Monday, October 17, 2011

The Emergency Hatch Battle

Since Mark and I own our boat, the two emergency hatches – which are located inches above the waterline – have been leaking. We’ve tried to find and fix the leaks many times in many ways and re-bedded both of them during our first year of cruising. Since then, we replaced the gaskets, tightened bolts, added silicone and so on. Every time we went sailing in the past, Mark walked downstairs to check the starboard hatch, found salt water protruding and lined the bottom of the window with a “shammy” to soak it up. Where the water came from was a mystery and nothing seemed to fix it. 

On our recent sailing trip from Carriacou back to Grenada, Mark watched the rush of the seawater against the emergency hatch for about an hour and – after not only finding water along the edge inside, but actually seeing water all the way in our bilge – he detected the problem. We would have to re-bed this hatch again, a job deemed to only be possible when hauled out of the water. Didn’t we just haul out about a month ago for the umptiest time? Nope, we were not going through that effort and expense again! We were going attempt to fix it while in the water…

We only had one small tube of caulk (4200), so we made a brief stop in St. David’s Harbour and rowed ashore (our outboard engine also has problems) to buy another one, the last and only one they had, at the small Island Water World branch there. Then we continued on to Port Egmont, one of Grenada’s excellent hurricane holes. We found flat water and peace before starting our big project the following morning. I won’t go into much detail, but … a project it was: hard, time consuming and a tad stressful. To top it off, the 4200 we just bought was bad! Luckily the one we had left was good and enough for the job. We took the whole window and frame out, put a “guard” in place to keep salt water out in case the wind picked up or a boat drove by and cleaned all the old caulk off everywhere, before putting the frame and window back. Mark sat inside Irie, with his head through the opening most of the time; I was hovered underneath our low bridge deck in our deflated dinghy (to make it fit – great idea!), taking in water with every wind wave. 

When Mark passed the caulked frame through, it had to go in the water to be able to attach it to the boat. Bad choice of orientation. We thought it wouldn’t matter for the 4200 and finished the project, pumped up the dinghy and cleaned everything up. Later research taught us that the surfaces can NOT be wet when applying 4200 and we had just dunked the whole thing in seawater! Now what? We were dead tired after six hours of hard work and… we were out of caulk!! Quick action took place; we rowed to shore, hitched a ride to the main road, took a bus to St. George’s and bought more caulk at the marine store before it closed. We returned to Irie at 5pm and … did the whole job again, at night this time! Mission accomplished in two tries (as frequently) and about 12 hours, right before stormy weather arrived. The good news: we are happy with our work and commitment and the hatch doesn’t leak anymore!

Mark makes a "guard" which covers half of the hole, while underway from Carriacou to Grenada...

 Cleaning the old caulk off everything, even all the bolts, nuts and washers.

The guard to keep water from coming into the boat, is in place.

There is not much room to work underneath Irie's bridge deck.

Done! So we thought...

Doing it ALL over again at night! (Removing "new" caulk is much harder than scraping off old caulk)

Putting the frame back in place in between squalls and bumpy water. Tricky and stressful.

Done! Really! (It was 11pm by then)


Deb said...

Sounds like a similar incident with us and our hatches. We rebed the frames thinking that was where the leak was coming from. Nope. Re-sealed the handles. Nope. It was the glass needing rebed. At this point we decided to remove everything, send the frames out for powdercoating and buy new glass and do the whole thing right. I completely understand your two times to do the job.

Thanks for the blog,
S/V Kintala

Liesbet said...

Hello Deb,

The joys of boat ownership: you learn while you go and do (almost) everything twice. It is interesting, though, how everything you plan always takes twice the amount of time, effort and money. Better get used to it! :-) Your hatch project seemed pretty tricky... Enjoy the retirement project, the lake and the preparations to "hit" the ocean!