Grace came with standard hatch boards which were very sturdy, but a nightmare to use. Each weighs about 10 pounds and have sharp corners that tend to dent or chip things, besides being an absolute pain to store anywhere. Many shins have hit them while they were sitting on the cockpit seats. Need to get up at 3AM for a bathroom break? Go ahead and just hit everyone over the head with a pan — it would be less noise than removing the boards…
Enter Zarcor Compaionway Doors…
Existing Hatch Boards
Original hatch boards
The existing doors would be great if I was going offshore, which I don’t intend on doing. They are extremely sturdy, and have minimal air circulation holes, plus a good key lock.
But they were very difficult to handle, and I have never found a good place to store them where they aren’t in the way or cause damage.
Zarcor Ordering and Options
While ordering cushions for my stern perch seats back when I first purchased Grace, I noticed that Zarcor, the makers of the seats, also made companionway doors. After a few months of looking around elsewhere, and considering doing it myself, I was convinced that Zarcor knew what they were doing more than anyone else, and began the ordering process.
Zarcor’s ordering process is very fulfilling for someone who likes lots of details. Not only can you choose from a number of different options, but the measuring instructions are extremely clear and well thought out.
I chose white doors, tinted, screen, and privacy panel inserts, air vents, an insert storage bag, and a key lock. After completing the ordering process, I emailed all of the measurement details sheet, and sent tracings of my existing hatch boards via FedEx to Zarcor.
They also have tons of pictures and options for just about every type of boat on the market, and it looks like they could even do custom boats.
After a few weeks, the finished product arrived in one big box on my doorstep.
The first thing you’ll notice when you unbox the doors is how well they are made. The edges and corners of everything aren’t sharp – they’re carefully beveled. The inside and outside of each door is a complete separate piece of starboard, connected together and strengthened by a stainless steel girder inside.
The top of each door has a removable aluminum cap with a retaining ball built into the door. Once removed, you can slide in/out a panel of your choice. As mentioned above, I chose bug screens, white privacy inserts, and a smoke tint insert.
It’s easy to remove the insert, and I also purchased a bag that will keep them relatively safe when not in use.
I like the options available depending on the time of year (bugs!), or whether you’re in a busy marina (privacy) or just want light (smoke). It’s like having three doors in one.
Install under way
Installation varies from boat to boat. In my case, it required screwing new channels into the side of the companionway to hold the doors. While this was a bit unnerving to do, it allows me to use the hatch boards at some point in the future if I need to. It’s also the only option on most Beneteau and Jeannau boats which have u-shaped channels for the boards. Zarcor can make doors that actually slide in the existing channel for other models which is likely a simpler install.
Installing the channels required at least an hour of test fitting and careful measurements. Zarcor provides a DVD installation video with the product, which are also online. I highly recommend carefully watching them several times before starting. It’s critical to follow all of their steps including shims between the doors, around the edges to keep things tight while installing the channels.
Once the channels were installed, I made a few small adjustments to corners and edges, and the doors slid right on their points like they came from the factory!
New doors installed
The new lock came with an adapter plate to attach to the existing sliding cover, and fits perfectly.
This is one of the best upgrades for any boat I have had. The convenience of not having to deal with hatch boards, plus the safety and security of being able to close or open the doors very quickly in the event of bad weather.
The doors fold out of the way while at the dock and don’t seem to flop around even with moderate waves. While under way, they can be popped off their points and stored very easily below, unlike the monstrously large and heavy hatch boards.
Doors open easily and fold against the companionway
The added benefit of being able to change out the inserts is going to be very convenient, and allow for airflow during the warm months.
Zarcor was very easy to work with, called to confirm all of my measurements and clarify a few things, and the end product fit perfectly. It’s pretty impressive that they’re able to make such a great fitting product considering that over time all of our boats start having their own unique bends and changes. Building something like this yourself would take days of trial and error.
Highly recommended upgrade to any boat with hatch boards.