Deck hatch maintenance
Don’t let a little drip turn into a gusher; fixing hatches isn’t as hard as you think
All hatches use a gasket seal between the operating portion of the hatch and the frame. This is typically some form of neoprene rubber ™rope∫ that is round, square or D-shaped. The gasket is held in place with an adhesive fitted into a channel, typically in the operating portion of the hatch. Most gasket material can be found from industrial sources with an Internet search for "neoprene rope." If the gasket is very specialized you may need to contact the manufacturer for a replacement. I like to use 3M Weather Stripping Adhesive to hold the gasket in place. It is a black contact cement type adhesive that can be found at any auto parts supplier.
Gasket replacement is pretty straightforward: just remove the old gasket and clean the channel surface. The 3M adhesive is applied to each surface and then allowed to dry, the gasket and frame will stick when brought together. It is a little tricky to cut the gasket to the right length, the material is rubber so it stretches a little when you glue it in place. I like to cut the gasket material to rough length and then install it, trim and butt the ends together and glue them as the very last step.
The hatch will be tough to close with a new gasket, and it may take a few days with the hatch closed for the new gasket to compress and take a "set" to frame surface. But that new tight fit should keep any leaks out.
Hatch frame rebedding
If you have leaks between the deck and hatch you will need to remove the hatch and rebed it. Hatches are typically screwed in place and then heavily sealed. The first step is to remove the screws and then cut the sealant loose using a razor knife and thin, sharp putty knife. Once you have the hatch free, remove all the old sealant and clean the surfaces with solvent.
Reinstalling the hatch is relatively straightforward. Start by taping everything off with blue masking tape, lay in a thick bead of sealant and reinstall the hatch. I have had great results with 3M 4000UV sealant, which is somewhat adhesive, stays flexible and has the benefit of being removable should you need to rebed the hatch in the future. I suggest using new stainless fasteners because you'll likely tear up the old heads a bit when you remove them. Be sure to wipe down the fasteners with solvent before installing them as new stainless often has a thin layer of oil on it that can cause leaks later on. As you snug up the fasteners you should see a uniform bead of sealant squeeze out. If not, you'll need to lift the hatch and add more. Finish by cleaning up the excess sealant with 3M Adhesive Remover and a paper towel.
Hatch hardware replacement
You'll invariably find broken latches, hinges or hold-open arms on your hatches. It is important that your hatches close securely to prevent minor leakage under normal conditions, or massive cabin flooding if you find yourself in a situation where the hatch becomes submerged. Many of these parts should still be available from the original manufacturers and a number of companies make reproduction parts. See the sidebar for manufacturer references.
At some point your old hatches may deteriorate enough to require replacement. Think hard before making this decision as hatches are expensive. But if you do need to replace them, the installation process is very much like what is described in the rebedding process.
The hardest part is finding a hatch that will fit. Start with the original hatch manufacturer, as many of them still make hatches in the same sizes. If you can't find what you need, you need to modify your deck to fit the match and this is a major project probably not suited to a DIY application.
Hatch repair is pretty straightforward once you understand the problem. It may seem silly, but the most important thing is to remove all the old sealant before applying new. Proper maintenance will keep your cabin nice and dry.
Hatch repair resources:
Bomar, 603-826-5791, www.pompanette.com; Atkins and Hoyle, 416-596-1818, www.atkinshoyle.com;
Lewmar, 203-458-6200, www.lewmar.com
Replacement parts and rebuild materials:
Select Plastics, 203-866-3767, www.hatchmasters.com; Hammerhead Nautical Systems, 877-767-0222, www.hhns.ca