2010 Mar – Sundry Projects


  • Companionway Hatch Shocks
  • Companionway Hatch Bar
  • Heat Exchanger Bolts Replaced
  • Kitchen Sink Re-Bedded
  • Deck Hatch Replaced
  • Weems & Plaath clock fixed


Let me explain that firstly I am a woman and secondly an IT Project Manager by profession, so doing boat fixes or manual labor has never been in my set of skills.  The most exercise I do is running my fingers over a computer keyboard.

 Also I have never owned any tools until I got the boat, and now I have inherited enough tools for a small workshop. 

Since trying my hand at boat projects, I have also noticed that women obviously haven’t gone into the marine parts design profession, because men seem to know automatically how things work – its seems so obvious to them – whereas I have to revert to reading the instructions and even then they don’t make much sense to me. 

 A Man’s mind obviously works differently to a Female’s mind.

 I am learning on my boat that I often have to replace parts (you cannot repair them) – I think it’s a conspiracy with marine spare parts makers because just when you replace PartA then PartB caves in. 

 I also suspect that boat parts are primed to fail serially so that you spend the entire summer working – and $spending – on the boat. 


 The shocks that hold the companionway hatch open suddenly decided to give up the ghost.  One moment the shocks were holding up the hatch, the next it slammed down narrowly missing my head.

So I examined the hatch shocks trying to figure out how to remove them so that I could take them to West Marine for replacement.  Obviously a man built the stupid part because there wasn’t any indication of how to prize the shock off its mount.  Really, if a woman had designed the piece there would have been a large arrow with engraved instructions.  All highlighted in pink.

 Empty handed I went to West Marine, found the same part on their shelves, and spent 5 minutes examining the instructions on how to remove it – it was embarrassingly easy.  I returned to the boat, prized off the piece, returned to West Marine and bought the same (length) size.

The gas shock said it would hold up 90 lbs.  The instructions said if I had 2 shocks before, then I should replace with 2 again.  I realized my hatch was at most 25 lbs, so 180 lbs was a bit of overkill, but that seemed to be the only weight:length combination that would fit my hatch. So I shelled out the $50.

Back I went to the boat, clicked the new gas shocks into place and watched admiringly as the hatch stayed open and did not slam down on my head.  Then I tried to close the hatch.  Before, with the old shocks, I simply leaned gently on the hatch and it closed.  Now I yanked and yanked but the hatch didn’t move.  Thinking the gas shocks were somehow stuck in the “open” position I went back to the instructions to figure out how to unstuck them.  The instructions didn’t cover this.


After staring at the obstinate hatch some more I realized that maybe 180lbs force to keep the hatch open, required a similar opposite force to close it.  So I grabbed the hatch, leaned my full weight on it, and down it came – reluctantly.  In fact, it took so much effort that I figured I could use the open hatch as an exercise bar for chin ups. 

Then I tried to close the hatch from inside the cabin but I couldn’t pull hard enough to bring down the hatch, and keep it down.  Back to the drawing board.  I stared mutely at the gas shocks.  They stared back unhelpfully.

Eventually I removed one of the gas shocks reducing the load to 90 lbs again – notwithstanding the instructions that if I had 2 shocks then I should replace with 2 new shocks.  Bringing down the hatch against 90 lbs force is still pretty heavy for me especially when pulling it down from inside the cabin, but at least it stays open as desired. 

Price:  $25 each  ——–>>>> pleasant surprise, I only needed one.


When you close the companionway hatch then the crossbar or beam across the front of the hatch has part of the bar protruding out at the corner.  The screw that is supposed to keep the corner flush had worked thru the steel bar and under it, and so it was no longer lying flush.  Every time I pulled the hatch down and tried to close it, it balked at the slightly protruding piece.

Previously I had the protruding piece glued back in place, but with minimal continued use, pretty soon it come unstuck again.

This time I decided to remove the flat head (sunken) screw and get another one with a bigger head so that it could not work thru the steel.  Then glue it as well for good measure, clamp it all together, and wait. 

Of course, having made this decision I then realized I don’t own a clamp – so it’s off to Home Depot again.

I used to love shopping and browsing thru malls for all manner of frilly things.  Lately my shopping habits rotate between West Marine and Home Depot.

Cost to fix (my labor comes free):  93 cents for a bag of flat head screws



I thought I had to change the impeller so I got a mechanic, Bill, to take a look at the engine.  He declared the impeller just fine, but when he touched the heat exchanger it came loose in his hands.  It looked like the bolts had sheared off. 

The solenoid was also hanging loose from its mounting.

It seems the heat exchanger had 2 bolts – or is that screws, I never could tell the difference – anyway it was big and it had a thread.  One bolt was too big for its hole, and the other bolt too small for its hole.  To the casual gaze it all looked secure, but in fact was completely unsecured.  One bolt had sheared off and the base of the bolt was embedded in its hole.  The other bolt was so loose it came out in his hand.  It was basically just sitting loose in the hole, not actually screwed in.  I was so lucky that the whole contraption hadn’t fallen off during our trip up the coast from Long Beach which would have done irreparable damage to the engine.

I was bemoaning the problem to a colleague at work, telling him that the previous mechanic had put a 3/8 inch bolt in a 1/2 inch hole.  My colleague said he understood perfectly – in fact, his last girlfriend kept complaining about the same thing.  I added that when touched, the thing just fell out in my hand.  My colleague nodded – he said his ex complained about that too.  He didn’t like his ex that much, he said.  Super helpful colleague – not.

Bill drilled the embedded bolt base out and found the threads were gone so we couldn’t replace the bolt with a new one.  Instead he went off and created a base plate that he bolted to the engine and then bolted the heat exchanger onto its new base plate.  It looks and feels really solid now. 


He also bolted the solenoid to the new plate.   With all the work I have had done on the engine in the last year, I hope it lasts at least another 1000 hours before I need to rework anything again.    




Mechanical fix:  $300 = $50 in parts and $250 mechanic’s labor.


The kitchen sink has small bolts underneath it, one in each corner, to hold it firmly in place.  However, the tiny bolts were obviously not effective because they had rusted off over time and the back left corner of the sink lifted out of its hole, leaving a gap between the sink and the counter.

For ages I worried that when I washed the dishes any splashed water on the counter would seep under the gap and drip down onto the refrigerator below.  Finally it bugged me enough that I decided to take a peek.   Sure enough, water had seeped down under the sink and worse, had dripped onto the fridge electric cabling.

To avoid any further damage to the underlying refrigerator, I stuck blue painters tape all around the sink until I figured out a fix.  Actually the makeshift tape worked so well, that I left it like that all winter.

Now that the Spring has sprung, and the grass is ris…..  its time to fix the damn thing.

Did some shopping at Home Depot – again.  Got the acetone, got the scraper, the painters tape, the clamps, got the DAP caulk for kitchens – time to try my hand at this new boat project.


I squeezed the scraper all the way around and under the kitchen sink trying to prize it out of its hole but no luck.  It stuck firmly in the two front corners.  I fiddled around underneath and felt clamps in the two corners keeping the sink embedded.  These 2 front clamps hadn’t rusted off.  After 20 minutes of contortions trying to get the clamps unscrewed I decided the only way to reach anything under the sink was to remove the refrigerator.

Amazingly the fridge is held in place with just 4 smallish screws, so I unscrewed them, read the DANGER SHOCK sign on top of the fridge and hurriedly turned off the mains – and the batteries for good measure – then I dragged the fridge out of its cubbyhole.  This left a nice big gap under the sink that I could now reach into.  I removed the clamps on the 2 front corners – the back 2 having already rusted off long ago.   I could only heft the sink out about 2 inches because it was still connected underneath to its plumbing.  Try as I might I didn’t have the strength to disconnect the threaded hose, so eventually I gave up the unequal struggle.


I thoroughly cleaned around the sink with my new acetone, re-taped the area with the blue painters tape, cut the caulking spout at a 45 degree angle per the instructions, and squeezed the caulking under the rim.  Man, that caulking stuff is messy.  I managed to get it all over the place and especially all over my fingers.  Thank heavens for the painters tape otherwise it would have been all over the counter too. 

After I caulked it all and left it for awhile, I noticed that I hadn’t done a very thorough job – notwithstanding the amount of caulk on my hands.  So I re-taped the sink perimeter and recaulked it again.  Second time around it seemed so much simpler.  Finally I pushed the refrigerator back into its cubby hole under the sink, screwed it back in place, cleaned up the mess, and left it to dry. 


I decided to watch On Golden Pond while I made dinner.  A nice quiet movie I thought because after the last 4 hours I didn’t need any added stress.  Unfortunately its all about an old man with Old Timers having massive stress attacks as he gets lost and forgetful – so that didn’t help my stress levels any.

But the sink is looking good.  The instructions said not to use water around the caulking for 24 hours so I will check the seal next weekend by squirting water all around the rim of the sink and check that nothing drips through onto the fridge beneath.

(Next weekend….. the caulk is holding beautifully.  There is absolutely no water seeping thru).

Cost of repair (my labor is free):   $8 in caulking, tape, etc.


Winter in San Francisco is wet, wetter, wettest with strong cold winds howling across the Bay.  Even as the weather warms, it is not much better.  In fact, Mark Twain said something like… the coldest season he ever endured was the summer he spent in SanFran.  Or words to that effect.

So when I finally returned to the boat after weeks of awful weather, I found rain water had dribbled in through a bunch of hatches.  At $300 per hatch, the wet patches were not a fun sight.

Off to West Marine where I ordered one new Bomar hatch, and picked it up a few days later.  I thought I would need a handyman to replace the hatches for me, but Bill (the local mechanic) took a look and said – you look smart enough, you can do this yourself.  He gave me a list of stuff to buy at West Marine and Home Depot, told me exactly what to do, and exited.

This is just like caulking the sink – just using a different kind of caulk and some brute force to tug the old hatch out of its hole.  First you have to use a sharp knife to cut around the rim of the hatch to “release” it where it has set itself over the years into its hole, then unscrew all the screws and put them together in a baggie so that you don’t lose them.  Then use a thin scraper and work it under the rim so that you break the seal where the rim is glued in place.  Use a hammer if you lack the strength to really get the scraper under the rim.  Once you have worked all the way around under the rim, give the hatch a tug.  Actually mine came out relatively easily – witness the water that had dripped into the boat – obviously the caulk wasn’t holding it in very tightly.

After tugging out the hatch, scrape and clean the area thoroughly using rubbing alcohol or acetone.  Maybe even sand it a little with fine 100 sandpaper to rough it up for the caulk.  Lay down a perimeter of blue painters tape so that if any of the caulk squeezes out then it will not ruin your deck.  I put down enough caulk to seal the Titanic then I dropped the new hatch into its hole and got caulking all over me and the tape as it squeezed out all over.  I quickly wiped it away with an old telephone card. 

TIP – here is a useful tip I got from someone.  Keep old telephone cards whenever you find them.  People throw them away when they are “empty”.  The edge of the card is perfect for scraping up caulk and leaving just the right size bead in place.   Or you can use your old Gold Card that has maxed out its credit limit – that works just as well too.


Don’t tighten the screws down tight right away because you will squeeze out all the caulk you just carefully laid.  The weight of the hatch is enough for now.  Replace the screws lightly in their holes.  2 hours later the caulk has set up a little so you can tighten the screws a little more, and wipe away the excess that squeezes out the sides.  2 hours later tighten the screws just short of “very tight” and leave to dry for a few more hours.  Finally when you think the caulk is mostly set, tighten the screws that final little bit.  Even though it is 8 hours later and you think the caulk is firmly set, a thin line of caulk will still squeeze out – I didn’t wipe it away, I left it in place as a sealing cushion.  Maybe a man would have cleaned it up the final time, but I didn’t.  This is my first hatch that I ever replaced and with no one watching over my shoulder, and lacking experience, I just followed my (female) logic.

Cost to fix (my labor comes free):  $260 for the new hatch + $8 in caulk, tape, acetone, etc


My W&P clock stopped working.  My first thought was that the battery was flat.  It is a French made clock so finding a small “N” battery (1/3 the size of a AAA) was easier said than done, but eventually I found 2 so I bought them both.  I installed the new battery in the clock only to find that the clock still didn’t work.  The clock innards were at fault.  Another thing to (expensively) replace instead of (cheaper) repair.  

I checked the clocks in the West Marine catalog and they cost $145 – no kidding, $145 for a clock about 6 inches in diameter with no special features like say brass numerals, or fancy interior brass clock wheels, or even a cuckoo.  Just a run-of-the-mill everyday clock.

There are a lot of parts of the boat that are very expensive to replace but I could not bring myself to shell out $145 for an everyday clock. 

So the chap in the next boat unscrewed the clock from the wall and turned it over and we examined it closely.  Before I had just glanced at the parts as I replaced the battery but now I took a good look.  Turns out the innards of the clock is just a little plastic box – the kind you see at the craft store Michaels for all those crafters that like making their own clocks.   We gently prized out the little box and examined it – yep, it was exactly like the Michaels clocks except for the raised letters that said “Made in France”. 

I took the little plastic box down to the Michaels store to make sure I bought the same size replacement part, handed over $7 for the new piece – with new clock hands – and returned to my Weems & Plaath clock.   I took the clock apart, removed the French hands (they didn’t fit the Michaels piece), replaced the hands with my new hands, noticed the face of the clock is just a plain ole piece of PAPER with black lettering, inserted my new easy to obtain USA battery – and voila! my clock works again.


So lets see….. the components of the W&P clock are the expensive non-rust outer shell that screws to the wall, say $3 to manufacture each little holder.  The faceplate of the little clock is glass so lets say 50cents.  Then there is the paper clock face with black numeral lettering, lets say 2cents.  That is a total of $3.52 for the clock so far. 

So W&P reckon that the $7 part that you can buy at Michaels actually costs more than $140 if it says Made in France.  I know, I know, there is W&P distribution and marketing costs included in the price, but Michaels has those same costs – so they negate each other in my book.

So – advice to you ladies – if your Weems & Plaath clock goes on the blink, don’t pay $145 for a new one, buy the $7 replacement part and fix it yourself.

Cost to fix (my labor comes free):  $7 in parts

<<<<<< —– End of March projects —– >>>>>>>


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