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Old 12-09-2014, 07:32   #1
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Emergency Repair of Escape Hatches

Several years ago I listened to an emergency radio conversation that involved a catamaran that was about 100 NM off the coast of North Carolina. The boat captain called a Mayday because at the time he couldn't control the flow of water into a broken escape hatch. (I don't recall how it broke.) I think the seas were moderate (6-8'). Over the course of a few hours he was able to fashion something to control the inflow of water and the USCG provided some pumps to help evacuation of water. The captain was able to get to land and save his boat over the next 24 hrs.

We're preparing for some offshore sailing beginning in November. I've been thinking about how to deal with a leak from or breakage of the emergency escape hatch. The surface around the hatch has small bolt/nut covers that are about 3/8" high. I'm thinking of cutting a 3/4"-1" plywood cover, maybe doubled and rubber gasket around edges, that would overlap 2-3" over the edges of the hatch, with cut-outs for the nut covers, and two pre-cut 2x4's to jam in place against the opposite bulkhead.

I'd like to hear what other options cat owners implemented or considered?

Thanks

Pete
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Old 12-09-2014, 08:06   #2
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Re: Emergency Repair of Escape Hatches

That sounds like a good plan. I had thought to stem the flow with a cushion and ply and a timber prop as you describe, but pre making one is a good idea
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Old 12-09-2014, 08:10   #3
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Re: Emergency Repair of Escape Hatches

Maybe consider installing a beefier hatch? Some of those escape hatches I have seen are a joke from a durability standpoint.
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Old 12-09-2014, 08:14   #4
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Re: Emergency Repair of Escape Hatches

It would give you peace of mind, and that can be priceless.

My suggestion?

Post photos clearly Showing what you make as that can inspire or help others here in the future. Even simple items can help others.
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Old 12-09-2014, 08:25   #5
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Re: Emergency Repair of Escape Hatches

OK, I know why they are there, this is not meant to be a smart aleck comment.
But are they really needed? If you were ever inverted the hulls would have a bunch of air in them and you could swim out couldn't you?
I think I would be tempted to have a couple of "spare air" bottles and delete the escape hatches?
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Old 12-09-2014, 08:31   #6
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Re: Emergency Repair of Escape Hatches

True that. Originally they were installed so that the inverted cat could still be lived in while awaiting rescue and access to the upturned hull was possible for keeping lookout and signalling as well as escaping.. That's when cats were lighter and probably more built in buoyancy. I wonder if they were put to the test today if the loss of buoyancy from trapped air would just cause the cat to sink like a stone...
Hoping not to put it to the test.
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Old 23-10-2014, 18:49   #7
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Re: Emergency Repair of Escape Hatches

Attached are photos of the solution I came up with. I used 3/4 in plywood cut to fit the opening. The grouping of pics includes the owners cabin first. The hatch surface here is slightly indented and has rounded corners. The other grouping is for the hatch in the guest head. The surface is flat. The hole patterns for both are different, making each cover unique and specifically oriented.

I drilled holes to fit the bolt caps associated with the escape hatch. You'll also see I placed 1/4 rubber insulation to provide a seal with the metal frame or fiberglass perimeter. Lastly I added some small strips to the inboard surface of plywood to create a capture well for the 2x4 shoring planks. I put two coats of poly on each to reduce storage moisture issues.

The biggest concern I have with installation during an emergency is that it may require two people to implement. This will be dependent on the amount of water flowing in. I don't expect a full seal, but enough to reduce flow to enable bilge pumps to be effective. (BTW, bilge pumps are another area needing big improvement for Belize models - that will be a different topic track.)

I'm storing these in the forward storage compartment of each hull. You'll see that I also marked to inside/sea facing sides and top of each emergency hatch DC cover to make it clear for whoever is handling damage control at the time.

While I hope never to use these, but I feel better prepared having them available.

I welcome comments, questions, and suggestions.

Pete

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