wanted to inset UHMW into the rails for the flanges to slide on for the final version. I initially cut the rabbet with my table saw and then trimmed it up with some hand tools but decided a better technique was to make the cut on the router table which I used to clean them up. Next, I assembled the frame on the boat and installed the hatches. I screwed the seahood in place. I spent the next two weeks looking at it and opening it when I could get away from the work on the house. I liked it.
As soon as I completed rebuilding the deck behind our house I returned to the hatch slides. I needed a good piece of 8/4 teak. It was going to be expensive. I could have used a number of different less expensive woods as long as I varnished them. But, hatch rails are always getting stepped on and horizontal wood gets beat up in the sun even with varnish. I wanted wood I could leave bare. Teak was the answer. Fortunately Jack King at Atlantic Veneer helped me out by cutting some long stock down to a reasonable 6 foot length. 8/4 X 6'x6" was the perfect size with little waste. It was not that expensive afterall (we are so good at rationalizing aren't we) and fit into the budget fine.
I carefully laid out the dimensions on the teak and started by jointing two edges. Next, I ripped them oversize to allow a little movement once the tension of the larger plank was released. Next, I ran them through the planner. I have to say that I have never enjoyed handling wood as much as I do teak. The smell is fantastic and very strong when running it through a planer. The wood is oily and smooth. Down right sensuous. It was a pleasure and I enjoyed every minute of it. I set the teak aside.
Many of the Cape Dorys have hatch flanges that slide on the bare wood of the dado cut in the teak. The problem is that teak is not that hard and it will wear down over time. Also, stagnant water will sit in the open dado. Jim Brady's boat has a synthetic insert and duplicating that seemed like a good idea. Tim Lackey suggested UHMW. The advantage it is the fiberglass flange would slide easily on the UHMW. Also, epoxing the UHMW into the teak would eliminate the chance for water to sit in a wood grained dado. Thus, I bought a 6' long 3/4" thick 4" wide piece of UHMW International plastics. Based on a conversation I had with the tech reps at West Systems Epoxy I wiped the UHMW down with isopropyl alcohol (which they recommended over denatured alcohol) to remove any contamination before I started milling it. I ripped two pieces 3/4" wide. So, I essentially had a 6' long strip 3/4" x3/4". Next I planed it down to 1/32" under 5/8" thick. Why will become apparent later. Then finally, with a 1/4" stack dado I cut a slot for the hatch slides in the UHMW 5/8" deep. I next cut a 3/4" dado in the teak rails to accommodate the UHMW. I test fit the pieces. All was good.
I laid out the pieces on a table in the SRF. I gathered all the clamps and tools. I sanded the teak inside the dado with 40 grit paper. I wiped the teak dado down with isopropyl alcohol. I taped the side of the teak around the dado to protect the wood from the epoxy. I also covered the work surfaces with plastic sheeting so I did not inadvertently epoxy the project to the work bench. I mixed up some West Systems Gflex epoxy. I used a propane torch to "heat treat" the three sides of the UHMW that I would be in contact with the epoxy. This was based on very specific guidance from West Systems regarding the best way to epoxy UHMW. If you have not used Gflex before I recommend you give it a try. There is an impressive video on the West Systems website of the tech staff sawing a plastic kayak in half and epoxying it back together with Gflex then doing their best to break the bond (in one scene they through it off a highway overpass!). Anyway, to heat treat the UHMW you quickly move the flame over the plastic about a foot per second. A couple of passes on the three sides and it was good to go.
With the epoxy all ready mixed up and standing by I brushed it in the dado with a small acid brush and then used a notched plastic epoxy squeegee to spread it evenly in the dado. I mixed up another batch with some cabosil and spread it as well. Then, I pressed the UHMW into the dado. Here is where the slightly wider cut dado is important. There needs to be room for the epoxy to move and flow else you won't be able to get the UHMW down into the slot and the sides can also be glue starved if the fit is to tight. The slightly over sized dado worked fine. I took a few minutes to press the UHMW down into the slot until the epoxy evened out and I had some squeeze out all long the joint lines. Then, I clamped a small piece of wood on top of the UHMW (not wide enough to span the dado slot but so it sat only on top of the UHMW. This further pressed the UHMW in place. I spent about 10 minutes hovering around the rail cleaning up slow moving squeeze out. Then, I let it sit for 90 minutes and removed the clamps and the tape. I used a chisel to clean up any additional epoxy squeeze out. I set it aside and repeated the whole thing on the second rail.
The next day I cleaned up the UHMW fuzz in the dado slot (which you can see in the early pictures) and ran the rails back through the planer one more time to make sure the teak and the UHMW were perfectly flush. Then I spent a fair amount of time carefully shapping the rails with a 3/8" round over router and a bull nose plane and chiesels. I marked the rails where the seahood wood sit and then used a straight fluted router bit on my router table to cut the rabbbets for the sea hood. I chielsed out the ends for a nice fit.
Finally, it was time to fish or cut bait. I positioned the rails, test fit everything several times, clamped them in place and started drilling. I installed them with a combonation of 2" #12 SS self tapping flat heads (aft of the rabbet cut) and 2" # 10 SS self tapping screws (which require smaller wood plugs) in the rabbet cut section on the forward half of the rails.
Next, I will bed them with caulk and declare victory.
Bedding the companionway rails was pretty straight forward. First, I marked the ends that I left wild. Next, I cut the ends off to match the slope of the aft end of the cabin top. Then, I rounded over the edges. I taped everything to minimize the mess since I decided to bed with what I had on hand--3M 4000UV. There was no excitement as it went smooth. The next day I cut some wood plugs from some scrap teak and installed them. Finally, later that I day I trimmed the plugs. It looks great. I still need to bed the sea hood but I need to paint the under side first. I am in no hurry so it can wait.
The companion way rails are bedded with 3M 4000UV. The fastener holes are plugged.
I am pleased with how the rails turned out.
Hatch Slide Trim
Installing the slide hatch trim and lock bar brace was simple. I scribed and cut the trim a few weeks ago. I over drilled the holes and filled them with epoxy then redrilled for the screws. I used 2" long #10 FH SS screws. I used teak brown polysulfied for to bed the top trim to the sliding hatch. The screws pass through the trim, through the hatch, and are screwed into the brace below. I was able to reused the original teak bottom trim/brace. The bottom trim will eventuall get six coats of varnish. I'll leave the top trim bare. After installing the trim I let the polysulfied cure for a few days, retightened the screws and installed and trimmed teak wood plugs.
The teak trim with the SS locking tang on it is the orginal trim. I was nice to reuse something from the orginal Far Reach.
I will leave the top trim bare.
Companionway Frame and Trim
With the coamings more or less complete (they need only the teak cap) I went to work on installing the companionway framing and trim. I decided to make the vertical frame a little more robust than the original, which was ¾” thick. It seemed like a good idea to make the slots for the vertical drops boards a little deeper so I milled the teak to 7/8”. The first part I constructed was the bottom horizontal piece (threshold). To keep rain and spray from entering the cabin underneath the drop boards the threshold is cut with a rise from aft to forward—about 5 degrees. I rounded the outboard edges to fit in the corners. Next, it was time to cut the vertical frame with slots for the drop boards. After determining the height and cutting and ripping the two pieces I spent some time figuring out how to cut the slots so that they had a radius on the inside corners. A straight dado cut would leave sharp inside corners while the original drop boards (which are in good shape) have radiused edges. I looked at the tools I had and remembered that I had a small ¼” cove router bit. I cut a scrap piece of pine and tried out the technique that occurred to me and it worked fine. I drew a line on the teak where I wanted the slot to start and ran the teak over the cove bit raising the bit in the router a little each pass. It took maybe five or six passes to get the depth where I wanted which was just over ½” deep. Next, I repeated the procedure for the other side of the slot. I then installed a ¼” wide dado stack in my table saw and cut out the center piece. The slot looked great. I then repeated the process for the other vertical piece. Only minor sanding was required to smooth some tiny edges.
I noticed that the molded fiberglass threshold was not flat and there was a gap under the threshold. So, I applied packing tape to the underside of the teak threshold and also taped around the threshold where I did not want epoxy. I left a small gap at the front end so there would be a place for bedding compound to be applied. I then trowled on epoxy thickened with 406 and some 404 and pressed the teak threshold into place cleaning up the squeeze out. I left it for three hours then gently pushed up on the threshold till it popped off the cured epoxy. I now had a perfectly molded surface for the threshold. That completed the day.
Next day, I screwed the teak threshold down to the bottom sill. I then cut eight degree bevels on the bottom edge of the teak vertical frames to match the 5 degree rise in the horizontal “sill” (5 + 3 degrees for the forward slope of the aft end of the cabin top) and drilled and screwed them in place (bedding comes later). I spent a little time trimming the original drop boards to fit properly. They needed only minor adjustment as the fit was pretty good from the start.
I looked at the next part of the trim—a long side rail on either side of the companionway and a center piece attached over the forward thrwartship edge that connect the port and starboard side trim. I decided to put the forward center part in first. I used some doorskin plywood strips and a hot glue gun to make a template then used that to cut a test piece from ¼ ply. It fit fine. I then traced that onto a piece of teak that I milled down to ¾” thick. I cut it and then spent about 45 minutes rounding the outside edges with a cabinet maker’s rasp to fit into the correct position. I cut the rounded top edge with a jig saw then used a block plane to smooth it out to a nice even arch. The trim rises about 1” above the fiberglass lip of the companionway opening to keep water from dripping down inside the boat. The water runs out through little channels molded into the lip. But, the sliding hatch needs to be able to clear the raised teak edge. That took some time to ensure I had it right. Then, I screwed then center piece in place. Next, I cut the two side pieces. I painstakingly measured the angles and very carefully “snuck” up on the lines. I was very satisfied with the final fit. I did not screw the side pieces into position. I will do that tomorrow. All the bottom edges need to be trimmed even. The center piece needs to have an arch cut along the bottom edge as well. Once everything is fit together and some of the remaining trim is added then I will radius the top edges of the trim. I am very pleased. I enjoyed “flinging” the plastic covered cardboard “door” I have used for the last four years off the boat and took some pleasure sliding the drop boards into position.
The Harder I Work, The Behinder I Get.
The last week has been difficult--physically and mentally. There are several reasons I think. First, the joinery around the companionway is more difficult than I expected. Sure, I could have hammered it together and pushed on but I would not have been pleased with the results--goes without saying. The are numerous complex compound angles and without a blueprint I had to think every step through. I had to determine what piece went on first, then second, then third and so on. I had to figure out how to use the tools I have to make the cuts. I made mockups to check the angles for a proper tight fit. I did not want to waste very expensive Burmese teak making foolish errors. Second, the temperature is on the rise. It's hot and I am not acclimatized yet. Climbing up and down the ladder 40 times a day is fatiguing and aggravating. Last, I am feeling mentally burned out. It's an issue that has to be confronted for any long term project that requires this much work. I'll spend 6-8 hours working on the boat and only produce two hours of real progress. I am working through it. I am not sure where the point of diminishing return is--take some time off and get rejuvenated and then return to work more efficiently or push ahead and not be as efficient. Notice, I did not say effective. I'll get the same result because I won't let the final product slip just to get to the finish line. But, which approach will get me to the finish line soonest? I don't know. For now, I am pressing ahead because I know everyday I don't work is a day I have to add to the other end . . . and, I think the majority of the rest of the trim is not near as complicated as the companionway. Anyway, the work is still rewarding. I am still learning a ton. I am still pleased with the results. But, it's not necessarily fun right now--just necessary. For me, it's always been about the sailing. Like my brother taught me when I joined the Marines regarding physical and mental suffering as an infantryman: "You have to remind yourself you can do anything for five minutes . . . then five more . . . then five more . . . then, pretty soon, it's past. Throughout my life, I have found that to be pretty good advice when times are tough.
I am pleased with the results, so far, of the companionway framing and trim work. I'll start varnishing today or tomorrow. I'll disassemble it and apply a few coats of varnish, especially for the back side, and then bed it in place. Additional coats on the exposed surfaces will follow.
The first four photos below reflect the initial trim work. You can see all the trim is not installed. The edges have not be radiused. The last six photos show all the trim installed with 3/8" radiused edges. I decided to only use teak for the portions that are exposed to the outside elements. Though similar to the original design I think it is not more robust and a little more effective. All the teak framing is 15/16" thick vice the original 3/4". The top edges of the horizontal trim are a little taller to keep the rainwater and spray out. The trim on the inside of the boat, butted up to the teak trim, is African Mahogany. All will be varnished. The drop boards will be bare teak which will be more durable and I think provide a nice contrast to the varnish framing and trim. After bedding I'll install wood plugs.
The "arch" portion of the trim/frame in the interior side of the boat was very difficult given my modest skills. It took a lot of thinking. I scribed on to 1/4" ply and used that to trace out the shape on the mahogany. I had to laminate to get the necessary thickness. I hand planed for a precise fit with a block and smoothing plane. To get the multiple parts of the arch to fit together seamlessly I used a band saw and an horizontal oscillating belt sander at the Camp Lejeune Wood Hobby shop. I also used a straight router bit with a guide roller. All this took time. There may have been simpler ways but this seemed the most reliable way to give me the results I was looking for.
Last night, I glued on the vertical outside pieces of mahogany, that attach to the trim that is screwed to the vertical teak, which abut the aft end of the cabin. Today, I installed them and then installed the final piece of trim you can't see--it fits under the threshold. That completes all the trim for the companionway. Tomorrow, I will sand and remove it, and hopefully apply the first of two coats of varnish. Then, I'll reinstall and bed it in place. Also, today I milled a 6 1/2' long 7/8" x 2 1/4" piece of mahogany that covers the lower edge of the aft end of the cabin under the threshold and across the cabin top from port to starboard. I did not have time to install it. I am pleased with the way the companionway trim has turned out . . . it was difficult and really challenged my knowledge, skills, and patience.
I installed the first piece of what I consider real interior trim. It's a 77" long 7/8" x 2 1/4" piece of African Mahogany that I screwed to the lower edge of the aft side of the cabin just under the companionway trim. I cut a rabet on the inside face so it fits snug up under the lip of the plywood cabin sides. I attached it with #8 x 1" SS FH self taping screws. We have officially started the interior trim. Hooray! Then, I removed part of the companionway trim and finished radiusing the bottom edge. Next, I reinstalled the parts to make sure the fit was right. Then, I removed all the companionway trim, sanded it with 100 grit (teak) and 150 grit (mahogany). Finally, I applied the first coat of Epifanes Clear Gloss Varnish cut 1:1 with mineral spirits.
Yesterday, we installed the teak companionway trim. I used Boat Life Polysulfied in white and brown "teak" color. I spent about an hour carefully taping off the boat and the teak itself. I spread polysulfied thick to ensure good squeeze out. I used the brow color where squeeze out would occur between two piece of teak, otherwise I used white to better blend with the white trim of the boat itself. It took a lot of careful work to clean up the squeeze out. A black plastic West System stir stick proved very useful scooping up the squeeze out. We removed the tape then used a lacquer thinner soaked rag to clean up any remaining polysulfied. This morning I reinstalled the mahogany component to the interior part of the companionway trim. I think it looks great and makes the interior start to feel more "finished" though there is still a long way to go.