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Keeping the companion way sealed in boisterous conditions

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What is the issue?
In boisterous conditions the companion way can take the odd splash. Yet mounting the washboards is far from the perfect solution. The assembly and disassembly of a set of washboard for crew coming and going is cumbersome. Worse washboards completely isolate down-below crew from those in the cockpit making them highly anxious at these times.

Why address this?
Because of the above issues washboards tend not to be deployed or deployed far too late.
There are many ways a vessel can get caught short in boisterous conditions. If a large body of water should cascade over the vessel with the companion way open, taking a large volume of water down below can be the result. This will result in major damage and escalate the vessels situation to that of ‘survival’ conditions immediately.

How to address this?
Make a companion way flap as presented in figure 1 and 2. Made from tough polyurethane reinforced by glass fibre rods, the flap can be un-scrolled and dropped in place at leisure.

A made-to-measure board for the top washboard slot can be a T section, as presented, or sit flush in the slot enabling the main hatch to be drawn shut above. Provided there is a system to secure the hatch lid, this is a matter of personal preference (see securing the main hatch for heavy weather sailing). Heavy polyurethane is ideal for the flap, so that the cockpit crew can be broadly seen from down below and light flows into the cabin below. This should be reinforced by fibre glass rods should a breaching wave come from astern and push the polyurethane through before it.

The key advantage of the flap is it rolls around itself and takes up no space whatsoever. We left ours scrolled just under the spray dodger at all times and it was only a thing of a moment to flick it out and drop it in place. Although we made it for rough conditions we used it regularly. It was in use when alongside or running down wind in rain and on certain conditions on the quarter preventing sprinkles of water dropping down below. The only thing I would say is to add a shock-cord fitting of some sort to hold it down as it had a slight tendency to literally do a snap ‘flap’ in heavy going conditions which is annoying for folk trying to rest below.

The flap however is not a substitute for a solid set of washboard. When things are getting challenging to the extreme the washboards should be deployed.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

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