Cutting the Hatch

South hatch opening.


(to start of project)

Deep breath.

Early last weekend there was only one thing left to do before putting the deck on South – cutting the hatch opening.

I’ve been pondering this task for the better part of a year, going back and forth on different ways to approach it. The problem is that I really want to be able to use the cut out in the deck from the hatch opening for the hatch lid, to make a seamless unbroken sweep in the wood strips in the deck. I had already laid the opening out to line up with the curves of the cockpit, but keeping the cutout intact was going to be tricky. Not only does it have to be cut out with minimal damage, but it also has to line up perfectlly with the final hatch frame later. I settled on cutting the opening before the decks are glued down, which is easier for cutting, but requires careful planning.

First I built support cradles onto both strong backs. These will be needed when it comes time to flip the boats for painting, but will also provide support for all the crawling around inside necessary from now on. These were put together with scraps and strips of carpet cut from the remnants on the floor.



 Cradle detail.






With the boats stabilized, the deck was laid on South, then carefully positioned and clamped. A screw was driven in at three corners – these screws will be removed and used later to precisely realign the deck to exact same position when glueing it down.

With everything in place, I sharpened a pencil and crawled in under the deck to scribe the hatch opening to the underside of the deck. Definitely a tight fit. My shoulder is still sore.





That done, everything was removed again. With North shoved to the side to make room, the deck was flipped onto the floor where a thin kerf pull saw was carefully worked through the soft cypress from underneath along each side, sawing all the way through to the corners just outside the scribed line. Worked out great. I should be able to use the cutout for the hatch cover with minimal framing to the cover.

Out of curiosity, I also checked South’s cutout against the frame opening on North and, surprisingly, their dimensions are so close the hatch covers could fit interchangeably, though the wood strips would no longer line up. As it is, I like that the wood strips continue from the deck through the hatch all the way to the bow.





Nothing left to do now but put the deck on South (which turned out to be quite a chore).

– o –

On a side note, Thomas Armstrong, of 70.8% blogging fame, did a very complimentary post on this build, along with a compilation of other Melonseed builders equally as madly smitten as I am.

Thomas’ blog is one of my favorites, and he has a knack for finding very cool and unusual boat related bits from all over the world, which he then relays after lengthy research with carefully crafted prose. If you don’t know of it already, definitely check it out. It’s well worth regular visits. Thanks Thomas!


Much to our surprise, Thomas and I had the good fortune to find ourselves sitting next to each other in the cockpit of Silent Maid during the race in St. Michaels last October. He had been following my build already, and I have read his blog religiously for years, but we didn’t know each other from Adam. We chatted for the whole ride out to the starting line before we figured out we “knew” each other. It’s a strange feeling to suddenly meet someone you’ve come to know so well, and yet don’t know at all. But it’s also a lot of fun.

I got some nice photos of Silent Maid both during the race and throughout the MASCF weekend last year. You can see them in the Gallery section of the website here.



melonseed skiff, mellonseed skiff, melon seed, mellon seed   


5 Replies to “Cutting the Hatch”

  1. Go Barry Go! MASCF is one month away and I expect to see both boats there!
    Kevin Brennan – Navigator “Slip Jig”

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010 – 03:25 PM

  2. Following this blog for the past year has been a pleasure. I was in my own race to finish a Chesapeake sharpie before the MASCF last year. We finished in time and sailed around St. Michaels, but not as festival participants. I remember seeing Silent Maid on the Miles River. Good luck on your melonseeds–it’ll be well worth the effort come October. I wish I could make it this year to see them.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010 – 02:08 AM

    1. Thanks, Nathan. One day soon I’ll be able to change this from a build blog to a sailing adventures blog, and hope that will be interesting reading in a different way.

      I love sharpies, and still have one built several years ago. If you can’t go this year, you should plan to come back again as part of the festival next year. It’s great fun, and you meet a lot of really great people – like Kevin, for instance.

      – Barry
      Thursday, September 2, 2010 – 01:48 PM

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