Join Date: May 2007
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EZ Companionway Door
Here's a companionway door solution that's working great for me.
I sail on Lake Michigan. Our season's cool at the start and cool at the end, so when you're relaxing in the cabin, it's nice to have the hatch boards in place so the cold wind doesn't get you. I don't have to tell you what a pain in the neck it is every time you decide to go up on deck.
I wanted something to replace the hatch boards for when we're lounging around in the cabin with the heater on. As much as I'd like to have some of those nice, hinged custom made doors made for my Catalina 309, it's not in the budget. I wanted to make something:
2. durable / long lasting
3. easy to use
4. easy to store
5. and VERY easy to make (and QUICK)
6. reasonably good looking (at least from a distance)
I thought I'd just go with something like 1/4" luann plywood and put a coat of white house paint on it. But...I was feeling too lazy to sand, prime, and paint.
I've been using some 4x8, 1/16" inch thick Plas-tex panel for making patterns for some items I've been sewing. I thought about using that material, but it's not rigid enough. I went to Menard's where I usually find the Plas-tex panels and discovered they have the same Plas-tex panel, but with a corrugated plastic backing that brings the thickness up to 5/16" of an inch. Much more rigid. This stuff's made for things like shower walls. It's waterproof, but not made for exterior use.
I bought a 4x8 sheet for 30 bucks and cut it to fit my companionway. I used a circular saw, but a razor knife would have done just fine. One panel will make two or three doors, easily.
This is a handy door. It stores in the cockpit locker. It only weighs a few ounces. It can't scratch your fiberglass or hurt your boat in any way.
Go below, slip the panel in place, and slide the hatch shut. When you go up on deck, just slide the hatch open and set the panel aside. Waaaay easier than hatch boards. Also much easier than a fabric and velcro setup.
Durability: Not for exterior use so it's bound to yellow and get brittle someday. For as much as I use it, I expect to get a decade out of it. You can bend it to about 90 degrees before it starts to crease. A crease degrades the rigidity a little, but not much.
Obviously, it won't work for everyone. We're coastal cruisers who primarily daysail, hang out on the boat, and make the occasional week or two week cruise. For us, it's perfect.
We also have a plywood screen insert for when it's warm and the bugs are feisty.