Mar
04
Filed Under (Cabin Projects) by Debbie on 04-03-2008

Our sailboat came with ‘wash board’ slats for the companionway door and while they are important when out on the big blue, they are a royal pain when sailing the protected waters of the Columbia River. Sailboat door washboards It’s been one of the biggest pet peeves about the boat for our entire family.  Particularly for who ever has to take the dog out to piddle in the middle of the night.  There just is no way to open the companionway door quietly.  Needless to say, we’ve had companionway door envy for quite some time.

We are approaching spring right now and for the first time since owning Whisper our Newport 30 sailboat, we find ourselves in the interesting position of having completed all the projects on our ‘have to do’ list.  This has opened the door for fun and interesting projects that don’t leave me covered in oil.

My hubby, aka the dock ape idiot and I began talking about various ideas for building a companionway door for the boat.  Since he’s a civil engineer this process requires several sheets of paper, math calculations and in general an over thought/over kill mental procedure with me draging my feet and telling him simple is better.  Those of you who live with or are married to an engineer will understand what I’m saying.

So, a couple hundred hours of discussion later…okay, maybe really 30 hours, countless pages of drawings plus some animated conversations (our daughter calls it arguing) we have plans drawn for a companionway door.  These plans had to be fine tuned when we revisited the hinges as I had one idea and he had another. 

After numerous days in the garage plus a couple of extra trips for material Mike, my hubby emerged victoriously carrying the new companionway door for our sailboat!  We were all excited.  He was certain it would only take a few minutes to install and when the opportuntiy presented itself we went to the boat.

 Companionway door with dog

 It was a two person job to install and it took several hours but we’re thrilled.  While it won’t hold back a breaking sea, it will make our enjoyment of Whisper more comfortable.  We’ve learned a lot with the manufacturing and installation and true to form he re-drew the plans and wrote the installation instruction down.  Like grandpa always said, “Experience is the best teacher ’cause there’s no drop-outs.”

The ‘proto-type’ door had quite a bit of trial and error.  However, we’ve come away with a better understanding and could reproduce the next one more easily.  Also, the installation would be easier as we’ve worked out the bugs.

So we now have a companionway door made of teak, 1/4 inch acrylic and brass.  We installed a stainless steel hasp to lock up from the outside and a swivel latch inside.  When underway, should we choose, we can lift the doors off the hinges and store them inside a protective storage bag I made.  It takes less than 10 seconds to remove and about 30 seconds to re-install.

Companionway Door Inside

The smoke acrylic lets light in so the cabin is much brighter during the day and I made privacy panels to attach to the inside for the evenings we’re aboard with the cabin lights on.  Yes, we’re sure the acrylic can and will scratch but it will be easy to replace should we want to.  They also weigh much less than the washboard slats which we’ll keep for security when we close up the boat for the season.

Companionway Door and Panels

Once the doors were built we only needed a chisel, screwdriver and small wrench to install them.  Although being the man he is(engineer and general contractor) our screwdriver came in the form of a drill with the appropriate driver tip.  While there are several companionway doors currently on the market, many with more features and higher cost, we’re very happy with our basic swing open and easy to remove doors.

 You’ll find instructions just below here to help you make your own doors.  If you’ve questions feel free to ask. If you found this helpful, please remember I have a real estate license and if you’re going to buy or sell I’d love to refer a local agent for an interview.  It costs you nothing and if you use them, they pay me a percentage which helps me keep this blog on the web.  If you’d like to read more about companionway doors for your sailboat ‘click here’.

Here’s how we did it:

Use your ‘washboard’ slats to judge the over all size and shape of the
acrylic and divide in the middle for two doors.  We used 1/4″ acrylic but
you could go thicker.  We also used a smoke colored not clear.  The shop
we bought the acrylic from cut it for us.

You’ll need 3 teak strips.  They measure the length of your door at the
middle opening.  One (1 wide) goes on the outside and measures 1 3/4″
wide.  The inside two (2 narrow) measures 3/4″ and both go along the
inside edge where the door opens.  The outside one over laps when the
doors are closed.  Not overlap meaning on the inside just as in the inside
ones brace against the outside one.  So place the two inside strips on
first then lay the doors down middle opening together and figure out where
to place the outside strip so it covers or ‘overlaps’ the inside ones.

Then you need 8 pieces of 1/2″ teak. Ours are 7/8″ wide by 4″ long and
they are used for the hinges.  You set them 1 1/8″ in from the outside
edges of the doors.  We set our hinges so the teak measures 8 1/2″ from
the bottom of the door to the top of the hinge teak and the top one
measures 4″ to the top of the hinge teak.

We bought brass pin/post hinges for easy removal, found our at the local
chandlery.  It would be nice if you could find two different sized pins,
one longer than the other.  It would be a bit easier to put the doors back
on but if you can’t it’s fine.

The small teak hinge braces are like the middle teak.  One inside and one
outside and you set the hinges on the inside of the doors.

We also used a rubber cupboard door stop to give the bottom inside a
spacer to bump against the fiberglass.

You’ll have to chisel out a bit of the teak around the companionway to set
the hinges just have help to hold the door in place and pencil the spot
and chisel away carefully.  You want the hinges to be pretty flush with
the teak not sticking way out.

Find a latch for the inside and outside so you can lock up.  It’s pretty
easy to make curtains for them and just use self stick velco to put them
on the doors for evening privacy.

Hope this helps you build new companionway doors for your sailboat.  They have been one of the best things we done on our boat.  Let me know if you’ve questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.



Comments:
29 Comments posted on "Companionway Door"
Darren on March 5th, 2008 at 1:33 pm #

I might be interested in the plans. How long would it take to get them? How do I order?


Debbie on March 5th, 2008 at 8:28 pm #

Darren,

Thanks for the interest. It should only take a day or so to get them out to you if you’re interested in the plans. Depends on where you are as to how long to get to you, it go out in the US mail I think.

You can email me here if you’d like and we can chat more. Debbie (@)at PacificNorthwestBoating (.) dot com

Thanks again Darren I appreciate you visiting!


Bill on March 12th, 2008 at 10:06 am #

Debbie,
I read your article, and would also like to get plans for the companionway door that you show.
That is also one of my pet peeves when at dock. Difficult and cumbersome to put in and remove.
Would be great to do something more user friendly.
Thanks
Bill


Debbie on March 12th, 2008 at 4:16 pm #

Hey Bill,

Thanks for visiting! I agree whole-heartedly, the slats are a pain. We have only been to the boat a couple of times since installing the doors but what a difference it’s made. Without a doubt it’s one of the best things we’ve done. I’ll email you in a bit.


Companionway Door on March 18th, 2008 at 5:49 pm #

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vern on December 29th, 2008 at 8:52 pm #

I enjoy seeing couples doing their own work as my wife and i do. you done good now enjoy.


Debbie on December 30th, 2008 at 9:44 am #

Thanks Vern,

My hubby and I are very ‘hands on’ types. I think that is true of many sailors. The doors have been one of the best ‘up grades’ we’ve done to Whisper.

The huge increase in light inside has been wonderful. Plus going in and out is a breeze!


Dale on January 26th, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

we’ve only had our boat one season and replacing the door has already come up!

I’m inclined to get the plans and build it myself. How easily will I be able to modify the plans to suit my boat (1986 30′ Catalina)? Also, are the materials – in particular the brass fittings – generally available? Thanks so much for putting this all out there!

Dale Menefee


Debbie on January 26th, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

Hey Dale,

You’re welcome!

Yes, the doors seem to be an issue right off…they are just a pain! We found the materials to be pretty easy to find. I’m sure my hubby will be glad to give you some directions to look in for the parts.

We have a buddy with a Catalina 36 and he did a similar door on his boat. I’ll email you with my hubby’s email address in case you’ve any additional questions.

Thanks for stopping in, I appreciate everyone who visits!


Paul Phillips on February 17th, 2009 at 7:55 pm #

Hey Debbie,

Didn’t you find 1/4″ Plexiglass a little thin for the application? Would 3/8″ or even 1/2″ been a better choice?

Thanks for you comments,
Paul


Debbie on February 17th, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

Hey Paul,

You bet 3/8″ or 1/2″ could have worked just fine. We were looking for light weight plus it was a ‘proto-type’ for us. So we weren’t looking to spend for the thicker product.

Plexiglass isn’t going to keep out a breaking sea, polar bear or thief. We just wanted something easy to use that would let in way more sunlight and didn’t cost us a bunch. Thus the 1/4″ stuff.

But the plans could accommodate any thickness you’d be interested in.

We are very happy with our doors. Especially late at night when Buddy needs to water a tree.

Thanks so much for visiting! I really appreciate your comment.


Jimmy on December 30th, 2009 at 3:59 am #

I read endlessly in Cruising World and such about people who make wonderful changes to their sailboats: new counters in the kitchen, an improved sitting area, cabinets and cockpit additions. They all seem to have access to expensive shop environments with planers and routers and other fancy power tools. Do they own these things or is there some way to rent the use of these tools for that one-time project?
Very Curious Jimmy


Debbie on December 30th, 2009 at 11:00 am #

Hi Jimmy

You’re right it does seem everyone has tools. We have them because my hubby is a general contractor as well as civil engineer.

I know in the past(decades ago)I rented tools as I needed. Just check the phone book. Our yacht club is very blue collar and we have access to everything we need there too. So if you or your buddies don’t have you can always rent. We’re lucky to be old with lots of tools!

Thanks for visiting!


Paul and Linda on January 2nd, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

We just purchased a Newport 28 and are very interested in building the doors. Please advise how we can order the plans.


Debbie on January 16th, 2010 at 11:53 am #

Hi Paul and Linda,

Sorry for the delay in responding. I’ve had tons of problems with my internet. Hopefully that’s over!

I’ll email you with the order information.


Irene Boyer on August 23rd, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

We just bought a 2001 Hunter 340 with air conditioning, and it’s a pain to take out the acrylic slats everytime we go in and out. I was shocked at the price of companionway doors, so this may be an option. My husband nor I are very handy, but maybe we could find someone else who would be interested in building one for us. Could you let me know how much the plans for our boat would be?

Thanks!

Irene


jim slagle on March 7th, 2011 at 11:45 am #

Please send me info on your plans re. companionway doors. We own a 27ft.catalina. Thanks, Jim Slagle


Debbie on March 8th, 2011 at 10:30 am #

Hi Jim,

Thanks so much for visiting. I’ve emailed you the information on how to build the doors and hopefully that came through ok.

I’ve also updated this post to include the information to build the doors as the drafted plans no longer exist, thanks to some virus.


Larry on March 13th, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

Thanks so much for the instructions. I’m refurbishing a Bristol 24 and doors instead of slats are very high on the todo list.


Debbie on March 14th, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

Larry,

You’re welcome! They were one of the first things we did after slogging through the huge list from the survey. We really enjoy them. Humm…I made a ‘screen’ door to keep out the bugs maybe I’ll post that this summer when I can take pic’s.

It was easy and makes a big difference too! Good luck with your Bristol.


Randy on October 24th, 2011 at 6:04 am #

What a great article, I am considering this for our recently acquired ’80 Hunter 33, would you please send me info on your door plans? Thanks.

Randy


Debbie on October 24th, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

Thanks Randy,

Sadly the door plans lived in a computer that was bombed by a virus. Thus, the above instruction at the bottom of the article under “here’s how we did it”.

If you’ve questions not answered in the how we did it section, then email me. Debbie at (@) pacificnorthwestboating dot (.) com


John on February 16th, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

I will either have to make new boards or build doors and doors are more preferable to us. I would appreciate a copy of then plans whenever you get time. Thank you.


Debbie on February 17th, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

Hi John,

Sad to say the computer with the plans was attacked by a virus and died a fast death, taking the plans with it. However, at the bottom of the article you’ll find instructions on how to go about building your own. Feel free to ask questions. Happy to help others!


Emmilie Lynn on December 9th, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

LOVE this idea and we need a new door so bad! We are new sailors and the door situation sucks! Would love the plans so I can have my father make a new set of doors for us!

Thank you!!!!


Debbie on December 12th, 2012 at 8:39 am #

Emmilie Lynn,

Thanks for your kind comment! The computer we had the plans on died from a virus; the bottom of the article gives the DIY instructions.


Debbie on December 12th, 2012 at 8:42 am #

Sometimes pages out on the web get ‘cached’ so perhaps you’re seeing the old version. In case the DIY instructions are not there:

Here’s how we did it:

Use your ‘washboard’ slats to judge the over all size and shape of the
acrylic and divide in the middle for two doors. We used 1/4″ acrylic but
you could go thicker. We also used a smoke colored not clear. The shop
we bought the acrylic from cut it for us.

You’ll need 3 teak strips. They measure the length of your door at the
middle opening. One (1 wide) goes on the outside and measures 1 3/4″
wide. The inside two (2 narrow) measures 3/4″ and both go along the
inside edge where the door opens. The outside one over laps when the
doors are closed. Not overlap meaning on the inside just as in the inside
ones brace against the outside one. So place the two inside strips on
first then lay the doors down middle opening together and figure out where
to place the outside strip so it covers or ‘overlaps’ the inside ones.

Then you need 8 pieces of 1/2″ teak. Ours are 7/8″ wide by 4″ long and
they are used for the hinges. You set them 1 1/8″ in from the outside
edges of the doors. We set our hinges so the teak measures 8 1/2″ from
the bottom of the door to the top of the hinge teak and the top one
measures 4″ to the top of the hinge teak.

We bought brass pin/post hinges for easy removal, found our at the local
chandlery. It would be nice if you could find two different sized pins,
one longer than the other. It would be a bit easier to put the doors back
on but if you can’t it’s fine.

The small teak hinge braces are like the middle teak. One inside and one
outside and you set the hinges on the inside of the doors.

We also used a rubber cupboard door stop to give the bottom inside a
spacer to bump against the fiberglass.

You’ll have to chisel out a bit of the teak around the companionway to set
the hinges just have help to hold the door in place and pencil the spot
and chisel away carefully. You want the hinges to be pretty flush with
the teak not sticking way out.

Find a latch for the inside and outside so you can lock up. It’s pretty
easy to make curtains for them and just use self stick velco to put them
on the doors for evening privacy.

Hope this helps you build new companionway doors for your sailboat. They have been one of the best things we done on our boat. Let me know if you’ve questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.


Josh on March 21st, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

I’d love the plans if you still have them available!


education on June 11th, 2017 at 9:53 am #

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