Companionway Hatch, Original

Oystercatcher, upon my first visit to her, Aug 2009
The original E25 companionway hatches manufactured by Ericson Yachts in Southern California in the 1970s were beautiful, arched structures constructed almost entirely of teak. On account of Ericson's use of this most weather-resistant of woods, these companionway hatches were capable of enduring many years of sunshine, rain, and freezing temperatures. Indeed some E25 owners have boats that still possess their original hatches. This is especially true if these hatches have been well-cared for over the years with regular applications of oil or varnish. It is too often the case, however, that neglect has rendered these works of art little more than rotten and leaky reminders of their former glory. Bare teak, because of its natural oils, can withstand much abuse from the elements, but eventually, like all woods, it will surrender the fight.
Oystercatcher - my first close-up view of her, Aug 2009
I made three separate trips from Charleston, SC to the Pamlico Sound region of North Carolina in the process of purchasing Oystercatcher in 2009. The first visit, in August 2009, was more of a shopping trip. I was looking at several different boats, and the Ericson 25 wasn't even on my list. By the end of the day, though, she'd won my heart. I'll discuss that in another posting. I made the second visit to the Pamlico Sound region in September 2009. This was for the survey of Oystercatcher. The third, and final visit was in October 2009. That was when I laid down the money and sailed her away.
Oystercatcher, Aug 2009
My first impression of Oystercatcher, when viewed from afar, was that she was an attractive sailboat. The owner had been expecting my visit, so he had just washed her down and tidied her up.

Upon closer inspection, however, there were definitely some blemishes on this old gal. The most salient of these blemishes was the companionway hatch. The same could be said for the washboards beneath the hatch. In the picture below, the lower three washboards appear to have some varnish on them. They are, in fact, darker in color simply because they are still wet from their quick rinse down prior to my arrival.
The hatch itself was also still wet in some places. This explains its mottled appearance in the picture below. The area on the port side of the hatch that was the dampest area of them all, for a reason - there was a small hollow or concave spot in this part of the hatch due to a structural failure.

When I looked even closer at the hatch, I could see that the joints were not sealed and that the owner had tried, at some point, to fill the aft joint with yellow, spray-foam - you know, the sort of stuff they sell in an aerosol can at hardware stores for sealing cracks in windows and doors in residential construction projects. I mentioned this to the owner and said that the hatch appeared to be taking on water. He said something to the effect that it needed some varnish. Really? It needed much more than that.
When I returned in September for the survey of the boat, not surprisingly I found her in much better condition. Let me pause, though, to correct myself. She wasn't actually in better condition, she only appeared to be that way. This time, as I approached her down the dock, I saw that she was now rigged with her jib, with its attractive UV cover in blue. Likewise, the mainsail was now neatly stowed in its blue cover.
As I drew closer to Oystercatcher, I immediately noticed that her formerly dingy, gray companionway hatch was now coated in varnish. From a distance the companionway did indeed look snazzy, especially with that blue mainsail cover overhead. I commented on the appearance of the hatch, and the owner said that he had applied two coats of varnish. He said that if I bought the boat, then it was up to me to lay the rest of the coats. He'd gotten the project started for me. That's what he said.
Let's take a closer look at this snazzy companionway hatch, though, shall we? Check out the aluminum angle pieces that have been nailed along the rails and on all four corners. They're not there for decoration. They're there to hold the whole thing together. Beneath this aluminum is a bunch of rotten teak and mush. I'd find this out later.
Despite her make-over gone bad, I decided that Oystercatcher just had to be mine. One month later, in October 2009, a buddy of mine and I returned to the Pamlico Sound area and we sailed her to Oriental, NC for haulout. In the picture below you see us waiting our turn with the travel-lift, which is just out of sight to port. Shortly afterwards, when removing the mainsail and boom, I placed my rubber-booted foot upon the companionway hatch. Shouldn't have presented a problem, right? Wrong. I heard a crack and then a crunch. If there had been any doubts about the condition of this hatch, they were, at this point, put to rest. At least Oystercatcher appeared to be a jaunty little cruiser when we pulled into that haul-out slip. That's about all those two coats of varnish had been good for.

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