1987 MK 1 Catalina 34 Aft Cabin Tool Storage

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By Jon Windt; Della Jean

NOTE - Before doing any projects, I highly recommend that you first go through the “Critical Upgrades” list and verify that your boat has all of the applicable items addressed. There is a link on the Message Board (copied here) entitled “CRITICAL UPGRADES – DO THESE OR ELSE!!!” that will take you to them. It is a good way to both learn your boat and make sure it is safe. Don’t put it off.


I purchased my 1987 MK 1 Catalina 34, hull #493 in April 2015. A great boat, but usable storage from the factory is limited. For example, under the aft berth it is completely open and access is reasonably good. The problem is there aren’t any bulkheads to keep things dry, in one place, and away from the propeller shaft. Photo (1) shows the aft cabin with the cushions removed and the small starboard hatch. The starboard side would be a great place to store my tools, and the center section would be a great place to store spare parts.

Tool storage is my first priority. I decided to install plywood bulkheads to make a closed compartment ~ 24” wide x 36” long under the small hatch in the aft berth on the starboard side.

(1) IMG 1388 (resized).jpg

Materials Used

  • West System #105 Epoxy Resin.
  • West System #205 Fast Hardener.
  • West System #27 Episize Biaxial Tape 4” x 10 foot roll.
  • West System Six10 Thickened Epoxy Adhesive.
  • ½” Plywood sanded both sides.
  • White Interlux Bilgekote (YMA102) paint.

Adding Bulkheads

Foam board was used to make templates of the hull surface. The foam board templates were transferred to the plywood and then cut to shape. I then epoxied the wood to the hull using West Systems Six10. When the epoxy hardened, I applied 4” strips of fiberglass to both sides of the plywood to add additional strength to the plywood to hull joints. The top of the bulkheads are not bonded to anything to allow air to flow in and out of the compartments to minimize condensation.

Photo (2) shows the fore and aft bulkhead. This bulkhead separates the compartment from the propeller shaft area.

(2) IMG 1299 (resized).jpg

Photos (3) and (4) show the inboard side of the fore and aft bulkhead after bonding to the hull and vertical surface. The two hoses are the 1 1/8” bilge hose going to the transom exit, and the ½” fresh water hose from the aft water tank. The cables are the engine control cables.

(3) IMG 1309 (resized).jpg

(4) IMG 1310 (resized).jpg

Photo (5) shows the aft bulkhead that makes the end of the tool storage compartment. The fore and aft bulkhead is seen on the right side of the photo for reference. The notches in the aft bulkhead are cut into the plywood so the engine control cable from the helm can pass through the bulkhead and operate freely.

(5) IMG 1300 (resized).jpg

Photos (6) and (7) show the bulkhead glassed in place to close off the storage locker under the seating area in the forward section of the aft cabin.

(6) IMG 1313 (resized).jpg

(7) IMG 1302 (resized).jpg

Painted Bulkheads

Photos (8) through (13) show the ½” plywood bulkheads that have been fiberglassed into the boat painted with white BilgeKote. For a description of which bulkhead is which, these photos are in the same order as the previous photos (2) through (7).

(8) IMG 1319 (resized).jpg

(9) IMG 1347 (resized).jpg

(10) IMG 1350 (resized).jpg

(11) IMG 1365 (resized).jpg

(12) IMG 1331 (resized).jpg

(13) IMG 1357 (resized).jpg

Tools Stored

With bulkhead structure complete, the last step was to lay a cushion on the hull to protect it from the tools to avoid any damage in rough weather. I purchased it at Home Depot in the welcome mat section. This may be unnecessary, but it was inexpensive at the local big box hardware store, the right size, and seems like good insurance to me. Access to the tools is easily done by lifting the mattress about 18”, and moving the lid out of the way.

Photos (14) and (15) show the cushion installed.

(14) IMG 1369 (resized).jpg

(15) IMG 1377 (resized).jpg

Photos (16) through (18) show tools in the new storage compartment with some room to spare.

(16) IMG 1379 (resized).jpg

(17) IMG 1382 (resized).jpg

(18) IMG 1385 (resized).jpg