2010 SEPT – Hatches, Hatches & MORE Hatches

The boat is now 10 years old and the compound around the hatches, and the hatches themselves, have given up the ghost.  Every single hatch either leaked, or was broken, or both.

The port and starboard hatches give access to lazarettes. The center hatch leads to the bathroom.

When we brought the boat up from La Paz the weather was poor (being February up the Baja), and in addition it was uphill all the way to San Diego so we were pounding into the waves.  This is not a good time to find out that your forward port and starboard hatches leak considerably!  Every so often we would have to open the hatches, take a bucket down, and diligently empty the lazarettes of gallons of water.

2ft by 2ft hole of the broken center hatch after it is removed

The center hatch led to the bathroom and did not seal at all because the back latch was broken.  So that hatch was tied down by its handle from below and was duct taped to the deck.  All in all a very unsatisfactory solution for 2 weeks at sea.  Incredibly – yay duct tape! – it didn’t leak one drop although I was constantly worried that the waves over the bow would simply sweep the hatch overboard leaving us with a 2ft x 2ft hole in the bow!

Compounding the leaky hatch problem was that the bedding compound of all the 9 ventilation hatches on the deck had degraded over the years and almost every single one leaked.  Or was broken.  The 3 over the port bed (my bunk) leaked so badly that I was sleeping in foul weather gear to keep dry.  When the water got 3 inches deep on my bunk I took my wet sleeping bag and crawled in with my surprised skipper in the middle of the night.   His bunk was not much better but at least it was just very damp and not soaked thru like mine.

7 of 9 deck hatches – all 9 had to be replaced

So I decided that it was time to replace all the hatches – the 9 deck hatches for ventilation, the 1 center bow hatch leading to the bathroom, and the 2 bow lazarettes.  I asked a boat handyman for a quotation for the work and it was so outrageous that it quite took my breath away.

A few days later my monthly sailing magazines arrived and one of the mags had an article on replacing a hatch.  I read it and thought, It doesn’t look that hard?!  When asking the advice of a friendly boater in the marina he assured me – “Its not hard, you can do it yourself”.  And he repeated almost verbatim the instructions of the magazine.

My first hatch replacement – I was awfully proud of myself

So I thought I would start with just one small hatch and if I messed it up completely, then I would call the professional with the horrendous $-quote.  I ordered the replacement hatch from West Marine and when it arrived a knowledgeable assistant set me up with the bedding compound, cleaning alcohol, rags, handy tools, etc.

I set to work with a will.

Busy, busy, busy!

Firstly I removed the screws holding down the hatch and put them together in a container so that I wouldn’t lose them.  Then I gently dug under the surrounds of the old broken hatch until I could move the flat tool all the way around it.  Then I pulled carefully and the hatch popped out, much to my delight.  I worried that it was too easy!

I then carefully removed all the old glue and bedding compound and wiped the area down with the alcohol until the surface was smooth and clean again.

Then I gently rubbed the area to be re-glued with sandpaper to rough it up a little, laid down a bed of 4200, and dropped the hatch back into the hole.  I inserted the screws but only gently tightened them until a small amount of the compound squeezed out.  Then I waited an hour.

After an hour I tightened the screws a tiny bit tighter and a small amount of compound squeezed out again.  And I waited 2 hours.

By late afternoon I tightened the screws down tight.  I could see that the compound had dried to a soft cushion that sealed the hatch nicely.  I was enormously pleased with myself, although I didn’t know if the hatch was bedded properly.  The magazine instructions said – Don’t get the compound wet for 24 hours, so I decided to leave it a week.

The following week I returned to the boat and ran a hose over the hatch.  It was sealed up tight.  I was elated.

I scooted off to West Marine and placed an order for another hatch.  And the next weekend I replaced the next hatch.  And so on for the whole of the summer.

In all I replaced 8 of the 9 deck hatches this summer.  I have one broken hatch left to do which is over the guest bunk.  I will get around to that next summer.  I have the hatch already; it is lying on the guest bunk and it stares at me balefully all the time, but I just have to get around to doing the deed.  Now that winter has set in I tell myself it will have to wait until Summer because I don’t work in the rain – and neither does the bedding compound!

I also un-bedded and re-beddded  the large port and starboard lazarette hatches on the bow.  They weren’t actually broken, they just leaked up a storm.

The hatch I am most relieved to have changed is the large center hatch that leads to the bathroom.  The duct tape solution to a bow hatch is somewhat unsettling for the spirit.

So FastAlley’s hatches should last another 10 years.


9 small hatches at $230 each =  $2,070

1 large hatch at $350  = $350

Glue, glue, and more glue – $200

Sandpaper and flat tool – $40

TOTAL =  $2,660

FastAlley is ready for the sea again!








The port and starboard hatches give access to lazarettes. The center hatch leads to the bathroom.


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