One of the responsibilities of boat ownership is performing maintenance to keep your pride and joy in tip-top shape. After a few years out in the weather, any boat will begin to need the kind of maintenance and repair that’s a level above the simple oil change and waxing. One of those maintenance chores is likely to be the replacement of gaskets in the ports and hatches that let in light and air — or provide access to certain tucked-away areas. They’re also supposed to keep out water, but can also be major sources of leaks when the gaskets that seal them dry up and crack, come loose, or just go bad.
We’ve covered how to source gaskets for ports in another blog. Luckily, many of the manufacturers who make port lights also make hatches, so the detective work in discovering the right maker and the right part number is similar.
Open a suspect hatch and look either on the frame mounted to your boat, or the lid. Sandwiched in there somewhere you’ll find a rubber or closed-cell foam gasket .
Once you’ve found it, examine the gasket closely for cracks, tears, or missing pieces. If it appears to be in good shape, then you may have a leak from the lens, or from failing sealant/bedding compound around the hatch frame or fasteners. In this case, make a closer inspection. If you found defects in the gasket, the next step is to remove it, and not just so you can replace it, but to aid in identification.
But before you go to too much trouble, contact your boatbuilder if your particular model is relatively new, as they may be able to get a replacement for you.
Of course, once you remove the gasket , your hatch will no longer keep out water. Consider picking up some thick polyethylene plastic and some weather-resistant tape (I like 3M’s “Preservation” tape) at the marine supply shop so you can seal things up once the gasket is out and you search for a replacement.
Some hatch gaskets are glued in, while some fit into an engineered groove or notch in the hatch. Either way, be careful when you remove the offending gasket. Getting it out in one continuous piece earns you bonus points.
Your boating supply shop may very well have generic (or even specific) lengths of hatch gasket material that it sells by the foot. If this is the case, it’s a simple matter of matching up the profile and size of your gasket, and then procuring the amount you need. If your hatch gasket is pre-molded—as many are—ask one of the folks at your marine supply retailer about hatch gasket kits. If they don’t have any, they may be able to order you one.
If you are still unable to find the gasket material, the next thing to do is attempt to identify the hatch manufacturer and model. Look around the hatch to see is there are any identifying markings, serial numbers, or anything else than can help you figure out which company made the hatch. Some are boldly labeled and identified, while others are not.
If you get lucky and find the manufacturer, you might be able to sleuth around their website, find your particular hatch model, and then contact them to see if you can order the gasket. You may also want to look in marine retailer catalogs to find a match. Here are some popular hatch manufacturers, with links to their websites.
If you don’t find it, well, more homework is in order. Most hatches are classified by either the size of the opening they fit into (the cutout size), the opening size of the unit itself, or its outside dimensions. Definitely take some digital photos with your smartphone or camera. In short, measure everything you can and take lots of photos; it will make your search much easier in the long run.
No dice? There are still some options. Try looking online for owners’ associations for your particular make and/or model boat. Those associations or groups typically have a discussion board where you can post pictures and ask questions about your own boat. Also give general boating enthusiast sites a try. And consider perusing one of the big box marine store catalogs—you may just come across your particular hatch and be able to order parts for it.
For more used-boat part sourcing ideas, see the following:
- Used Boat Part Sources: Latches and Locks
- Used Boat Part Sources: Gas Struts
- Used Boat Part Sources: Port Gaskets
- Depthsounder Transducer Cables: Airmar-Gemeco Retrofits
General tips for locating hard-to-find replacement parts for your used boat:
Take digital photos of the item you need to replace and compare them with photos you find in Google Search –> Images. When you find a match, click “Visit page” in the image dialogue box. That will often get you to the source – or at least a step closer.
Google the part numbers
Look for a part number on the item you need to replace. Even if you don’t know the manufacturer you can enter the information you do have in Google Search, e.g. “SPT 10-437A, 12-volt cabin light” and you’ll often get good results.
These days a tremendous number of manufacturers and distributors of marine parts have storefronts on Amazon, and Amazon has really superior search, reference, and logical abilities.