Dropboard Retainer Repair

Yesterday I addressed a problem with one of the teak pieces that hold the drop boards in place.  It serves double duty as a sliding hatch stop – a function in which it serves poorly.

Split from the top.  Also couldn't remove the piece intact and torn a section out of the back.

Split from the top (rounded area). Also couldn’t remove the piece intact and torn a section out of the back.

If the sliding motion to close the hatch isn’t gentle enough, the upright is in danger of trying to stop the momentum of this very heavy hatch.  It is liable to split or break if hit too hard.  I’ll have to think of a method for a hatch slider stop, probably mounted inside and forward at the edge of the opening.  Anyway, the occasion for removal of the old retainer is to replace due to damage.  The piece was susceptible to damage anyway, as there is a fairly pronounced knothole in the top of it.  The split starts at the top, and passes directly through the knot hole.  Upon removing the piece, I also found rot in the knot hole – I guess this is a good place to trap moisture.  The piece was held in place with eight screws and 3M5200.  Eight screws seems like over-kill to me, but add 5200 to the installation and it’s more like welding, then bolting two pieces of steel together.  Perhaps the construction crew was nervous about the hatch-stop function, and 5200ed it in place for good measure. . .  Nah – they just had a tube of 5200 on hand and stuck the piece on with it, then screwed it down.

I began by removing the bungs and unscrewing the fasteners.  Then the hard part: slowly leveraging the teak board away from the gelcoat surface it is bonded to.  I used DeBond solvent to release the 5200.  It is effective, but patience is required.  With a series of chisels, a screw driver and putty knife, I gradually lifted the edge and squirted DeBond in the opening, gradually achieving full release of the adhesive.  And although it wasn’t possible to reuse the old piece and glue it back together, I still preserved the shape of the piece to use as a pattern for the new.

I have some left-over 2″ x .5″ teak decking that is the perfect thickness.  I just needed to edge-glue two pieces together to get stock that was wide enough.  I wet out the edges with straight resin, then applied epoxy thickened with 407 bonding/fairing compound.  The thickened epoxy fills any gaps and makes a stronger bond.  Thickening it with fairing compound makes it easier to sand smooth.

I marked the new piece and cut to shape.  Then sanded smooth with two successively finer grades of paper, relieving the edges of sharp corners.  I finally hand-sanded the rounded over portions to remove unfair machine sanding marks.

Old and new

Old and new

I drilled the fastener holes, then drilled the 3/8s bung holes through roughly half the depth of the piece with my drill press.  Except for the first hole drilled. . .  I wasn’t paying attention to holding the work securely, and let it ride up the drill bit!  Sigh. . .  So I mounted the 1/2″ drill bit and drilled it out, then chucked the 1/2″ plug cutter and cut a couple of plugs from scrap teak, then patched the big stupid hole. I left the fastener out of that hole.  I think the plug is securely glued in place, but I don’t want to disturb it again, and the piece doesn’t really need 8 fasteners.  So firmly holding down the piece, I drilled the rest of the bung holes with no further drama.

I dry fit the piece to ensure screw hole alignment, then took it off to apply sealant (Boatlife polysulfied).  I had meant to tape the outline before I caulked. . . well, this is my life.  Curiously, I taped afterward, and it worked out okay.  It doesn’t seem to matter much, because I make a mess with this stuff regardless of tape or gloves (always a challenge to remember gloves).  Good thing there is mineral spirits.  I cleaned up the mess, and it looked like this before bungs:

Mounted with screws exposed

Mounted with screws exposed

I had cut some plugs.  After anointing them with varnish to glue them in the hole, I tapped them home. Hmm. . .  some of the holes seems too shallow.  I torqued down a few of the more shallow screws and tried again.  I may need to used honest-to-goodness glue with these, as they still seemed set in a bit shallow.  We’ll see if they trim out okay.  If not, I’ll use a waterproof wood glue.  You hate to use a permanent bond, because they may have to come out again some day.  Epoxy will tear out the sides of the bung hole upon removal of the bung.

Plugs cut from scrap.

Plugs cut from scrap.



Finally, I cleaned up and cast off the dock lines, motoring out into the creek and into the bay.  The weather was miserable and humid, damp, overcast and sub-60 degrees, but I had to use the boat for something besides projects, after sitting at the pier for a month.

Oh yeah - we can use it as a boat too!

Oh yeah – we can use it as a boat too!

I removed several plastic winch handle pockets because they were in the way, and I hate the way they look anyway.  Now I have screw holes to fill.  You can tell from my duck-tape-sealant on the depth panel, that I have to reseal that too.  These kind of things always keep boat owners busy.


  1. I have been thinking off an on about changing our companionway of the W33 from drop boards and sliding hatch to a hinged hatch that lifts up to create an opening which would have a pair off doors that lead below. The advantage to this is easier and more effective screening but also a way to poke your head up from below to see if the rain has stopped so you can go sailing without opening any screened area. Bugs are a big problem in MN after about mid June. Name a type of insect and we have gobs of them. This is also why I am going to build arches over the cockpit with the traveler on the rear one with the entire perimeter able to be screened when sailing. Our center cabin hatch will be filled with a deck top A/C cooling unit. The forward hatch will probably be screened at the deck level rather than a big area of screen when it is open. That A/C is only going to run on shore power but we have a small gen that could run it afloat. But after all we do have a lot of ports! They just have to be screened. Anyway what are your thoughts on the idea of changing to a lifting hatch and doors??
    Alan Curtis Wilson.

    • Alan, I think it’s a great idea if it works for the way your boat is set up. It won’t work for ours – and I think space is the ultimate challenge. My complaint about any kind of doors for our boat is what to do with them when they are open. They eat up space in the open position. Once they are open, if they open and stow against the bulkhead (still installed), that is prime seating with a backrest. I get that you can lift them off, and that may be the answer for our boat too, so that when you are sailing, the doors are off and stowed. The lifting top sounds like a great idea for looking about without being subject to attack. Just keep the top of your head off the screen! Ultimately though, I feel that once they are open, it won’t take too long for us to feel like they’re in the way. At that point, we may as well have had swashboards the whole time.

  2. Anonymous said:

    did the same last year using much thicker boards..this spring will overhaul the companionway hatch.

  3. Thanks Rick! This is a project that may never happen. The thought came to me when seeing a commercial for those screens for a patio door that you can walk through and then they magnetically close up after you have passed. The thought of having that on the entrance to the cabin was intoxicating. BUt, oh there are buts, how do you pass through something that means you are climbing down a ladder?? We have one more step on our ladder than yours but the real problem are secure hand holds. I am thinking of some form of rails to grab onto that are on the cabin top or come very close to it since the ones in the middle of the companionway are too low for me to reach as I start below. That led to the thought of a lifting hatch whose triangular side pieces would fold down off it’s back inside side and then fit into the existing sliding hatch tracks. This would allow the fitting of a rail that would slide onto the top edge of a rail rising on either side of the companionway and replaces the little wood ones in the center. I have already discovered that 1″ stainless pipe can take a 3/4″ stainless rod as a fairly tight fit, might even need a little work to get it in, and that could extend up to just below the hatch then after being opened I slide on the upper extensions! It might keep me from falling on my butt on the counter down below again! Yeah, been there done that! Any rate It will take awhile for I need to do the drawings and figure out how to close the additional space above the current drop boards. I haven’t heard the term swashboards before, does that have to do with swash bucklers?? Fly the Jolly Roger because we modified our boats??
    Well laugh a little.
    Alan W.

    • I don’t know where the term comes from, but I’ve heard/read it before. Don’t think swashbuckling is involved, fortunately – I’m not too good at that!

      Sounds like a good plan for your companionway. Hope to see photos of it if/when you do it.

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