Pilot House Side Doors

LIBERTY came to us with pilot house doors that didn’t exactly shut without a lot of persuasion.  It appears that the boat has changed shape (or at least the pilot house) since it was originally built.  The doors are designed to hinge open and are narrow at the bottom (to clear the bulwarks) and then wider above the rail.  There is a corresponding “jog” in the house walls.  For whatever reason, that jog seems to jut outboard causing a major interference (to the tune of ½”) when trying to close the doors.

Attempts have been made in the past to compensate for this by adding lots of foam insulation tape along the edge and moving the latch plate for the closure outboard.  We really want these doors to open and close easily and also to seal well.  The varnish is pretty much gone on the inside of the doors as they are swung open and exposed to the weather a good amount of the time.  One of the nice features is the quasi-Dutch door design that allows the upper glass portion of the door to be opened and still have a screened in door.

It looks like some surgery and major finishing is in order.


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We would have done this project during the winter of 2010 except somebody didn’t realize that you couldn’t get access to the hinges on the door once the boat was shrink wrapped.  We plan on being smarter this year, doing the surgery in the late fall to make sure the doors function as hoped and then to refinish them after the boat is shrink wrapped for the winter.

Ok, off with a door and cut a tapered recess into the edge.

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We did a test fit it and lo and behold, it shuts like it should. We were able to remove the 3/8” thick pile of washers that were used to shim the latch plate and then close the door with no effort. Onto the other door and do the same.  By the way, if you have a later model Pilgrim the way to remove the door (by yourself) is as follows.  Remove the upper two hinges from the house.  Open the fiberglass upper portion and slide it down to remove it from the door hinges.  Next, simply pick up on the door and slide it up, off the two remaining hinges attached to the house.  Simple and easy.  Now there is no excuse for having to varnish the doors in place. The door is quite heavy and if you simply remove all the hinges from the house the door will try to get you if you are alone.  Ask me how I know this.

After removing the hardware, we plugged all the extra/stripped holes and stripped the finish down to bare wood.

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New screens were fabricated that are removable (to allow a yearly coat of varnish to be applied), the varnish built back up and the latches repaired and re-installed.  Unfortunately, these screens weren’t able to be recessed into the door without an incredible amount of effort, but for the time being it doesn’t bother us that they protrude ¼”.

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Completed doors “in action”, they shut and latch very easily now and after rebuilding the latch mechanism they lock like they should.

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You can’t see it in the pictures but the doors do not close tightly, in other words there is an air gap of about ¾” near the top, tapering to nothing at the jog in the door.  Either the doors or the house has changed shape (or it was built that way).  Prior owners used lots of weather stripping to try to seal the area.  We are going to make tapered wood shims that go inside the door frame so we can use one thin layer of weather stripping to seal the joint, at least that is the plan at this point.

We replaced the latches for the doors (circled in blue) with SeaDog latches (on the right) that were pretty much identical to the originals. 

It clearly states that they are chrome plated brass.  We needed the end turned down to fit into catch as the new screen frames were right up against the latch so we did that.  The chips coming off the lathe obviously weren’t brass and the material turned harder than expected so we made the assumption that bolts were stainless.  It is a marine item correct?

After one season we noticed that we were getting rust stains around the fitting.  Out came the magnet and sure enough, the pins where highly magnetic; chrome plated steel.

Not being particulary happy about the situation (truth in advertising and all that) I fire off an e-mail to SeaDog informing them that their brass parts were not brass.  As expected I heard nothing back.  This was after I ordered quite a few sets of these thinking I would replace the older, corroded chrome plated ones with shiny new ones.  I guess I still can, just reuse the orginal ones that were true brass.

We did make our own bolts from brass to replace the fake ones on the left in the picture below.

Next up:  Shims to weather proof the doors.

To be continued…….

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