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Keeping the main hatch sheltered in boisterous conditions



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What is the issue?
In boisterous conditions, the companionway can take the odd splash. Yet going all the way to mounting the washboards is far from the perfect solution. The assembly and disassembly of a set of washboard for the comings and going is cumbersome and overkill. The washboards also isolate down-below crew from those in the cockpit, preventing them from glancing up to see what is happening, too quickly check that they are OK, and they tend to make it highly claustrophobic at times.

Why address this?
Because of the above issues, washboards tend not to be deployed or deployed far too late. This leaves the vessel open to a large body of water cascading over the vessel and down into the open companionway. This will result in major damage and could escalate into a ‘survival’ condition.

How to address this?
We found the perfect halfway house between the completely open hatchway and the storm precaution, of having washboards in place, was to have a companionway flap as illustrated below. Made from tough polyurethane reinforced by glass fibre rods, the flap could be un-scrolled and dropped in place at leisure and provided a fair measure of protection.

Main companionway flap elements
Image: Tony Gibson


All that is required is a made-to-measure 'holder board' for the top washboard slot. This can be a 'T' section, as presented, or, as we made it, sit flush in the slot enabling the main hatch to be drawn shut above it. Whichever works for your vessel, provided there is a system to secure the hatch lid, this is a matter of personal preference.

Companionway flap in place
Image: Tony Gibson


Heavy polyurethane is the ideal material to make the flap as the cockpit crew can be broadly seen from down below and light flows into the cabin below. This should be cut larger than the hatch, so it has a good seal around the edge and foot and it needs to be reinforced by fibreglass rods to prevent a breaching wave, coming in from astern, pushing 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 tended to used more often than we thought whilst passage making and at anchor. It was always very helpful when running downwind in rain, or likewise alongside in rain when the wind was astern. During certain conditions, particularly when 'on the quarter', it prevented sprinkles of water that tended to hit the side of the boat and drop down below onto the chart table. It was also used to prevent draughts working their way around the cabin during cool nights and to dampen the sea noise outside somewhat.

The only addition I would make is to add a shock-cord fitting of some sort to hold it down at the foot for it had a slight tendency to literally do a snap ‘flap’ in heavy going conditions which is annoying when 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 put in place and sagely secured Experience.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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