Winter's halftime in the Great Lakes

Are we halfway through another winter in the Great Lakes? Close enough by my calendar. As February quickly approaches, spring task lists start to float to the top of a sailor’s brain. I’m sitting here in my office daydreaming about oiling teak handrails, applying bottom paint to my hull, cleaning my sails and a dozen other activities that would seem like chores were it any other time of year. The middle of winter has a strange way of making me appreciate summer. To paraphrase John Denver’s “Relatively Speaking”: The sunshine needs the shadows of the night. Contrast makes it go. And so, summer needs the depth of winter.

Re-bedding Deck Hardware

After purchasing my long-neglected 1972 Helms 25 earlier this summer, the first project I undertook was re-bedding the deck hardware to fix water leaks in the cabin, improve safety (lifeline stanchions, chainplates, etc.) and prevent water leaks into the balsa core of the boat’s deck.

I started with a couple of pieces of deck hardware that I know currently leak (2 stanchions, 2 chainplates). After loosening the through-bolts, I carefully pried the hardware off of the deck. Patience is required because the original epoxy and/or sealer used with the hardware can still be holding fast to the deck in some places. If you pull or pry to aggressively you risk damaging the gelcoat and fiberglass on the deck.

After the hardware was removed from the deck, I cleaned the bedding area and hardware bases with a wire brush and acetone. The acetone does a nice job of removing the old epoxy, but be sure to wear rubber or latex gloves. The chainplates had steel backing plates under the deck that were re-usable after they were cleaned. The lifeline stanchions were backed with plywood that was completely rotted. I replaced the rotted backing with new marine plywood backing, using the old pieces for templates.

I then used two-part marine epoxy (PC Products PC-11 Marine Epoxy Paste) to seal and bond the hardware bases with the fiberglass deck. Per Don Casey's (author, This Old Boat) recommendation, I did not seal the hardware on the underside of the deck around the backing plates so that future leaks are visible and can be fixed before they contribute to a deck rot problem.

I carefully re-mounted and re-tightened (over a matter of hours) the hardware and then trimmed away the epoxy that seeped out after it had cured. Using masking tape on the deck around the edges of the hardware saved a big mess of overflowing epoxy. When re-mounting the hardware, you may consider using larger diameter washers. I considered the original washers on my boat too small to provide the amount of support required by most deck hardware applications.

As long as your boat doesn’t need new hardware, the costs associated with re-bedding deck hardware are basically limited to purchasing acetone and epoxy. The most difficult aspect of the project is often gaining adequate access to the underside of the hardware. Re-bedding deck hardware is a project that most of us should be capable of undertaking. I’m willing to bet that most good old boats would benefit greatly.

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