The Passport Project: Part 19 (Companionway redo)

Pressing down the new non-skid pads to make sure they stick.

Pressing down the new non-skid pads to make sure they stick.

The rainy, chilly weather over the Memorial Day weekend didn’t bother me.

Truthfully, it made me feel better about not being able to take our boat out for the first long weekend of boating season. Meridian, our Passport 40, is currently in a state of chaos as we rush to get a few projects done before we move aboard for the summer at the end of June.

So while Marty was busy over the weekend working on our head overhaul, I finished redoing the companionway ladder, a project that has sucked up a considerable amount of time over the past few weeks.

I’d wanted to redo the ladder since we bought the boat last April. The non-skid treads were worn out and dirty-looking. The wood was nicked, discolored and missing varnish in places. Looking at it, and the beat-up companionway hatchboards, irked me. Down below the wood is in great shape, but getting to and from there required passing through the shabby-looking companionway. To me, it was akin to keeping the interior of a house beautiful but letting the entryway fall into disrepair.

The companionway hatchboards were worn and weathered

The companionway hatchboards were worn and weathered

So I decided that redoing the companionway was a priority before moving aboard. The first step was to strip the ladder down to the bare teak. Given the number of surfaces involved, it was a time-consuming task.

The ladder, just after I started stripping it.

The ladder, just after I started stripping it.

Then came the varnish, around five coats of it.

The non-skid treads were a little trickier. We’d originally considered repainting them, thinking that removing them might be difficult or damage the wood. But they were worn down and really needed to be replaced. A little heat gun action was all it needed to loosen the epoxy, then scraping them off was easy. (A heat gun and a random orbital sander are two items I now consider absolutely necessary for brightwork; they save massive amounts of time and wrist strain).

I got Treadmaster Self Adhesive Grip Pads at Fisheries Supply, which stocks two different pre-cut sizes in several colors. I chose the dark grey ones, since they seemed least likely to show dirt. But they were larger than what I needed, so I had to cut them to fit. Given the cost — $54 for a pack of two — I wanted to make sure I didn’t mess it up.

TreadmasterpadsI first made a paper pattern by putting a sheet of paper over the shallow indentation where the old pads were and running my fingernail around it, then cut out a pattern and used that to make a sturdier template out of posterboard. I taped the pattern to the back of the pad, since cutting on the flat side would be easier than on the textured front, and cut the pads to fit with a utility knife. The curved edges took some careful trimming with a light hand.

When I was done, the pads didn’t quite fit perfectly within the indentations and I didn’t want to risk making additional cuts and ending up with uneven edges. So on Marty’s smart suggestion, I used a sanding block covered with 180-grit sandpaper to take off just enough to make the pads fit and smooth out any uneven parts. It worked perfectly.

As for that “self-adhesive” part, not so much. The material used on the backing was about as sticky as envelope glue. It was a joke. We seriously doubted it would keep the pads in place, so to be on the safe side, we used Treadmaster’s two-part epoxy to glue them in place (thereby prompting us to buy another Treadmaster product; nicely done, Treadmaster).


I was thrilled with the end result. The ladder looked like new, its teak warmly glowing and the non-skid pads clean and fresh. The hours of scraping, sanding and varnishing had paid off.

The finished ladder, with new varnish and non-skid pads (the pads are less blue than they look here).

The finished ladder, with new varnish and non-skid pads (the pads are less blue than they look here).

And then … I looked at the outside of the ladder and saw something. A sag in the varnish. Bugger. I’d been so careful applying the varnish, but somehow missed this when I put on the last coat.

“It’s on the side,” Marty said reassuringly. “You won’t see it.”

“But I’ll know it’s there,” I replied.

So on its side the ladder went, for one more sanding and what I hope will be the last coat of varnish. It’s time to put this project to bed and finish redoing those hatchboards.

10 Responses to The Passport Project: Part 19 (Companionway redo)

  1. Lisa June 4, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    We were inspired by your photos and in a moment of weakness started scraping ours. So far so good. The non-skid is off, stairs are sanded and oiled, and pads are cut (we had to buy a full sheet). We are using the 2 part adhesive which calls for a finely serrated scraper. We can’t seem to find anything that seems right for the job. Any suggestions?

    We will send a photo when complete.

    Ericsson 333. Slap N Tickle

  2. Carolyn June 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Deborah, you did an amazing job! it looks beautiful and certainly is a true labor of love!

    • Deborah Bach June 2, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

      Thank you! It is definitely a labor of love, owning an older boat.

      • SheltieJim April 1, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

        Oh, that it is. I do admit quietly that sometimes I wished the boat wouldn’t give me so much love, though 🙂

  3. Mike Brough May 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    Nice job — I have some repair work to do on my companion way ladder also – the jobs never seem to get done – new treads also – thanks for the info

    • Deborah Bach May 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

      Thanks, Mike.

      There does seem to be an endless list of projects. But that’s a given if you own a boat, isn’t it?

  4. thom May 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Ah, the curse of “but I’ll know it is there.” I know it well . . .

  5. s/v Eolian May 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Nicely done.

    And we are always our own worst critics…

    s/v Eolian

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