How to Build a Motorized/Automated Boat Hatch

For those who have the automation bug, you may be interested to know that many boat owners have taken to using actuators to raise and lower hatches, vents, windows, and cabinets on their small boats and high end yachts. In fact, we have had such an overwhelming number of people calling in that we thought it would be best to post an article showing you the best practices. 

So you want to install actuators on your existing boat hatch? It's quite east and once you have the parts in hand it really shouldn't take you longer than an hour to install one or two actuators. You won't need many tools to accomplish this: A good socket wrench, a marker, measuring tape.

Here is one boaters experience on converting to an Electric Actuated Boat Hatch:

As my boating years advanced along with my age I had noticed that a large engine access hatch became quite a bit heaver than I remember. This particular large 75 pound + hatch I needed to lift  quite often to check  storage batteries, engine oil, store extra anchor lines and whatever.
It was then I decided to find a way to do this electrically with a simple push of a switch.
My plan in steps was to first locate a company that supplies a wide assortment of Actuators and the expertise to suggest the correct length, power requirements (on board 12 volts dc) and also be easy to instal & economical in overall cost.

In today's computer internet world it didn’t take long to find Firgelli Autoamtions extensive web site. After searching over their extensive array of product line of rams noted  they also stock small hand held “Key Fob” type RF controllers that will allow all their rams to be actuated remotely!. Well that for sure would add a real “WOW” to almost every vessel but for my plan just a simple single switch was in my plans. I called Firgelli and their perations manager Danielle answered & switched me directly to a technical person..Geepers !! a live person & no recordings!!

After discussing my needs he asked a few questions as to weight and lift height requirements and was able to suggest the required ram, 2 plated steel brackets, pins and a spring loaded rocker switch. The price was most fair at less than $150 & received in 2 days, installed and operational the next.

 I decided to write this DIY with the idea of practicability, simplicity and low cost for all our Heartland Boating subscribers. Those that follow my many assortment of ‘DIY’s” for the past decade + can be assured that I actually test the products and self install each before my articles are published. Firgelli’s Actuators are compact, extremely powerful & have internal  limit switches (prevents rams from jamming and sets them electrically for the reverse direction of travel.)   A single center pivot spring loaded switch starts the cycle (auto centering off...push to actuate motion..or  use a “Bat” handle toggle types as pictured

Two wire leads from the small sealed motor  ( neg & plus 12 volts)  are wired  along with the switch to the 12 volt dc fused power source from your vessels power panel/fuse box power is all that’s necessary for electrical power or a direct connection to the boats storage battery with a inline fuse. Note that due to the efficient design and minimum power requirements a common 9 volt battery is all that's required to do your basic testing as you adjust the ram brackets fore and aft...or side to side.. and fasten the mounting brackets.
The assorted  DIY photos  can give you a good idea as to how easily everything is placed into position. A must have is a safety  release back up in case of for some unknown reason a power failure or other unforeseen occurs when any hatch is down and locked because of the now locked position ram. In my install a simple and effective latch pin...a common tractor hitch installed in one end of the ram attaching a short steel braided line..or a length of grass cutting/ trim nylon line as shown will work nicely. Route the opposite end through a opening (a deck table mounting hole in our project boat in this instance ) that will allow you to pull the pin and release the Actuator to gain entrance without power.

Unless you carry a “saws all” aboard this is the only method to release a once closed end of cycle ram! Wire the switch and motor leads using solder and shrink tubing. Mount the start cycle, close/open  switch so your able to reach it comfortably when hatch is open or in the closed position.  A optional snug fitting low cost rubber boot is easily installed by just sliding it over the motor as shown. If in salt water a good and inexpensive suggestion. The motor is below deck in my project so its well out of the elements.

When completed  expect your hatch cover to raise or close within brief  seconds with almost no sound with a push of a switch.

Below is another automated hatch lift this time in the bed of a truck. The idea is exactly the same, this one only uses 1 actuator which is fine to do it that way sometimes if you have a very rigid hatch that you are opening.
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