How to Fix a Screeching Companionway Hatch

When we first bought Summer Dance, the companionway hatch screeched like so many other older C-22s. Over the years, the flanges on the sides of the hatch and the teak rails that they slide in wear down from use. The front edge of the hatch eventually scrapes against the cabin roof and/or the rails and makes a sound like fingernails on a blackboard, only louder. It’s not something that you want to put up with for long.

But we had higher priorities that first sailing season, like actually sailing, and not enough time to repair it correctly. So I jury-rigged a quick and easy sliding hatch fix that got us through the season. During this winter’s refit, it was time to do a proper repair.

The damage to the hatch flanges wasn’t as extensive as some I’ve seen. There were only a few minor cracks and chips. Mostly, the flanges were just thin so the repair didn’t need to involve laying up a thick layer of fiberglass. Instead, a simple build-up with epoxy would suffice and at a very stingy cost.

Masking tape. It’s not just for painting anymore

To prepare the surfaces, I used an abrasive mesh wheel in a drill to remove all paint and loose fiberglass where the epoxy would need to adhere. Then I wiped everything down well with Acetone.

To contain the epoxy, I wrapped masking tape around the outer and inner edges of each flange. I rubbed down half of the tape width on the hatch and left the other half of the width standing free. This made a simple mold that could easily be peeled off. Be sure to seal off the ends and not leave any gaps in the tape or the epoxy will run out.

Each flange takes 2 pumps each of resin and hardener to produce about 1/4″ of material. Pour the epoxy into the molds and use a mixing stick to spread it evenly down the full length of each flange.

Casting epoxy in masking tape molds
Casting epoxy in masking tape molds. Use a level to ensure uniform thickness.

After the epoxy has hardened completely, simply peel off the masking tape molds. The adhesive works like a mold release, leaving no paper behind.

After the epoxy has hardened and the tape removed
After the epoxy has hardened and the tape removed

The last step is to sand the edges flat and slightly rounded with 80 grit sandpaper on a hand-held belt sander or sanding block. No gel coat or painting needed.

After sanding all the sharp edges
After sanding all the sharp edges

I slid the repaired hatch into the newly refinished teak rails. At last, no more screeching.

The Bottom Line

Suggested price: $n/a
$tingy Sailor cost: $3
Savings: $n/a

Have you had to repair your companionway hatch? How did it go?


11 Comments Add yours

  1. Hunter Amsbaugh says:

    Nice site, thanks for sharing.
    Love the detailed pictures.
    I got my C-22 last fall and look forward to playing once the ice melts.
    What are your thoughts regarding a cheap battery from wall mart and a cheap solar set up? Just enough juice for running lights. I do have small battery powered LED red/green flashlight style lights that may keep me legal.

    1. kbilling says:

      Hi, Hunter

      Thanks for stopping by and your comment.

      It sounds like you don’t have a battery setup now? If it’s just for navigation lights and low to moderate cabin light use, a decent marine deep cycle battery charge should last you all weekend if that’s how you roll. At least it does for me.
      But when you add in a music system and other accessories, or stay out longer, a single battery might not be enough and you don’t want to too deeply discharge a wet cell battery. That’s when most guys starting shopping for solar charging. If you dock at night with shore power, you can charge more efficiently than with solar.

      If you don’t yet have a battery, l’d consider two 6v golf cart batteries instead of one 12v battery. Look into it and you’ll find it’s a better and more cost-effective, long-term solution for not much more up front.

      Do you have an outboard motor? If so, it might have a generator built in already like my Yamaha 8HP or you can add one for not a big investment. I’m finishing up installing a rectifier/regulator on mine right now. It should put out up to 10 amps. I’m hoping it will be all the charging that I need. I’ll be publishing a post about it soon, so stay tuned!

      Hope to see you around.

      Ever windward,

  2. swimfly200 says:

    This is another post I wish I would of found a couple of years ago. Anyway, I went a slightly different route. I purchased two pieces of 4′ aluminum “L” from Home Depot. I had to cut them down to be just long enough to fit inside the hatch. Essentially the hatch runners would rest on the horizontal part of the “L”, while the vertical part of the “L” is on the inside vertical face of the hatch. I then pop riveted the vertical to the hatch. I did have to bend up the ends of the runners 1/16″ though. So the wear is on the Aluminum and not the fiberglass. When I did hull #8050 this came out great. Even added a little silicon to the track and I could open/close the hatch with a finger. Though this was a little scary if you were to step on the hatch as it would move under your foot too easily. When I did this to the #5622 hull, I must of purchased a thinner wall Aluminum as it has bent under the pressure of someone stepping on the hatch. In the end the Aluminum was something like $14. Pop Rivets were cheap and I had in the garage from some other project.

    1. Good solution, Matthew, and less work. The aluminum angle you used is obviously thin enough that the combined thickness still fits in the rail slots without binding.

      1. swimfly200 says:

        Thanks. I love coming up with other ways to do something on my boat (mainly to save money). Just a reminder to be sure to get the thicker gauge of aluminum “L” so it can hold up to the weight of a person. I’ll have to redo hull #5622 because I got the thinner gauge, but I’ll do that this winter. Presently it is like a poorly hung car door, one you have to lift and shut in order for it to close properly. Oh well, I know the solution, just don’t have the time.

  3. John says:

    I’m wondering what you think about trimming the front lower edge of the hatch to keep it from scraping? I’ve already attacked it with a dremel bit and found some relief. But I’d like to remove the hatch and make a more even cut along the entire width.

    1. You can do that and it will probably help but it might just delay the inevitable. I’d recommend not cutting off more than 1/16″.

      If the flanges are badly worn, they’ll continue to wear until they start cracking off. If you then repair them like in this post, the front edge may be too high and admit water that leaks into the cabin.

      Some screaching is also caused by the notches on the front edge of the hatch for the two molded ribs next to the teak hatch rails. If there’s too much side-to-side movement of the hatch because the flanges are too narrow or the slots in the rails have worn, then the inside vertical edges of those notches can rub against the ribs. You can cut those out wider too but again, it might allow more water in.

      Also be sure you have a good seal all the way around the underside of your pop-top. Leaks there are common, even behind the vinyl trim around the inside of the cabin roof opening.

      1. John says:

        You make an excellent point. Thank you.

  4. Colin Mombourquette says:

    I did a similar repair but added graphite powder to the epoxy to decrease friction on the wear edges. While it turns the epoxy black it works like a charm.

  5. AliveInPhilly says:

    I have this same issue, not only in the main sliding hatch, but also my cockpit lockers (hinges gone). I was wondering if I might be able to use two paint stirrers as a better mold, but use tape on the inside as a release agent, and use some parts of stirrers as gappers between sticks, and maybe some clamps to hold it together. Just a thought.

    1. Sounds reasonable, whatever it takes to rebuild the thickness and height of the flanges.

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