Archive for the ‘Cabin Projects’ Category

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.