10 of the best PBO reader-submitted DIY practical projects to enhance your summer cruise
Make your own secure vented companionway covers for summer
Edward Sutton optimises his companionway hatch fittings for security and convenience
When we bought our current boat, a Sadler 29, to be kept on a swinging mooring, I was aware that two of our previous three boats had been broken into. Theft is an obvious risk when boats are left unattended in quiet creeks and estuaries, particularly at night. So, with a new and larger boat containing more ‘goodies’, the need to reduce the risk of theft was on my mind from the day we took delivery.
The boat came with a pair of teak-faced ply boards which slotted into coamings each side of the hatch opening and a lock which engaged into a slot under the front edge of the sliding top.
However, as I discovered by accident, it only needed a vigorous push to bend the brass tang holding the hatch top and the boat would be opened up. Fortunately, I saw an advertisement in PBO for a ‘Hatch-latch’, and I was apparently an early customer for this super gadget. The ‘Hatch-latch’ provided a way of securing the boards to the sliding cover, preventing their loss in the event of a knockdown or inversion, but also allowing the hatch to be unfastened by anyone trapped below.
However, the feature that attracted me was the huge Chubb padlock with enclosed hasp which could lock the hatch when the boat was unattended. This whole lock mechanism seemed to say to potential thieves, ‘this is serious protection. Forget bolt cutters and crowbars. Go away and don’t waste your time here’.
To complete the job, I made new boards fronted with sheets of stainless steel and carried the same protection to the teak coamings holding the boards. These were removed for strips of stainless steel to be bolted through under the timber, and as a final touch a steel bar was glassed in under the front of the sliding hatch.
The steel-fronted boards are, of course, heavy, and only used when the boat is unattended, so they remain stowed in webbing slings within the cockpit locker when under way. However, we soon found that cruising and sleeping aboard required other hatch devices to help improve living conditions.
The need for one of these became apparent when we were caught out by a sudden violent rain squall from astern while under full sail with the hatch wide open and its boards stowed below. In this situation, the priorities were to reduce sail and deal with the dinghy we were towing behind, so by the time we put the boards in place our saloon berths, bedding and other gear were soaked.
The simple remedy for this situation has been found to be a canvas flap, large enough to cover the opening under the sliding hatch, attached with three turnbuckles to its back edge.
The flap has a rigid strip across its middle to rest across the coamings either side and stop the canvas being blown inside.
Tightly rolled and sitting on the top of the hatch, this cover can be deployed in a second, stopping rain and spray getting below. With recent summers, this device has been invaluable.
Another innovation for us has been a transparent panel to replace the hatch boards when the crew is below. We have seen these as a standard fitting on many boats, and they have the twin advantages of letting in more light while providing greater visibility of activities outside.
Our panel, made from polycarbonate, provides a 3in gap under the sliding hatch for ventilation. We fit this every night aboard, and when overlooked by boats alongside or on pontoons, the bottom wooden hatch board resting against it provides privacy.
However, the air gap can let in rain when the boat is stern-to the weather, and another canvas flap – stiffened with plywood – has fixed this problem. This is attached with turnbuckles to the same points on the hatch cover used for the canvas cover,
and it allows essential ventilation below in the wettest conditions.