We trailer sailors are the vagabonds of the sailing world, the gypsies, free spirits who can tow our sailboats anywhere we want with ease. There’s no excuse for getting bored with the same cruising areas when you can just hook up and go somewhere different. The downside, of course, is having to set up the rig every time we move.
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I’ve written extensively here on how to make setup easier. One of the downsides to setting up frequently is getting gear in and out of the cockpit lazarettes (lockers). I store much of my running rigging there, all sails, and everything else that will eventually get used above deck. So I’m in and out of the lazarettes a lot, especially when setting up to launch.
I have all the gear well-organized on Summer Dance to make the process easier, but one thing has always bugged me—having to hold the lazarette lids open while I dig gear out. It’s not so bad with small items like a hank of rope or a fender. But larger items that take two hands like the BBQ grill and the outboard fuel tank used to leave me one hand short.
Like having a third hand
I’ve seen many different solutions to this problem: ties, props, bungees, and so forth but they’re all too much hassle for me, either to put in place or keep in place so that the lids don’t slam shut on my fingers, my head, or in the case of reaching deep into the port lazarette for a sail bag that slid too far forward, my back, which makes extricating myself a challenge.
My answer for a long time was these rubber covered gear ties from Nite Ize. They have a bendable wire in the middle that helps them hold whatever shape you bend them into.
I wrapped one around the nearest pushpit stanchion and bent a little hook at one end. When I would open a lazarette lid, the hook was right by the upper aft corner of the lid and I could slip the hook over the lip of the lid to hold it open.
It worked pretty well but it was still an extra step to getting into the lazarettes and they weren’t fail-safe. Occasionally, something would snag my “latch” and release the lid at just the wrong time.
Some boats use hatch springs like these from Five Oceans.
They’re simple to use. You just press lightly in the middle of the spring to fold it and close the lid. When you open the lid, the spring snaps straight again to hold the lid open. The problem is, if you bump the spring while getting gear out of the lazarette, the lid comes down on its own like before.
In my opinion, the best solution and the one used on many newer boats (and cars and campers and hundreds of other uses) is gas springs. You’ve probably seen and used these before, they’re so commonplace. They come in various lengths and strengths for almost any application. They work on the same principle as the shock absorbers on your car or truck. That is, a small piston moved by hydraulic fluid kept under pressure by a compressed gas, typically nitrogen.
Junk yard serendipity
I avoided resorting to gas springs for a long time due to the relatively high cost compared to the other solutions I mentioned above. It’s not a critical problem, after all. But I was doing some mechanical repairs to my wife’s car a while back and I needed to visit a local self-service auto wrecking yard for a part. I removed the part that I needed and I was leaving when I spotted another wrecked car near me with its trunk open and do you know what was holding it open? They looked short enough and were obviously strong enough. They were in my hands in 60 seconds and only cost a few bucks each, cheap enough to experiment with.
That was the easy part. The most difficult part of installing gas springs is figuring out the right place to mount each end so that the compressed gas spring fits in the lazarette opening when the lid is closed and so that it opens the lid completely when the gas spring extends.
The next challenge is selecting the right mounting bracket for each end: flat, offset, inside angled, or outside angled and with the correct ball size to fit the gas spring.
Installation is further complicated on the C-22 by the fact that there is a flange on the inside of each lazarette that matches the rubber seal around the bottom of each lid. The flange is in the way of mounting the bottom bracket directly to the inside of the lazarette. I solved that problem by making 3/4″ mahogany spacers sealed with teak oil.
With a little measuring and test fitting, I worked out a good placement. The installation itself was easy, two 3/16″ holes in each lid and two in each aft drain channel. I used #10 stainless steel fasteners sealed with butyl tape. One spring per lid is enough.
The result is lids that practically open themselves. All I have to do is unclip the lid hasp and the gas springs do the rest. They stay open until I shut them on purpose and they aren’t in the way of getting clumsy gear in and out.
Katie, bar the door!
I need to add a few words about safety here. Someone could object that if the lid hasp gets snagged by a sheet while the sailboat is broaching or knocked down and the gas spring accidentally opens the lazarette, water could flood the hull and sink the boat. Right. And if the mast gets struck by lightning as well, the sails could burst into flames but that wouldn’t be the gas spring’s fault either.
Seriously, though, your lazarettes should always have locks or snap hooks through the hasps (with or without gas springs) to prevent the lids from accidentally opening, even if the locks are cracked for easy removal. If those are always in place, they’ll never be missing when you need them, which is, incidentally, another reason that gas springs are so convenient. They make up for the hassle of removing the locks to open the lids.
This was kind of a tricky project to get right. I suspect that few of you readers will want to take it on from scratch, so I’ve assembled kits with everything that you need to do this project: 2 brand new gas springs, stainless steel hardware, custom white high density polyethylene spacers, and detailed yet easy to follow instructions. All you have to do is measure, mark, and drill the holes and then screw the springs in place. For more information or to place your order, see $tingy Sailor Lazarette EZ-Lift Kit.
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