The Forward Hatch & Lifelines

The picture to the left is the forward hatch from the outside. Since the top of the cabin is curved, I built a teak frame to go around the hatch so that the bottom of the frame fit the contour of the top of the cabin. The top of the frame is flat for the lip of the hatch to mount to. When installing a hatch, you must make sure that it does not bend or it will leak. I sealed the frame to the top of the cabin and the hatch with calking.

You can also see the life lines I installed and also the Anchor Holder mounted to the front of the Bow Pulpit.

Forward Hatch:

To make the teak frame, I cut four pieces of wood long enough to extend past the corners of the hatch. I have not completed the frame yet, because I need to determine the curved shape of the front and back pieces of the frame before I assemble the frame. I marked where I wanted to mount the hatch on the cabin top and then used a scroll saw to cut out the opening in the fiberglass for the hatch.

NOTE: In hindsight, if I had to do it again, I would complete the teak frame, assemble it, finish the contours to match the cabin top and make sure the hatch fit the frame before I cut out the fiberglass hole in the top of the cabin.

Although this is a finished picture of the hatch mounted, you can see that I used a simple "school" compass to mark the curve of the cabin top to the forward and rear hatch frames. I placed the front teak hatch frame member at the edge of the opening where I am going to mount the hatch and then put the compass tip (metal) against the cabin top and adjusted the pencil end to the bottom of the front hatch frame at one end. I used a level to make sure the hatch frame did not move or pivot. Then I moved the compass to the other end, marking the contour of the cabin top curve to the front teak frame member. I repeated these steps for the back frame member at the front of the opening since there is not much difference between the front and the back of the opening as far as the curve of the cabin top and calking would make up for the differences.

Next I took the front and rear frame members and used a saber saw to cut the marked curved contour of the cabin into the teak frame members. I also used my table saw to put a 5 degree angle on the bottom of the two side frame members. This is to allow for the curve of the cabin top on the two side frame members. The cabin top curves from left to right, but is fairly straight from bow to stern. The piece on the right (in the picture) has the widest side of the frame member to the right and the piece on the left has the widest side of the frame to the left. Remember they have to be opposite of each other.

I then cut lap joints where the end pieces of each frame rail would meet the next frame rail. Once I completed my cutting, I put the frame together with lap joints on the ends where the frames pieces meet and secured (optional) with a dowel on each corner. After the glue dried, I sanded the top to give me a flat surface and sanded the bottom to smooth all of the contact points. I then rounded each outside corner of the frame to eliminate any sharpe edges and then did a final sanding of the completed frame.

Once the frame was completed, I used calk around the bottom of the frame and stainless steal screws to fasten the frame to the cabin top. The screws for the frame are drilled from inside of the cabin. Then I fastened the hatch to the frame using calk and stainless steal screws. I waited two days to allow the calk to set up before I tightened the screws. With my hatch, there is a face plate which goes on the inside of the cabin with screws.


Since the Commodore 17 did not offer lifelines as an option, I did not have a source for stanchions. Therefore, I had a friend design my four stanchions so that they angled slightly away from the cabin. This would give me room to walk between the lifelines and the cabin. I then had a metal fabricator make the stanchions from stainless steel. I also had a circular backing plate made for each stanchion to provide support inside of the cabin. They are bolted through the deck and the backing plate.

Since the bolts extended about an inch inside of the cabin, I built four teak blocks and mounted them over the extended bolts. This not only protected passengers from hitting the exposed bolts, but also gave me a base to mount hooks for my monkey hammocks and for hanging extra lines.

I had lifelines made from coated wire and mounted the forward end to the bow pulpit using a "U" fastener with stainless steel screws attached to the bow pulpit.

Since the Commodore 17 does not have a stern pulpit and I did not want to clutter up the transom, I mounted the stern end of the lifelines to the coamings around the cockpit. Again, I used a "U" fastener with stainless steel screws to attach the fastener to the deck. A better method would be to use stainless steel bolts with backing washers below the deck, but I have not had any trouble with my current installation for 15 years. Also, lifelines are only used to help with going to the bow of the boat around the cabin and not to be used as a safety line, should you fall overboard.

All through deck connections were thoroughly caulked with boat caulk and allowed to cure before the final tightening of all of the fasteners.