Deck Trim:  Companionway, Coamings, and More
his page was last updated on 12 May 2001.

Companionway  |   Cockpit Coamings  |  Sea Hood  |  Other Deck Trim

The companionway features weathered mahogany trim, a rough-sliding, flimsy fiberglass hatch, and badly weathered mahogany swashboards.  The handrails are also weathered mahogany.  All the trim, despite being weathered, is in good condition, and I expect to be able to fully restore it.  (Update:  Well, maybe not.  See below!)

Once the boat shed was constructed over the boat, I started removing all the trim from the boat.  The companionway trim came off easily with the removal of multiple screws, although a few of the heads had been sanded, rendering the slots shallow and difficult to grip.  Inside and out, the trim was sealed with heavy beads of gray caulk that was in surprisingly good condition.  The fiberglass sliding hatch slid right off the back of the tracks--it is in poor condition and will require some beefing up and refinishing.  I also would like to add a sea hood.

The handrails were more difficult to remove, as they feature a two-piece threaded attachment (a screw from the top threads into a female insert projecting upwards from the cabin liner).  A few of these unthreaded easily, but the rest had to be cut from below.  This damaged the fiberglass cabin liner a little, but it was not in good condition to begin with, and repair will be straightforward.  The cockpit coamings were loosely installed when I bought the boat; they were removed entirely and will undergo a complete refinishing.  (Update:  Not!  I am replacing the coamings with new.  See below!)


Companionway and Sliding Hatch

Over a year ago, when I removed the trim around the companionway, I had my mind on other details, so I stored the various pieces out of the way somewhere.  Restoring the wood and reinstalling it seemed, at that time, to be a million years away.  My original plan had been to reuse much of the trim, that it would be in good enough shape to reinstall.

Wrong!  I pulled the pieces out of storage the other day and, upon greater reflection, decided that most of them were a little too beat to reinstall.  In particular, the companionway stool (the piece at the bottom) and the grooved rails into which the swashboards slide were really worn and pretty lousy looking.  The lip on the stool was grease stained from working on removing the engine, and there were any number of old screw holes in the side pieces.  I decided to start fresh with new mahogany more befitting the overall condition of the boat.

The grooved side rails are fairly straightforward to mill.  They consist of a 3/4" piece of stock with a wide dado grooved out of one side.  The dado was easy to make on the table saw, and I rounded both outer edges with a 1/4" roundover bit in a router table.  There was a complex cutout at the bottom edge where the side rails meet the stool; recreating this was a simple matter of using the old rails as a pattern and then cutting the profile with a saber saw.  

railscloseup.jpg (42984 bytes)


I sanded the pieces smooth with 120 and 220 grits.  They look great.  This photo shows the old and new side by side for comparison. the light bands of color on the inside of the grooves on the new rails is just dry wood; I had wiped them down with paint thinner to simulate their varnished color and missed those inside corners.


Milling the stool, with its angled top and other profiles, was a little more challenging, but well within the realm of anyone with a table saw. 

First, I cut out the grooves at either edge, which fit around the fiberglass of the cabin trunk.  Next, I traced the outline of the small protruding chunks of wood that must remain on either side (see the thumbnail below) and laid out the remainder of the angled cut as necessary. 

The most complex part of the piece is the angled portion that faces the cockpit.  This turned out to be a 14 degree angle, which was easy enough to figure out on the table saw by using the old one as a pattern.    I cut the angle in two passes:  the first cut in the stock (which was already dimensioned to the proper width, height and thickness according to the old piece) runs from edge to edge, while completing the angle requires plunging the blade into the wood in a stopped cut, since the inner portion of the cut--the part closest to the lip--does not extend all the way to the edges of the piece.  (Click on the thumbnail to get a visual on this.)

stooledge-112100.jpg (38944 bytes)I finished the cut into the square corners with a chisel, since there was no way to use a saw to finish the angle.  I then rounded the corners with my router and sanded everything smooth with 120 and 220.

The fiberglass companionway hatch slides on a system of wooden and metal runners and guides, which were all in need of restoration.  I milled new supports for the horizontal hatch guides--the ones that are attached to the coachroof--and will be installing them, and the metal tracks that go on top, soon.  The hatch originally included corresponding metal guides, which were screwed to thin strips of wood and attached inside the hatch.  The wood was in poor condition, so I milled some new pieces 1/4" thick out of oak, which should stand up well to the constant sliding back and forth as the hatch is used.  I secured the metal tracks in place, and epoxied the wood strips to the inside of the hatch, making a few small repairs to other parts of the hatch at the same time.

With the epoxy kicked, I sanded the hatch inside and outside (again), cleaned it with acetone, and applied a coat of Brightside primer to portions of the underside.  I plan to put some sort of liner over the raw glass so the hatch looks a little better from inside when it is closed, so I didn't paint the entire thing.  Later, I'll prime and paint the exterior as well, then mill some trim pieces for it to dress it up a bit.

I began the long process of applying 10 coats of varnish to all the milled companionway trim pieces.  As with the other brightwork on board, I am using Epifanes gloss as follows:  first coat thinned 50%; second coat thinned 25"; third coat thinned 15%; subsequent coats thinned only as necessary for proper flow and leveling, usually about 5% or less.  When the trim is completely varnished, probably in about 3 weeks, I will install it on the boat as soon as temperature allows the use of sealant.

I painted the companionway sliding hatch with Interlux Brightside white, using three coats:  first a coat of primer, then two coats of the white, thinned as necessary with Interlux 233 Brushing Liquid.  I didn't see the need to get geared up for Awlgrip for this small piece that will effectively never be seen in normal usage, and the Brightside looks fine for smaller pieces.

With an improvement in the weather, and the fact that installation of the hatch is fairly critical to the launch date, I began to reinstall the companionway slide and trim.  The first step was to lay out the pieces--the two varnished wooden bases, the metal tracks, and the companionway slide--and make sure things lined up properly.  Here I faced a minor problem:  the metal tracks that I epoxied to the bottom of the slide appeared to be on the wrong side.  I had placed the "L"-shaped side of the track toward the inside of the hatch, and it appears that it should have gone towards the outside.  Who could remember, when I took the thing apart a year and a half ago?  This means that things don't quite line up right--the inside of the track (the short part of the "L") ended up interfering with the insides of the wood supports and the inside of the hatch frame, preventing it from operating properly.  The proposed fix?  Raise the track up about 1/2", so it stands proud of the wood trim beneath rather than flush.  This will allow the metal track to ride along without hanging up on anything.  I can't move the track easily, since the whole arrangement is epoxied to the hatch, so I think is the best solution.  To raise the track, I simply placed a stainless steel hex nut at each screw location; they act as spacers, raising the track the proper height.

Well, that actually didn't work as planned.  The problem was that this raised the track--and hatch--up higher than it should have been, which could have allowed water to get in and under the edges of the hatch.  Plus, it looked stupid and unprofessional in the end.  Back to square one.

The permanent fix involved installing an auxiliary piece of wood.  I figured out that the metal track needed to be raised about 3/16" higher than it was, which would allow the "L" to properly slide beneath it.  I milled two pieces of mahogany 3/4" thick by 1" wide, and milled a 1/2" x 13/16" rabbet on one side of each.  I installed this piece on top of the original wood supports with caulk and screws, overhanging the outer edge.  See the photo (left) for a better idea of this.  When the wood piece was installed, I could then install the metal track directly on top, giving the companionway slides the lift and overhang to work properly.  All in all, this was kind of a pain, and took a lot more time than I expected.  I guess it's my fault--I should have paid more attention to the way it was originally set up when I took it apart forever ago.

Once I had the sliding mechanism figured out, I marked the location of the wood rails on the deck, removed them and taped off the rails and the surrounding deck.  Then, I laid down a heavy bead of polysulfide, and reinstalled the rails permanently.  There are four screws in each rail that are secured through cwayopen.jpg (37260 bytes)cwayclosed.jpg (46856 bytes)the inside of the companionway opening, and three screws that extend from the salon overhead into the forward portion of the rails.  With the rails bedded and installed, I installed the sliding hatch and resecured the metal tracks.  The hatch has to go into place first, with the tracks then slid through the openings.  With this done, I moved on to installing the sea hood.  Sometime in the near future, I plan to install some more trim at the end of the sliding hatch, and maybe a sturdy pull rail.  There's also trim to be installed along the inside of the opening.  Posting will follow (see below)

With launching looming ever closer, I decided it was time to install my new companionway trim.  I installed these pieces in a bedding of polysulfide caulk with 1" stainless screws from the inside, the same as original.  The grooved side pieces that support the swashboards have to be face-screwed.  Because I had raised the companionway slide a little, the new trim is a little shorter than it could have been, even though it is identical to the original.  Not a big deal, but I'll have to install some trim on the sliding hatch to help fill the gap, and build a new top swashboard that is a little taller.

The original swashboards (see photos at top of this page) are weathered and look horrible, but I think I might be above to salvage them, at least for this season.  They are solid wood, so I was able to sand them sufficiently that I think they'll look OK when varnished.  I'll paint the back sides.  Because the hatch is a little higher than original, I had to add about 5/8" in height to the bottom board so that the top one would extend all the way to the bottom of the hatch.  Varnishing is next.

copanionwaytrim-41801.jpg (35024 bytes)The inside of the companionway required some trim.  As of this posting, there is still some trim I would like to add along the overhead inside the cabin, but that can wait for a while.  I did install some trim pieces along the vertical openings of the hatch, covering up the wavy fiberglass and screw heads there.  These pieces are simply 1/4" mahogany cut to shape and screwed in place with finishing washers.  I set them in a bed of polysulfide; varnishing is next.

hatchhandle.jpg (32396 bytes)I also added a thin strip of wood to the aft end of the sliding hatch, and installed a teak handrail in the middle to make pulling the hatch closed easier.  These are attached with screws and polysulfide, and will soon be varnished to match the rest of the trim.

Other Deck Trim

Rather than go to the trouble of fabricating new handrails, I purchased four (two inside, two outside) teak 5-loop rails from Hamilton Marine.  The cost is well worth it compared to the time it would take me to make them, plus I don't have enough stock left in the shop to make them anyway.  The old rails were 5-loop, and I figured the new would be the same size, so I did not fill the original screw holes during my deck reconstruction.  D'OH!  It seems the new loops are significantly shorter than the old, and the new rails are approximately 10-12" shorter overall than the old, which means, of course, that the boltholes do not line up.  Grrrrr...I guess I'll fill the existing holes as necessary and plan on one more coat of nonskid on the coachroof to cover the repairs.  No big deal, but I wish I'd thought of it earlier.  I will install the new rails as soon as it is warm enough to apply the sealant required.

I filled the old rail holes with two applications of epoxy.  When the epoxy kicked, I sanded it smooth, cleaned the whole area and applied one more coat of the nonskid deck paint over the top.  It looks great, and took about 5 minutes to apply...after about 20 minutes of masking, of course.

I installed new handrails on both sides, inside and out.  I used long pan head wood screws inserted through the outside railing.  (Those are the ones with the large head that is flat on the bottom).   First, I carefully laid out the locations of the screw holes through each of the outside rails, and drilled pilot holes on my drill press, keeping everything straight and level.  The holes are just larger than the screws.  Next, I drilled 1/2" holes about halfway into the rails--this recessed the screw head, and provides enough thread belowdecks to properly secure the inside handrails.  There's still enough beef above for strength, too.   These holes will also accommodate some plugs made from teak dowel later.

With the holes completed in the outside rails, I lined up each rail with its respective interior rail and drilled smaller pilot holes into the second rail, making sure to keep the drill straight and level.  Then, I moved to the boat and drilled pilot holes through the coachroof using the outside rails as a guide.  These holes received the standard treatment for deck holes--epoxy-filled, redrilled, and a countersink milled at the top to hold a little well of sealant.  Then, I spent some time masking off the handrails, and the deck around each base to make cleanup easier.

caulkedrails.jpg (35092 bytes)To install the rails, I actually figured out a way to do it by myself...one gets good at that after a while.  The aftermost two or three holes on each side are reachable from inside the companionway, so I was able to get a couple screws started into the interior rail, thus supporting it in place.  Then, I could go outside and get the remained of the screws started.  When all screws were engaged a few threads, I made sure it was pretty even and pulled the outside rail up, revealing a space beneath--but the inside rail was still attached.  I could easily caulk the space beneath the outside rail; I used polysulfide.  After running a heavy bead of caulk at each location, making sure to add some extra near the screws, I pressed the outer rails down, and tightened the screws one by one, gradually pulling the two rails together against the coachroof.   It worked like a charm.  I left the squeezed-out caulk to cure overnight before returning to cut away the excess and clean up.

The rails have one coat of varnish on them at the moment, which I applied mostly to protect them from being stained by the caulk during installation.  9 coats to go (on the exterior, at least)!

Click here to continue with the sea hood and coamings.


Glissando, Pearson  Triton #381

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