|Four years, four months later...|
The process of boat refitting is rewarding and frustrating in equal measure. The reward is in gaining skills and experience that will undoubtedly be required once the voyaging begins. The frustration is realizing that sufficient skills to do some jobs cannot be learned in a timely or effective fashion and that outside help will be required. Such was the case with our desire to replace Alchemy's flimsy and awkward dropboard-style companionway hatch.
That hatch, which mated with the oceanic-grade sliding hatch in the pilothouse roof, was flimsy because it was just a quarter-inch-thick sheet of smoked Lexan glued to a cherrywood lip, which slid into two grooved pieces of wood screwed into the steel sides of the pilothouse formed into a supporting flange. A single kick...or even a modest pooping wave, would have stove it in. Adding to this impression of insufficiency was that the dropboard, relying on mere gravity to keep it in place, was ungasketed: a driving rain or a snow-covered deck would cause water to seep down the companionway steps, ticking off the skipper. The dropboard was awkward because it was either all out or all in, a 16 x 26 inch flat wind-catching rectangle of bother that had no proper home when out and would constantly fall over if not secured strongly. The redesign came early, as did the frustration, because while I could draw what I wanted, as I did with the engine bay hatch (which turned out differently once I confabbed with the fabricator), I did not possess the skill nor the tools to do it myself.
|Both frame and door hatch materials were made from stainless steel plate and bar stock bought locally|
|SS hinges! The bar across the top was just for support and to keep the pre-welded-in frame from twisting.|
|This piece was "dry-fitted" more than once to ensure as snug a pre-weld fit as could be managed. The only thing I really changed was to nix the fixed port in the upper hinged part of the door, which was dubbed "the cat flap".|
|This relatively minor sub-plywood rust has already been "Ospho'd" and painted. A decision about insulation and further covering this will come later when some other decisions, like where to put the propane supply, are made.|
|Amazing to watch, if indirectly, Andrew was the perfect combo of fast and fastidious.|
I'm only part-way through educating myself about welding, so welding chat with Andrew was confusingly technical but illuminating, as was the combination of stick tack-welding, as in the above shot, and MIG welding with stainless steel wire to "fill in the gaps" later on. I was impressed by the quality of both Andrew's gear and his technique. I don't have the shop nor the experience to have made this job a reality.
|An early fit: We learned that the massive dogs would interfere with the flap lying flat enough to open the whole hatch enough. They would themselves get ground down a bit.|
|Some discussion about cutting down these handles was necessary.|
|More lining up revealed a gap in the plate that Andrew would fix.|
|This flange on the cat flap comes just inside the overhang of the sliding hatch.|
|The stainless steel part: Filling the gaps between frame and bulkhead with molten wire.|
|That visible rust is what happens when you grind SS with a non-SS wire wheel: residue.|
|Needs a daub of paint and probably a layer of insulation, but I got what I wanted.|
|The wedges are secured by bolts drilled through the SS frame and the mild steel pilothouse plate|
The remaining to-do jobs in this respect are mainly cosmetic.We can paint this or insulate it and paint it, and I need to pack the handles with some sort of grease to keep them limber in their nylon bushings. In addition, we have to decide if we want some sort of peephole or small fixed glass porthole to let in light when the boat is sealed up here. Also needed is some sort of means to hook or otherwise capture or restrain the entire door when it is fully open at sea ("fair-weather mode"). Still, it's been a big advance and clearly, a long time coming. Yay us!