Friday, December 27, 2019

The Winter Door

When we acquired Constellation, she was a complete, fully functional vessel, with sails and a working motor, winches and cleats, and, of course, a lockable companionway hatch.  You know the thing you always see on sailing vessels around this size:  A couple of stout wood panels, routed to mate and cut to slide into the companionway with the top part of the hatch sliding atop them.  This arrangement works well, locks securely, and keeps out all manner of nasty weather, wind and intruders. . .

It's also, if you live with it, a freaking pain in the arse.  Just getting out to grab a jug of water or set out a bag of garbage is an exercise.  You shove the top part of the hatch back, you remove the panels one by one, step out, do whatever you were intending on doing, then replace the boards, slide the hatch back (usually while balancing on the middle step of your galley ladder).  By this time, in winter, all the warm air has evacuated the boat.  If it's raining, the steps on which you are balancing are now wet and slippery.  Inevitably, once you get things all buttoned up again, you realize you've forgotten something.

That's how I work, anyway.

Through the summer, it isn't so much an issue.  Most of the time we just run with a velcro-ed screen in the opening, and that's fine.  As the weather cooled, I made a flexoglas (plastic) cover for the screen as a bit of an air barrier for cooler days, and that served us well until the temperatures got down into the 40's and then lower.  It's now December, and that just won't cut it.  We needed another option.
We got by in cool weather by putting a plastic cover on our velcro screen.  Worked surprisingly well.

So I decided what we needed was A Winter Door (and, yes, it does rather sound like a Robert Heinlein novel, but I digress).  Something that would slot in where the existing companionway boards slot in, something we could open and close easily, something that would seal well, and, hopefully something with a bit of a window so we could see aft if we needed to do so.
The new Winter Door, cut to match the old companionway boards

laying in the door jamb striker boards,

Another view.  The little slot in the center is for the lock tongue of the top of the hatch.

The layout was pretty simple:  I got a 4'X4', 3/4" thick piece of fairly nice exterior ply from  Loews (they call them "project panels"  I call them "all that will fit in my car').  I laid out the companionway boards on them as a template, traced around them, and cut out my new insert.  Then I cut out a doorway, leaving enough wood around it to make a strong support for the door.  We used a piano hinge to support the door well and used some of the scrap to make a striker for the bottom and sides of the doorway.
At first we stained and varnished the whole thing, but we decided it was too dark for inside the galley so we painted the interior a lighter color.

We wanted something suitably nautical for a window, but portholes are, frankly, freaking expensive.  I thought of installing an oval picture frame and glass into the door, which would have worked, but we lucked out.  An old Triton was being scrapped at the marina.  The boat was from the 70's, rotted beyond redemption, and destined for the crusher.  One of my slip mates and I were able to pillage parts off the poor thing.  Among these was a lovely old porthole of weathered bronze, which fit the door nicely.
Inside of the Winter door, now painted with a light, scrubbed wood finish.  The porthole is a great addition.

And outside.  With the verdigris of the old porthole, it looks like it's been there forever.

In fact, the cool thing about the old porthole is that it makes the new winter door look the same age as the rest of the boat, not like something I whacked together over two winter afternoons.  We painted the interior with some leftover paint from our interior decor and stained and varnished the exterior.

We slipped the new doorway into the companionway slot, stuffing the slot with some rod foam insulation.

The new door is a LOT easier to get in and out of, seals well, and it's really nice to, well, have a clue of what's happening in the cockpit and on the dock aft without disassembling the companionway..

One more project down.

The holidays this year have been a time of happily mild winter, which gave me a window to make this thing.  Already making plans for travel in the spring.

Stay tuned.

Hey, new stuff over at Life, Art, Water.  Give it a look.

More shortly


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