Engine Access Made Easier

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  • January 15, 2012 7:40 AM
    Message # 798100
    In reviewing various threads from the Forum Archives,  one thing that keeps coming up is the complaint regarding what a pain it is to remove the cockpit floor and gain access to the engine compartment of the W32. While not all W32s have the same configuration, most do have a very heavy cockpit sole that is, at best, difficult and heavy to remove. I found a need to create a way to assist in removing the floor. This was especially needed when the boat is in the yard where it may be opened and closed several times a day due to rain, etc.

    I devised a method that was originally intended as a temporary solution, but with some modification, it will become a permanent solution to the problem. I installed 4 eye straps in the corners of the floor, to which I can quickly attach a special harness for lifting the hatch. (Initially, the eye straps were placed between the teak strips. But the teak has been removed and will not be replaced! As such, I will eventually move the eye straps closer to the corners, where they will be less obtrusive.) I simply clip snaps from the harness onto the eye straps of the floor and lift. The once difficult job then becomes a very simple process. The floor doesn't even feel all that heavy when lifted this way. Because my instrument cluster and Morse controls are somewhat in the way, the harness was made such that it naturally lifts the hatch at an angle that allows the hatch to clear these obstructions easily. This makes the entire process as simple as lifting the hood of your car. Once it's out, I simply lean the floor against the boom gallows frame.

    When I'm finished with my refit, the instruments will be inset into the cockpit wall. This will simplify the removal even more. Of course the floor will have the holes patched and all will be refinished as well. It's likely that I will remove the teak strips from around the top of cockpit well also. Any thoughts on this?

    OK, now that we have easy access to the engine room, I could help but notice what a pain it is to do anything inside. Perhaps those who have a liner might be in a better position, but without a liner there is no place comfortable to stand or sit while working on the engine (or anything else). I also found that I was constantly standing on the transmission and all too frequently on the shifter. Bad idea!

    Upon removing the fried batteries, I found that I also needed to rebuild all the battery shelves. While I was in the process of doing this, I decided to redesign the rest of the shelving also. I ended up with two horizontal sections, both of which are removable for access to the shaft, as needed. One of the sections provides a very comfortable seat. Beneath this seat, you will notice a step that sits atop the transmission, resting on the tranny itself and on the walls of the hull. This gives me a very flat, stable standing position, without fear of damaging the shifter linkage. This step easily lifts out of place, as needed.

    One final addition was a 7" wide step that is place in the forward edge of the cockpit hole that was once occupied by the floor. It was cut to the exact width of the opening, and since the cockpit narrows as it goes aft, this naturally locks it in place. I put this into position after the floor is removed to give me a very safe and easy way to get in and out of the engine room.

    All of the seats, steps, etc were made from 3/4" plywood, then epoxied and painted. (Some still need to be painted.) I can't tell you what an incredible difference this addition has made to my engine room work, turning a dreaded chore into an easy task! 

    Although it might look as though I have limited my access to the shaft for inspection, such is not the case. By simply removing the back from one of the companionway steps, I have an excellent view of the shaft.

    Hopefully others will find these ideas helpful as well. The improvement in access will surely make it much easier to monitor and maintain batteries. Combined with a good locking system, I also anticipate that the ease of access to engine compartment (and subsequent re-securing thereof) will add substantial convenient storage area that would otherwise be only wasted space.

    Jack Webb
    Last modified: January 15, 2012 10:06 PM | Anonymous member
  • January 15, 2012 11:33 AM
    Reply # 798215 on 798100

    I like your harness for lifting the engine hatch.  Too bad we didn't think of it when we were on the hard and in the engine room every day.  Now if only we had an easy way of bolting/latching it and opening it. 

    I like your lift able shelves in the back of the engine room.  On our boat, before we pulled the engine this Summer, the previous owner had installed a big board over the engine.  It had two holes cut to be able to access the oil and coolant caps but really it could just be lifted out easily.  It made it nice if you needed to get into the engine room from the companion way since you could just rest on top of it and wriggle in.  I wouldn't have tried it with the engine running but with it off it was a breeze instead of laying directly on top a motor.  


  • January 16, 2012 2:12 PM
    Reply # 800391 on 798100

    I was thinking about your description of the "big board over the engine" that was installed by the previous owner. I agree that it's probably advisable not to use it with the engine running. I wonder if it might also be inadvisable to keep it in place full-time. While it may not make a difference, it could potentially raise the engine temperature higher than it already is.

    Nonetheless, I could see many situations in which it would be handy to have a simple and safe way to do gain access this way. So I decided to design one. I know that there were at least two different methods for the companionway steps. My boat has the "puzzle steps" as Werner Hamp likes to call them (he has a conventional ladder). 

    1) In this configuration, there were two drop boards that slide between the engine and the steps. The don't fit well... they rattle... and they are a PITA to use. In lieu of these boards, I cut a single board from 3/4" plywood that perfectly fit the opening, does not rattle, and will insert correctly no matter how you do so.

    2) Underneath the middle slide-in step (the one almost level with the top of the engine), I place a cleat of 3/4" plywood, fastening with screws and Gorilla Glue.

    3) At the same level as the cleat, I devised another cleat that inserts between two fore-and-aft pieces of ply that form the ends of the galley and nav station cabinets. This has a filler piece attached that connects between the step and the aft side of the opening. Normally this is reversed, so the large sliding divider can be installed behind the steps, but can be switched to provide a support for the over-the-engine shelf.

    4) I simply take the horizontal divider board and place it on the cleat in item #3 and on the top of the engine. (This piece has a support fashioned such that nothing can get damaged on the engine.) Voila! I now have an easy way to lay on top of the engine, typically face-up, to gain access to wiring, controls, etc.

    Obviously, I still need to paint the plywood, etc. I will also add an insulator/sound deadener to the engine side of the divider and possibly an additional piece of closed-cell foam to the front side for comfort in use. One big advantage I see to the design is that nothing needs to be stored... all the parts remain in place in both configurations.

    Thanks for the idea!


    Last modified: January 23, 2012 3:31 AM | Anonymous member
  • January 22, 2012 8:11 AM
    Reply # 804718 on 798100
    Regarding the difficulty of removing the cockpit floor.

    My W32 has a 'continuous' SS hinge running the length of the floor along the stb side.  One side of the hinge attaches to the floor and the other to the stb side of the cockpit well.

    If I need to access the engine compartment it just swings up out of the way. 

    There is a small notch cut out of the floor (on the fwd edge) to clear the manual bilge pump. I have a short piece of line (attached to the fwd port corner of the floor) with a loop on the end that I hook over the stb jib sheet cleat to hold it in place while I'm down below.

    Couldn't be easier.  Plus I don't have to worry about where to put the dang thing when I'm down in the engine compartment.
    Last modified: January 23, 2012 4:31 AM | Anonymous member
  • January 22, 2012 8:10 PM
    Reply # 805058 on 798100
    The hinge sounds like an interesting idea, Mike.

    As you can see from my photos, this would not currently be a solution for my boat, as the instrument panel is in the way as well as a lifeline ring on the starboard side. But things, they are a changin'. As part of my rewire project, I fabricated a recessed instrument cluster that I am just now installing. And there certainly isn't a need to have the lifeline ring where it is.

    How water-tight is the seal on your floor. Incredibly, there is NO seal on mine at present. The previous owner must have grown weary of bolting/unbolting it, so he actually filled the holes where the bolts used to be. As such, the cockpit floor just sat in the bottom, with nothing to hold it in. And he cruised the Caribbean with his family that way! Can you imagine how quickly the boat would have gone under if she was knocked down and the floor sunk to the bottom of the ocean? What good would a lifeline be at that point? I'm in the process of building in a water-tight seal, but the hinge is an idea worth consideration.

  • January 23, 2012 5:13 AM
    Reply # 805190 on 798100
    The front/rear walls seem to be the problem sides to make a hinged cockpit floor work. When raising it up the cockpit floor will clear much clear anything on the sides. The trick is not have anything extend out more than a fraction of an inch on the forward or aft walls of the cockpit well.  Fortunately my engine panel bezel only extends out from the wall about 3/8".

    You could test your clearance pretty easy.  Instead of lifting the floor up & out, simply swing the cockpit floor to one side using your lift ropes leaving the stb side 'grounded'.  See what doesn't clear and by how much.

    Trust me... the hinged system I have makes it so easy to get the cockpit floor out of the way it's worth it to make whatever changes are needed to make it work.

    I just have 'peel & stick' weatherstripping around the inside lip of the hatch.  The previous owner(s) had no seal and water leaked around the edge.  The original Adler Barbour compressor was a pile of rust as a result (I've since moved it to the galley sink locker outboard of the sink).  It's a ongoing problem though as the adhesive used to make it stick doesn't last long.

    Right now my floor is not secured in any way other than the hinge.   I do have two bronze 'twist & pull' latches that I haven't installed yet.  So right now, I'd gauge my cockpit floor as 'water resistant'.

  • January 23, 2012 8:23 PM
    Reply # 805852 on 798100
    I have been giving this thread some thought and wanted some input on a solution I have been noodling with.
    I am 6'4" and absolutely cannot get to my engine through the cockpit hatch or companionway.  I am considering a serious makeover of the cockpit well by eliminating the hatch altogether by glassing the hatch hole flush and then cutting the entire cockpit out around the deck about 4 inches outboard of the cockpit walls.  I would heavily reinforce the underside of the deck around the cut out and modify the cockpit well to overlap the deck cutout with an integrated, gasketed flange that would seal against the deck and make it all flush so it does not rub on your thighs.  The cockpit well would then be dogged down tight.  I would "french" some handles into the cockpit walls so that I could lift it out.  Depending on its weight I may consider a complete remold of the cockpit well using lightweight materials to make it more manageable by one person.
    With the entire well out there would be ample room to maneuver and get to the sides of the engine and fuel tanks.  I have reasonable glassing skills and I think I could achive a modicum of professional results.
    Here are some obstacles that need to be addressed.  Other comments would be appreciated.
    1) How best to dog the cockpit well without having to undo 20 bolts around its perimeter.
    2) How to deal with disconnecting the scupper drains easily when removing the well.
    3) Where to remount the throttle, bilge pump, and gauge cluster so they do not have to be tampered with when the well is removed.
    4) Others?
    Mike Green
    Last modified: January 23, 2012 8:48 PM | Anonymous
  • January 23, 2012 9:33 PM
    Reply # 805949 on 798100

    Okay Mike, this may not work for you, but I've seen pictures on the forum of at least one other Westsail with this solid and simple solution for engine access in port or at sea.


    I priced the Bomar a couple of years ago and thought they were far too proud of their product, but then I found one used at a fraction of the price and am convinced it is worth every penny, even at full price.



  • January 24, 2012 6:09 AM
    Reply # 806153 on 798100
    Great feedback... thanks to all. I'll try to address all the questions/suggestions in one reply.

    To Mike McCoy: From various photos I've seen, I don't think mine is the only instrument panel that sticks out too far for this solution. I am, however, in the process of installing a brand new recessed panel that was fabricated from plywood and teak, with fiberglass tape reinforcement. The new panel should resolve the clearance issue.

    I am concerned with the issue of getting a tight seal with a standard hinge, however. I intend to do some extended offshore cruising and anything less than a perfectly tight seal is not an option for me. Barring the hinge, I believe I did come up with an excellent solution for the seal, however. As you've discovered, "peel & stick foam weatherstripping" just doesn't hold up. Larry Pardey subscribes to "refrigerator gasket". I've found something similar, but I have not yet installed it. I think I'm going to need to reinforce the lip in the well first.

    As for attaching the floor to the well? It would be great if the weather and sailing conditions were always perfect. But foul weather can always come when you least expect it. Consider what would happen to your boat if she was knocked flat (or rolled) while the floor just sat in place. Even if she didn't sink, it would make for an incredibly dangerous place to try to steer the boat. The hinge, however, partially diminishes that concern.

    To Mike Green: I've never been 6' 4" (and likely never will at this point). But I have had some taller yard friends access my engine room, with little difficulty. I do have a friend in the yard who happens to be 6'4". I'll ask him to "step in" today and let you know how it works out for him. The steps and seat that I installed make all the difference in the world, with regard to comfort.

    Considering the weight of the floor panel, I can hardly imagine how much it would weigh with the entire well attached as a uniform assembly. This might make it easier to work while it's out. But it would be so much more difficult to remove & replace that I think you'd be losing ground in the long run. Just my thoughts on it. As for your listed "obstacles"...

    1) Dogging the cockpit well would be a considerably greater challenge than dogging the floor, due to weight and size. It would also be virtually impossible to access the nuts now that they would be between the well side and the fuel tanks (unless you permanently installed nuts into the glass deck).

    2) This problem would result in considerably more work than removing the floor and would likely result in reduced integrity of two very large thru-hulls.

    3) I can't imagine how you would tackle this concern, without substantially reducing integrity, ease of use etc.

    The general idea is interesting. I just don't personally think it's doable. But, hey... I'm not one to say anything is beyond comprehension. Some of the best inventions were solutions to things that "couldn't be done".

    General Comments: One of the best solutions for "dogging the hatch" that I've come across was in an old thread (2008) in the archives entitled Cockpit Sole Fastening. If you scroll almost to the bottom of this thread, there was a photo of an "unknown" fastening device that was installed in George and Ranya Shaunfield's W28 by the previous owner. (It's so nice to have access to the archives ;-)

    The clamp in question was an older De-Sta-Co work positioning clamp typically used for woodworking. I used to have several of these and sold them with my Shopsmith and other large wood-working tools when I recently sold my home. Darn!! De-Sta-Co even has several models in stainless on their website as well. They have a wide variety of styles with horizontal handles and vertical handles. I'm confident that this is a near-perfect solution, with a little modification to the hatch for mounting. I've already purchased six of them with the intention of mounting one on each end and two on each side. It's likely that I will only need to use all six for offshore work. I'll let you know.

    UPDATE Aug 16, 2013: I ended up only needing to install 4 clamps... two on each long side. The end result was quite sufficient and under normal circumstances, I only bother to clamp the forward two, which I can easily reach through the cabin access under the companionway. If I was expecting a great deal of rain (hurricanes, etc.) or doing long-distance offshore work, I would probably latch the aft two as well.

    Last modified: August 16, 2013 1:19 PM | Anonymous member
  • January 25, 2012 4:09 PM
    Reply # 807307 on 798100

    The recent post regarding teak cockpit trim was interesting as it mentions that the original cockpit well design was a drop in affair from the factory which I am of course trying to reverse engineer here.
    Anyway, I have solved two and half of the three obstacles that I originally posted.
    1) Dogging the cockpit. - This can be inexpensively solved by incorporating captured stainless steel nuts into the deck reinforcement.  The cockpit would be dropped in place and then stainless steel Allen button head bolts would be driven in using either a T-handle, speed wrench, or even a cordless drill to make quick work of it.  There would be no need to go inside the boat to secure or remove the bolts.  These bolts would have an o-ring at the top of the shank and the holes in the flange would have a slight countersink bevel to accept the o-ring which would then seal the bolt when tightened down.
    2) Cockpit drain removal. - This can be solved through the use of Groove and Cam hose connections fixed to the cockpit end of the drain hose.  The lower end would remain permanently fixed to the seacock as it is today.  These couplings are used extensively in agriculture and heavy industry and are produced in aluminum, bronze, stainless and reinforced plastic, which are all suitable for marine applications.  They are simple, strong, water tight, quick acting disconnects that would be a cinch to pop off from inside the boat.  They are of course backed up by your seacock so there is little risk even if one malfunctioned or was completely destroyed for some unforeseen reason.

    3) (Or 2.5 depending on how you look at it) The relocation of gauges, bilge pump and throttle. - The most vexing of these three is the throttle/shifter which I have not worked out yet.  The other two could be moved to areas like the cabin bulkhead, bulwark or the deck itself.  It is mostly a matter of access vs. aesthetics.
    Last modified: January 25, 2012 4:14 PM | Anonymous
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