While preparing for my first open ocean voyage (Honolulu to Tahiti) I made a few preparations. One of which was to the anchor locker.
The anchor locker hatch remained closed simply by gravity. No latch or anything. So to better secure the hatch I decided to add a stainless steel latch. It was actually very simple.
- First check out the options at West Marine or your favorite store. I decided on a non-locking item that allows you to turn a tab to unlatch, then turn it back to latch. When pressing the tab down, it squeezes extra pressure to help seal the rubber lining around the edge of the hatch.
- Take measurements to ensure the swinging arm of the latch would reach far enough to catch the edge of the fiberglass. If the latch arm isn’t long enough or won’t work for whatever reason, you can always return the latch for a different style.
- Next, place the latch on the fiberglass and trace a line for cutting the hole. I had to run around to 4 different hardware stores to finally find the proper diameter cutting tool for my drill. Then drill the hole being careful to start slowly and keep the circle as clean as possible.
- Once the hole was cut and verified by dry-testing the latch I sealed the hole with epoxy. My hatch was solid marine plywood layered on both sides with fiberglass. If you don’t seal the wood, it can collect water and rot over time. Especially up there on the wet foredeck while pounding through seas.
- Even if your hatch is solid fiberglass, it can’t hurt to seal the cut with epoxy. After all, fiberglass is porous.
- Two layers of epoxy should be enough.
- Once the epoxy has cured most of the way (or even fingernail hard, it doesn’t matter here), clean the area with Acetone to prepare for the 3M 4200 Fast Cure sealant. 5200 is too strong, but 4000UV could work. It’s half the holding power of 4200, though.
- Taping around the latch helps speed up cleanup after the 4200 is dry.
- Get everything ready to place, dry test everything one last time, get a rag handy and squirt a bead of 4200 around the edge of the new latch. Try to keep the bead thickness consistent and it will make a cleaner, better seal. You want enough to create about a 1/8″ depth after tightening down the screws later. Don’t tighten anything yet! Just place the latch without pushing too hard against the new sealant. You want to very softly push down so that the bead squeezes evenly on all sides. Stop pushing when there’s a 1/8″ depth of sealant between the latch and the hatch.
- With fast-cure 4200, you only have to wait about a half hour before tightening the screws about halfway. You should be able to touch the 4200 with your finger without it sticking. If you leave a fingerprint, that’s perfect.
- Tighten the screws until it’s where you want it to completely cure. A few millimeters or so should be enough to act as a gasket against incoming water.
- Wait 24 hours.
- When the 4200 has mostly cured, use a knife to cut the bead away from the latch. If you wait too long and it fully cures it will be more difficult to remove the bead.
- The sun will eat that stuff alive, so removing the excess will make it look nicer, longer.