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DON'S LOG: stories, experience and advice

Double Opening Hatches

Back in the old days, from the late 70 back to the earliest days of ocean racing cruising boats often raced and ocean racers also extensively cruised. The best dual purpose cruiser racers were designed and built between the early 50’s thru to the late 70’. It is notable that In that period all hatches were almost all double opening (photo) sketch) that enabled them while in port to be opened facing forward gathering plenty of air. At sea they were opened facing aft, still gathering air. When the spray started flying, canvas dodgers were put over the hatches drawing OSY 1 pg 282.To prevent water from driving up under the dodger, it was secured to a breakwater that extended across the forward side of the hatch, and down both sides, by any one of three attachments OSY 1pg 245. The aluminium extrusion that will take a luff rope sewn to the dodger and turnbuttons can both be bought from Sailrite, www.sailrite2.com.

With the arrival of mass produced boats the double opening hatch almost disappeared. The vast majority of cruising boat have only single opening hatches, no dodgers. Result, in port in the hot climates, if it starts raining the hatches must be close and the boat becomes a sweat box. At sea they are all sweat boxes as hatches must be closed to keep spray from getting below and the modern low profile dorade ventilators do not gather air. Mark Pillsbury, editor of Cruising World reports racing from ? in states to ? in mexico on a boat whose ventilation was so bad that they had to run the generator for 24 hours a day so they could keep the air conditioning going to make below decks habitable.

It is possible to retrofit double opening hatches protected by a dodger to the modern fiberglass boat. Double opening hatches with stainless steel frames made in Taiwan, can be purchased from HBI@hbimarine.com They come in three sizes 34, 24 and 19 1/2inches square and cost $1,500,1100,955 respectively. They can be delivered in the states 35 days after ordering

One problem with double opening hatches, you are in port, hatches opening up facing forward, plenty of air, but it starts to rain, someone has to go on deck, get wet, close the hatch, switch the pins the open the hatch facing aft. Facing aft, this eliminates most of the rain and some air still gets down below.

Goiot back in the early 70’s designed a hatch that opened either facing fore or aft that could switched from forward facing to aft facing without going in deck!!! Unfortunately Goiot did not market them properly and they did not sell too well. Goiot as a company slowly went down hill and no longer exists.

Recently, while walking the dock in Rodney Bay Marina, I saw on Synia, a Mercer 44’sloop designed by the late Bill Trip built in 1978 by Cape Cod shipbuilding, a double opening hatch that can be reversed without going on deck. Not only that but as seen in the photo when fully opened it will open 180 degrees fore or aft and lie flat on the deck. The owner, Chuck Hogan has owned Synia for 10 years.. He and his wife cruised up and down the east coast of Florida until he retired in 2013. Since then he has been cruising the Caribbean He is very enthusiastic about the hatch. Both the deck and hatch frames are cast aluminium. When closed, it is tightened by dogs in all a FOUR corners see photo, and never leaks a drop!!!! It was installed when Synia was built in 1974. It has stood the test of time The previous owner who owned her for 27 years. He sailed transatlantic, then back across the atlantic to Brazil. He then spent six years circumnavigating South America, doing much of his cruising in the high latatudes. Finally back across the Caribbean to the states doing 52,000 miles in Synia before Chuck bought her. In his ten years of ownership, Chuck says if properly dogged down it has never leaked a drop!!!

Chuck very kindly did extensive checking. The hatch was made by Bowmar, bowmar@pompahette.com as a production item back in the 1970’s It was installed on boats built by Cape Cod shipbuilding building but obviously was never really well marketed to any production boat builders. Nor was it ever advertised in Cruising World nor Sail.

At this point Bowmar will make them as special order for a little over $3,000. But if they properly marketed the hatch, send a copy of this article to the powers to be of all the bare boat companies in the Caribbean as almost universally bare boat hatches are single opening facing forward. When sailing, if the least bit of spray is flying the hatches must be closed making below decks a sauna bath!!!! The same is true in port on rainy days!!!

They should also send this article to the powers to be in the big production boat builders, Benateau, Jenneau, Bravia, Hansa etc, then have a salesman follow up and visit the firms, hatch in hand. If this is done, I am sure the hatch would go back in production at a reasonable price.

If this happens Cruising World, myself and Craig will have done our bit to make boats better ventilated and more comfortable both at sea and in port.

Wooden boats can usually by buying and installing hinges with removable pins, available from Wilcox Crittenden for 70 or more years. By installing hatchs with removable pins they can make their single opening hatches double opening, or build new hatches to fit the existing hatch carlins. On fiberglass boats if Bowmar goes back into production with their double opening hatch that can be reversed without going on deck, at a reasonable price, remove the existing single opening hatch and install a double opening hatch from Bowmar

Wooden boats can usually by buying and installing hinges with removable pins, available from Wilcox Crittenden for 70 or more years. By installing hatchs with removable pins they can make their single opening hatches double opening, or build new hatches to fit the existing hatch carlins. On fiberglass boats if Bowmar goes back into production with their double opening hatch that can be reversed without going on deck, at a reasonable price, remove the existing single opening hatch and install a double opening hatch from Bowmar

If the Bowmar hatch is too expensive buy and install the HBI stainless double opening hatch.

Spend some money, install double opening hatches and achieve a boat that is well ventilated both at sea and in port

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