Hatches & Latches

One of the things you need to decide along the way of building this boat is how and where to access the storage areas.  After much thought and deliberation, I decided my hatches needed to do the following:

  1. First and foremost is convenient access.  What, not waterproofness?  That’s correct.  I place the convenience factor as numero uno.
  2. Hinged as opposed to pop-off style.  I don’t want to remove a door and place it somewhere before reaching into the hatch, so a hinge is important to me.
  3. Proud fit not flush.  I want my hatches to sit on-top of, not down into the storage areas. My simple reasoning for this is to better prevent water intrusion.  If the hatch sits proud of the hull, water needs to get up over the lip before it can drop down into the storage area.  This may not be a benefit in a capsize, but may prove beneficial in an afternoon rain shower.
  4. Simple and easy to install.  I’m a simple dude.

But doesn’t this style of hatch leak?  Probably yes, but I’ve heard and read that all hatches leak.  I figure, if I take on a little water, so be it.  I’m hoping not to be in a capsize situation very often.  If I am overly concerned about this, I can always pack my gear in waterproof river bags.  I have a ton of those laying around because I also kayak and whitewater raft.

The hatches I choose were all purchase from Duckworks Magazine.  They appear solid, simple and practical.  The hinge is stainless and the overall appearance is one of quality.


This is just one way to skin this cat.  Many others have utilized other methods and are very happy with their systems.

I’m still trying to decide what hatch to use on the seats.  My concern is that the raised flange of this hatch may not be comfortable to sit on.  So, I’m still undecided about seat hatches.  Always more to think about.

Building “The Vault”

The decision to utilize fixed ballast creates a few unique issues.  Will the boat be strong enough to handle the added weight once outside the water?  Will trailering the boat with this added weight create an issue?  Simply put, will it work or will it fall apart?  Simeon suggested I email the designer and pose these questions prior to moving forward.  I felt this was good counsel, so I drafted a quick email, not knowing if I would even receive a reply.  Well, the reply came.  John’s only advice was to tie the bottom of The Vault into the bulkheads on all sides.  And, he felt my design was “on the right track”.  With this reassurance, I moved forward.

Several issues needed to be resolved:

  1. I knew the ballast needed to be accessible and removable.  What if it gets wet?  What if I need to service the BH area?  What if I want to remove some weight?  Hence, the design had to allow me to tweak, dry and access the ballast.  So, I had Jennifer sew up straps from nylon webbing to facilitate easy removal.  These sleeve around the individual plates and allow a great hand hold.
  2. I knew the plates could not move or gain momentum.  The weight needed to be absolutely stationary.  So, I built a box that didn’t allow any movement.  I epoxied this box to the bottom of the hull between BH 4-5.
  3. I knew, based on John’s advise, I should fillet the box into the surrounding bulkheads for added strength.
  4. I knew I had to allow access to the CB pivot bolt for servicing of the centerboard.

The photos below show what I came up with.  

DSC00003 These webbing straps not only provide a great hand hold, they also cushion the plates from each other.DSC00006 The Vault proper.DSC00008All parts received 2 coats of epoxy.  DSC00010The bottom of The Vault, showing how it’s screwed into the sides. DSC00004The top edge of the sides were drilled to receive a 5/16″ threaded lag.DSC00005Stainless threaded lag with thumb screw and washer.DSC00002By using two nuts, tightened against each other, you simply screw them in.  I applied epoxy to the hole and lag threads prior to insertion.  DSC00001This allows convenient access to the lid of The Vault.  DSC00013Epoxied to the bottom of the hull and surrounding bulkheads.DSC00010I cut a portion of the lid back to allow access to the CB pivot bolt.DSC00014  If you look closely, you can see the CB access cutout on the left side of the lid.DSC00044I purchased an extra long stainless CB pivot bolt.  I wanted the finished bolt to be solid shaft without the threaded section.  This bolt cut easily with a hack saw.  I softened the edges with a metal file.

DSC00010I choose to epoxy the wooden plate to the CB case and decided not to make it removable.   I felt it would be easier to seal the bolt hole, than the entire wooden plate.  I then cut the bolt a little long.  My thinking here was to allow room to silicon the bolt shaft to the wooden plate while still allowing full access to the bolt head for easier removal and service of the centerboard.

The fixed ballast idea felt good to me.  Others have utilized water for ballast and I’m sure many are very happy with their systems.  If you are wanting a different way of accomplishing ballast, maybe this system can be of interest to you.  If not, water seems to be a simple solution.

Now placing my attention on BH 3-1 and access hatches.  

Fixed Ballast for Shackleton

Water or fixed ballast?

Scamp is designed to take on approximately 175 lb. of water as ballast.  I never felt quite right about this design characteristic.  Though I appreciate the concept of water ballast in larger sailboats (where weight savings can be over 1,000 lb.) I question whether the benefits are realized in small sailing vessels. If you want the lightest trailering rig possible, then water ballast proves to be advantageous.  However, to me, Scamp is such a light sailboat, that to add fixed ballast doesn’t seem to present any real problems or huge disadvantages.

Some of the draw backs of water ballast may include:

  1. Drilling a hole in the bottom of the boat to bring in water.
  2. Maintaining the water tank from algae or microbial growth.
  3. Transporting invasive larvae (think quagga mussels here.)
  4. Sealing the water tank from surrounding water tight compartments inside the boat.
  5. Accessing the drain hole each time you sail.
  6. Toping off the water tank with additional water (gravity doesn’t’ completely fill the water chamber) each time you sail.
  7. Draining the water tank after each sail.
  8. Drying the water tank from residual water after each sail.

Some of the advantages of fixed ballast may include:

  1. Never forgetting to fill the ballast tank before setting sail.
  2. No maintenance, with dry ballast I can fix it and forget it.
  3. No water sloshing around to potentially destabilize the boat.
  4. Dryer cockpit sole.  I know I would spill water each and every time I top off the water tank with a pitcher of water.
  5. Lower center of gravity.
  6. Adjustable by adding or removing additional plates as needed.
  7. Storage of additional heavy gear in this same BH area.

For these reasons, I’ve decided to add 150 lb. of fixed ballast in Shackleton.  Why 150 lb.?  I’m simply guessing that 150 lb. fastened directly to the bottom of Scamp is worth at least 175 lb. of water dispersed over the entire water tank area.  With these ideas rattling around in my head, I visited Pacific Steel for my ballast needs.  DSC01000DSC00991DSC00998DSC00997DSC00004 I had them cut 6 pieces of flat bar, measuring 3/4″ x 6″ x 20″.  Each of these plates weigh 25 lb.  This will give me 153 lb. of ballast in the bottom of my boat.DSC00002Cleaning up the rough edges.   DSC00005DSC00006  Coating all sides with two coats of graphite epoxy.  I will then build a wooden box to hold the plates.  This box will be glued to the bottom of the hull.


I’m hoping these changes will simplify and quicken my sailing experience.  Anytime I can simplify my life, I’m usually happy with the results.  Hopefully these changes will bring about similar results.

Box design to follow.


Let the Filleting Begin

It took a lot of preparation before I felt ready to begin the fillets.  I wasn’t sure exactly how to do these.  I had read a few suggestions, but much was unknown.  At 5:00 pm I started.  I had all fillets for BH 4-7 done by 10:40 that evening.  DSC00001DSC00002DSC00005This is BH 5 on the Starboard side.  It fell approximately 24″ off the boat onto a cement floor.  This fall snapped the top portion completely off the BH.  If you look real close you can see the hair line break running from the V notch to the C curve horizontally.  I epoxied/glassed around the joint.  I’m sure it’s now stronger than the original.  What are the chances of a 24″ fall breaking this BH?  I was very surprised to see it laying in two pieces.  DSC00003These enlarged openings will make gear access much easier.  I’m really glad I took the time to open up these BH’s.  DSC00004This photo shows the pivot bolt end plate installed on the outboard side of the CB case.  The plans show this plate being installed on the inboard side of the CB case.   I moved it for two reasons:  1- I’ll have better access to the bolt from a large hatch on the cockpit sole, and 2- I’m planning to use fixed ballast, so water exposure to the bolt head (and the surrounding calk) is not an issue.   DSC00007Sure fun to see things start to take shape.

Steps I took to accomplish the fillets:

  1. Prepare all needed supplies (plastic cup, gloves, zip lock baggies, stir sticks, wood flour, silica, etc.)
  2. Lightly paint all joints with unthickened epoxy.
  3. Poop out the thickened epoxy into the joint areas to be filleted.
  4. Run a wide popsicle stick through the joint to smooth out the ugly fillet.  Apply pressure and angle as needed to accomplish a smooth joint.
  5. Clean up the jet streams (the small spill out on both sides of the fillet) with a small flat stick or putty knife.
  6. Wait.
  7. Dip your gloved finger in denatured alcohol and run your finger over the joint for final joint smoothing.

What I learned:

  1. Don’t sweat the fillets.
  2. They go on fairly ugly, but clean right up throughout the process noted above.
  3. You can add additional fillet material the next morning, if your fillet appears too small.
  4. Denatured alcohol helps smooth fillets and facilitates clean up.
  5. Have plenty of wood filler, as this process takes a ton of wood filler.
  6. The mixture needs to be fairly stiff or it will run, especially when applied over wet epoxy.

Bulkheads, Hatches and Access

I have spent a great deal of time trying to wrap my head around bulkheads, hatches and access.  There is so much potential storage and hatch access that one is left wondering, ‘how much is enough and how shall I access enough?

I’ve decided to go with one Russell Brown hatch for each seat top. So, if I’m only using one hatch, I need great access.  The kit drilled BH access holes are quite small.  So, I decided to open up the BH holes 5-6 for better access.  DSC00002 Yes, I really wanted to just start filleting these in place, but I’ve learned that sometimes you have to take one step backwards before you can take two steps forward.  The time to enlarge these holes is now, before they get installed in the boat.DSC00003 DSC00004After cutting the openings with a jig saw, I cleaned up any rough areas with a hand plane and wood file, then I grabbed the router to soften the edges with an 1/8″ round over bit.  

After putting two coats of epoxy on all the newly formed edges, I’m now ready to clean up and re-sand these areas.  Hoping to move to epoxy filleting by week end.