Chip Ford's 1974 Catalina 22 Restoration Project
Sail #3282  l  Marblehead, Massachusetts

The never-ending project to fill my hole in the ocean while bailing it out

Preparing for Sailing Season 2013
The Forward Hatch Project, Revisited Again
Page 5

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I got Chip Ahoy uncovered last weekend. This year's big project is again trying to reseal the forward hatch last year's effort wasn't successful enough. This year I'll remove the entire hatch and flanges and recaulk it from scratch. I've got to find and seal that leak or leaks!

We've had a stretch of dry but unseasonably cool weather for weeks. Today I wanted to get started on the project, but I'm waiting for arrival of the butyl caulking tape I recently ordered. The weather forecast is for heavy rain on Wednesday through Thursday. Since I'll be cutting this real close could be caught with an open hatch I figured I'd better have a backup plan.

I fastened a length of PVC pipe I had on hand over the life lines and forward stanchions, bowed it using the mast step and a scrap piece of 2X6. Then I stretched a small tarp I had handy over the pipe and forward deck. I secured its five forward grommets with bungie cords, tied off the rear three with cord; I can free the bungie cords and roll the tarp back easily. Now I can remove the hatch and its flanges and hope the butyl tapes arrives before the downpours. I'll remove the hatch and frame tomorrow and hope to get it back together tight before the rain, but I'm ready as possible if I can't.  (May 5, 2013)


Also see:
Bedding Deck Hardware
With Butyl Tape

By Maine Sail

This morning I began removing the hatch and its frame, curious about what I'd find. It all came apart  easier than I'd expected; no broken parts. The hatch itself came off with removal of its hinges and hatch adjusters. Even the fragile adjusters came off without breaking, my greatest concern.

While removing the inner frame flange I noted a couple of the wood screws seemed a bit loose, but with them and the hatch dog catch all removed, it came off easily. Once removed it, I could inspect the plywood deck core. Overall it's still in good shape, dry. When I first cut the hole "in a perfectly good deck" in 2006, I soaked the deck core's bare plywood edges with epoxy which seems to have been very worthwhile.

I noted that three screws that go through the inner flange, one a screw that holds the starboard side adjuster, grooved the top of the plywood core or missed it entirely. Instead, they threaded at the core's top edge or just above it into the bottom of the fiberglass deck. That's going to happen again when I reinstall the holes in the flange are where they are but structurally, both flanges have been solid to the deck, and they're not the leak's point of origin.

The outer deck flange came off with a little effort using just the rigid putty knife and some prying; didn't need to use the hammer except as a fulcrum.

Once the deck was clear I went to work with the putty knife, clearing away the hardened old 3M 4200 caulking. I noted a few spots that might have, possibly could have been the source of the leak but nothing really jumped out as an obvious source. Not surprising, as the leak wasn't substantial, though it had gone from a mere annoyance to a growing nuisance my primary concern was what the leaking water was doing to the plywood deck core.

The core still looks well-preserved thanks to the epoxy bath I gave to its exposed edges. Even the screw holes appear to be in good condition. I finished cleaning up with a wire brush, a bristle hand brush, then a good  acetone wipe down.

Tomorrow morning I'll clean up the flanges and hatch, get ready to reinstall as soon as the butyl caulking tape arrives. UPS promises delivery by early tomorrow afternoon. Heavy rain is still in Wednesday's forecast. Beating it is going to be a close call.  (May 6, 2013)

I got started early with cleaning up the hatch parts while waiting for the UPS delivery. As long as I had it off, I cleaned the hatch lid, polished its adjusters, oiled the hinges and dog screw, and scrapped off the old bedding compound. I cleaned up the vinyl inner flange with Mold Armor as the discoloration and dirt seemed to be mostly mold. (This "mildew stain remover plus blocker" will be useful in application elsewhere aboard.)

The outer flange was my focus. I scraped off the old bedding compound, wire-brushed it clean, then wiped it down a few times with acetone. I found a slight crack in one of the hinge seat ears, so mixed up some West System epoxy and filled the crack. The leftover epoxy was there so I filled a few small holes and a couple of shallow cavities.

UPS didn't deliver the butyl tape until almost 6 pm, about half an hour after I'd given up on "one-day delivery" happening today. I'd just laid a second tarp over the open hole, recovered the boat for the coming rain tomorrow, since I didn't have time to get this project completed today.  (May 7, 2013)

The sky was gray and overcast when I awoke this morning, but the weather forecast indicated that I might have until around noon before the rain arrived I still just might be able to pull this off in time, and if not I had nothing to lose, could quickly recover the hole in the deck.

I applied the butyl caulking tape to the bottom of the outer flange on my laundry room makeshift workshop table, uncovered the boat and tried the flange for a fit. The 1/16" thickness of the caulking on the flange wasn't enough, so I applied a second layer directly to the deck around the hole. Once I pulled off the backing on both caulking faces I had only one shot at dropping the flange into the hole in the deck perfectly so all the holes lined up. If I missed, I'd have a mess but got lucky. But now the double layer of butyl caulking was too thick for the opposing holes in the plywood deck core and flange to line up. Meanwhile, the sun broke out for the remainder of the project!

Improvising, I used four C-clamps to squeeze the flange and deck together enough to line up the holes, which forced a considerable amount of caulking to sandwich out. One by one I fastened the screws through the inner and outer flanges and into the deck core plywood, gradually moving the clamps (to keep the screws from stripping out). When done, with all that excess caulking uniformly surrounding the flange, I'm confident it won't be leaking again any time soon! Since butyl caulking remains relatively soft and flexible, never "curing" like bedding compound, when the rain stops I'll trim off the excess with a razor knife and putty knife.

The final step, mounting the hatch, went smoothly; I was done by noon as the sky was darkening. I dogged it down and the project was completed. I left the tarp setup there but rolled up, the deck open to the elements. The rain showers began an hour later. As I write this in the late evening it's pouring out with flashes of lightening and thunder.  This will provide a great test of my effectiveness. I'll be shocked tomorrow when the rain stops if a drop of water gets through that hatch but Lord knows, I've been disappointed before with this project.  (May 8, 2013)


During a break in yesterday's showers and downpours, I went out and checked the cabin beneath the hatch and found it bone dry. Not a drop of water had gotten through.

This morning the sun returned. I got out early with Exacto and putty knives. I carefully sliced into the butyl caulking with the Exacto knife down to the deck along the edge of the outer flange. Then I used the rigid putty knife to separate the soft and tacky caulking from the flange and deck, pulled it off in strips, lifting it off the deck with the putty knife. (Butyl caulking never hardens, remains pliable.)

Project successfully completed.  (May 10, 2013)

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See:  Replacing the butt hinges (2015)
Moving on with Season 2013 improvements
It's never-ending ... but spring is here and Sailing Season '13 is ahead

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