Six Lessons from a Simple Job

By Keith Davie

Before we sailed Sionna, our 1963 Triangle 32 ketch, south from Maine in August 2016, my wife, Nicki, and I spent many, many hours on repairs, preventive maintenance, and upgrades to ensure we had a reliable, comfortable home for our planned 8-month sojourn to the sunny south. But one of the tasks on our to-do list we didn’t complete was to re-bed her stanchion bases. Predictably, we discovered leaks shortly after we left. When I finally tackled the project, we were in Florida, at Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor. The job was straightforward, but it did require I draw on the following tips and tricks.

  1. Don’t do hammer damage. I broke each screw loose by hand, then used the cordless drill (how did we live before the cordless drill?) to back them the rest of the way out — except this one. This screw was stuck and I knew removal would require the old hammer-on-the-inside treatment. And here’s the tip: before hammering, take a minute to thread two nuts onto the protruding screw inside, and snug them together, being careful that the screw threads are recessed 1/16-inch or a bit more inside the base of the lower nut. This ensures you hammer the nut, not the threads. (Figure 1)
  2. Keep your tools sharp. My favorite tool for removing old sealant or adhesive is a slightly sharp putty knife. Nobody wants to gouge or otherwise damage the surfaces they’re working on and having an edge on the knife not only makes the job easier (much less force is needed) but makes it easier to avoid accidental damage to surrounding areas. (Figure 2)
  3. Screw, don’t punch. When it comes time to re-attach freshly bedded hardware, hopefully the screws are a snug fit in their holes. Assuming they are, use a driver to screw them in, thereby helping to work bedding material into the threads. Tapping or pounding screws into their holes serves to scrape that material away, which can later result in a leak. Also, when bedding flat surfaces, read the directions carefully. For some compounds, such as silicone, it’s best not to fully tighten right away, but to let the material set first, forming a gasket against which you can tighten down on later. (Figure 3)
  4. Heed the sun. If your joint is exposed to sunlight and weather, choose a sealant that is labeled for UV resistance. (Figure 4)
  5. Permanent isn’t better. Using a tenacious adhesive, such as 3M 5200, doesn’t result in a better job or even a longer-lasting job. Polyurethanes have their place aboard, but not for sealing things that will have to be taken apart and resealed in the future. Because even if you use 5200, constant flexing will result in future leaks, and it’s easier to fix those if you’re not tearing up layers of your deck when removing a stanchion base.
  6. Stay around to be an old good old boater. Give serious thought to protecting your body and the environment. Acetone and MEK are available and sometimes necessary, but both pose cancer risks and are neurological toxins that can be absorbed through the skin. Avoid them if possible, wear gloves when handling them, and use a proper respirator in confined spaces or for long-duration exposure.

Keith Davie and Nicki Dunbar live aboard their 32-foot Triangle ketch Sionna on a seasonal basis, commuter-cruising to warmer climes in the winter and returning by land to their RV-home in Maine for summer income generation. They departed Rockland, Maine, in August, 2016, spent the last two winters in Southwest Florida and the Keys, and plan to visit the Bahamas for several months in 2018-19. The blog of their adventures, “Til the Butter Melts,” can be found at sionnablog.wordpress.com.

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