Working on the boat

Resealing a hatch

By April 9, 2023 No Comments

I just submitted the following article to be published in a How To section of a sailing magazine. As a loyal follower of ours I always like to give you first crack at anything I write. 🙂


Is there anything worse then going to bed just to find out the hatch over your bunk leaked during the last sail or rainstorm? Well probably, but that does not fit in with this article!

Many sailors are intimidated with the idea of resealing a boat hatch for the first time. Me included, but you will find out it is quite simple to do and very much a DIY type job that should take an hour or two with a small array of tools.

The first thing you have to do to reseal a hatch is to get the hatch removed from the boat. This is also the most time consuming aspect of the job. The first step is to remove any screws holding the hatch frame to the deck. Make sure you get all of them, because just one will screw up your plans…trust me. The second step is to lift the frame up and to do this you will need a hammer, chisel, two flat head screwdrivers, and a blade. Start in one corner of the frame and lightly hammer the chisel in between the frame and deck. I like to use a flattened cereal box to make sure I don’t scrape the deck doing this. Once you have the chisel all the way in, use your blade to run under the frame to slice through any caulking and/or adhesive holding the frame down. You may have to run the blade in the new opening several times. Now use your screwdrivers as far on either side of the chisel as you can to hold the frame up, so you can take the chisel out. Repeat the process on the next corner and the next and the next. Eventually you will have most of the adhesive cut and you should be able to simply pull the whole frame away from the deck. This is a process, because you do not want to force anything and bend the hatch frame, so take your time.

Once the hatch is up you need to do some clean up/prep work to be able to successfully put it back in place. First use a bladed scraper and remove all the excess adhesive material from the deck. Once I have gotten it all off the deck I like to use a fine grit sandpaper (220 or so) to get rid of any leftovers and marks made during the removal process. Now it is time to clean up the underside of the hatch frame. I usually can get most of the adhesive off using a big flat head screwdriver and scraping it off bit by bit.

The last part of the job is to liberally apply new adhesive to the underside of the hatch frame and then put it in place. I like to use caulk instead of 4200 or 5200, so I can get the hatch up easier when it needs to be redone in the future. Make sure to use too much adhesive instead of not enough. Once you start screwing the frame back onto the deck you should have it coming out everywhere around the frame. Use the alternating method to get all the screws snugged down and then walk away. I know all the excess adhesive just sitting there will drive you nuts like it does me, but if you wait until the next day it will be dry and all it takes is a scraper to clean up.

The last time I resealed a hatch it had started leaking because the screws on the hinge side no longer “bit” into the fiberglass, because it was stripped out. All I needed to do then is take some two part fiberglass resin and squirt it into the screw holes with a syringe and let it dry over night. I then drilled new pilot holes and seated the hatch just as I mentioned above.

I hope this little how to article has given you the confidence to fix those leaking hatches in order to give you a warm, dry bed to sleep in.


Captain Shane & 1st Mate Lily is busy doing “boat project in exotic ports” on the Caribbean side of Central America. Check out him and Guiding Light at svGuidingLight on the web or any social media.

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