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Old 12-12-2017, 10:30   #1
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Why Washboards?

My boat, like many others has "washboards" as the companionway entrance, with a sliding top hatch.

This arrangement is not terribly secure, and not waterproof. Why is it so common? Is the idea to progressively raise the closure depending upon sea state?
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Old 12-12-2017, 10:46   #2
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Re: Why Washboards?

My previous boat had four slats to fill the companionway opening. Kinda a pita, but had the advantage of (as you say) being able to set in the lower ones to protect against water flowing down.

The other reason to divide up the hatch board might be to make it easier to store. Some companion ways are quite large, so using one single slat would make it hard to find a place to store the board when not in use.

BTW, my current boat has a smaller companion way which is easily sealed with one medium-sized slat. Easy to deal with, and much safer while out to sea.
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Old 12-12-2017, 10:57   #3
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Re: Why Washboards?

I agree, storage and the ability to vary the height of the boards. Also, sliding in the groove they are very strong. The good ones are built with an overlapping rabbett, so pretty water tight. Not perfectly water tight but good.
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:06   #4
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Re: Why Washboards?

I've typically only seen washboards on smaller boats, and there's reason for this.

Washboards:
There's a few of reasons why people like the multi-slatted ones.
  1. Firstly, you can, as you mention, progressively step the height of the door so at least you can still climb over if need be without endlessly removing slats. However, if you're shipping seas into the cockpit, you may want to consider putting all the washboards in and sealing off the horizontal slider.
  2. Secondly, a larger single washboard is much heavier than 2 or 3 slats, and is harder to store (when removed) than smaller slats.
  3. Thirdly, compared to a poorly made pair of doors, it's easier to make slats seal against not just shipped seas, but against heavy driving rain too. However, this is typically when compared to 'louvered' doors rather than ones with acrylic/double-glazed units in them. That 'drop-in' slot can be made to seal much better, as well as taking the structural loading of water hitting it.
  4. Fourthly, washboards are typically cheaper to make and fit than doors, and can be made from plywood, solid wood, transparent acrylic, and are typically easier to secure - i.e. a few latches will do, rather than the complex routing/mortising of a door handle/lock/key-combo.
  5. Finally, if you have a smaller companion way, doors swung outward to either side of the companionway take up space, and narrow the access into the boat.
Some people feel that washboards are more secure offshore.

Doors:
  1. If you have the space, doors don't need to be removed and stored, whereby they're simply swung (hinged) out of the way and latched.
  2. Unlike washboards, they cannot 'fall out' if the boat inverts and you've got the sliding hatch either open or unsecured.
  3. Properly made (fit for purpose) doors seal just as well (against driving rain and shipped seas) as do washboards.
  4. Doors offer much simpler access when in harbor (again, think simplicity of closing/opening rather than step-by-step washboard removal and stowage).
Ultimately, at some point (40ft?) washboards start to become very large, heavy and unwieldy - but the increased volume and space mean that doors become a very viable option instead.
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:10   #5
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Re: Why Washboards?

... and I will add, both my boats with slatted swinging doors also had washboards that fit on the interior side of the doors.
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:14   #6
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Re: Why Washboards?

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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
... and I will add, both my boats with slatted swinging doors also had washboards that fit on the interior side of the doors.
That's a really good idea.. best of both worlds if needed!
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:19   #7
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Re: Why Washboards?

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Originally Posted by Cavalier View Post
That's a really good idea.. best of both worlds if needed!
Yeah, both my Passport 47 and the Tanton 44 in my Avatar came that way. The slatted doors were on lift off hinges. Doors are nice for the 90% of the time you are anchored.
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:27   #8
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Re: Why Washboards?

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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
Yeah, both my Passport 47 and the Tanton 44 in my Avatar came that way. The slatted doors were on lift off hinges. Doors are nice for the 90% of the time you are anchored.
Nice.

I ended up reconfiguring the doors, hinges and frame on my 461 so that i'd have a much heavier overlap-profile between the doors themselves, and the doors and the frame. I also replaced the hinges for stainless 'piano' hinges that run the full height of the doors. Now i'm not dependent upon the sliding hatch being perfect secured for the structural integrity of the doors - due to the change they now act 'almost' as a single large panel if I end up with uninvited watery guests in the cockpit!
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:29   #9
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Re: Why Washboards?

It is wise to fit barrel/slide bolts, or another secure fastener, on the inside faces of the drop boards to be able to lock them in position in snotty weather. Having the darned things dislodge in a knock-down can really ruin one's day.
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:46   #10
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Re: Why Washboards?

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It is wise to fit barrel/slide bolts, or another secure fastener, on the inside faces of the drop boards to be able to lock them in position in snotty weather. Having the darned things dislodge in a knock-down can really ruin one's day.
my boats have the drop boards with barrel latches to secure them in place when needed.
( MORC rules required it)
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Old 12-12-2017, 11:57   #11
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Re: Why Washboards?

I have three original washboards for my boat, the top one with a window in it. They never get used except offshore in weather where the bottom two might be installed, which are easy to step over.

What I use 90% of the time is a 3/8" (? never actually measured it) smoked acrylic sheet cut to size. It's easy to pull out, and it slip into the wet locker, against a bulkhead, right at the foot of the companionway. Let's light in, I can see out, and is manageable.

Washboards are stupidly easy to make. Just rabbet the tops and bottoms of the parts, varnish them, and you're done. You can make them any size you want, with as many boards as you want. I've done it for a few friends at this point. Takes less than an hour to make them, minus the finishing.

With a side entry I can't really use doors. I don't think I would like them anyway, would just get in the way in the cockpit but that's obviously a function of each boat's cockpit config.
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Old 12-12-2017, 12:20   #12
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Re: Why Washboards?

Another problem with washboards is rain. How do you remove them, go below, and replace them in the rain without dousing the cabin? A dodger is one option, but that is more a cruiser answer that works well on larger boats. What about smaller boats? What about ventilation in the rain?

[My PDQ with the hard top was deluxe. I hardly ever wore rain gear. Now I have an F-24 and had to invent a solution, since a dodger would look horrible an get in the way.]
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Old 12-12-2017, 12:25   #13
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Re: Why Washboards?

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Another problem with washboards is rain. How do you remove them, go below, and replace them in the rain without dousing the cabin? A dodger is one option, but that is more a cruiser answer that works well on larger boats. What about smaller boats? What about ventilation in the rain?

[My PDQ with the hard top was deluxe. I hardly ever wore rain gear. Now I have an F-24 and had to invent a solution, since a dodger would look horrible an get in the way.]
I designed and built my own dodger for my 24 . Most small sailboats you can do the same thing I did. Nothing says it has to be deployed all the time.
This photo was during the later part of design and testing phase.
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Old 12-12-2017, 12:28   #14
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Re: Why Washboards?

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Another problem with washboards is rain. How do you remove them, go below, and replace them in the rain without dousing the cabin?
I think in most cases you get pretty good at the "washboard dance"; pluck out what you need to, step over and pivot, and reinsert. On my boat, doors would not let any less water in than washboards I'm pretty sure. But again it depends on the boat. I have a dodger so it's only an issue when the wind is on the stern.
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Old 12-12-2017, 12:29   #15
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Re: Why Washboards?

A few years ago we were thinking of doing the Annapolis to Bermuda race! When I contacted Billy Black, and said which boat we had (GulfStar 37) , the only change he wanted made to enter the race was to change to drop boards, as the race com. made that mandatory, no exceptions!
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