In a previous life several decades ago, Spark was a no frills racing dinghy. If it did not make her faster or comply with class rules, it was not on her. Many decades later, I am turning my GP 14 into a leisurely day sailor and camp-cruiser. Lacking her original buoyancy bags I had to find a way to keep her afloat if she should get knocked down, swamped, or even capsized. Important things to worry about!
Last fall, before heading off to St. Micheals, I installed watertight bulkheads forwards and aft. Well, the aft one was very watertight as it lacked any method to access the space within and the forward one had a huge hole cut into it for an access hatch I never had time to build. I put them on my punch list for spring.
With spring, and now summer, being here, it was time to put an end to this vexing issue.
At the stern I cut two holes into the buoyancy chambers I had built. An 8" diameter screw in access port fit the bill perfectly. All it took to install was a hole saw and a slender Japanese "keyhole" saw to make the round opening in the thin plywood. Once I get a few more coats of varnish on the wood, I will seal and screw them into place.
These ports allow me to keep a few things I may need readily available while underway. You never know if you will need a first aid kit, identification, registration, or any other myriad number of things. All I need to do is twist the hatch and it unscrews and pops open to expose the watertight chamber within.
The forward bulkhead was more worrisome. With the large opening I had left in it reducing my hatch choices significantly. I originally had planned to build a nice wooden hatch that would match the okume plywood, but building one strong to seal perfectly was not something in my repertoire of skills. The other problem was that any hatch that would fit the opening would impact against the mast a scant 11 inches abaft it when opened.
Sailing the internet for ideas, I found a "compression hatch" at Fisheries Supplies out of Wisconsin. Unlike a hinged hatch or even the screw in access ports already installed, a compression hatch uses two arms connected to the back of the hatch and controlled by corresponding knobs to squeeze or compress the seal of the hatch against the bulkhead. Pretty clever really.
While they had a hatch that fit within half an inch of the opening, I wanted to make it a tight fight and strengthen the bulkhead to resist the pressure. I produced a frame of the same ply and epoxied it into place, cleaning up the opening and giving the previously plain bulkhead a little bit of interest and strength.
As all the hatches are black and slightly hidden beneath the decks, they do not stand out too badly against the varnish. Whatever the looks, the certainly make up for them with utility. As I am going to use Spark for cruising about, being able to store things like drybags full of clothes and sleeping bags, food, and a boomtent out of the weather with little change of them getting soaked in the event of the worse case scenario, I think the forward hatch is up to the task, no matter what it looks like.