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Development of the Low Profile Cowl Vent

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

by Neil Buchan


In 2001, Buchan Marine, formerly Mariner’s Hardware was set to exhibit at their first Oakland Boat Show displaying cowl vents, deck plates and dorade boxes. Our booth was simply a couple of tables with no fancy back drop and lighting. Prior to this show we had only participated in the Wooden Boat magazine’s show in Mystic, Connecticut and the Port Townsend Boat Show in Washington in 2000. We were aiming to bring our new products to the attention of the boating public.

We were very enthused by comments of customers as they visited our booth. We were trying to create a niche in the marine market with new cowl vents and dorade boxes that would provide much needed ventilation to a boats interior. We were not the first company to market cowl vents. There were already several companies namely ABI, Nicro, Vetus, Plastimo and a few others offering vents. However, we concluded that the choices of vents available were limited. In addition, no company was making teak dorade boxes or custom stainless steel dorade guards. We saw the opportunity.

As a young boy, I attended boat shows every year with my Father, Hector Buchan. I always looked forward to spending hours walking up and down the rows of exhibitors and climbing aboard the new sail and power boats. Back then, my favorite Boat Show was the San Francisco Boat Show held annually in the old Cow Palace. Once I was able to go to the famous Long Beach Boat Show where they had the elite sailboats displayed on what was called the Queen’s Row. I would always leave the show with a bag of literature of all the new boats and marine products I had seen. There was enough information that occupied my spare time for months.

So it was really fun to take our new company to the Oakland Boat Show. However, it was pretty intimidating to be displaying our products next to large companies like Wilcox Critten, Merriman, Edson, Lewmar, Perko to name a few. Fortunately, I was not competing with any of them. Making custom teak dorade boxes was unique to the industry at this time. Additionally, we introduced stainless steel deck plates which overwhelmingly replaced chrome deck plates.

Being in the show created a time to reflect on new ideas and dream about new products. Sometime ideas just pop in your mind. This was the case when I thought about making the Low Profile cowl vents. There were a couple of companies making similar vents but they were made of plastic material. They looked fine when they were new but in a short time they became dirty and weathered looking. It was difficult and nearly impossible to bring them back to their original appearance. It made no sense for the owners of high quality yachts trying to maintain their boats in pristine condition to have this problem dealing with unsightly plastic vents. The answer was to make the Low Profile cowl vents using sheet stainless steel. This was a material which always looked good with little maintenance and would last a lifetime.

Previously, I had already made international business contacts that took my ideas and made the tooling to create some of our other cowl vents. I enlisted their help again. I flew over to Asia and sat down with drawings of the new vent. After we did some brain-storming we decided to build a prototype. I returned to the United States and in a few weeks I got a response I wasn't expecting. The engineers suggested that I not use sheet stainless steel but actually use hot molten stainless steel poured into a mold that would become the new Low Profile vent. This was exactly the process we had successfully used to make our new cast stainless steel Deck Plates. For the next few weeks we fine tuned the drawings that would become the tooling for the new vent. Finally, I signed off the drawings and sent payment to proceed with the project.

The new vent was designed to fit our existing 3” stainless steel deck plate. Thus it became known as the 3” Low Profile Cowl Vent. The other larger 4” and 5” Low Profile Cowl Vents would come later only if the 3” size vent had sufficient sales. I made several trips to oversee the progress of the vent. After a few slight changes, we had what we hoped would be the new vent that would compete with the plastic vents. Our first shipment arrived about 8 months after the date of the Oakland Boat Show.

We listened closely to the comments of prospective customers. For many it was an instant hit. They were anxious and excited to discard their old, tired looking plastic vents. For others, they kept their original plastic vents largely explaining that the plastic was more forgiving if you accidentally kicked your toe into it. True. But consider the trade-offs of the new highly polished, shiny, stainless steel vent with a bright powder coated interior with the color of your choice.

Overtime the new 3” Low Profile Cowl Vent became our most popular selling vent. The 4” size was added shortly after. Years later when our company evolved into selling to customers with yachts 44 feet plus, we added the 5” size. Now we are considering making a 6” size to accommodate the 6” stainless steel deck plate that we sell.

The 3” Low Profile Cowl Vent has been mounted and installed just about anywhere on the deck of both sail and power boats. Because of its’ short height it has been often mounted on the aft location where it can supply air to a nearby auxiliary engine below deck. It can also supply air to a below deck cabins or storage compartments. Usually they are mounted in tandem on the aft deck. One vent can be faced forward and the other faced in the opposite direction. This allows air to enter one vent while the the other vent allows the air to exit. Being short they avoid being in the way of many activities that take place on the aft deck.

Many mariners locate a small Low Profile Vent on the fore deck to aid in supplying ventilation to an anchor locker. Once again, they can supply fresh air to a forward berth. They can also help with drying sails commonly stored in the forepeak.

We have supplied these vents to many boat builders such as Island Packet, Morse, Beneteau and Sabre. We have seen these vents mounted mid-ship supplying air to the main salon, galley, nav station, or enclosed steering locations. Many catamaran have found them useful as will.

We have produced these vents in bronze but currently they are not in production. They were very popular with the older traditional styled vessels found in the northeast sector of the United States. We have also experimented using carbon fiber that appeals to the lightweight racers.

Buchan Marine pioneered the way in making thin-walled cast stainless steel and bronze vents in a variety of shapes that included clamshell, mushroom, round, oval, teardrop and low profile.


Please send us your comments and any pictures showing us how you used this vent.


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