Never Do Once What You Can Do Twice
22 November 2014 | Puerto del Rey Marina, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
I would be referring to boat projects. Our record here for getting it right the first time is shockingly low, just two projects out of I don't know how many over two-plus years. The watermaker was one, thank God because that is such a complex system. The other was the installation of the new windless last year, but that was a no-brainier since it was a total replacement of the same brand, same model -- we would have truly been idiots it we had messed that one up.
Today's story is about replacing hatches -- you know those kind of skylight things that open up to provide fresh air (and light) below decks. Well two years ago, Barry bought three new hatches to replace the forward most hatches on the deck (all located over the v-berth). His reasoning at the time (and I agree) was that we needed beefier hatches if we were going to cross oceans. I have spent the last two years moving these hatches from place to place inside the boat as they were very low on Barry's priority list of things to do and they always seemed to be in the way of things I needed to get to.
This summer I asked Barry to order two more hatches, the salon hatches were beginning to leak and I truly hate sitting on wet upholstery -- now we are up to five uninstalled hatches. But wait, it gets better, struggling to reinstall the dodger (another story) we cracked a hatch over one of the stern cabins. I attribute this next decision to me being a 'rational' architect, I asked Barry to order two more hatches -- it's a symmetry thing, we have two stern cabins. Now there are seven, count them, seven new hatches living inside the boat!
We have found through many of the cruising couples qwe have met that there are 'Pink' jobs and there are 'Blue' jobs. We have also discovered we are not a 'typical' cruising couple -- not so much in that Barry does typically 'Pink' jobs, but that I am willing and do 'Blue' jobs. So with the prospect of having seven hatches inside the boat to move around for God knows how long, I decided to take on the task of installing the hatches. To be fair, Barry had his own fair share of work -- first and foremost completely overhauling the refrigeration/freezer systems on the boat. Then there was the starter problems on the engine and completing the install of the new shaft seal that utilizes a pressurized water cooling system that the boat yard neglected to install. So a strictly mechanical project seemed right up my alley.
I prepared by taking the time to read about how to replace a hatch on the Internet, I had even watched numerous videos on YouTube. Despite my preparation the replacement of the first hatch took all day (and a lot of Barry's time because I was feeling insecure). Taking the old hatch out was a piece of cake. Cleaning off all of the old sealant was an affirmation that I knew what I was doing. I put the new hatch in, verified the screw pattern was the same and matched up, and I masked the deck and hatch preparing everything for the scariest part -- the sealant. I ran into a hitch here as Barry had prepped the caulk gun for me, I just didn't seem to have enough strength in my hands to squeeze the stuff out -- so Barry had to help here (and it was a trial even for him). But he got it done, instructing me along the way about how to do it, where to place it, and how much to use. Finally, the new hatch was in place and I was tightening down the screws -- SWEET!
The next day I started on hatch number two, everything went the same until I got to the sealant part. I had Barry cut a bigger opening in the tube and this allowed me to be able to squeeze out the caulk. Hatch number two and three went without a hitch -- here is where I puffed out my chest and thought (what is that old line?) hear me roar! Number four was a hatch that Conch Charters had replaced because a charterer had broken it, it was sealed to the deck to within an inch of it's life -- it took both Barry and myself to release it from this life! After that I continued on, finishing up number four and replacing number five.
What could go wrong, right?!? Well two days later we had rain and one hatch leaked -- well OK not too bad. Barry and I talked about the potential problem and researched on the Internet a probable solution. Well ... the solution we discovered was kind of ominous. It appeared that we (really I) may have tightened the screws too much -- I should have only screwed them in half way initially while the caulk cured and gone back one day (24 hours) later and then fully tightened them. Oh crap!!!!
Well today we got a really good/hard rain storm, well really several. The only hatch that wasn't leaking was the forward hatch and that is only because it was under a Dorcap (a wonderful product if you don't know about it). It was like a Chinese fire drill below decks, water was coming in everywhere and we kept running from one to the other but didn't have enough ways to capture the water and protect what was within.
Our assessment is we didn't get enough sealant/caulk under the hatch frame and I tightened the screws too much. In a break between storms, we took our Gorilla Tape (thank you Dave Voros) and our wonderfully absorbent towels (thank you Yoga Rat) and taped between the flange of the hatch frame and the deck. It looks to be holding well enough to sleep tonight and hopefully for the next few days because we have some wet weather bearing down on us.
Even in boat life/repair/maintenance Mother Nature doesn't want you to get too cocky and sends her wrath to those that do -- I promise I will never roar again ... promise ... promise ... promise ...
P.S. We are sleeping in a wet bed tonight -- thank you Mother Nature, with all due respect of course.