View RSS Feed

the dream of dawn

It's GrrrATE!

Rate this Entry
The plywood bilge hatches have needed replacement for a while. They're dirty, stained, and delaminating. Not a huge project - they're just 12-inch plywood squares with a lip routed around the edge. But... might there be a better way? They do shrink and swell with the seasons, and are sometimes hard to pry out. And in the long run, trying to make Arcturus sort of an off-shore-esque boat, these things ought to be latched down. Hmm...
Click image for larger version. 

Name:	IMG_1828.jpg 
Views:	79 
Size:	39.1 KB 
ID:	23024

I've seen some boats with spiffy-looking teak grates in those openings, providing ventilation and, I suppose, a floor drain. But they seem hard to make. On the other hand, that's just what I need for the shower sump project! (To be described later.) And some boats have nice teak-grate swim platforms... also seems hard to make. And hard to maintain. And expensive. At some point, I must have been thinking about this while walking down the gangway to the dock, because I hit upon the idea of fiberglass catwalk grating! Durable, low-maintenance, won't shrink or swell. Comes in lots of exciting bright colors. Cut to fit any (?) opening. Not the best for bare feet, but tolerable. Anyway, I don't usually step directly on these covers - one is under the ladder and the other is under the table. Another is in the bottom of the hanging locker.

But gee whiz! That stuff is expensive too! Sheets of it cost several hundred dollars. Too much money to invest in an experiment. I put the idea aside for a while.

Recently, surfing the interwebz late one night, I discovered that you can buy 12-inch squares of fiberglass grating on Ebay for less than $20. Twelve-inch squares? What did that remind me of? Bam! Hit that buy button. No fuss, no muss. And if they don't work out, it's only sixteen bucks. And I just went with boring old white, to match the cabin sole. (Yawn.)

Of course, things are never quite that easy. The "12-inch squares" ended up being 12.25 inches, which didn't quite fit in the opening. So, A: abort the project, B: go get a router and enlarge the opening, or C: cut down the square to fit.

Click image for larger version. 

Name:	IMG_1827.jpg 
Views:	47 
Size:	47.3 KB 
ID:	23025
"C" seems like the winner, though in the end "B" might have actually been easier. Proceeding with "C," I could have just cut the outer rail off the grating, all the way around. But then it would be 1/4" too small, and rattle in the opening. So I sliced off the rail on two sides with the table saw, trimmed another quarter inch off the stubs, and glued the rails back on with thickened epoxy. A lot of fussing for something that was supposed to be a drop-in off-the-shelf item. But this could be proof of concept for shaping the stuff to fit other, more odd-sized openings.

Then I trimmed the edges to match the lip of the plywood hatch, except on one edge, I just cut out a notch so that the new grating will sort of "hinge" into the lip of the sole, and be positively retained. Then I drilled holes on the opposite side and made a sort of latch from a bolt and a spring. (I had a nice stainless eye-bolt for that, but couldn't get it to fit. May need to go forage at the hardware store. It's proof of concept, anyway.)
Click image for larger version. 

Name:	IMG_1915.jpg 
Views:	55 
Size:	45.2 KB 
ID:	23026Click image for larger version. 

Name:	IMG_1916.jpg 
Views:	34 
Size:	97.6 KB 
ID:	23027

Rounded off the sharp edges with a rasp and sandpaper. Et voila! Not sure if this will be the long-term solution, but I'll try it for a season or two. Gee, these photos make the sole look so dirty! Well, it's an active work area...
Click image for larger version. 

Name:	IMG_1906.jpg 
Views:	39 
Size:	80.8 KB 
ID:	23028

Pros and cons of grated bilges? At the least, it appears to be new incentive to keep the bilge clean! If these seem cool in a few weeks, I'll proceed with the shower sump in the same manner. And maybe even consider replacing some of the plywood under-bunk hatches. Or maybe not - with a cushion laid on top, these might not be all that vent-y.

Update: I found these stainless spring-loaded barrel bolts on Amazon for about two bucks that look like just the ticket. It would cost more than that just to go to the hardware store!
But gee whiz - now that I've ordered them it says six to eight weeks shipping from China. No instant gratification.

Submit "It's GrrrATE!" to Digg Submit "It's GrrrATE!" to Submit "It's GrrrATE!" to StumbleUpon Submit "It's GrrrATE!" to Google Submit "It's GrrrATE!" to Face Book

Updated 10-24-2017 at 09:54 AM by toddster (more info)

Tags: None Add / Edit Tags


  1. toddster's Avatar
    One nice thing is that now I can tell at a glance whether or not the bilge is wet. No more Shröedinger's Bilge! And oddly enough, despite two major storms, the bilge has remained bone dry. Maybe the Leak Of Mystery is some sort of quantum thingy. Perhaps related to the black hole in the engine sump.
  2. bigd14's Avatar
    I have a grate in the head "shower" area that is made of 3/8 polycarbonate with large holes drilled in it. Might work for your application? You could customize the size of the holes to whatever you wanted to allow into the bilge.
  3. toddster's Avatar
    Drilling holes to make a grate is one possibility that I'd thought of. I somewhat mistrust my ability to execute a regular grid. On the other hand, by using different sized holes, one could conceivably make artistic patterns. If one had such skillz...

    The advantage to experimenting with small unattached pieces like this is that it's not really a modification of the boat structure. If the project goes south, they are easily discarded. For now, I think I'll proceed with the fiberglass grate, and if it's too harsh on the feet, throw a couple of squares of dri-deck over it. (The boat came with quite a pile of them, which I've never used because they just seemed to trap dirt.)

    Currently the grate project has gotten backed up into the usual recursive sort of mission creep. To finish the second grate, I have to mix up a minimum aliquot of epoxy (one pump stroke of the dispenser) most of which would be wasted. But Oh, Hey, refurbishing the windvane auxilliary rudder will also need a bit of epoxy, so let's do that too. Which has lead to a week stripping off multiple coats of ill-applied and unfriendly paints... Of course, now to finish the rudder, I'll need to bring in another project that can use the rest of a can of IP2000!

    Another potential easy grate project that has come to mind might be a mid-ship boarding step. Perhaps it could even flip up to be a lifeline gate in the stowed position.
  4. MMLOGAN's Avatar
    Be careful with 304 stainless and bilge/salt water. I bought some 304 stainless bolts at the beginning of the season and just replaced them last week. If you can find 316 they will be worth the extra money.

    Nice project.
  5. toddster's Avatar
    Just a one-year update on these grates. At first they seemed a little harsh underfoot. But that was my “winter feet.” My summer feet have no problems with them. And the Chinese spring bolts have worked great. Very robust and come with all the edges nicely rounded and polished.

    Darn... had to start wearing shoes again this week. Totally bogus, man. Gonna have soft pale winter feet again pretty soon.