Featured Post - How to repair a leaking hatch Part 1

How I stopped a leaking hatch that kept hundred of dollars in my pocket


Drip-Drip gives way to drizzle-drizzle, and if you don’t do something, it turns into pour-pour.  This is the cycle of an above the water leak on a boat and was no exception for us when we had one of the smaller overhead hatches start leaking.  On the Last Affair, our 43′ Gulfstar Sloop, we have four opening hatches all made by Atkins and Hoyle.  Luckily this is one of the few companies that survived the economic downturn in the marine industry in the late 70’s and mid-80’s.  The owner and his son still run a repair shop and manufacture hatches on a much smaller scale than in their hay day.

Given the volume of information, I may cover this topic in 3 categories.  Removal, Repair, and Re-installation.

Where does my hatch leak

Once you have identified a leak, it is good to understand where it is coming from.  Is the leak between the glass andthe frame or is it between the frame and the deck.  This is an important first step to avoid chasing problems that don’t exist.  Inspect it carefully when it is raining hard to see if the water is running down the inside of the hatch lid, or if it starts below that.  This will tell you if it is coming in above the frame, making the glass the culprit.     See the blog post at http://svdreamchaser.com/2017/06/replacinghatchglass.html  for an in-depth review of how to replace and bed glass in the frame along with a video showing how to do it.

In this case, the leak was coming from below the frame so in our case it was either below the aluminum frame or below the decorative deck spacer and sleeve that goes on top of the deck extending down through the core to provide a finished look to the inside of the hatches.

Unscrewing the hatchWe started by opening the hatch and disconnecting the latching mechanism that holds that hatch open at any angle.  The Atkins & Hoyle hatches have a single rod hinge system that allows the hatches to open forward or backward.  I have found the easiest way to remove these is to remove the nut on one side and tap it gently with a rubber mallet.  I always remove the furthest from the center of the boat and tap the rod toward the center.  This way if I were to drop it, I have a much less chance of it going overboard.  I use a small bolt or nail to tap the end of the rod when it becomes flush with the hinge of the frame itself.   Once out, it was screw removal time.  Be very cautious not to strip the heads of any of the bolts or screws.

Tips & Tricks – As you remove the screws arrange them in the location they were removed from.  This will allow you to see if there are different size screws or types and remember where they go back in when you are re-assembling.

Using Scraper for cutting hatch sealantAfter all the screws are out, it is time to break the seal of whatever the previous adhesive was.  My favorite tools for doing this are what Deb and I now affectionately call “Handy Andy” and a paint scraper.  I don’t know why we call it that, but it is now the only way we describe it.  “Have you seen Handy Andy?”  “Would you pass me, Handy Andy.”  I am sure observers think we are nuts.  It is a very thin but rigid scraper with a wooden handle that allows me to tap on it with a hammer or mallet and get into very tight spaces.  I like to use a paint scraper as well as it is more rigid and allows for me to do a little bit of prying with it as well.  I push them under the frame to break/cut the adhesive that is there and work my way around the frame.

Gently pry the hatch loose from deckIf the seal is very tight and the gap between the frame and surface is very thin, it helps me to start with Handy Andy because it is flexible.  I will pop it in along a corner and wiggle it back and forth to remove it.  Then I repeat right next to that spot until I have a section about 5 inches wide or so that has been done.  The paint scraper will go in a little easier once that has been done and can often time be used to go the rest of the way around it.  Once the majority of it is cut, I start the process of removing the frame.  I usually start with a few flat head screwdrivers for this task.

When I have the material all cut with the scrapers, I will start on a rigid section, usually a corner, and tap a small flat blade screwdriver into the gap.  As you tap it, you should see the frame starting to lift and the adhesive stretch.  Put the second screwdriver a few inches next to it and tap that one in.  Once in, remove the first and play leap frog around it prying with each tap.   Once you have the gap formed in about half of the frame, use a flat pry bar under the surface to further stretch the sealant/adhesive loose.   Don’t pry from one location, move the pry bar around to stretch the adhesive the same amount as you rotate around the hatch.   Be very cautious not to bend the frame as you remove it.   This is a slow process and may take an hour to remove the frame. It is not done through brute force but rather slowly cutting and stretching the material holding it down.

Be patient, it can take a while to break the seal of the current adhesive so don’t try to rush it.

In our case, once the frame was off, we had to repeat the process for a decorative riser that fit down through the core of the deck.  I believe the purpose of the riser was two-fold.  It compensates for the slight curve of the deck giving the hatches a flat surface to be mounted.  It also provides a beautiful decorative ring that covers the view of the gap between the top deck and the lower headliner or overhead material.  It gives it a very nice finished look.

We removed this the same way as we did the frame, it added twice the work for us on this task.

cleaning the old sealant off the hatch frameAt this point, it was clean up time.  We needed to clean the surface of the deck, the underside of the decorative spacer, the top of the spacer and the bottom side of the aluminum frame.  I start all of these cleanup jobs the same way.  I want to remove as much of the old ‘stuff’ as possible in the easiest way.  For me, that is with the paint scraper and a flat razor/scraper.    When you are doing a job like this, it is helpful to sharpen the paint scraper every so often.  It doesn’t have to be sharp like a knife.   But, a quick rub on 150 grit sandpaper on the flat side and the beveled side will make the scraping and cutting of material much easier.

Using Acetone to clean the hatch surface for beddingI use the paint scraper first and then come back and clean again with the razor scraper.  When the majority of the material is removed, I then use acetone to rub the rest of the surface clean.  I just fold a rag into a small 4″ square or so, hold it over the acetone container and tip it to get it soaked on a 1-inch diameter spot.  That is the part I used to rub and clean from repeating the process of soaking it in acetone often.  I use the acetone liberally because it is not that expensive and trying to conserve it usually extends the job by a lot of time replaced with more rubbing.  For a hatch that is one by 2 feet, I may use a pint or so of acetone for this whole job.

If you were leaking from the upper lid where the glass is seated in the opening frame, we have a post and video on how to remove, clean and replace that as well.  Check out our post  “Everything you need to know about replacing Hatch Glass”

Check out Part 2 for how to repair and rebed the hatch.