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  • JIm

What about those new pilothouse doors?

Doors – What is in a boat door anyway?

We recently replaced the Pilot House doors, but why? What was involved? What did it cost?

Lots of questions – and now, for some answers.

Port Door

Sea Venture’s Pilot House doors were OK, but just ok. They were the original teak doors. For teak doors they were in good condition. The varnish on the inside was good, the paint on the outside good. The glass, along with all the windows in Sea Venture, had been replaced already and was in excellent condition. So why replace them?

Well, they were not airtight, or watertight. As happens with wood over time, they had warped a little. They were no longer flat. We tried extra foam to seal the areas which did ok, but just ok. The lock was also small, and the lockset worn out. You always had to play with it exactly right to get them to lock.

While they had served Sea Venture well for 44 years, they were just worn out. It was time to consider new doors.

We had investigated the idea in the past, but not seriously. At least not seriously enough to get a quote or figure out exactly what new doors would entail. While our bulbous bow was being installed, Steve Keller, of Keller Marine who was doing the work happened to get a new door delivered on the barge. A door for another boat – an upcoming project Steve had on the schedule. This gave us a chance to take a closer look at a door and consider this possibility more closely.

Port Door Inside

Steve and I carefully measured the door openings. This took a little bit of a leap of faith. To accurately measure the rough opening, we had to cut away part of the existing teak jamb to get behind the trim (the jamb and trim were all one piece of teak). At this point, we knew we were going to proceed with the project.

We decided to go with AJR, a company based in British Columbia, Canada to make the doors. We basically had two choices. AJR Doors or Freeman Doors. (There is also Diamond Sea Glaze, but they are owned by Freeman Doors). We decided on AJR based on Steve’s prior experiences with them having all been positive, their lead time was only 4-6 weeks, and the pricing was competitive.

So, we put down 50% and ordered the doors. Total door cost, including shipping to Wrangell was $7,700.00. I know, a lot for two aluminum doors. But it is a boat – it is what it cost. We drove up the cost a little by wanting rounded glass windows, anodized white doors, upgraded lockset and the biggest upgrade, and an important one, Dutch doors, so we could open just the top half.

The doors arrived on time and just before Steve was going to start the work the weather suddenly got nice – the first time this year. We knew Steve had another boat that was waiting for an exterior paint job and with the nice weather he could to that job. So, we delayed the door project and took off for our trip to Ford’s Terror – hopefully, you have had a chance to see the videos from Fords Terror, which just does not do it justice. Truly a magical place.

After our return from Ford’s Terror Steve and Jobe got to work. We expected the entire project to take 2-3 days to complete and it did. Removing the old doors, without damaging the fiberglass took time and patience, but we got it done.

Dutch Door Open

Sea Venture’s Pilot House is constructed with both an inner and outer ½” thick fiberglass wall. Between the wall is wood framing around the windows and doors. As we expected, over Sea Venture’s life some water had migrated behind the teak trim into this framing, and some of it needed to be replaced and epoxy added to fill any voids and strengthen the framing. After this step was done the doors went right in. . . . or should have gone right in.

The port door fit perfect. The starboard door, not so much. The jamb is one solid square piece, with an inner frame that screws to the outer frame and sandwiches the door in place. The starboard door did not want to close correctly. The reveal was not precise. It took us a few hours of working with it to figure it out. The door had a manufacturing problem. The lower half was 1/8” out of square. It was wider at the top then the bottom, causing the reveal to have an angle to it, and causing the door to pinch on closing.

We talked with the production manager at AJR. While there was lots of talk, there was not any action.

In the end, we fixed it as best we could. By using some shims behind the hinges, we got everything to line up, sort of. It works, most of the time. It fits, some of the time.

AJR offered a $500 credit on our next door. Will we ever use the credit? Well, no, we will not order another door from AJR, and I doubt Steve will either.

It is all part of boating and working with vendors. It is not always perfect. How companies respond to problems matters, a lot, and in this case, we would not recommend AJR to our friends and family.

View of Screen

The issue is not totally resolved. While we were able to make the door work, we have discovered that when it warms up the aluminum expands and the door again does not close correctly.

The labor cost to install was higher then planned, given the time messing with the starboard door. Total cost, doors and labor, came in right at $10,000.

Rosy and I are now working on some finishing touches. New wallpaper above the doors, new base trim below, reattaching Sea Venture’s alarm system, and making new screens for the doors. The screens are almost done. Not only will it keep the bugs out, but it will also keep the cats in. It took them about 3 minutes to figure out how to jump right over the ½ opened door.

Another boat project (pretty much) down. Are there more projects on the horizon? I learned a long time ago never say never. The only thing I know for sure is that there is apparently no end to how much you can spend on a boat. That is ok. I would not trade it for anything.

Until next time, wishing you no wind and flat seas.


PS – that next boat project - A new water maker . . . . . .

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