Ports and Hatches

 Forward Hatch   |   Portlights

Forward Hatch Replacement
Updated 1 March 2001

The forward hatch in the vee berth is original, made simply from four sections of teak and a piece of plexiglass.  The bolts securing the bronze hinges were already removed, and I removed the hatch for good once the shed was built.  We will not be reusing the hatch; the boat came with a very nice Bomar hatch that has never been installed, so we will be reconfiguring the opening to utilize the new hatch.

The first step to install the new hatch was to remove the raised fiberglass coaming that was in place.  Using a sawz-all, I cut this off flush with the deck.  Next, I positioned the new hatch over the opening and marked the area that needed to be cut out.  Using a jigsaw, I roughed out the opening.  Final adjustments were made with a grinder, sanding where necessary to true up the opening and to expand it as necessary.  Trial and error fitting finally resulted in a properly-sized opening.  

Making the new cutout exposed some of the balsa core, which was in good condition (although I had previously determined that the coachroof was in good shape).  I hope the new hatch won't leak, but to ensure that the core will not be damaged, I dug out about 1/2" or so of the core all along the edges of the opening with a putty knife and a wire brush.  After cleaning the dust and core bits out, I spread some unthickened epoxy in the gap to seal the wood, then stuffed it full of epoxy filler, much like I did around the edges of the deck during the recore project.  This will be sanded smooth later.


I began laying out the wood frame for the new hatch by cutting some 8/4 mahogany to a 2" width, then cutting four pieces slightly longer than needed to surround the hatch.  To determine the cutout so that the forward and aft pieces match the curvature of the deck, I clamped them to the deck at the centerline and scribed the arc using a compass.  Then, I cut the curves with my jigsaw.  With a little sanding, these pieces fit pretty well.

The side pieces required a bevel on the bottom to match the angle of the deck, which I determined using a bevel gauge.  I then ripped them to the proper thickness and angle on the table saw.  Then, using the new hatch as a guide, I placed the forward and aft pieces in their proper position, and cut the side pieces to length to fit.  Using the compass again, I scribed a cut line about 3/4" outside of the hatch frame--an appropriate reveal--and ripped the four pieces to the proper width on the table saw.  Then, I glued the four joints with resorcinol glue and clamped up the pieces.  I removed the hatch from the middle during the clamping process.

When the glue kicked, I cut the curves at the four outside corners with my jig saw, then rounded the top edges using a 1/4" roundover bit in my router table.  Finally, I sanded everything smooth with 120 grit.

A couple days later I permanently installed the hatch trim on the coachroof.  I mixed up a batch of  thick epoxy and gooped it all around the hatch opening.  Then, I set the frame in place, squeezing out the excess epoxy.  This will help make up any slight irregularities in the hatch frame and deck.  I lightly clamped the frame in place, taking care not to distort it in any way, lest the hatch not fit properly later.  I cleaned up the excess epoxy and let it kick.

The next day, I sanded the epoxy smooth where needed, and applied a second coat, forming a slight fillet at the bottom with my finger.  This rounded area will make the installation look better, and will aid in keeping the area clean later on.

After some final sanding, I applied three coats of varnish over several days, as I did on the toerails.  I will be applying many more, probably up to 10 coats, before all is said and done.

I installed the hatch permanently by first drilling pilot holes through the 14 screw holes on the hatch.  I then removed the hatch, cleaned the surround, and applied a heavy bead of silicone over the area.  I pressed the hatch into place and secured it with 14 #8 x 1" stainless screws, which are mostly held by the mahogany hatch surround.  I determined that bolts would be unnecessary in this application.

The next step was to trim out the inside of the hatch.  When I originally cut the opening for the hatch, I left he inside corners round to match the hatch outline.  This posed a problem for installing wood trim from the inside.  Also, the bi-directional curvature of the coachroof made things a little more complicated.  In the center of the hatch, particularly forward, the crown of the deck left little exposed; however, on the sides, as you can see in the photo, there was a substantial gap to fill.  Ideally, I wanted to run trim right up to the protruding flange on the hatch that you can see.  This would provide a clean appearance.

To that end, my first--and overly optimistic--plan was to install 1/4" thick trim boards over the gap and bend them to fit into the curves at the hatch corners.  Yeah, right.  I tried kerfing out the back side of a sample board, and there was just no way I was going to get that much of a bend.   This was discouraging, and I put the project aside for a while.

Eventually, I decided to square off the opening in the deck and install trim below the hatch only.  The first step was to use my jigsaw to trim the corners square--with the hatch in place.  Next, I dry fitted four 1/4" thick mahogany boards, cutting them to length to fit the four sides of the hatch opening and securing them into the edge of the opening--which is sealed with solid epoxy to about 1" depth--with screws (photo, right).  With this done, I used a scrap piece of the 1/4" material to scribe a line on the outside of the boards to match the contours of the overhead.  I cut the pieces along the lines, and reinstalled them with screws and polysulfide caulk.

Next, I installed smaller (3/4" wide) trim pieces along the outside edge of the vertical pieces, to  finish off the opening and close off the remaining gap between the headliner and the hatch opening.  These pieces are rounded over on the outer edges.  I installed them with screws directly into the overhead; the wooden exterior hatch trim above eliminated any worries about the screws coming through the deck above, and the screws were short in any case.  I sanded any unevenness smooth, cleaned the wood, and applied three coats of tung oil.  Later, I filled the small gaps at the corners with some mahogany-colored Sikaflex.


fwdhatchtrim2-30101.jpg (38560 bytes)

Update:  August 2008

After several years of inexorable deterioration in hinge action, I declared the inexpensive aluminum hatch--which once seemed to be the best thing I had received with the boat in her original state--to be beyond salvation.

This particular hatch featured friction-type hinges that required no support rods or pistons to hold the hatch in an infinite number of positions.  At first, this worked well, but over time, the inevitable corrosion between the aluminum and dissimilar metals in the hatch construction began to restrict the motion of the hinges.  While the hinges still worked, the hatch became stiff enough to operate that I began to open and close it only from the foredeck, rather than from inside the boat.  I made several attempts to clean up and repair the hinges, to no particular avail.

Compounding the hatch issues, the added force required to operate the hatch began to not only work open the non-welded extruded hatch seam, but to eventually loosen--and then strip--the very screws that held one of the hinges to the frame.  This combination of failures caused the hatch to become virtually untenable:  the hatch wouldn't close squarely with its frame, and only by shoving and torqueing the hatch from above could I even get the latches to catch when I tried to close it.  Junk. 

Look carefully at the photo on the left, and you can see how the hatch is angled to starboard (to the left in the photo); the other two photos show, from the inside and outside, the broken weld seam and loose/stripped hinge screws.


As a result, I added "hatch replacement" to my growing list of boat upgrades and improvements planned for winter 2008-2009.   Shortly after the boat arrived back at the shop following the end of the season, I removed the old hatch--a straightforward event involving removing the mounting screws and prying the hatch free from its silicone bedding.

After spending a bit of time researching my options for the new forward hatch, and based upon some experience with various hatch types and styles,  I decided upon the Lewmar Ocean Series 60, a sound hatch with good features.  The 60 size, according to its dimensional drawings, would be an exact fit in the opening that I already had--one of the few times in any industry where sizing seems to be standard across manufacturers (what a concept).

One thing I really liked about this hatch was its venting feature:  the hatch can be closed and latched in such a way as to allow constant ventilation, but without allowing rainwater in.  Also, the hatch featured handles that are operable from inside or outside--another feature that I was used to and wanted to keep.

More to come once I receive the new hatch.  In the meantime, I planned to clean up and revarnish the wooden hatch surround in preparation for the new hatch.



Updated on 19 June 2002

 Large, Fixed Ports              Small, Opening Ports

Large, Fixed Ports:  Glissando has the original bronze frames around the ports in the main salon.   The bronze frames were painted when we got the boat and contained badly scratched plexiglass.   The paint will be stripped, the bronze shined, and the plexiglass replaced with Lexan.  The inside frames are also bronze, although they are covered with some sort of plating that is in fair condition.  This picture shows how they looked.

The ports were easy to remove, held in place with a series of screws on the inside.  Once the screws were out, the frames came right out, although there was more of that sticky gray caulking.

To remove the paint from the port frames, I applied a coat of standard stripper and let it work for a few minutes.  The paint bubbled off within 5 minutes and was easily removed with bronze wool.  Next, I began cleaning up the bronze with a combination of sanding, bronze wool, and metal cleaner (Noxon).  This did a fairly good job of brightening the bronze, although some more detail work is required before the frames will be ready for reinstallation.

After cleaning , I protected the bright bronze with a number of coats of spray lacquer.  I have had pretty good luck with this in the past on other projects, although I figure I will have to clean and re-lacquer the port frames every couple years or so.  Or, maybe it won't hold up at all.  Only time will tell.  This photo shows the ports completely installed with the new lexan; the glass appears black because it was a gray day and there was no light inside the cabin.  It is NOT smoked or bronze Lexan; it is clear.  


portframebefore.jpg (55384 bytes)The interior port frames are just like the exterior, although they had been covered with some sort of plating or coating in a silver color.  There was some pitting, and they generally didn't look good enough.  I ended up sanding off the coating with my random orbit sander, then polishing the sander marks off with a drill-mounted wire wheel.  This produced very nice results, with sort of a machined look that I happen to like.  I sprayed the inner fportframeafter.jpg (57660 bytes)rames with spray lacquer as well--but these should hold up better being out of the weather.

I took the old, miserably scratched and dismal plexiglass to a local plastic supplier, Plastic Supply, Inc., where they cut me new ports exactly matching the old.  I chose 3/8" clear Lexan for the replacements--it is much stronger than plexiglass, although it may be more susceptible to scratching.

I determined that it would make installation easier if I first installed the lexan in the outer frame, making a one-piece unit; with this done, it should be easier to align the various pieces and install the inner frames.

I began the process of installing the ports.  First, I laid out the outer frames, lexan and inner frames to be sure that all four would properly fit.  I numbered the pieces to keep things in order.  Next, laying the outer frame over the lexan (which, as with all plastics, was covered with adhesive paper for protection) I ran a sharp utility knife around the inside of the frame, tracing the exact location of the frame on the paper.  Removing the frame, I was able to remove the thin strip of paper from beneath the frame.  This is necessary to allow the sealant to adhere directly to the plastic--but trimming allows the remainder of the paper to stay on, protecting the plastic during installation and making it easy to clean off excess sealant.

With this done, I ran a heavy bead of silicone caulk over the exposed area of the port, and then applied the heavy bronze frame over the top, pressing it evenly into the caulk while being careful not to squeeze out all the sealant.  The frames were heavy enough to stay in place without clamping.  I repeated this process on all four ports.  The next day, when the sealant was cured, I ran the knife carefully around the inside of the frame and removed the excess sealant that had squeezed out--big rubber bands!  

Before installing the frames in the boat, I repeated the layout process using the inside frame--it will make things easier when I am on the boat.

We installed the ports in a couple stages, to make things easier and to help ensure the best bonding.  After the lexan was installed in the port frames as described above, the next step was to install the outer frames in the openings in the cabin trunk.  I ran a bead of silicone along the inside of the port frame where it will rest against the cabin, and pressed the frame into place from the outside.  With my wife holding it in place, I went inside the boat and temporarily installed the inside port frame with several screws, thus pulling the outer frame into place and holding it there while the silicone cured.  We repeated this process for all four frames.  NO, ONLY ONE FRAME, ACTUALLY!!!  I had not enough of the original screws left, and I knew we'd never be able to successfully install all four ports.  Thus, we stopped after one.

When the silicone cured, I removed the inner frames to check the seal between the outer frames and the fiberglass.  Then, I caulked the inner frame and reinstalled it permanently with the appropriate screws.  NOPE!  DIDN'T WORK!!!  You caught me--I wrote this before I had actually tried the procedure.  The Web Gods always get me if I try to anticipate the projects at all in order to stay ahead of the website updates...gotta watch that!  :)

UPDATE:  Actually, we only installed one port using the above procedure.  It became obvious after the one port that a different approach would be needed.  When I removed the inner frame a couple days after installing the port, the silicone seal on the outside frame was compromised along one portion of the frame.  Therefore, I had to remove it and clean off the old caulk.

After a couple week break, I was ready to try again.  New screws that I had ordered had arrived, and I had some long bolts with nuts that I could use to pull the reluctant ports properly into place and hold them while I fiddled with the stupid short screws required to attach the two frames together.  In case you are not aware of the Triton's port setup, here goes.  The outer frame is held in place from the inside by machine screws that pass through the inner frame and thread into the outer frame.  While this provides a clean, fastener-free appearance on the exterior, it brings with it some serious practical problems.  Because of the inner liner, or, on the older boats without liners, the unevenness of the thickness of the cabin trunk, each screw on each frame is a custom fit.  That's right, they are any number of different lengths.  If you remove the ports, make sure to label the screws as to their location if you plan to reuse them--this will save you much of the frustration that I encountered.  I ran into more complications with the new screws, too--read on!  Perhaps you might begin to see why I am currently calling this project the WORST PROJECT TO DATE in the restoration.  It's not the difficulty, or the nastiness factor--it's the aggravation of the stupidity of the setup; in other words, reinstalling the port frames is much, much more difficult than it needs to be.  Perhaps that is why you don't see this sort of port frame anymore.  

I had ordered some 8-32 machine screws for the ports in two lengths--5/8" and 1/2",  according to the two basic lengths I could see in the old screws I had left.  I thought these were the right size--I had tested the threads in the port frames with some screws I had on hand, and that size seemed to fit properly.  With these on hand, I figured I was all set.

Wrong!  Turns out the screws are actually 10-24 diameter.  I don't know why the other ones seemed OK, but they sure didn't hold when I tried using them from the inside during installation.  With the old screws I had left over from the original frames, my helper and I were able to get two ports in.  Then, I had to run into town to the hardware store for some #10 screws (3/4") that would be the right size.

Of course, this didn't work perfectly either.  3/4" is too long to work--they bottom out, and then push the outer frame away from the cabin side.  To make it work, I installed washers beneath the screw heads on the inside, a temporary measure that held the screws out just far enough so that I could tighten them and pull the frames together as required.  Later, I'll figure out a way to replace these screws with something more attractive and permanent--either 5/8" screws, or maybe some pan heads and washers to trim things off better.  I will wait to do this for several weeks or more, to ensure that the bedding compound is completely cured.  This way, the compound will hold the ports in place while I replace one screw at a time.  I sure don't want to rebed again.

Later on, after the sealant cured, I carefully removed, one at a time, the longer or mis-matched bolts and replaced then with #10 x 5/8" machine screws.  By removing only one fastener at a time, I was able to prevent the sealant around the port from becoming compromised, and with the remaining fasteners in I found that the outer frame was pulled in tightly enough so that the short 5/8" fasteners could begin to grab the threads, but did not bottom out.

In summary, here is the port installation process that worked for me.  The objective was to get a good seal all around the inside and outside edges of the frames, and to hold the ports securely in place.

1.  With the paper still on the Lexan, temporarily fit each window in the outer port frame, mark the outline of the frame on the paper and remove paper outside the line.

2.  Install Lexan in outer port frame with caulk--polysulfide or butyl.  Allow to cure.

3.  Using the inner frame, follow the procedure in step one to mark the paper on the inside of the frame, and remove the excess outside of the line.  Leave the paper on the center portions of the windows, inside and out--makes for easy cleanup and protects the windows during installation.

4.  Run bead of caulk (I used Butyl Rubber--very sticky and cures very rubbery and flexible) around edge of outer port frame.

5.  Carefully install outer frame in cutout and have helper hold it in place--but not too tightly, or it slides and can pop right out of the hole.

6.  From inside the boat, realign the outer frame as necessary to ensure that it covers the entire cutout--the tolerance is very small.

7.  Run bead of caulk around edge of inner port frame--a little insurance against cabin leaks, but probably not necessary from a structural or waterproofing standpoint.  

8.  Install inner frame and secure temporarily with two or three long (1 1/4" or greater) machine screws with washer and nut.  By screwing the screw all the way into the threaded hole, and then tightening the nut against the frame and washer, the frames can be pulled together as necessary.

9.  Install other screws around frame, hoping that they will actually reach or that they don't bottom out.  I ended up using temporary washers on each screw to hold them out an appropriate amount for proper tightening.  Much later, I'll come back and replace them with something more appropriate.  Bronze would be nice.

10.  If possible, replace long screws and nuts with shorter screws so the long ones can be used in the next port.

11.  Move on to the next one.

12.  Clean up the caulk that oozes out either at the end of the entire job, or after completing each port.  I waited till all four were done, then went back and cleaned up the excess with a plastic putty  knife and paint thinner.

portspaper.jpg (27552 bytes)During the installation, the Lexan was still covered with the protective paper.  I removed it the next day.  At first, I tried simply pulling it off by getting an edge started and peeling; however, because of the cold weather, the rubbery (sort of) coating beneath the paper wouldn't peel off in pieces bigger than a square inch.  I went inside and got my wife's hairdryer (thanks, Heidi!) and heated the paper, which allowed it to peel off much more successfully.

Anyway, the ports are in!  With a few finishing touches, the job will be complete.  I'll post an update later on how I tackle the replacement of the screws.  Note that, despite the appearance in the photo, the ports are clear Lexan, not smoked!  Yes, this matters!

Small, Opening Ports:  The small ports were also in cosmetically bad shape.  Restoration was necessary.  I removed them from the boat--a simple matter of removing the six screws from the trim ring and prying the pieces away from the sticky gray caulk.  The opening portion of the port is easily removable from the frame by unscrewing the two screw hinges at the top; removal makes working on the units a little easier.



Restoration was a simple, if tedious, matter of sanding (by hand and machine where possible) and buffing with the wire wheels on a drill.  This took care of cleaning up the trim ring and the inside (visible part) of the port frame.  The interior surfaces, however, were also treated with the same coating/plating as the large interior port frames, and this proved too difficult to remove, given the contours and curves of the ports.  I decided to spray paint the interior surfaces with a chrome paint--seems a better solution than killing myself stripping the old plating, and certainly cheaper than having them professionally stripped and/or rechromed.  Of course, this may be an option later if I am unhappy with the way the paint holds up.

I lacquered the outside surfaces, including the trim ring.  When the lacquer was dry, I taped it off and sprayed the inside surfaces with the chrome spray paint.  The results were pretty convincing; all that remains to be seen it how the paint holds up in the harsh ocean environment.

The old gasket material had done pretty well for 37 years, but was trashed; replacement was in order.  First, I had to find the stuff.  Thanks to Mark, # 516, I found the material at Defender.

I ordered some 1/4" black square port rubber gasket material from Defender (part # 900663).  Once the material arrived, it was a simple matter to install it, making sure the seams were at the top of the port for the best seal.  The ports are now ready for installation.

Installing the ports requires two people--one inside to hold the port, the other outside to install the frame and screws.  After managing with difficulty to install one by myself, I requested Heidi's assistance for the remaining five.

The process is thus:  first, run a bead of silicone (or other caulk) around the outer surface of the main body of the port. (UPDATE:  I have no idea why I used silicone here.  I hate the stuff.  In any event, the small ports do not leak at all, but I would certainly not use silicone for any job in the future.)  Then, press it into place in the opening and hold tightly.  From the outside, run another bead of caulk around the edge of the port, press the bronze trim ring into place and secure with the six very short screws.  Getting the screw threads started can be difficult, so the person inside needs to press directly behind the screw locations to ensure that the threads will reach enough to get started.    Once all six screws are tightly installed, clean up the silicone that oozes out along the inner portion of the trim ring; the stuff that squeezes out along the outer edge is best removed after it cures by cutting carefully around the edge with a sharp utility knife and peeling the rubber away.

On #381, and presumably other Tritons with the molded main salon cabin liner, the screws for the two forward-facing ports are slightly longer than the ones for the other four ports--this is because the openings are thicker here than forward where there is no liner.  The longer screws will not work forward, and the shorter ones will not work in the salon.  Fortunately, I noticed this before beginning to install the ports, when I laid out and counted the screws to make sure I had everything.  When I noticed the two lengths, something clicked and I counted the longer ones--sure enough, exactly 12, enough for the salon ports.

With the shiny restored ports finally reinstalled, the exterior of the boat suddenly looked more finished.  Once more step in the right direction!

UPDATE 6/19/02:  The forward-facing ports have always leaked on their "low", or outboard, sides, since they hold water because of their upward-facing angle.  Eventually I got sick of the small leaks and took care of the problem.  Read about it here.


Glissando, Pearson  Triton #381

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