Make This Companionway Hatch Cover In Under a Day

If you leave your sailboat exposed to the elements for long periods of time or if you just want to keep your brightwork bright, it helps to cover the main hatch to reduce damage from UV rays, rain and snow, and bird droppings. Making one isn’t hard and you can do it in less than a day with about a yard of canvas, depending on the size of your hatch.

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The curious cavalcade of canvas construction continues here at The $tingy Sailor. (How’s that for abusing the english language?) This is a new project that is not yet included in my ebook Do-It-Yourself Small Sailboat Canvaswork but it will be when the next edition is published. Until then, you can download a dimensioned drawing of this project for the first generation Catalina 22 from the Downloads page if you’re a subscriber. To subscribe for free, just submit your email address at the bottom of this page.

I designed this cover to be economical, easy to make, and to take advantage of the snap studs that are already installed on C-22s that have a pop top curtain. If your C-22 doesn’t have a pop top curtain, it will work for you too. You just need to install the snap screw studs. It protects the sliding hatch weatherboard & handle, most of the crib board trim, companionway threshold, and of course, the crib boards. It snaps on and off and folds for easy storage.

Materials, supplies, and tools list

What you’ll need for this project is:

Construction steps

Here are the basic steps to make this hatch cover. Adapt these instructions accordingly for other sailboat models or to customize the design for your needs.

1. Using the drawing or your own measurements, lay out the shape of the cover on the canvas with a pencil, a soapstone pencil in my case. Allow an extra 1-1/2″ on the sides and top for double-folded, double-stitched seams. These will reinforce the snap sockets to prevent them from pulling out from repeated use. Allow 1/2″ at the bottom for a single-fold, single-stitched seam.

Cover dimensions and existing snap stud locations transferred to the canvas with a soapstone pencil

2. Cut the canvas with a hot knife (preferable) or scissors.

3. (Optional) Apply basting tape to the side edges on the wrong side of the canvas.

4. Fold the sides in 1/2″ from the edges.

5. Fold the sides in again 1″ from the first fold.

6. Double-stitch the sides 1/8″ in from each fold as shown below.

Double stitching the sides and top with universal walking foot attached.

7. Where shown on the drawing, make 3/4″ darts (wrong side up) with several passes across the side seams. Adjust the placement and size of the darts to fit your hatch. This is a stress point in the cover so make them strong.

Outside (L) and inside (R) of the top corner darts

8. Where shown on the drawing, make 1/2″ darts (wrong side up)to fit the canvas around the hatch handle. Adjust the placement and size of the darts to fit your hatch.

Wrong side of the cover with side and handle darts shown.

9.  Repeat steps 3-6 to make the top seam.

10. Make a single-fold, single-stitch seam across the bottom. The sewing is done!

11. Mark the locations of the (4) top snaps along the hatch front rib as shown in the pictures below. Place the two middle snaps where they will miss the handle darts (4 or 5 layers of canvas).

12. Drill and countersink the holes to install the snap screw studs.

13. Install the snap screw studs with marine sealant like butyl tape. For tips, see How To Bed Hardware With Butyl Tape.

Snap screw stud installed in the sliding hatch.

14. With a snap fastener installation tool, install snap sockets in the cover for each snap stud. To learn how, watch the Snap Fastener Installation Tool video produced by Sailrite. You want the cover to fit tightly. I recommend installing the top corner snaps first. Have a friend help you to pull the cover tight across the top of the hatch. Use the awl to mark each location by punching through the cover to the center of the snap stud underneath. Then remove the cover and install the snaps in the holes you just made. Next, install the two middle top snaps with the same method. Last, pull the cover tightly down and to the sides to place the side snaps. 

Your finished cover should look like this…

Completed cover snapped in place
Top snaps and form-fitting darts

Summer Dance is hibernating for the winter as I write this with the companionway tightly covered. I also snap this cover on throughout the other seasons whenever I won’t be taking her out for days at a time. It only takes a few seconds and should delay refinishing the brightwork for years.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Filipe Messias says:

    Great project! But I´d love to see one on that neat PVC tubular frame that you are using for the winter cover and that can be seen on the 6th pic 🙂

    1. Hi, Filipe

      Actually, it’s not made of PVC tubing but steel. It’s a portable garage frame with a poly tarp over it. I considered a PVC frame but the winds get too high here at times.

      Thanks for asking,

  2. Darren says:

    Really grateful for all of these blog posts – adapting many projects for my new-to-me Catalina 25. One thing I’ve wondered – and you can see them clearly in the post pictures – where did you get or did you make those great looking line hangers? Is there a post about those? They really class up the joint and look very useful. This is a wintertime project I think I could get behind.

    1. Hi, Darren
      I made those myself and they work great. I can hang two hanks on each one and just a tug releases them.

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