Category Archives: Do-it-Yourself Projects

Do it Yourself >> Installing Hatches and Vents

Ventilation is essential for the longevity of your boat’s interior and the comfort of your crew. Stagnant, moist air can collect in your cabin and compartments, forming a breeding ground for mildew. Fabrics will rot, electronics will corrode and bubbles will form in your hull’s gelcoat as moisture on the inside forces the exterior finish to delaminate. In other words, if you love your boat—ventilate. If your vents and hatches are deteriorating, replacing them with new ones will add protection for your boat’s interior. Old, warped hatches with decayed trim rings don’t seal well, allowing moisture in and heat out.

Choosing a location

1. Keep structural issues in mind. Hatches and vents don’t provide any stiffness. Be sure to pick a spot that won’t compromise the deck’s structural integrity.

2. Make sure the installation surface is as flat as possible. Lewmar, for example, only allows 1mm of crown for their hatches. If you can’t find a flat spot, plan a build-up pad. You can even make it an attractive addition by choosing mahogany or teak instead of fiberglass, though that adds maintenance work in the long run.

3. Make sure there’s adequate room for the hatch to swing open without hitting hardware or other obstacles. Check your proposed cutout from both above and below deck by measuring from objects with known locations that pass through both sides, like hardware mounting bolts, an existing vent, or a mast. Lay out the outline of your cutout, both above and below. Extra care in the layout and measuring process now will prevent nasty surprises later, like accidentally sawing into a bulkhead.

4. Be careful when you remove your old hatch—pulling out the old bedding compound too roughly can delaminate the deck. Use a combination of a thin blade, solvents, clamps, wedges and, perhaps, a few choice expletives to coax it out.

Cutting the hole

5. Use the right tools for the job: drill and hole saws or spade bits, jigsaw or Sawzall, compass (for marking radii), ruler, felt-tip marker, masking tape, screwdrivers Allen wrenches, hack saw, files or rasps.

6. Use the right supplies: caulking gun and caulk or bedding compound, epoxy and the new hatch or vent with appropriate screws and fasteners.

7. Follow the old adage: “Measure twice, cut once.”

8. Before you saw, be sure there are no wires, gas lines, rigging, plumbing or other kinds of interference in the area you plan to make your hole.

9. Headliners will have to be removed to enable proper inspection of the underdeck area. Be careful not to damage the headliner material if you plan to reuse it. Cut the headliner from corner to corner of your cutout location, fold the triangles of material back, secure them with tape, and trim to the exact fit when the hatch is in place.

10. Templates are often provided with the hatch or vent. Tape the template down to the deck to trace the cutout outline.

11. Take a deep breath, and make the cuts! For rectangular shapes, use an appropriately sized hole saw or spade bit to outline the radius of each corner, if possible, and connect the four corners by making straight cuts with a jig or saber saw. Make all your cuts just inside the outline to be on the safe side, and clean up the edges with a file and coarse sandpaper.

Finishing the Cutout and Installing the Hardware

12. Seal all exposed edges of the deck, with several coats of epoxy. If there is foam or balsa core material, chisel it back from the edge about half an inch. Prime it with epoxy. Mix a batch of epoxy with some colloidal silica or low-density filler to peanut butter thickness, and trowel it into the cavity. Sealing the deck and core thoroughly is crucial to prevent water intrusion from delaminating and damaging your deck’s core.

13. If you have leftover fastener holes from the old hatch or vent, fill them using a syringe filled with thickened epoxy, color matched to the deck if they will be exposed once the new hatch or vent is in place. Be sure to back the holes inside with cardboard or scrap wood covered with waxed paper to prevent drips from making a mess inside the cabin.

14. Drill the new fastener holes and dry-fit the hatch or vent before fitting it in place with caulk. (You want to make sure everything lines up and fits correctly.) Use masking tape to keep sealant and epoxy from getting on the deck, especially non-skid surfaces, where it’s nearly impossible to remove. If any goo gets loose, wipe it up while it’s still wet.

15. Install the interior trim ring or screen kit to give the hatch a neat, finished appearance.

A vent in your deck allows the compartments belowdecks to breathe. Experts recommend that the air inside a boat be changed completely at least once per hour. Vents and hatches help prevent mildew and damage while underway as well as when moored or at anchor, so we definitely recommend having plenty of them. However, not all ventilation projects are the same. Be realistic about the job and your level of carpentry skill, after all, you’re putting some sizable holes into your boat. While most of us can install a simple low-profile ventilator on a horizontal surface, putting a new hatch or cowl ventilator into a cambered deck, or where there are additional complications such as wiring or plumbing, may be a job better left for a marine professional.


Another great article about Ventilation from >>


Installing a Roller Furling Unit

Roller furling allows you to spend less time folding or changing sails and more time on the water sailing. Furlers have become a reliable, easy to install, industry standard found on many performance racing boats as well as necessary gear for cruisers. This brief synopsis will give you an idea of what to expect when installing a new unit, no matter what brand you choose.


The basic components to a furling system include foil extrusions, a feeder, the upper swivel (in most systems—but not all), the lower drum assembly and a furling line. Most manufacturers include all the components needed for installation, but you may have to buy furling line, line hardware and a headstay terminal separately. Some furling units will require you to cut your headstay while others will use your existing stay with no modifications necessary. You may also need a halyard restrainer, which keeps the halyard from wrapping around the forestay, or a toggle or link plate at the base to raise the unit clear of a windlass or bow pulpit. Make sure to order the necessary terminals or kits to complete installation.

Your sail may need to be modified to work with your new furler. You can convert your jib by having a qualified sailmaker sew in a luff wire or bolt rope, but you may be much happier if you spring for a new, properly designed headsail that will keep its shape when fully or partially deployed. Talk to your sailmaker about which furler you are buying and how you intend to use it.


  • Wire cutters
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Screwdrivers: 1/8″ and 1/4″ flat and #2 philips
  • Tape measure
  • Large adjustable wrench
  • Crescent wrenches
  • Tube of polysulfide marine sealant for Norseman® or Sta-lok® fittings (do not use silicone sealant)
  • Hacksaw
  • File or sandpaper
  • Paper towels/rags
  • Vise grips
  • Drill/rivet gun
  • Bucket or container
  • Installation

    All systems include detailed instructions, but installation may be a handful for the amateur. If you are uncomfortable with measuring, removing, and re-installing your headstay, hire a professional rigger. Many manufacturers require that you purchase a terminal separately. A rigger with special equipment must install swage fittings, but a Hi-Mod®, Norseman® or Sta-lok® terminal can be installed without special equipment and come with detailed instructions. If your headstay is older than four years when you install your furler, it is best to have a rigger make you a new headstay with the required terminals.

    The sizing of your furler is based on your headstay length, maximum wire and clevis pin diameter and turnbuckle size. Measure your headstay from pin-to-pin with the turnbuckle set to the correct length before measuring. If you are using your existing stay, you may have to cut your stay to length. Most manufacturers provide a detailed guide to determine how much wire to remove. When you’ve made your calculation, make a clean cut using wire cutters or a hacksaw with a fresh blade. Next, lay out all the parts that come with the furler organized in order. Choose a spot on the ground free from dirt and gravel or sand, like the dock next to your boat.

    Depending on the unit, you may be instructed to slide components onto the stay in reverse order. Harken units assemble in this way beginning with sliding the top foil cap and all extrusion connectors up onto the stay first before the lower terminal is attached. The foil sections slide on over the connectors and are attached with a wedge, set screws and Red Loctite. Before attaching the bottom extrusion, slide the top swivel onto the foil, attach the feeder, and then slide the torque tube on. Next, install your terminal and attach the bottom foil. Now you can assemble the drum.

    Other manufacturers will have you start by feeding components onto the stay so they slide down to meet the lower connection. Disassemble the lower drum and slide the lower swivel and torque tube assembly over the stay and down to the bottom. Slide the first extrusion on and attach the feeder. Slide each extrusion over the stay connecting sections with the supplied joints or connectors and fasteners. The last piece of extrusion at the top may have to be cut to size. When the extrusions are in place, slide on the upper swivel. Make sure it runs smoothly over the extrusion connections so the sail will hoist easily once attached. Add the top cap to the top extrusion. If you don’t have a top swivel, you may just have to attach the top cap and start working on your terminal connection.

    Once your terminal fitting is installed, you are ready to raise your furler into place using a halyard, friends and a bosun’s chair with you in it. Place the lower end of the system inside the lifelines, attach the unit to the chainplate and lift using a halyard at the top end. Make sure the upper swivel is resting at the bottom to avoid it crashing down in the process. Connect the upper clevis pin. You may need to open the turnbuckle at the drum to make reattachment to the mast easier.

    Finally, it’s time to rig your furling line! Furling line and hardware either come with your unit or are offered as part of an optional kit. Lead the line aft to the cockpit through a series of blocks. The line should come off the drum perpendicular to the headstay to avoid line chafe and reduce friction. This is done by careful placement of the first block. After the line is led, hoist your sail and you are ready to furl!

    Modern roller-furling systems are more reliable and easier to install than ever. You’ll save money by installing it yourself and minimize your time spent on the foredeck, making sail handling an easy, one-person job. Happy sailing!

    How to use Epoxy Resins


    Versatile Building and Repair Product
    Epoxy resin, used in conjunction with its companion fillers, fabrics and tools, is one of the most versatile materials available for boat repair and construction. Epoxy-based resins owe their broad acceptance, by pros and amateurs alike, to the fact that they allow you to tackle such a wide variety of projects. Whether you want to repair gel coat cracks or a delaminating deck, install a bulkhead or even cold-mold a brand-new hull, you can create an epoxy mixture with the precise characteristics you need.

    Key Applications
    Epoxy uses fall into a few core categories:

    • Coating, where you apply one or more thin coats of epoxy to seal a surface or to prepare the surface for varnish or reinforcing layers like fiberglass or carbon fiber.
    • Bonding, where you use the epoxy as a glue, generally with some filler to allow it to fill gaps between the surfaces, or to attach hardware to a surface.
    • Laminating, where multiple layers of wood or other materials are laid up to create a thicker solid structure.
    • Fairing, where thickened resin is used to fill holes and depressions so that the surface can be sanded and smoothed.
    Note that while many applications involve wood, epoxy resin can be used on fiberglass, carbon fiber, metals, etc.

    How They Work
    The heart of working with epoxy is the basic epoxy resin, combined with one of several hardeners. The clear amber resin cures to a high-strength plastic solid at room temperatures when mixed with specific proportions of the correct hardener. Hardeners are selected by the ambient temperature (which results in a reasonable “pot life”), or by a desired characteristic of the resulting mixture (like extra clarity for a clear finish in the case of WEST Systems 207 Hardener.)

    Mixing the Epoxy
    Epoxy resins are mixed with a specific proportion of hardener. We strongly recommend the use of calibrated pumps to deliver the proper mixture. When using these pumps, remember that the proper mixture is achieved when you mix one full pump of resin with one full pump of hardener (the different internal capacities of the pump barrels will measure just the right amount of liquid.)

    To make it easier to buy, the right amount of resin and hardeners are packaged in group sizes. For each container size of resin, there is a corresponding container size of hardener like WEST System Group A or Group B.

    Modifying the Epoxy Mixture
    Because unmodified epoxy is both expensive and has low viscosity, you frequently add fillers or additives to create the right blend of properties for the job. Fillers are designed to thicken the epoxy mixture and are broadly grouped into two categories: High Density and Low Density.

    High Density fillers are used to modify the structural properties of the epoxy by adding strength, bulk or both. Examples include WEST Systems #404 and #406. High density filler mixtures cure to a strong, hard-to-sand plastic useful in structural applications like bonding, filleting and laminating.

    Low Density fillers cure to a light, easily-sanded material which is often used for cosmetic or surface applications such as shaping or fairing. Examples include WEST Systems #410 and #407.

    Additives alter the physical properties when the epoxy mixture is used in coating applications. Barrier coat additive (#422) improves the effectiveness of the basic epoxy/hardener mixture at resisting moisture penetration. Adding graphite powder (#423) makes coated surfaces slick, which can be used on rudders, centerboards or centerboard trunks. Aluminum powder (#420) can be used to prevent UV deterioration.

    Unlike additives and fillers, reinforcing materials are not mixed with the epoxy, but are often used in conjunction with the epoxy mixture to provide additional physical properties.

    Like many other boat maintenance materials, epoxy resin products should be applied carefully. Please refer to the wide selection of books, manuals and videos on the uses of epoxy resins, for information on how to use them safely.

    In Conclusion
    We’ve found that using epoxy resin products has added a whole new dimension to our boat repair skills. We feel empowered to take on projects that we would have formerly delegated to a boat yard or boat maintenance worker. Resin has many additional applications at home when it comes to reinforcing furniture, patching surfaces, and other repairs.

    Bottom Painting

    Upgrading Your Anchor Rode

    Upgrading Your Dockline

    Replacing Your Bilge Pump