So you’ve recently acquired a new-to-you, previously loved boat. Well, good for you. If you’re extraordinarily lucky, there’s little to be done except to get out on the water and enjoy.
If you’re like most boat owners, however, there’s always a pesky piece of cabinet hardware, a corroded navigation light, a broken lock or latch, or some other obscure, hard-to-find part that needs replacing. The problem is that often times, many of these parts aren’t just lying on your local marine supply shop’s shelf—you have to sleuth them out on your own.
One particularly frustrating piece of marine hardware that can be difficult to find are port gaskets. Salt and sun seem to have a way of drying them up, and that makes the gaskets prone to leaking. They will likely let you know when they need replacing by dripping onto your forehead while you’re sleeping, or soaking your favorite tackle box during a rainstorm. While it can be maddening trying to find these parts, there are a few simple steps you can take to identify and source them.
If your boat is relatively new, try contacting the boatbuilder first. They should be able to easily identify the ports you have, based on your boat model and year, and either send replacement gaskets themselves or point you in the right direction.
But it’s not always that easy, especially if your boat is older. Builders go out of business, they change suppliers, they no longer “support” older models, and so on. So the next step is to carefully remove the gasket and take it to your local marine store for identification.
Marine shops usually have either generic, by-the-foot gasket material, or a gasket kit designed specifically to work with your particular port. Gasket materials come in all shapes and sizes—some are specific to certain manufacturers, while some of them are fairly generic. A gasket “kit” usually contains a preformed piece of material that fits a specific hatch or port.
If the shop is unable to identify or special order the gasket, it’s time for some sleuthing. First, carefully inspect the port and see if there are any identifying markings. Some ports have the manufacturer’s name etched or labeled right on them, while others are anonymous. Here are the most common port manufacturers, and links to their websites:
If you’re lucky enough to know the manufacturer, you can then go online, locate the company website, and find the information you need to contact them and try to procure the gasket.
But not so fast—even if you are lucky enough to identify the manufacturer, the forensics aren’t over yet. That’s because the manufacturer likely will want to know the measurements of your port. Most ports and hatches are classified by the size of the opening they fit into (the cutout size) or the opening size of the unit itself. That said, you might also want to measure the outside flange dimension of your port or hatch. Oh, and take some digital photos with your smartphone or camera. In short, measure everything you can and take lots of photos; it will make your search mush easier in the long run.
If you’ve struck out up to this point, there are still some options available to you. Try searching online for owner’s associations for your particular make and/or model boat. Those associations or groups typically have a discussion board where you can post pictures and ask questions about your own boat. You can also try general boating enthusiast sites. Also, try thumbing through one of the big box marine store catalogs—you may just come across your port and be able to order the gasket or other parts for it.
Boat Trader has plenty of Buying and Selling advice, but also check out the hundreds of articles in the Boating section, with tips on everything from seamanship to maintenance, how-to, where to find replacement parts, and much more.