sunfish inspection port & hull drying fan

this weekend, I decided to put an inspection port into my new(er) Sunfish. I’ve done this before – cutting holes in my older Sunfish.  this time, I wanted to avoid adding a port on the deck, so instead opted to put the inspection port in the wall of the cockpit.  this would also give me access to the back of the hiking strap attachment, so I could change that out as the current one in the boat was a bit worn out and nasty looking.

I first roughly traced the port onto the wall – this was more difficult than I had imagined because it was tough to get a Sharpie marker behind the lip of the inspection port at the right angle.  I ended up just tracing the inside of the port, and then roughly drawing an outer ring by hand.

some people use a jig-saw to cut in their inspection ports, but I feel that the jig-saw is just about the most worthless power tool known to man, and prefer to use my Roto-Zip, a rotary cutting tool.  I probably should have bought a better cutting bit, but I was able to cut it out no problem.

before I installed the port, I unscrewed the forward attachment for the hiking strap.  I didn’t want the backing nut or whatever the attachment could be to drop off into the hull and be lost.  in my case, though, the backing plate must have been threaded, because I couldn’t find any loose attachment, and it was a machine screw – so I probably could have probably changed it out without the port. oh well.

I installed a new hiking strap from Intensity Sails – at only $13 it is a great deal, and I’ve been very happy with it on my older Sunfish. (and if you look at the link above – the picture on their website is my older boat! – you would think I could get them for free!)  here’s the hiking strap installed in my newer Sunfish:

after that, I installed the inspection port.  you can buy various sizes of ports or deck plates at just about any sailing or boating website – I usually use the 5″ ports.  for installation, I usually run a small bead of 3M 4200 sealant behind the lip of the inspection port.  for fasteners, I used stainless steel oval head #8 x 3/4″ long screws with a nylon locking nut inside.

my newest creation is a drying fan that can be used to help dry out an older Sunfish that might have minor leaks and you come home from sailing with a little bit of water in the hull. for parts, you’ll need a small fan – you can usually find a decent one in an old computer tower, a power converter to get electricity to the fan (you might be able to use batteries, but I’m pretty sure the constant fan running would drain them way too fast), a small piece of screen, and an extra inspection port cover.

first, I cut out a hole in the extra inspection port cover for the fan.  the dimples in the cover for the handle are kind of in the way, so the cut-out isn’t exactly matched to the fan diameter, but it’s not a bad 1st attempt for a home-made job.  a co-worker gave me an old computer fan to use, and we also found an old cell phone charger converter that was close enough in voltage and amperage to the fan.  I mounted the fan to the port cover, and then used Super-Glue to fasten a small piece of window screen to the back of the cover to keep bugs and critters from getting through the opening.

if you’re not able to find an old computer fan and power converter, you can buy the fans pre-wired for a normal plug for about $15 to $20.

15 Responses to “sunfish inspection port & hull drying fan”

  1. 1 capnrehab May 23, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Was wondering if I need to put in an inspection port as part of my sunfish rehab and here you put one in. I noticed the most of the sunfish at my boat club have the ports on the top deck right behind the splash guard. Are there any strong reasons to prefer either way?


    • 2 my2fish May 24, 2012 at 5:23 am

      capnrehab – the location of the ports is most likely dependent on why you are putting one in. on my older Sunfish, I knew there were some leaks and water getting into the inside of the hull – so like your club members, I put a port in the top deck, right behind the splashguard. this gives you decent access to the center boat innards, like the daggerboard trunk, and the flotation blocks in that area.

      for this current boat, it is much newer and I’m not quite ready to just put a hole in the deck if I didn’t have to do it. I like the ports mounted in the cockpit wall, too. they are out of the way, and give me a easy-to-reach place to store extra stuff if I put a catbag in the port.


  2. 3 mark March 15, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    I picked up a ’74 sunfish for ten bucks last week, but after tipping out and pulling the plugs to drain free water, the hull still feels like it weighs 300+ pounds, lol. I have inspection ports on the forward footwell and the starboard fantail, next to one of the pad eyes for the bridle. I bought two fans to blow air thru the boat, but no-where have I read specifics regarding if both fans blow IN, both blow OUT, or if you mix and match, if so, is the stern the “incoming” or is the footwell port hole the “incoming”? Also, where inside the boat would I place the 40-watt bulb heat source? Also looking for a cheap tiller/rudder.


    • 4 my2fish March 15, 2016 at 3:01 pm

      Mark, set it up so air flows THROUGH the boat, so if you have 2 fans, then have one blow air in, the other suck air out.


      • 5 March 28, 2016 at 1:51 pm

        I have set things up with a fan blowing in from the stern port and one drawing out from the forward port. The deck is covered with black garbage bag plastic for solar heat gain, but since I have partly cloudy skies and 50 percent humidity the next two days… would it be a bad idea to leave the forward exhaust fan on but stick a hand-held blow dryer nozzle into the stern port area and leave it turned on low heat/high fan overnight? Any fire hazard there? Or hazard to the foam or fiberglass? The hair dryer is a ten dollar job from Walmart that I don’t mind sacrificing for this cause, if it gets the hull DE-watered in days instead of weeks. I’d set it on low, not max heat, I just don’t want to melt the boat or require a fire department visit:-)


      • 6 my2fish March 28, 2016 at 2:17 pm

        I’d be very cautious using a hair dryer, especially if left alone w/out you being around to monitor it. those are typically not rated for continuous use like that, and I’m fairly certain would overheat.

        I’ve heard that the solar/black bag option is very effective, so I’d keep doing that.

        for cloudy/rainy days, the advice I’ve seen is to place a light bulb in the hull, like a 60W incandescent (not a CFL or LED), that will give off a little bit of heat, but not cause a potential fire hazard.

        sadly, the process is not going to be quick. your best bet is to leak-check the hull and repair any leaks, and then just sail the boat over the summer, and keep a fan running in the boat while you aren’t sailing.


  3. 7 March 28, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    I appreciate the tips. I’m looking at the cost of new metal rubrail trim and it’s not making me happy. I’m wondering about drilling out the rivets, carefully removing the already-shaped original rubrail metal, re-sealing the deck/hull joint with epoxy, to make the boat watertight again, and then putting the old trim back on, either gluing, screwing, or re-riveting it thru the old existing holes. What say you all?


    • 8 my2fish March 29, 2016 at 7:24 am

      that’s probably a far better option than trying to buy replacement metal trim. the metal trim acts as a protection for that joint – it is not structural or required for the joint strength… merely to keep that edge safe from bumps and dings.

      I would fill the rivet holes and any cracks in the joint with thickened epoxy and leak test the boat to ensure the joint is not a leak point, and then just re-drill new holes to pop-rivet the old trim back in place.


  4. 9 March 29, 2016 at 8:43 am

    OK, that’s the plan then, thanks. I noticed my mast has a slight bend in it near the base, about 1.5 feet above the deck… that’s not normal, is it? I’m guessing that’s damage from turtling or hitting the underside of a low bridge, something like that. I’m wondering about taking the mast to a muffler/exhaust repair shop to ask them to straighten it. Seems like they’d have the tools, since the shop displays a bunch of cute statues outside, all formed from bent exhaust pipes and mufflers… they look like the Pit droids from Star Wars;-) Will the mast be too brittle to straighten? We’re only talking five degrees or so.


  5. 11 frankamiller June 11, 2021 at 3:20 pm

    My SF has the old original wooden tiller and wooden tiller extension. I now have a Ronstan 3133 Urethane Universal Joint and need some direction in how to install. It seems the screwed down base would go onto the existing tiller but I’m not sure how the Joint would attach to the existing wooden tiller extension. If I undid the existing fitting would the new joint go through the already existing hole, and how should I secure it? Would a cotter pin be sufficient? Thanks.


    • 12 my2fish June 11, 2021 at 3:51 pm

      Frank, first step is I’d sand smooth the top of the existing tiller so you have a flat surface to connect the universal joint (I think I actually used a straight bit on my router table).

      if you didn’t buy a tiller extension and just have the rubber flexible joint, I’d probably see about using an old golf club and cutting the golf club shaft so that the diameter matches up with the end of the universal joint. I’m not sure how you’d get it to work with a wooden tiller extension…


  6. 13 frankamiller June 26, 2021 at 5:04 pm

    Seems that all universal tiller joints aren’t really universal to the original wooden tiller and wooden extension. I’ve sent back the one that didn’t seem to have any way of attaching and ordered a better fit from Vela Sailing Support that I hope does the trick.
    Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  1. 1 hiking out « my2fish: a blog about sunfish sailing Trackback on May 28, 2012 at 8:38 pm
  2. 2 how to upgrade a used Sunfish sailboat [video] | my2fish: a blog about sunfish sailing Trackback on February 8, 2021 at 10:20 am

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