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Walleye Boat Rebuild Part 4: Rear Hatch Install

Cutting out a place for an access hatch and then installing it requires precision and attention.

Walleye Boat Rebuild Part 4: Rear Hatch Install

In Part 4 of Robertson's boat build, he talks about measuring multiple times to get the best hatch fit.

When you look through marine or car mechanics’ toolboxes it is safe to say about three-quarters of the tools are there due to their ability to access fittings that might not otherwise be reachable. We don’t think about that kind of access until it breaks—then we realize how difficult it will be to get at. Having the right tools is critical to tackling a project like this.

The Ranger 618 model we’re working on had very poor access to the batteries and charger. In recent years, Ranger changed that by putting doors in the rear to better access these locations. The problem was compounded because I intended on putting six batteries and two chargers in the boat, but more on that later.

Selection

A quick glance at my Ranger 622 guide boat gave me a simple fix. In the splashwell of current 600 series, there is a large TH Marine hatch, which I knew to be waterproof and sturdy since I stand on it daily. After doing some measurements, I knew this would be the way to fully utilize all the available space in the 618 and be able to easily access items for maintenance or repairs.

measure cover hatch
Measure once, measure twice, three times if necessary to make sure the hatch covers you intend to use will indeed cover the hole adequately.

Setup

Much like ordering windows, you need to measure many times to make sure you can cover the opening you have or plan to make. The process isn’t as easy as you might think with so many contours that eliminate a straight line to work from. As I researched different types and sizes of hatches, the problem only got worse because some manufactures don’t list all the measurements needed to work from. Some only had the inside opening and others just had the outside overall size. This could be problematic since I already had a large hole to work with and was trying to cover up as many of the screw holes as possible. In the end, I ordered two different hatches and used the one that best fit the layout.

hatch template
The process of creating an accurate template will ensure an accurate fit in the end.

Layout

Much like the trolling motor pedal recessed foot tray, a large hole was going to have to be cut and an accurate template was used. TH Marine had a template built into the box, which can be very helpful. It is important to not only account for the hole size needed to fit the hatch into, but also the trim portion that will sit on top. Another key item to be noted before you open up a large area in your boat is to make sure you won’t have to cut into anything structural or make an area too large that it will become unstable by cutting a hole that large.

straight edge to work from
Work to create a straight edge to work from, most boats, Rangers especially, feature a lot of curves, which are hard to measure from.

Cutting

Once the area had been marked and checked twice—or perhaps five times—we then drilled a hole in each corner to make it easier to cut through the corners without over cutting. A jig saw or oscillating tool with a shop vac held close by works wonders.

Put a bead of silicone beneath the hatch edge.
Adding a beat of silicone will help fully waterproof and secure the hatch to the opening.

Securing

After the hole was cut, a few dry fittings were completed, a file was used to clean up a few wide spots for an accurate and secure fit. The hatch was then placed, and holes were drilled. Before securing the screws in place, a chamfer was used on all of the screw holes to eliminate any spider cracking from when the screws are tightened. A liberal bead of silicone under the lip before securing is recommended.

screw down hatch
After the silicone is applied and the hatch is fitted for final securing, screw it down carefully and it’ll last for the life of the boat.

This really is an easy DIY project, and most of the effort is in finding just the right hatch for your circumstances, and then where to place it in the boat. Many different options are available; vertical, horizontal, waterproof, reinforced and the list goes on. Measure 10 times, buy and cut once!

Capt. Ross Robertson

Bigwater Fishing




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