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This page updated: February 2014

Anchor and Rode
Anchor Windlass
My Boat Hull page (hull and keel types and materials)
My Boat Rigging and Sails page

Anchor and Rode      Anchor

Anchor Type:

Wikipedia's "Anchor"
Rocna's "Anchors knowledge base"

From Tom Neale: use CQR as primary, Fortress as secondary.

About Super Hooker, from Gary Elder:
They are cheap for a reason ... They don't hold worth a damn. [For a 4th anchor,] You'd be better off finding a used, rusty Danforth to buy for about 50% of new price. ...

West Marine sells them [Super Hookers], and takes a lot of bent ones back. About the only place I would use one is as a stern anchor on a dink - to keep it off the beach.

Supposedly, Danforth's perform terribly if the flukes become misaligned/bent even a little.

From Gary Elder on the Morgan mailing list, 6/2001:
... Recently, I had an opportunity to handle an aluminum Spade anchor and was surprised to find that it is so soft that I could 'dent' the aluminum with my fingernail. It appeared so soft that I'm afraid that after a few sets the leading edge could be badly 'dented' to the point that it might not dig into the bottom properly. I suspect that contact with a rock or other hard object could ruin it. ...
There have been reports of the bolt holding together the Spade anchor coming loose; make sure the nut is held on by seizing or a cotter pin.

Anchor test in 10/2006 issue of Sail magazine, in sand over hard-sand, found that Rocna, Spade and Delta performed best. CQR and Danforth-type got terrible marks; they had a hard time getting them to set at all.

Anchor Weight:
  • Rule of thumb from "After 50,000 Miles" by Hal Roth:
    For burying anchors (CQR, Danforth), want 1 lb per foot of LOA.
    For surface anchors (fisherman), want 2 lb per foot of LOA.

  • Carry largest possible anchor and use it for everyday anchorages (never know when it will be stressed by a sudden squall or something).

  • Don't get much smaller stern anchor; it may have to carry heavy load (if wind or current shifts).
From Ed Burke on Yacht-L mailing list:
... usually boats are under-anchored so what you are used to seeing on most boats is actually too small. If you feel like your anchor is a bit too large, it is probably right.

Similar to the adage, if you start to ask yourself if it is time to reef, the answer is yes. ...

Anchor Rode Type:
  • All-chain: good in coral/rocky bottoms, stronger, but more expensive, lots of weight in bow, hard to dinghy out anchor, requires a snubber, rusts.

  • All-rope: good in muddy bottoms, cheaper, light, but can chafe, need more scope.

  • Mostly rope, with some chain near anchor: compromise.

Beth Leonard's "Getting Hooked"

In some harbors (such as Luperon 9/2005 and 2006), people steal anchors by cutting the rope rodes, if you have two anchors down.

  • Proof coil (cheap; long links make it vulnerable).
  • BBB (heavy).
  • High-tensile / HT (stronger steel than BBB, so lighter).
  • Stainless steel (expensive; corrodes under water).
  • Vinyl-coated (gets chewed up by windlass; traps water against metal).

G3 == ISO Grade 30 == proof-coil.
3B == BBB (material is also ISO Grade 30 strength).
G4 == ISO Grade 40 or 43 == high-tensile or high-test.

"Living With Chain" by George Day in 5/2000 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine

From Norm on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list
Chain size is the diameter of the wire stock used to make it, that is, the thickness of the links.

BBB (pronounced "triple B") has shorter links than the most common chain which is called Proof Coil. BBB is the preferred chain for anchor chain because it is heavier (has more links per its length) than Proof Coil chain. This extra weight forms a deeper caternary (also spelled "catenary") curve from the boat to the anchor and so acts as a better shock absorber to average out the pull on the anchor as the boat bounces around when the weather makes up. If the anchor chain ever gets enough pull on it to straighten out and deliver sharps tugs to the anchor it is a bad thing that tends to make the anchor drag.

HT means "high tensile". It is extra strong but is rarely used by boats.


Anchor chain is made of steel. Steel is an alloy of iron, mostly iron with other elements added to give it more desirable properties.

Chain is desired because of it's durability, especially around coral or rocky bottoms. It is also desired because it can be hauled on board easily with a windlass without touching it. Anchor rodes can get very nasty when they are in the water a while.

Chain is also desirable not so much for strength (nylon is quite strong), but because it forms that caternary curve that acts as a spring to even out the tugging on the anchor. This advantage becomes a disadvantage if the chain should ever be pulled straight tight, so bigger chain is desirable not so much for its strength as for its weight to keep this curve from straightening out. This is why BBB is the best for boat anchor chain.

From Brian Woloshin on Cruising World message board:
You can get chain much cheaper by calling Acco and asking for the name of their industrial dealer in your area. The catch is that the industrial suppliers usually sell only in half or full barrels. For 5/16 chain a half barrel is 275 feet. For 3/8 a full barrel is 400 feet.

From Norm on The Live-Aboard List:
Do not mix stainless and regular steels in your anchor system [e.g. stainless shackle with galvanized chain], or anywhere where salt water will get on them. The galvanic difference is too much and one will be eaten up by electrolytic corrosion.

I've found:
  • The existing chain on my anchor rodes does not really fit my windlass gipsy. They're close enough to work, but the gipsy only grips one or two links at a time because of the misfit.

  • The booklet that came with my windlass gipsy is misleading or wrong about what kinds of chain fit it.

  • Acco 5/16" HT at West Marine is not the same size as Campbell 5/16" HT at Home Depot!

  • Remove the gipsy from your windlass, take it to the store, fit the chain to it, and buy or order that chain. Measure the link size and write it on the order; if a different size comes in, the store should not charge you.

  • Everyone says "don't buy Chinese-made chain", but no one can tell me how to spot that.

  • Campbell apparently has "proof coil" and "marine proof coil" which have different link lengths.

  • For one type of chain (Acco 3/8" BBB) I found prices ranging from $2.14/foot to $4.54/foot in Florida in 2001.

From John Dunsmoor:
HT has the strength, but it rusts. They plate it differently because it is high-test. If they used hot-dip galvanizing it would destroy the temper of the chain.

From Philip on The Live-Aboard List:
Electro-plated: used DC power to plate the chain. A current is run through a zinc to the chain with the connection being made in an electrically conductive bath. This results in an even and usually thin plating of zinc. It has a shiny appearance. Does not last long in my experience.

Hot dipped: immersed in a bath of molten zinc and coated to a significant thickness. Color is zinc gray. Wonderful if properly done, but can be botched. Preparation of the chain prior to plating is important. Rust and scale must be removed and the oxidation neutralized.

One method immerses the chain in a basket. Result: fused links and drippy chain. I saw a job so badly done in Venezuela that the chain would no longer run through the gipsy.

Another method runs the chain through the molten zinc and over a pulley, flexing the chain, and results in a even coating which is much preferred.

It is said that re-galvanizing the chain reduces its strength about 10% to 20%.

Zinc coating or galvanizing, coats the surface of the steel chain with zinc. This zinc serves as an anode much like a zinc anode on your prop shaft. It is a sacrificial coating and when it is dissolved away the underlying chain rusts.

One way I found to extend the life of the chain was to coat it with spray-on galvanizing while the chain was new and every year at haul-out after that.

  • If anchor rode is chain, must have a way to release it quickly in an emergency.
    Maybe a nylon line connecting the bitter end of the chain to the boat.
    Have a float attached to that line, so you can recover it later.

  • Anchor chain: want more links per foot, because that makes it more supple (less likely to kink), and means the windlass gets a better grip (on more links).

  • Wire brush to clean chain as it comes on board.

Repairing chain:
From Mike Mclaughlin on Cruising World message board:
Remember that the chain is only as strong as the weakest link! No matter what you do, do Not use hardware that is not stamped with the WWL "Working Load Limit" or at least stamped with some load rating.

Chain repair includes the use of threaded "Quick Links", which may be unacceptable for windlass use as the links threaded closure mechanism is thicker (larger) than the other links. The more critical repairs use, in descending order of load rating, riveted "connecting links", "lap links" or "cold shut links".

None of these pieces is expensive, so I'd start with the riveted connecting link and see how it runs through the gypsy. I do a lot of theatrical rigging with chain hoists, and the riveted connecting link is the only repair we will allow on site.
From Max on Cruising World message board:
WL of "repair link" is much less than WL of chain or the corresponding shackles. For example, connecting link (that you are referring to) for 5/16 HT chain has WL 1950 lb which is significantly less than WL of the 5/16 HT chain (3900). The only link that I think may be considered is double clevis links at west marine: it has 4000 lb SWL. But I am not sure how does it goes through the windlass (will have to try).

Then I think there are two more options: 1) weld it together at machine shop with HT link or 2) splice short length of 3 strand nylon rope (but then we have chafe, rot, etc).


From Roberta Figueroa on Facebook 1/2012:
Re: re-galvanizing chain:

I would like to share with you some tips I picked up from Ken on "See Ya II", a cruiser we met in Ste Anne, Martinique a while back. Ken used to be a chain salesman of sorts and let me know:

1) mild steel chain links will elongate with regular usage to the extent that they will skip on a windlass's gypsy (wildcat),

2) the links will corrode over time up to 10% of its diameter in seawater,

3) regalvanizing may not coat the most critical stress areas, i.e., where they link.

I also learned that a worn gypsy will accelerate the deterioration of chain links and should be replaced periodically along with the replacement of the chain.

Further, it is ok to replace just the section of chain that has the most deterioration, then link it to the remaining good section, rather than replacing the entire rode.

Additionally, Mike Williams, former Secret Harbor Grenada Moorings fleet manager, told me that they were lucky to get more than two seasons out of a charter boat's anchor chain. In our 8.5 years of cruising we renewed our anchor chain 4 times. Hence, my cruising experience has made me think of anchor chain as a "consumable" rather than a "durable good".

Bow Fittings and Chain Locker:
  • If anchor hangs at bow, in heavy weather, tie it down.

  • The diameters of bow roller and axle should be as large as possible.

  • The bow roller should have a locking pin so the anchor chain can't jump out.

  • The bow chocks should have latches so the anchor chain can't jump out.

  • Anchor stopper (simple pawl that engages chain).
    See article in Cruising World magazine 8/2000 issue.

  • The anchor chain locker should have no connection to the bilge/interior of the boat.

  • Anchor chain locker should have strong fastenings that can survive a rollover.

  • Put a grate in bottom of anchor chain locker: protects fiberglass, improves drainage and ventilation.

  • Want a solid plug for the anchor hawse pipe to keep water from coming in when offshore.

  • Thick rubber gloves for raising anchor.

  • Wire brush and deck hose for cleaning anchor and rode and chain locker.

  • When raising anchor, hang a thick canvas pad over the side to protect the hull.

  • Idea for improving scope: have a strong U-bolt installed in the bow just above the waterline, and run the snubber line through it. This lowers the point of attachment of the anchor rode, giving increased scope.

From Gary Elder:
> I see a lot of boats where the anchor chain locker opens into the V-berth
> (through a little door). This strikes me as a very bad thing (smells from rode;
> water if hawse pipe leaks or breaks or deck lid opens). It also may drain into the bilge.
> Should I avoid boats with this ?

No. Our last two boats were built this way, as were many, and we have had no problem with it. We have anchored on some pretty 'stinky' bottoms and never had a problem with odor from the chain locker entering the living spaces.

> I guess I could glass over the opening and make the locker drain overboard.

Some boats are built this way, but be certain that there is NO way for water to enter the boat from the chain locker because the drain may be under water at times.

> But some lockers don't open onto deck at all (just a hawse pipe), so I
> guess I'd have to add a deck lid if I did that.

Yep. That can be a big job, and depending on the boat, could jeopardize strength.

Bottom line? Don't worry about it, it's usually a non-issue.
From John Dunsmoor:
[I sent same questions to John:]

We added a piece of lexan 1/2" thick so we could see what was happening in the chainlocker and then in the center of the lexan installed a watertight "O" ringed hatch that is about 10" opening. Which allows us to get an arm in to mess with the rode.

This locker has a small drain hole to the outside.

This solution took care of smell, water, leaks, draining into the bilge, etc.

Every problem is an opportunity to find an elegant solution.

> Was there a smell before you did this ? Someone else told me they never had a
> problem with smells even when anchoring on stinky bottoms. Anchors and rodes
> that come up from SF Bay smell pretty bad.

No, but you wash your rode clean as it comes up. I guess it could stink, certainly a viable concern.

Anchor float:
  • Self-adjusting float on anchor trip line, from Clark Willix on Cruising World message board:
    Make trip line longer than depth of water. Tie one end to back of anchor, run line through float (don't tie it), and tie small weight to other end. Line slides through float as tide changes.

  • Put small weight or chain on anchor trip line, to keep line directly below buoy.

  • Sometimes others will think your anchor trip float is a mooring, and try to moor to it. Maybe write "anchor trip line" on it in reasonably big letters ? Also put reflective tape on it.

  • From Tom Neale: An anchor buoy is a bad idea: too easy for others or your own boat to snag it and trip the anchor. And you should always know where your anchor is, anyway.

From Bryan Genez on the WorldCruising mailing list:
Re: Re: SS chain hook

Rick Kennerly wrote:
> ABI (707-765-6200, email) makes a SS Chain Grabber that Practical Sailor likes real well.
> It's a very heavy SS plate with a slot at the top for the chain to
> drop down into and two holes, upper left and upper right, for a
> shackle. This unit is particularly useful for boat with bowsprits and
> bobstays as you can rig a line to each shackle forward of the bobstay
> as a bridle, adjusting each side to control dancing at anchor or to
> adjust how the boats head lays to swell or chop.

I've owned and used one of the ABI chain grabbers for the past ten years, riding to a 1/2" nylon bridle. It's a bit more difficult to attach than is a chain hook (requires tension on both ends of the bridle, as the chain is slacked ... just another job that requires three hands - or prehensile toes). When set, it works very well. I recommend it highly.
From Steve Strand on the WorldCruising mailing list:
We have used that plate for years, because of the double bridle, a bit less sailing at anchor. It has deformed under heavy load (we used it on a heavy 45' boat) but I think it is a good idea.

SailNet - Liza Copeland's "Choosing Anchors, Rodes, and Windlasses"
BoatU.S.'s "Anchoring"
David Brown's "All About Anchors"
George Day's "Anchoring for Everyone"
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Dueling Rodes"
SailNet - Tom Wood's "The Perfect Anchor Rode"
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Using Two Anchors"
Nautica's "Berth Comfort"
SailNet - Michelle Potter's "Seven Fun Ways to Anchor"
Charles Kanter's "The Delta Anchor times 300"
Anchor reset test in 1/15/2001 issue of Practical Sailor.

From Todd Dunn on Cruising World message board, about how to tie up to a mooring:
Most moorings have a pennant (15-25' long) shackled to the mooring chain just under the ball (float). There is usually a float on this pennant to keep it on the surface. On my mooring there is a pick-up wand, which is a float with a six foot long vertical fiberglass wand, tied to the eye at the end of the pennant. The method is to approach the pennant (float or wand) from down wind and stop when it is about 10-12 feet aft of the bow. Then your bow person either grabs the wand or hooks the floating pennant with a boat hook, hauls the end of the pennant on board, reeves the end of the pennant through the bow chocks and drops the eye over the bow cleat.

Some moorings have no pennant. Instead they have a ring on top of the float. In this case you have to come alongside the float and feed your line through the ring [but watch out for chafe]. When I use this type of mooring I have one end of my on-board mooring pennant (an old 3/4" 3-strand nylon dock line) cleated off to my bow cleat and reeved out my starboard chock. When I come along side the float I snag the ring with my boat hook, lift it up and pass the free end of my pennant through the ring. I then bring the line through my port bow chock and cleat it off. Dropping the mooring then only requires uncleating the line and pulling it out of the ring.

Rolling at anchor:
  • From Lew Hodgett on Yacht-L mailing list:
    Pardey built some "flopper stoppers" years ago using a milk crate with some canvas flaps sewn in the bottom to create a one-way check-valve. Canvas would allow water to enter freely but drain slowly.

  • Summarized from article by Nancy Terrell in 2/2007 issue of All At Sea magazine:
    They built an anti-roll tank on top of the pilothouse on their trawler. A tank is most effective if it runs the full beam of the boat. Their tank is 4' x 12' by 16" high, with five T-shaped baffles on either end of the tank. It is fabricated out of sheets of Nida-Care and fiberglass. The tank weighs 250 pounds empty. They put in 6" of sea water, which weighs 1550 pounds.

    The idea is that the water sloshes from one side to the other as the boat rolls, but the baffles slow the water so it is always out of sync with the boat roll, always tending to be lifted by the boat roll. Timing is everything. The location, size and spacing of the baffles determine the effectiveness of the tank.

From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
... Once you leave the USA, particularly in the South Pacific, most docks and slips seem to be concrete, which really chafes your lines. Same thing in the Med. Most of the mooring attachments and cleats seemed to be two or three feet from the edge, so a lot of line would lay on the concrete, sawing back and forth. We carried six 10-ft lengths of chain that we looped around pilings, mooring bollards, and cleats and closed the loop with anchor shackles. The chain was hung over the edge and then we'd tie the dock lines to the anchor shackle. ...

Anchor Windlass

Anchor windlass is used to lift anchor and chain up into boat, not to secure rode to boat (use a snubber line to a cleat), pull boat up to anchor (use engine/sails), or break anchor free from bottom (use boat motion).

Windlass characteristics:
  • Power: manual, electric, or hydraulic.
  • Mounting: shaft is vertical or horizontal.
  • Location: on deck or inside chain locker.
  • Rode types: all-chain, all-rope, or combination.
    A capstan to handle rope, and/or a gipsy to handle chain. Some gipsy's also handle rope.
  • Number of rodes: one or two.
  • Route: directly down into locker, or across deck to roller above locker.
  • Strength: while pulling, and while statically loaded.
    Ratings are maximum pull (MP) and safe working load (SWL).
    MP usually is about 3 to 4 times SWL.
    SWL should be 1 to 3 times weight of entire ground tackle, depending on who you listen to.
  • Speeds: one-speed or two-speed.
  • Directions: forward-only or reversing (good for clearing jam).
  • Backup: manual mode if power fails ?
  • Controls: at helm, on foredeck, or both.

BoatU.S.'s "Anchor Windlasses"
West Marine's "Anchor Windlasses"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Choosing and Installing an Electric Windlass"
David Brown's "Anchors Weigh"
SailNet's "The Great Windlass Debate"
Maxwell's "Winch Selection Guide"
Anchor Windlass Refit article by Chuck Husick in 1/2000 issue of Ocean Navigator magazine.
"Painless Anchoring" article (choosing and installing a windlass) by Norman Ralph in July/August 2000 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
"Getting Hooked" article (choosing and installing a windlass) by Nick Bailey in issue 2003-#1 of DIY Boat Owner magazine
Windlasses under $1K test in 8/1/2005 issue of Practical Sailor

Whether to have a power windlass:
Greater than 40 feet LOA need power anchor windlass, because of weight of anchor and chain.

According to John Neal, lots of cruisers have back problems from hauling anchors (among other things).

From interview of Richard Steinke in Latitude 38:
Cruising boats need a power windlass - period. In fact, I recommend buying the biggest one that will fit on the foredeck - and then treating it like a member of the family. There are those times when you have to drop the hook three or four times to get it right, and you can't do that if you have to raise it manually. It's especially important that singlehanders and older couples have power windlasses. ...
Tom Neale agrees.

But make sure you can handle anchor manually if needed.

And it's easy enough to get hurt while anchoring manually, especially if tired at the end of a passage, or in rough conditions; adding a power windlass to the situation might remove some dangers but add others.

From Doug on Cruising World message board:
I have a manual [windlass] and about the only redeeming feature is simplicity. If I had to do it over again I'd go with a horizontal big-ass electric set up to handle two rodes. Look around at the serious cruising boats, not the pretty magazine-cover types and you'll see more like I'm describing. Make it easy to anchor and you'll do it better.

From Whale II - 2000 Spring Bimini Trip:
A power windlass is high on my wish list. Pulling in the chain is hard work, and the vertical manual windlass is so slow, that I never bother with it. Why would anyone use one of these ?

If anchor chain > 1/4", need powered windlass (easier, faster getaway, makes you less likely to settle for a marginal set of the anchor, can use it to haul yourself aloft, can use it to pull off reef).

From Jim and Diane:
I probably would not cruise with a powered windlass (electric or hydraulic). ... Remember windlasses are on the bow and are constantly getting drenched in salt water. Sooner or later some seal is going to leak and you are going to end up with a ruined motor and bearings. ... If you do decide to replace your manual one, get a horizontal electric model. That way everything is accessible from the deck.

An electric windlass requires a long run of heavy wire up to the bow, unless you put a dedicated battery up there.

Horizontal versus vertical:
Horizontal better:
  • Water can get through shaft seal and into motor on vertical windlass.
  • Chain goes through fewer turns than it would on a vertical.
  • More convenient use of 2 rodes.
  • Easier to get leverage and use gravity to help you in manual mode.
  • Easier to install.
Vertical better:
  • Grips rode for 180 degrees (horizontal grips only 90 degrees).
  • Less likely to snag sails or sheets.
  • Takes less deck space.
  • Motor not exposed on deck.
  • Rode can come from angles other than straight ahead; can use to kedge sideways, hoist a dinghy, etc.
From Tom Neale: Use a horizontal windlass, and make an extra waterproof cover for the motor.

From BoatU.S. Wiring article:
Anchor windlasses are a particular challenge for 12v systems. These motors are much like automobile starters, and use tremendous amounts of current. ... A possible alternative to long supply cables for the windlass is the placement of a [shock-mounted ?] dedicated battery near the windlass. Then smaller connectors from the charging system to the battery can make the longer run. ...

Yandina's "How To Add A Remote Battery Bank"

But John Neal said that a bow-mounted battery is a bad idea: puts weight in a bad place, and is hard to get at to maintain it. It has to be a starter-type battery. If a flooded battery, wouldn't the electrolyte get splashed up and expose the plates ? Maybe that's okay except when the battery is driving a load ?

With a bow-mounted battery, you'll still need thick cables to the bow if you ever want to run the windlass from your alternator. The bow battery may be exhausted after raising the anchor 2 or 3 times.

From Ben Hempstead on The Live-Aboard List:
If you go with the remote [bow-mounted] battery (very good idea in itself) be sure to keep a couple of features in mind. I have found the following useful on my Mason:

1) use a cheap Costco lead-acid battery. I used a G27 starting battery for my Nilsson 1200 vertical. $40 for the battery.

2) strap the battery into a really strong battery box with high sides and sealed on the bottom. Extreme pitching can toss the battery around.

3) Use #6 charging wire. I wired the remote battery in parallel with my main bank.

4) I used a diode isolator to prevent draining the windlass battery back into the main bank when starting the engines. You don't want to draw high current thru the #6 charge wire! The diode will drop the charge voltage a couple tenths, so the windlass battery will never get fully charged. But it's a cheap battery and still lasts several years. The diode isolator was about $35.

5) Put in a breaker to limit the current flowing out to the remote battery, to avoid frying the charge wire with a short along the length somewhere. 15A is just about right. The breaker allows me to shut off charging if I'm at the dock with the charger on for a long time.

I'm very happy with my setup.

Connect windlass to starting battery, and use only when engine is running ?

Thick wires to anchor windlass: could use locomotive cables (tinned).

Instead of one thick wire to anchor windlass, use two thinner parallel wires (easier to route).
But must have a separate fuse/breaker for each wire.
Probably don't want to try to crimp/solder both wires into one lug, at each end; use separate lugs.

West Marine's "Windlass Wiring"

Deck-mounted (foot controlled) switches corrode; get remote switches. Want remote switch in cockpit.

Windlass motor and wiring should not be exposed in chain locker. Protect them from water and anchor chain.

From Norm on The Live-Aboard List:

One of the greatest advantages of the hydraulic windlass is that it is impervious to seawater. Another is that you can apply much more horsepower with a much smaller hydraulic motor that you can with an electric motor. Another is that the hydraulic motor can more easily be protected from overload by a simple relief valve. There are others. The disadvantages are that it can be messy and it is more costly than electric. (The nicer the nice, the higher the price.)

On a small vessel, with limited electric-generating capacity, an electric hydraulic pump for the windlass would not be a good idea; a belt or PTO driven pump would be much more efficient and effective.


Building a DIY anchor windlass:
What I'd like:
  • A powered windlass.
  • Cheaper than the ready-made products.
  • Removable, so it's on the foredeck only when I want to use it, and stored out of the elements most of the time.
  • Probably powered by hydraulics.
  • With manual operation also.
  • Easy and cheap to fix when it breaks.

The design I'm considering:
  • An open metal frame, shaft horizontal running port to starboard at top, triangular ends.
    Base of frame slots onto bolts sticking up through the deck.
    Chain-gipsy at starboard end of shaft, big gear at port end of shaft.
    Bicycle-chain from big gear to smaller gear on motor.
    Slots for manual lever on the big gear.

  • A stock chain-gipsy from a windlass manufacturer, maybe modified to have a key-slot to fix it to the shaft.

  • Motor could be hydraulic or electric. When windlass is in storage, ends of hoses or cables will be exposed on foredeck. Need quick-connect connectors. Messy when connecting or disconnecting hydraulic ? Electric motor would need to be sealed enough so that it could be used in rain.

  • Switch to control motor will be mounted on the metal frame.

  • No clutch. Will motor spin backwards when power is off and chain is trying to descend ? Could just lower anchor by hand; use windlass only to raise anchor. Maybe get reversing motor.

  • Two sets of bolts sticking up through deck, so windlass could be shifted to use on primary and secondary anchor chains. But on my boat, only the primary anchor's hawsehole is in a location that I could position the gipsy over.

  • Galvanized pipe running along top edge of frame, bearings pressed into ends of pipe, shaft running through pipe and bearings. Shaft diameter depends on chain-gipsy used.

  • Vertical shaft would be better (more of gipsy gripping chain), but would need some tricky guides for the chain. And motor would need to be above gipsy, to avoid water and muck running down into motor. And that would result in a pretty weird frame-shape and mounting.

  • Need simple ratchet to hold gipsy when motor is off, and to keep gipsy from turning backward when operating manually.

  • Need opening link in bicycle-chain, to enable manual cranking.

  • Want gipsy fairly high, to make chain fall easily into chain locker or onto deck. But this would make the frame bigger and harder to store.

Hydraulic calculations:
This uses info from Sizing a hydraulic motor for the windlass.

I have a CQR 45 anchor (45 pounds) and 3/8" BBB chain (1.6 pounds/foot).
Assume I want to anchor in 50 feet of water.
That's a total of 125 pounds, assuming I'm lifting just the last (vertical) 50 feet of chain.
Round up to 200 pounds.

So I want to lift 200 pounds at 1 foot/second, so 200 lb-ft/sec.
1 HP equals 550 lb-ft/sec.
Round my 200 lb-ft/sec up to 275.
So I need about 1/2 HP motor.

Assume losses in motor and hoses are 50%.
So I need about 1 HP power from pump.

Power (HP) = Q (gal/min) * P (psi) / 1714.
To deliver 1 HP, Q*P = 1714.

Assume P = 1000 PSI.
Then Q = 1.7 gal/min.

So now find a pump and motor that match this flow, pressure and HP.

Hmmm, pump specifications seem to give PSI (up to 3000 is common), max RPM, and displacement (cu in / rev).
1 US gallon = 231 cubic inches.
At 1000 RPM, 1.7 gal/min is about 0.4 cu in / revolution.

Hmmm, motor specifications seem to give torque in in-lbs, not HP.
If I need 200 lb-ft/sec, that's 3300 in-lbs/sec.

  • Chain gipsy:
    I have one already. Several for sale on eBay for $150 to $250.

  • Shaft:
    My chain-gipsy looks like it takes 1-1/16" diameter shaft. Probably metric (about 27 mm).

  • Bicycle chain and gears:

  • Hydraulic motor:
    Need 1/2 HP, 1000 PSI, 1.7 gal/min.

  • Hydraulic pump, to mount on engine or next to engine:
    Probably connected via fan-belt.
    If mounted next to engine, maybe need an idler pulley with spring to keep tension correct ?
    Need clutch so it can be disconnected most of the time.
    Need 1 HP, 1000 PSI, 1.7 gal/min.
    Engine fast-idle is about 1000 RPM.
    With belt onto big crankshaft pulley and smaller pulley on pump, pump could spin at 3000 RPM.
    If use a single belt for pump, engine and alternator, pump could spin at 1000 RPM.

    Looked on EBay, lots of automotive power-steering pumps, but they don't give specs, and the mountings can be weird.

    Maybe what I want is a "hydraulic clutch pump", which includes pulley uses 12 VDC to control the clutch. More expensive, such as $500.
    Northern Tool and Equipment 1082

  • Mounting the hydraulic pump onto the engine:
    A non-trivial step ! Harder than you expect, and it may require machine-shop fabrication of a bracket.

  • Hydraulic hoses:
    On my boat, about 35 feet each way, from engine to foredeck.
    Need 1000 PSI, 1.7 gal/min.
    $2 / foot or so, depending on diameter and PSI, at

  • Hydraulic valve to control motor

Simple DIY anchor-raising lever:
  • A small 2x4 as a base, either bolted to the deck, or held in place by lines going aft to side-cleats.
  • A 4-foot lever (galvanized pipe) attached to the base via brackets and an eyebolt to serve as a hinge.
  • Two chain-hooks attached to the lever, one at the bottom end, the other at the midpoint. The lever will have eyebolts through it at those points, and a short length of rope will tie each chain-hook to its eyebolt.

    Chain-hook may be a "devil's claw" ? Such as this1 or this2 .

To operate:
  1. Chain is being held by chain-hook at base of lever.
  2. Push lever forward and down to chain, and attach chain to hook at midpoint of lever.
  3. Release chain up out of chain-hook at base.
  4. Pull lever up, over and back until almost flat to deck, pulling chain in 3 to 4 feet.
  5. Attach chain to chain-hook at base, holding it in place.
  6. Release chain from hook at midpoint of lever.
  7. Feed slack chain down hawsehole into chain locker.
  8. Repeat.

Good points:
  • Cheap, simple, reliable.
  • Easy to mock up with a couple of bolts and some wood, and test it out.
  • Can move to other side to use on secondary anchor's chain.
  • Could be made to work with rope rode, too, replacing chain-hooks with something that will grab rope.
  • If you remove the lever or the whole thing when not in use, takes very little space on the foredeck.

  • You might need a lot of space on the foredeck to get enough "travel" on the lever. You could use less "travel", but then you'd be pulling up less chain with each stroke. Could play with lengths of ropes tying hooks to lever, to find best position on your foredeck.
  • You're getting about 2-1 leverage, not as much as you'd get with a manual windlass. But better than raising anchor by hand.
  • Chain doesn't go down hawsehole automatically.
  • You could use this to lower the anchor, but much more slowly than with a windlass.
  • Not sure if ropes to hold base in place will be enough; might have to bolt it down.

Simplest and cheapest anchor-raising solution:
  • A trailer "Hand Gear Winch". Would have to be mounted high enough so handle can swing through 360 degrees. Hook an anchor-chain claw to the winch hook.
  • A chain-stopper or anchor-chain claw mounted on deck.

Make the winch removable, so it's exposed to the elements only while you're using it.

I built one of these, and it didn't work out well. To get enough travel of the chain between moving the hook, you need the winch far back on the foredeck. I tried holding it in place by running lines to cleats, but the platform twists and is hard to hold straight. Platform has to be tall to allow handle to swing around. Hooks don't hold onto chain as reliably as I'd like.
pic1, pic2


Bilge pump:
David Pascoe's "All About Bilge Pumps"
BoatU.S.'s "Bilge Pumps"
West Marine's "A Word About Bilge Pump Ratings"
Don Casey's "Installing a Bilge Pump"
SailNet - Don Casey's "Devising a Better Bilge Pump"
Ericson Safety pump (clamps onto propeller shaft)
Electric bilge pumps reviewed in 6/2000 issue of Practical Sailor.
Big set of bilge pump articles in issue 2000 #1 of DIY Boat Owner magazine.
Brian Hancock's "Beyond the Bucket Brigade"
Bilge pump test article in 2/15/2004 issue of Practical Sailor

  • Centrifugal / rotary / impeller.
  • Diaphragm: self-priming (can be placed above water level).
  • Reciprocating / piston (usually manual only).

  • Want bilge pump that will sense oil/fuel and not pump it overboard.
    Or filter that removes oil from bilge pump output: Wavestream OOPS

  • Bilge pump should be placed in some kind of a strum box -- a screened box which keeps flotsam from jamming the pump. The small strainers commonly found on bilge pumps clog easily.

  • Bilge pump should use smooth-walled hose, and keep hose runs straight.

  • Small air leak on suction side of bilge pump can kill performance.

  • Emergency high-capacity pump.
    Want manual (not electric) clutch and self-priming.
    Ericson bilge pump ($250 - $1200).

  • Rig a hose, strainer and Y-valve so your engine water intake can be used as an emergency pump.
    Capacity should be okay; on Perkins 4-108 raw water pump the flow is between 9-15 gallons a minute.
    Want a very good screen on the bilge intake.
    Better to have an engine-driven emergency bilge pump.

  • Bilge pump should have controls abovedecks and belowdecks.

  • Bilge pump can't "cure" serious flooding; you fix the leak and then pump removes the water.

  • Want at least one manual bilge pump, for situations where engine and electrical are dead.

  • Manual bilge pumps reviewed in Practical Sailor's 4/15/2000 issue. Best smaller: Whale Urchin. Best bigger: Edson 30.

  • Before installing a manual bilge pump, disassemble it to learn about it, lubricate moving parts, and lubricate fastenings with anti-seize.

  • Might be better to have a portable emergency bilge pump (mounted on a board, wires with alligator clips, long hoses) than a permanently mounted one.

  • Possible to mount pump and switch up above water level: run intake hose from water to pump, and have some kind of float-and-rod connected to the switch.

  • Want an alarm that sounds while automatic bilge pump is running.
    Don Casey's "Bilge Pump Warning Light"
    Or an "annunciator board".

  • Want high-water alarm in bilge. Maybe an alarm for warning of water in a basement ?

  • Want a "running minutes" counter to monitor the automatic bilge pump.
    If pump has a separate float switch, can wire a 12-volt clock or truck engine timer in parallel with the pump.

  • Consider modifying bolts on bilge pump to make it easy to disassemble and clear in an emergency.

  • Wires to bilge pump should have connectors in them so it is easy to remove and replace with spare pump in an emergency.

From bilge pump test article in 2/15/2004 issue of Practical Sailor:
  • Want a long run of unbroken wire leads on the pump; connections are opportunities for corrosion.
  • Capacity (GPH) usually is specified for zero head (lift). Actual capacity at 1-meter or 2-meter head can be 60% or less. A few pumps are designed to perform well at zero head and not at higher heads.
  • Don't settle for less than a 3-year warranty.

From Al Hatch on Cruising World message board:
[Re: manual bilge pumps:]

Number one on my list is the pumps by Edson. Specifically the bronze models if you can find space to fit them. They pump a tremendous amount of water, are nearly imposssible to clog and are virtually maintenance-free (as with everything on a boat a little TLC every year will keep them going longer than anything else on your boat). They come in a variety of configurations so chances are you can fit one somewhere in your cockpit. A bit pricey but again one of those items well worth the cost.

Second choice is the pumps by Henderson (now produced by Whale). Made of plastic, they are improved versions of the aluminum pumps made by Whale. Whale didn't like the competition so they bought out Henderson a couple of years ago. The dual diaphram pump moves a lot of water, perhaps slightly more than the small Edson pump, they are large and difficult to find space for but no more so than the dual diaphram aluminum whale, and being plastic they last a whole lot longer.

Personally I avoid aluminum manual pumps like the plague. Use them once in salt water and don't rinse with fresh and that's the end of your pump. Corrosion will eat them up in no time. ...

As for hoses, I like a pump that accepts 1 1/2" hose. I then install a heavy duty wire-bound hose so things falling on it or people stepping on it won't crush it. It also won't kink when run around corners, and it resists chafing. It also has a smooth interior so you get a larger volume of water flow with less effort.

I like to connect to solid bronze thru hulls, preferably as high on the rail as I can get them or else I place a high loop in them and unless you are sure they won't ever back siphon I'd install a vented loop at the high point.

After owning my 1973 Gulfstar 44 for 18 months, one bilge-pump hose siphoned water in and almost sank it ! The hoses didn't have vents in them, and the through-hulls are right at the waterline. I think I had the luck to do a brief test of one pump at a time when I had a full load of fuel and water, and a lot of water in the bilge, and after I shut the pump off, the water flow reversed.
From Gary Elder:
... I finally caught up with my friend who worked for Morgan, Gulfstar, and several others during the '70's. Actually, this guy may have worked on your boat.

According to my friend, it was common practice in those days to locate the bilge pump outlets (thru-hull fittings) at, or below, the waterline. The common pump of those days was the Par brand, which is a diaphram pump. The diaphram pump acts as a check-valve when the pump is not running. A real check-valve was usually installed near the thru-hull - often behind cabinetry. There usually was no vented loop in the system; this was thought to be safe because if the check-valve failed, the diaphram pump would prevent sinking.

Many owners 'upgraded' to Rule brand impeller pumps because they have a higher GPH rating, but they will pass water when not pumping. These owners often did not know that there was no vented loop in the system. So when the check-valve failed, in came the water. ...

Yandina's "Siphon Breaker"

Bilge pump switch:
  • Pivoting arm float: cheapest, but can jam open or closed.
  • Vertical float.
  • Electronic: great when they work, but they die suddenly.

Switch test article in 1/2006 issue of Practical Sailor

From Stan Gardner on The Live-Aboard List:
I use a switch I got from West Marine, advertised as their best (can't remember the brand). It's a plastic tube, about 3" dia X 6" long, mounts vertically. They make two versions, one with a high water alarm built in. I have the cheaper model which has worked flawlessly for me for 5 years with no maintenance, and reasonable hysteresis.

West Marine salesman told me: in his experience, the solid-state bilge-pump switches either die within 6 months, or last forever. Not sure why.

After many tribulations with float switches, I finally went to solid-state switches on both of my bilge pumps, and I love them. Smaller, easier to mount, and far more reliable. [But my solid-state SensaSwitch died after about 20 months.]

Test your bilge pumps and switches periodically, by pouring water into the bilge. There are so many ways for them to stop working; you must test them.

From Norm on The Live-Aboard List:
I have a float made of a plastic milk jug half-filled with sand. It is suspended on a nylon string from a spring that is connected to the handle of a household wall toggle switch, an easy-throw type.

From Rick Anderson on Yacht-L mailing list:
... I read years ago of making a nice and simple high water level alarm as follows:

1. Buy a smoke detector, and solder a length of cable across the "test" button.

2. At other end, use a small piece of printed circuit board (or find some other way of having the "sensor end" closely spaced, but not contacting.

3. Insert sensor in area you want to test for water.

Push test button every once in a while ...

[But this kind of "conduction" sensor can gunk up and stop working.]

From Colin Foster on Cruising World message board:
Our boat has a second set of bilge pump switches, set 6 inches above the operating ones. They are all wired in parallel to a burglar alarm type siren. If, for some reason, the pump fails or can't keep up with a leak, the alarm will wake the dead. The alarm circuit works off the starting batteries instead of the house bank so that if it is a dead battery you still will get an alarm.

From Stan Gardner on The Live-Aboard List:
I just bought a high-water alarm built primarily for detecting water in your basement, but it runs on a 9V battery, has low-battery warning, and hopefully is loud enough to hear at the helm. Cost, under $10.
From Bob Clinkenbeard on The Live-Aboard List:
I have used one of these from Home Depot and it is useful, although it did sound the alarm when condensation in my previous steel-hull boat developed on the contact surface. That only happened once, and now that it is in my fiberglass boat with a positive bilge ventilation system that I installed, it has not tripped falsely again. It is very loud and has an extension wire attached to the contact. I keep the alarm part by the helm and I am sure it would wake me if it sounded. The battery has lasted for over two years, but since it doesn't have a low-battery warning beep, I test it occasionally when I make my bilge inspection.

BoatU.S.'s "Bilge Blowers"

Likely sources of salt water in the bilge,
mostly summarized from "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard:
  1. Stuffing box.
  2. Chain hawser.
  3. Ports and hatches.
  4. Hoses and clamps.
  5. Deck leaks.

Summarized from article in issue 2003-3 of DIY Boat Owner magazine:
Enzyme-type bilge cleaners:
  • Are designed to work within a particular temperature range.

  • May consume certain things (such as fuel) while ignoring others (such as transmission fluid).

  • Generally have limited shelf life, either in powder or mixed form.

  • "Phosphate free" means "less than 1% phosphates".

  • "Natural", "organic", and "environment friendly" really mean nothing and guarantee nothing.

  • "Biodegradable" doesn't tell you how fast it degrades or what it degrades into.


George Day's "Comforts of a Floating Home"

  • Want no carpet on sole. Bare, or rubber-backed throw rugs.

  • Any boat carpeting should be constructed entirely of man-made materials. House interior nylon carpeting is best.

  • Sole should be painted with non-skid, not varnished (slippery).

  • Floor panels should have lifting rings.

From Louis Louis on the Morgan mailing list:
... the forward berth, the walk-thru and aft cabin are carpeted. The carpet has about had it. I have fantasized about laying down the teak and holly pattern just like in the main salon. This comes in thin, paneling from a local hardware and lumber store. I don't think it would be too hard to lay down with some type of sticky stuff over the bare wood.

Questions and Problems:

1. The sole is not totally smooth, where the glass laminate comes in to meet the wood.

2. How (and with what type of sticky stuff) do I adhere the new paneling?

3. Will I be able to properly bend the teak and holly board for a good finish, or will it be better to cut and join the edges?

4. Do I need to (and with what) fill the defects in the sole?

5. What do I finish with (I assume some type of polyurosomething from Home Depot)?

6. Would I be better off just replacing the carpeting, using the old one as a pattern?

Any help will be very much appreciated, especially the kind that talks me out of this misery.
From Carl Unlaub on the Morgan mailing list:
I did this on "Bluebonnet" in 1977. The original sole was just painted plywood, with some carpet over. (Carpet on a boat is 1) a fine source of trapped water to nurture your mildew, 2) a handy place for everything off your shoes to get trapped, and 3) awfully heavy when saturated with saltwater, which will then prevent it from ever drying, reinforcing item 1) above.)

I picked up 1/4" teak and holly plywood at a specialty plywood shop in Baltimore. I used a belt sander and a disk sander to smooth down all the little ridges that you never knew were there while the carpet was in place and mixed some glass beads with epoxy to level out a couple of voids. I then fitted the plywood, starting at the engine room and working forward. Think about where one 8' sheet is going to end and decide how you want to handle that joint. That will be the most significant design consideration! As I recall, I used a partial sheet from the engine room bulkhead to the "cutaway bulkhead" that makes up the aft end of the starboard settee and the back of the dining settee. I fitted a thwartships piece about 1-1/2" wide to butt the first piece against and then began a full length piece that led forward to a point between the two starboard hanging lockers. Then the rest of the first panel filled in from there into the sole beneath the V-berth.

I used brown paper and cut patterns that allowed me to accurately cut the pieces. There were perhaps 4 areas where the sole merges into the hull and the covering therefore needed to flex. At those areas, I scored the backside of the plywood and moistened it so that it would press down firmly against the hull.

When I had everything loose-fitted, I got out the Scotch 5200!! Those who have followed my senile ravings understand that this is the stuff of which the better planets are surely made! Don't use it on anything that you intend to remove soon. I presume that you will not wish to redo the cabin sole soon so it should work fine there. Make sure that you wipe the floor clean of all dust and moisture. I used a 1/16" serrated floor cement trowel, like you would use for laying sheet vinyl, to lay a coat of 5200 under where one piece would fit, then placed that piece on it and weighted it in place. (It is handy at this point to have friends who have leftover bricks from their patio job that you can borrow.)

It is not easy to work on the piece that you have just glued down without risking some displacement. I found that I could do one chunk in the evening and go home - the next afternoon, it was cured rock solid and I would glue down the next one. After all were glued in place, I went around the edges and carefully caulked with the 5200 to insure that there were no places where water could trickle under. Then I installed the teak trim that fitted against the upright structures (cabinets, bulkheads, etc).

I did create a small hatch almost abreast of the mast step so that I could access wiring beneath the cabin sole. This was trimmed with teak cut from the plywood and the hatch itself was exterior plywood covered with the teak and holly. This is not tough to do if you don't get in a rush.

There may be some significantly better sealants than we had 20 years ago but I used Watco Teak Oil both above and below decks. It would attract dirt on deck but did not get so gummy down below and was in fact an excellent sealer.
From Capt. Robert E on the Morgan mailing list:
Score the plywood along the bends in the floor and then give a gentle push. With the score in the right place and a small prayer all will push into place. Remember measure twice and cut once.

From Moe Richardson on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
Re: Teak, Teak-and-Holly cabin sole and other lumber:

East Teak Trading Co. ph. 864-379-2116, Donalds, SC has all anyone could use of solid Burmese teak. I paid $9.33/bd.ft. last Feb 00 for 4/4x6'x8'. Do not know if they have teak-and-holly cabin sole.

Check Dooge Veneers Grand Rapids Mi. 4585 Airwest, S.E. ph. 616-698-6450. Surface veneer on teak-and-holly cabin sole was 50 mm on last that I purchased, this was 10 years ago and was $89.12 per 4'x8' sheet. Most of the material you will find the veneer thickness is less than 25 mm thick. Dooge also has other exotic woods.

I find that it is much better to laminate 1/4" teak-and-holly to fir 1/4" plywood with epoxy rather than using 1/2" or whatever teak-and-holly since these materials normally are backed with cheap luan which rots fast. I also epoxy the underside before installation.

Another thing to remember is that not all teak-and-holly strips are the same width.

Replace with fiberglass panelling from Home Depot, or "doorskins" (very thin wood panels used to cover wooden doors; buy at Home Depot, Lowes, etc; about 1-2 mm thick; cheap).

From H E on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
The headliners are (at least on my Gulfstar 43' ketch) stapled up. Drill out the trim plugs and remove the trim and you'll see the staples. Replacing takes four hands softly tugging, smoothing out the wrinkles when you restaple. Be ready to do it twice as you learn how hard to pull on the cloth. I used short, 1/4" staples. Does anyone know where to get stainless steel staples ?
From Alan Lewis on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
I just had some of my headliner replaced (Gulfstar 41' cutter) as part of an interior rebuild; the carpenter highly recommended renting or borrowing a fabric stretcher (apparently a standard piece of gear) if I decided to do more of it myself. You might check with an upholstery shop.
From Bob on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
As mentioned, the liner is stapled up. Removing the trim around the edges is fairly easy. (No job like this will leave you without a mess, however.) The real decision comes when you get to where the hatches are installed. Here I'm talking about a GF-50. The headliner is under the hatch mounting trim. I see two choices here: you can remove the hatch, or staple the new headliner close to the old trim and install another round of trim that covers them.

The material should be easily found at any competent fabric shop that does boat interiors. Unfortunately, the exact pattern installed in this 50 was discontinued, but there are others out there that can be used, and no one will notice unless you place the new next to the old. Even then, it will be the color difference that you would probably find unacceptable.

The staples can be found almost anywhere there is a Home Depot, Builders Square, or other similar store. Even some national and independent hardware stores carry them. You will probably find monel staples easier than stainless, and they are just as good. Price will be somewhere in the $10 to $15 range for a box of 1250. They will probably be made by Arrow Fastener Co. out of Saddle Brook, NJ.

I can't stress enough that you should invest in an electric staple gun. This need not be an expensive professional model. Arrow makes a model ETF50BN that on sale at Home Depot, was only about $20. Using a hand stapler will only lead you to want to burn your boat after an afternoon of accomplishing nothing much more than a new list of unprintable words. (No, I have no interest in Arrow.)

I have been replacing the headliner above the berths in the salon without needing a fabric stretcher. There is no sag, and I only had to staple once. Sounds like I got lucky.
From Gene Neyhart on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
I have a Gulfstar 39 Sailmaster with the original vinyl (?) headliner. It is stapled to transverse plywood stringers that are spaced about 14" apart. The headliner installed forward to aft. That is, the most forward piece's leading edge was stapled up using a tacking strip and then folded back over the strip with the aft end then stapled directly to the next plywood strip. The following strip was then stapled in the same manner, etc, until the aft of the cabin top was reached. The aft edges were covered with a special strip that hides the staples. Defender Industries carries monel staples for Arrow staple guns. And yes, it was very worthwhile to buy the Arrow electric staplegun from Home Depot. There is from a half to nearly an inch and a half of clearance between the liner and the underside of the deck. Since I did not take out the entire headliner to replace the mainsheet equipment, I just picked one of the plywood stringers to finish the stapling - couldn't fold the last seam so stapled it directly to the stringer. A teak batten screwed over that seam will hide it very nicely.

From John Sexton on The Live-Aboard List:
The guy with the boat next to ours was redoing the inside of his boat. His day job was in an auto body shop. His solution was simple and elegant:

1) coat thin plywood panels already cut to fit with epoxy or paint.
2) glue or staple your chosen fabric (he used one which looks like suede and is treated so as not to absorb moisture) to the panels.
3) attach auto upholsterey (headliner) clips to the back of the panels and the mating half on the appointed bulkhead.

It looked great and was simple to de-mount for cleaning or access.

Seating / Cushions / Upholstery:
  • From "Dragged Aboard" by Don Casey:
    "It is shocking how little comfortable seating - if any - most production boats have below deck."

  • Foam cushions (for sitting) on a solid base should be at least 4 inches thick.

  • Want closed-cell foam in interior cushions (it doesn't absorb water).

  • Put lightweight covers over interior cushions, so you can take them off and launder them.

  • Dust cushion with talcum powder to make it easier to slide the cover onto it. Or put it in a plastic bag, slide it into the cover, then pull the bag out.

  • Don't get salt (from saltwater) on interior cushions; they will be damp perpetually from moisture absorption.

  • Put air conditioner filter material under interior cushions, to keep an air gap and avoid moisture buildup.

From Gail on Cruising World message board:
We re-did the interior cushions in our P-30 a few years ago. No, you don't have to use Sunbrella or "marine" fabrics. As Lauraine said, synthetic is good, ultrasuede is beautiful, but cotton will tend to mildew. The fabric I used was described by the retailer as "acrylic" (which is how Sunbrella is described). But it was somewhat thicker and softer and had a texture, unlike Sunbrella. I think I got a decent deal on it - $10/yard - and it took 15 yards to do all the cushions. I put marine grade vinyl on the bottoms and that stuff was around $8/yard, bought 7 yards and had lots left over. I'd personally be hesitant to use a cotton blend, but perhaps I'm paranoid. The less cotton, the better.

On the foam, we used some really firm four-inch-thick foam by Bosal. Don't know if it's open or closed-cell, but it's firm. Really, really firm. If I were to do it over, I would use three inches of the really firm stuff, topped with one inch of less firm stuff. 3M makes a spray adhesive to glue the layers together. After I had taken a closer look at our original foam, I discovered that it was dual-density.

If this is a DIY job, make sure you use good thread, but only for the final stitching. I found that I often had to tweak with the fitting of my cushions, even after using the originals for a pattern. First baste it with cheap thread, then, when you are sure the fit is right, do the final stitching with upholstery thread. You will know when the fit is right by the amount of sweat you put out fitting the foam into the cover. It should be tight to avoid unsightly wrinkling.

From Amy on Cruising World message board:
Sunbrella doesn't have to be boring (or ugly).

Because we have a six-year-old, I felt compelled to use Sunbrella-type fabrics everywhere in our boat. What I discovered is that there are many beautiful solution-dyed-acrylics out there, and many have a softer hand (feel) for use on furniture. ... Where to look: Go to a "better" patio furniture store and ask to see their fabric books/samples. Or any good upholstery fabric store or decorator's shop should have plenty of books. The range of styles and colors is amazing. They are all designed to endure the rigors of an outdoor lifestyle, including lots of UV exposure. I even make my throw pillows out of this stuff so that I can throw them in the cockpit or take them up to the deck for lounging. ...

A word of caution, if you find something at the patio store, as I did, their prices will be outrageous! ($44/yd. at my local fancy schmancy shop!) So, I called and e-mailed around and found the manufacturer who hooked me up with a store in Ft. Meyers called Boca Bargoons who sold it to me for $15/yd. Calico Corners also has some Sunbrella patterns and I hear that Jo Ann's in Marathon is Sunbrella Mecca for any of you who might be in that neighborhood. Good luck !

From JM Cook on Cruising World message board:
Sunbrella is not recommended for upholstery fabric.

Sunbrella will polish with use, become "shiny" and appear old and worn quickly. It is an outdoor fabric, not suited well for interior use where it will be continually abraded or rubbed. Sunbrella, or any acrylic, although strong, is not particularly abrasion resistant -- in fact it is comparatively poor in that test.

Ideally, use all man-made fabrics with Automotive nylons as a top choice. Any natural product is subject to fungi attack. ...

Note: Sunbrella is a brand of "solution-dyed acrylic" fabric.

From Colin Foster on Cruising World message board:
[Re: using SeaFit canvas snaps kit from West Marine:]

The first trick is to make the hole with a soldering iron. Burn it out to just the right size. This welds the thread ends together so it holds its shape and stops the weave unraveling.

As for riveting the snap, it takes patience and practice. Lots of small taps lets you view the progress and change direction with the punch as it progresses to keep it even. Depending on the thickness, you might want to add one or more little squares of canvas on the inside with the same size hole to increase the material thickness. This means you don't have to roll over so much metal to tighten it which will make it easier to get a nice looking finish, and there is a more resilient pad of material to tighten on so it will stay tight. Again, seal the outer edges of the little squares (or rounds) with the soldering iron.

From Peggie Hall on BoaterEd forum:
I've replaced all the soft goods -- carpet, drapes, upholstery, cushions -- on two boats (so far). Everything on the first boat was still in "like new" condition when I sold it 5 years later ... and the same is true after 3 years on the current boat. The only thing you need to be concerned about being "marine" is the cushion foam or other mattress material ... is it suitable for a damp environment? Some people will say you should only use closed cell foam for cushions and mattresses ... IMHO, that stuff is hard as a rock, and unnecessary.

When it comes to fabrics, there's nothing "marine" about them ... anything that can be used in a home with children and a dog can be used on a boat. So you can get those anywhere, and discount fabric "warehouses" have a MUCH larger selection than any marine OR non-marine upholstery shop.

I tend to take a different approach decorating a boat than boat builders do -- I don't like everything to match, but to work together ... One "base" color, and two coordinating fabrics. I think a boat's cabin should look more like a room in a house than the interior of a car.


The key to keeping things from getting too dark in an express style cruiser is a light carpet -- as close to the color of headliner (the stuff on the "ceiling") as possible. Then you can use strong colors in your soft goods ... they'll stand out against the light background.

Don't go overboard with patterns. Decide what you want your "base" color scheme to be (I chose navy blue and white), then pick no more than 2 coordinating fabrics to go with it -- one for the drapes or curtains, one for accent. I used navy for all the upholstery except the dinette ... then made throw pillows from the same plaid fabric as the dinette to tie it to the rest of the boat, so that both the dinette and the pillows became "accents". The drapery fabric has exactly the same colors as the solid blue and plaid. The sales people in most good fabric stores know how to mix and match -- and they can find stuff in a fraction of the time it would take you to hunt through the store ... so let them help you. It doesn't take a very big mistake to make the difference between "WOW!" and "somehow it didn't come out quite the way I thought it would."

From RichH on Cruising World message board:
You can improve the 'compression' ability of cheap interior cushion foam by overlaying and gluing polyester scrim (needle punch) felting to the top side. Most of the foam suppliers also sell the scrim. You apply it with contact cement.

Getting rid of smells (especially from smoke or mildew):
  • Run an ozone generator for a while. But short-term (damages rubber, wire insulation, etc), not while anyone is aboard, and be aware that some generators produce a spark. Crystalair [or maybe a "12v ion generator" ?]
  • Wash everything with vinegar, or Ajax liquid dish soap (antibacterial).
  • Use Febreze.
  • Replace all fabrics, cushions.

  • Lee cloths are better than leeboards: don't bruise you, easier to stow, lighter, cheaper.

  • In Tropics, lee cloths should be mesh instead of solid cloth.

  • Want pockets in lee cloth mesh to hold water bottle, book, etc.

  • Make sure all the seams and connection points have the fabric edge out; keep edges/seams next to your body as smooth as possible.

  • From "Safety Preparations for Cruising" by Jeremy R. Hood:
    Leecloth should be 12 to 18 inches high, run virtually the full length of the berth, and the bottom edge should be attached several inches in from the hard, raised edge of the berth.

Formica, from Tom Wescott on the Morgan mailing list:
Since I've applied more of the stuff than I care to remember, here's some general (but unedited) info for the formica discussion. The self-edge strip goes on first and must be sanded flush with the top before applying the main surface. Rough cut your shape a little oversize, about 1/4". You can formica right over icebox and sink openings and cut out with a router after gluing. The radiused corners at the icebox are not so critical as they've been made to sound. A tiny 1/16th" to 1/8th" radius will do - the important thing is a good glue bond, a smooth edge, and NO overhang to catch on at the ice box opening. In other words, file it as smooth as a baby's bum. This is true anywhere on your laminate job, but particularly so at hatch openings. If your surface joins a bulkhead or cabinet, fit it there (scribe, sand, and/or plane) and pencil on registration marks in preparation for glue-down.

A point of general strategy: Formica is pretty inexpensive, about a $1/sq. ft., so don't let there be any joints in your counter surface, particularly around the sink. On most boats you can definitely have an unpieced top, even on very large boats with big galleys - a full sheet is 5 ft. by 12 ft. If you don't need so much as that, the full sheets are cut into various other standard sizes - check with your local cabinet maker or his jobbers.

Apply a light coat of brushable contact cement to both surfaces and allow to dry 'till just barely tacky. The important thing is a light, even coat. In the case of contact cement, more is not better. For jobs as small as the typical galley, 3M's buzz cans of spray contact cement are not a bad choice. Separate the formica from the surface with dowels or some clean strips of wood. Position things carefully and begin removing wood strips from one end and work toward the other, pressing it down and holding things in careful alignment. If there's room, help is very acceptable at this juncture. Trim what you can with a ball-bearing bit in a router. A little vaseline on the bearing helps to prevent burning. Use a file, a sharp chisel, or a small plane to get what you can't reach with the router. Remember to file down, not up, and at a slight angle, so as not to affect anything other than the edge you are working. If you don't have a rubber pressure roller or a rolling pin to set the bond prior to trimming, you can tap the surface all over with a block and hammer. The fumes, even from the non-flammable contact cement, are most formidable. Provide LOTS of ventilation.

Don't be afraid to heat and remove old formica. It's not hard to do. Thoroughly remove old glue before recovering. Scrape, sand, then acetone. Again, lots of ventilation.

  • Want air circulation through bilge, under berths, everywhere.

  • Want vent holes/louvres in all doors, drawers, bins, lockers.
    Want fairly large openings in the tops and bottoms of all doors and closed spaces.
    Each compartment should have vents on 2 sides.

  • Best ventilation fan: Hella Turbo Fan.
    Plastic (won't corrode), quiet, two-speed, move a lot of air, inexpensive.
    (But there's a recall of lots 97178, 87175, 8EV 006 239-002 and 8EV 006 239-012.)

  • Use computer "muffin fans" to ventilate stagnant spaces.

  • "Use the ventilation fan to blow cool air up from the bilges. Most people mount the fan way too high."

  • Want hatches in head and galley to open aft, so they suck air out of the boat.

Cabin fan life tested in 11/1/2000 issue of Practical Sailor
See my Boat Air-Conditioner page for ventilation tips.


The word "cockpit" came about because men-of-war used to carry live poultry on board.

Center cockpit versus aft cockpit:
Center cockpit better:
  • Better view of coral-heads ahead.
  • Less distance to all parts of boat (easier to dock/anchor ?).
  • May give center placement of engine (better balance, better engine access, shorter wire runs).
  • Big, usable berths in most stable part of boat (stern).
  • Gives privacy in two areas of boat (forward and aft cabins).
  • "Gives more real estate belowdecks" (Win Fowler in 4/2006 issue of Sail magazine).
  • Less likely to get pooped.
  • If ketch rig, mizzenmast will be behind cockpit instead of in it.
  • Fewer exhaust fumes while motoring.
Aft cockpit better:
  • Simpler steering and auto-steering connections.
  • Dryer cockpit.
  • Less motion ? Maybe less rolling, but more pitching ?
  • Less windage ?
  • Better visibility of sails (although bimini/dodger may make it difficult anyway).
  • Lower boom and sails (because cockpit is lower) make rig shorter and less tender ? Definitely puts sailplan center of effort lower.
  • Stiffer deck/hull structure (Win Fowler in 4/2006 issue of Sail magazine).
  • Lower sail clews give better light-air performance.
  • Doesn't put more weight higher as center cockpit does.
  • Avoids space-wasting walk-through passage connecting fore and aft.
  • Allows lazerettes under cockpit seats; in center cockpit they would reduce headroom in passageways.
  • Allows bigger main cabin.
  • Easier to have convenient swim platform.
  • Closer to water.
  • More traditional.
  • Tends to have more stowage ?

From Devera Grashuis on the Morgan mailing list:
My husband and I lived on a 43' CC Morgan for 9 months. It was wonderful. We also owned an aft cockpit sailboat. Much preferred the center cockpit. More stable and much dryer. We had tons of room, large engine room with 3 access points. Plenty of private room to get away from each other when desired. Loved the bathtub. When guests were aboard, no problem, they had their area and we had ours. It was also great because I do the docking and I didn't feel like I was docking a 43' boat due to the fact that much of the boat was behind me. We are back in the looking for a live aboard and will look for much the same boat with CC.

Bimini / Dodger / Pilothouse:
Wavestopper removable fiberglass dodger from Seawind Canvas and Sails.
Strataglass clear vinyl for dodger windows.
Hard To Top

  • Use expensive, large-diameter stainless-steel tubing; aluminum is just too weak.

  • A hard dodger is much better than a fabric one; fabric wears quickly.
    Benefits of hard dodger: safer, more comfortable, lasts longer, more living space, all weather comfort, places to actually put things, windshield wiper that works.

  • Want dodger as low as possible, to survive green water. But it should be high enough to sit under, and low enough to see over when standing behind it.

  • Make canvas that attaches to aft edge of dodger and runs aft, to protect against spray when running downwind.

  • Permanent dodger may be too hot in hot climates; it cuts off air flow.

  • Vinyl windows must be cleaned with a product which does not have a petroleum or ammonia base.

  • Dodger often most useful for cutting off wind, rather than spray/water.

  • Dodger should serve multiple purposes: block the wind when cool, direct the wind below when hot, catch rainwater, maybe mount solar panels.

BoatU.S.'s "Bimini Tops"
Chris Caswell's "Top This (Boat shade you can make yourself)"

Dodger pros and cons, from Todd Dunn on Cruising World message board:
I have a dodger on Seaquestor, but didn't have one on my last boat "Chinook", so I have experience with both options. As I see it the pros of the dodger are that it provides some shade on hot days, it keeps some/most of the spray off of you when you are sailing in weather, it keeps rain/spray out of the cabin (i.e., you can leave the companionway open in all but the worst weather), it provides a shelter from cold winds.

On the down side, the dodger increases windage at anchor, on the mooring or when motoring/beating into a strong wind. The dodger also really interferes with visibility forward (they always seem to be right at eye level), particularly when the spray or rain is flying (you can't see squat through wet dodger windows). Also, installing a dodger may require you to change your main sheet arrangement so that the sheets don't foul on the dodger.

Our dodger is on a fold down stainless frame and has a removable front window. I find it nice to sail with the window out or the dodger folded down when the weather doesn't require it. I also take the dodger off when the boat has to weather a storm (not a gale) on the mooring in order to decrease windage. Our dodger is also an integral part of a full cockpit enclosure (with the option of windows on the sides and back or screens). If you don't want the full enclosure, you can attach just the bimini to the aft end of the dodger - great at anchor. Incidentally, the full cockpit enclosure gives us a great "living room" when it is raining or the bugs are out.

Given the comments above, I find I like having the dodger. It makes a huge difference in comfort underway, not so much for the helmsman/woman, but for passengers and crew who can sit out of the wind/spray but still be in the action.

More about dodgers, from Jon Eisberg on Cruising World message board:
There's no question, a dodger can be worth its weight in gold. Every time I've ever delivered a boat without one, I've regretted its absence. I even re-configured my boom sheeting arrangement from its original position, just so I could accommodate a dodger.

Nothing, however, can so quickly spoil the lines of a boat as the addition of a clunky looking dodger ... I'd like to see some sort of mock-up to eyeball, and perhaps make adjustments to suit yourself, before she actually goes ahead and builds the thing ...

I built my own, and fiddled endlessly with the position of the bars, etc., stepping back and viewing it from every angle, before going ahead with the final construction. It may help to find a boat - or a photo of another dodger - with one that you really like the look of, to be able to show her "yeah, make it like that one ...". (Actually, she probably has a catalog of photos of just about every dodger she's ever built, so a browse through there would probably be worth your time.) I found a picture of one I really liked from a Finngulf advertisement, and it really helped having something to look at and model my own project after ...

I'd ask her about the possibility of making yours out of STAMOID fabric, rather than Sunbrella. I've become a huge fan of this stuff, and am using it for virtually every bit of canvaswork I do from now on. The stuff appears to be virtually indestructible - it's easier to tear a phone book in half than to rip this stuff by hand. And for a do-it-yourselfer, once you get the hang of it, I find it much easier to sew than acrylics like Sunbrella. Some people may be initially put off by its appearance - it is a somewhat shiny, slippery material that to some may imply "cheap" - but trust me, this stuff is fantastic. 100% waterproof, no stretch whatsoever, lighter weight and stows much more compactly than Sunbrella, easier to clean - I think it offers a lot of advantages, and my guess is that it will have largely replaced acrylic canvas in another 10 years ...

You definitely want her to make a removable cover for your windows - this will be the first thing to go eventually, and will greatly extend the life of the eisenglass. Why everyone does not cover their dodger windows when not in use is a mystery - to me, it's akin to leaving a mainsail furled on the boom while the boat sits in its slip all week, without a cover ...

Finally, many people view a dodger as primarily an inclement weather upgrade. But, in the warm weather of the tropics, nothing will so improve ventilation and the flow of air through the boat as the presence of a dodger ...

From Yacht-L mailing list:
Sitting in the cockpit, at anchor in the trades, one needs to block the wind. Awnings give you shade, but only a good dodger will block the wind. After a few days, and sometimes after only a few hours, one needs to find a place to sit that is not constantly in the wind, and once the sun sets, it gets chilly even in the tropics. It's no fun if you have to go below to have your rum at sundown. The trades are great for sailing, but often relentless and tiring at anchor.

My experience with a pilothouse:
I have a pilothouse on my 44-foot motor-sailer "Magnolia". Actually, it's a "doghouse": it's open at the aft end, not fully enclosed.

The pilothouse was added by the first owner; he went around making sketches of pilothouses on other boats to figure out what he liked and didn't like.

The pilothouse is great because it:
  • Adds a lot of useful living space to the boat. I spend most of my time in it, and even cook and eat my meals there.
  • Provides shelter from the sun. Skin cancer is a real threat.
  • Provides shelter from the wind.
  • Provides shelter from the rain. I can keep going on days that would be miserable otherwise.
  • Makes a great mount for solar panels.
  • Makes a great rainwater-catcher.
  • Shields you from an errant boom, in the case of an accidental jibe, a failed topping lift (happened to me), or a failed gooseneck (also happened to me).
  • Replaces all that hard-to-maintain canvas and vinyl of a dodger or bimini.
The pilothouse has bad features:
  • Adds a lot of weight high up.
  • Adds a lot of windage.
  • Prevents you from feeling the wind and seeing what the sails are doing.
  • Cuts off the breeze on those stifling hot summer days and nights (my pilothouse has non-opening windows).
  • May force a higher mounting of the main boom, reducing sail area.
  • Makes the boat a bit uglier. I think a pilothouse big enough for a human just wouldn't look right on a smaller boat.
  • Likely can't be taken down/off, unlike a dodger or bimini.
  • Reduces visibility a bit, and creates blind spots.
  • Could interfere with sail-controls (lines and winches) on some boats.
  • Running wires inside the walls of the pilothouse leads to access-for-repair issues. Running wires inside the cockpit coamings is hard enough; getting them through holes and up into the pilothouse walls and then further on just adds to the complications.
My thoughts:
  • I like the open aft end (the "doghouse" feature). All my sail-control lines come there, and lots of fresh air comes in. Occasionally the best way to maneuver something big (such as a mattress) into the boat is through the aft end.
  • The forward windows should be as large as possible, especially vertically. Having blind spots at the top (affecting sight into the distance) or bottom (affecting sight close to the bow) is really annoying. This is aggravated if one helmsman is tall and another is short.
  • Being able to open the center-forward windows on still days would be very nice.
  • Having a way to see the sails would be great. Maybe a window in the roof ? But it might lead to leaks, and could never be big enough to show all areas of the sails.
  • I don't think windshield wipers are necessary. Occasional cleaning with vinegar and then fresh water works well.
  • It would be nice to have a way to disassemble and remove the pilothouse, in case of a major job such as engine or transmission replacement. Removing mine would be a major operation, probably damaging it a lot.
  • Leave wiring exposed on the inside of the pilothouse, for easy maintenance. Don't try to hide wires inside tubing or the pilothouse walls.
  • The side-doorways on my pilothouse are just openings, not closing doors. I think openings are fine, and simpler. A few times, when current held me sideways to a driving rain, that's been a pain.
  • My pilothouse is strong enough to walk and work on top of, and easily survived 100+ hurricane winds. Make it strong.
  • My boat has such high freeboard that I don't worry about green water hitting the pilothouse windows. They're strong tempered glass, but I don't know if they could withstand solid water.
  • I never have completely removed and completely rebedded my pilothouse windows, because they're odd shapes and I fear breaking a window or damaging the metal trim. It would nice if some kind of standard home or automotive windows and mountings could be used, but I doubt that would look good.
  • Before building a pilothouse, you probably should make a mockup of cheap two-by-fours and plywood or PVC pipe and tarps or something, and mount it on the boat. Then see if you like the look, and if it interferes with sail-controls or booms. My pilothouse has some non-rectangular features (slightly sloped sides, angled window shapes, roof curve, rounded corners, etc) that make it look better. But sometimes the mainsheet chafes on the aft corners of the roof.
  • Build using SS tubing, and fiberglass over structural foam, for lightness and strength and durability.
  • Super-size the tubing, so you can walk on top of the roof, mount solar panels up there, etc.

SailNet - Sue and Larry's "The Cruising Cockpit"

From "Bill" via Kate Munson on Cruising World message board:
Put quarters inside the rubber tips of your swim ladder before you put them on the ladder itself. This will prevent the ends of the ladder from poking through the rubber and marking up your topsides.

Summarized from Don Casey in 7/2005 issue of Sail magazine:
Fabric to use for awning:
  • Don't use sailcloth or ripstop nylon; they are nearly transparent to UV radiation.
  • Preshrunk treated canvas is cheap and good, but no colors, and vulnerable to mildew and bird droppings.
  • Acrylic canvas (such as Sunbrella) is good but more expensive, vulnerable to chafe, and should be treated with sealer annually.
  • Coated polyester gives good water and UV resistance, but shorter life expectancy in tropical sunlight.

Cockpit cushions:
  • Should be closed-cell foam, and white or off-white.

  • Try finding a company that makes wrestling mats in custom sizes/colors.


SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Reducing Exterior Maintenance" (fiberglassing over teak)

Hatches and portholes (ports):
Hatches: horizontal opening windows or doors.
Ports / portholes / portlights: vertical opening windows.
Deadlights: vertical fixed windows.

SailNet - Tom Wood's "Resolving Hatch and Portlight Problems"
Article about replacing lens of a hatch, by Jan Mundy in issue 2001 #4 of DIY Boat Owner magazine.

  • Hatches and portholes should be through-bolted, not screwed on.

  • Hatches should have gate (long) hinges and be dogged at all 4 corners.

  • Sliding hatch above companionway is not really waterproof; should have a fixed hood over the forward portion of it.

  • Main hatch should be latchable from inside as well as outside, unlatchable from both sides, and hatchboards should be tied to boat so they don't float away in a knockdown.

  • Hatches and portholes may be tightly dogged, yet have gaps along the gasket. Hose with water from all angles to test.

  • From Melinda Carver on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
    Atkins and Hoyle hatches are great (but expensive).

  • From Mary Broderick on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
    Bomar "Seabreeze" hatches have bad design and construction quality.

  • From Paul Esterle on IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
    Older style Bomar cast aluminum hatches are pricey, but stout and don't leak.

New Found Metals, 888-437-5512
Pompanette / Bomar
Vetus den ouden

Some custom marine window manufacturers: Aluminum 2000, American Marine Products, Diamond Sea Glaze.

From Richard at New Found Metals:
Our 7x15 is near drop-in [replacement] for the Fuller [7x15]. You will just have to drill for the holes and route out a bit for the drain. We have replaced these ports in the past with no problems.

From Jim Bruce on Gulfstar Owners mailing list:
I replaced all 12 ports with New Found Metals Stainless Steel Ports on my Gulfstar 47. Great support from the company every time I called. Installation instructions were right on and easy to follow. One pointer that may help you is: Chill the Butyl Rubber before using it, and while handling it keep your hands wet to prevent it from sticking to your skin or gloves.

From Charles Cohen on the Morgan mailing list:
The Morgan ports, and many replacements, have the body of the port screwed to the inner liner, and a trim ring (which does very little) screwed to the outside of the hull. So, the port "works" against the hull, and eventually breaks the caulking between the hull and the port.

The "right" way to build ports is to cast (or fabricate) the outside trim ring integrally with the port body, and mount the port from the outside of the boat. This is not popular -- New Found Metals does it in bronze, and possibly some Hood ports in s/s.

From Al Nelson on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
> ... replacements for the opening ports made by Fuller Brush
> Company? The plastic hinges have broken inside on some of them
> and several of the outside frames are chipped.

If they are the same as the opening ports on the Gulfstar 50, they can be directly replaced with Beckson ports. We have replaced about half of ours with the Beckson PO 714-DWC ports (14 inch). This model has the rain drains which were not on the originals so notches have to be cut to accommodate them. We have found the rain drains to be very beneficial. They also make the model w/o the drains which would directly interchange and they have a 12 inch port. Both West Marine and Boat US carry these.
From Keith on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
We replaced all of our opening ports on our Gulfstar 43 with Beckson ports. Beckson will cut down the frame to fit flush (or nearly so) if you arrange that at purchase time (West Marine can arrange that). Installation information isn't included, so you have to go to Beckson's web site to download a PDF.
From Andy Chase on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
The aluminum ports on my 1981 Gulfstar 44 are made by a Canadian company called Atkins & Hoyle.
From Bob on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
ABI ports are great quality. However, don't order them directly from ABI unless you're heavy into successful dot com stocks. West Marine sells the ABI ports under the Seafit name, at a fraction of the cost. Sometimes you can even get the screens thrown in for free. Check out their ad in the 2001 Master catalog on page 468.

I would hesitate before replacing with another plastic port. Had I not done that the first time, I wouldn't be doing it again now.

Rebedding fixed ports, from Bob Fitzgerald on The Live-Aboard List:
I did mine last year on my Pearson. This was a two-part fix. The glass was sealed in the frame with a rubber gasket which I could not find a duplicate for. I used a round (3/16") soft foam rubber material (from Bluewater Ship's Store) on the inside of the channel. I then used a black automotive windshield sealant to bed the glass in. The round stuff was used because the frame was a bit too large for the glass without the original rubber stuff. I then took this assembly and put it in the hole in the cabin getting gooey black gunk all over me, the boat and the glass. It cleans up with lacquer thinner. I used a rubber gasket material available at automotive parts houses to seal the frame in the cabin. This stuff has an adhesive on both sides with a paper strip which you peel off when you are ready to stick it to something like your fingers, shirt, bench or window frame. It has worked fairly well on the one side I did. I say fairly cause I did not get a good seal with the gooey black stuff (used too little) and had to add some more to the boat, hands, clothes and window. More lacquer thinner ... You can trim the black goo after it dries with a razor blade. Do this only with the stuff on the window though.

Fixed ports, from Paul W. Esterle on The Live-Aboard List:
We have just completed replacing all the fixed ports on our Columbia 10.7. We replaced the old plastic frames and Plexiglas with 3/8" smoked Plexiglas, without the frames. We used our own method on bolting the ports in place. We counterbored holes from the inside and epoxied tee-nuts in them. The tee-nuts as well as the core around the windows was replaced with epoxy. By covering the tee-nuts with epoxy, the is no way for water to leak around the fasteners, either inside or into the core. We overlapped the edge of the openings by an inch and a quarter. The protective paper was peeled back in this area and two coats of Easypoxy painted on. This protects the sealant from UV. The window and the area around the window on the cabin side were completely covered with the protective paper on the Plexiglas as well as blue tape everywhere except where sealant was use. The tee-nuts were 1/4-20 and the screws were pan heads. Be sure and drill the holes in the Plexiglas oversize, we drilled 5/16" for 1/4" fasteners. We placed all the screws in the window and laid it down on newspaper. We then pressed 1/8" thick neoprene washers over the screws, this prevents squeezing out all the sealant when you tighten the screws. We also used LifeSeal sealant with excellent results. The windows turned out great and haven't leaked a drop.

From Howell Cooper on SailNet's Gulfstar mailing list:
If you have trouble locating the gasket material, a very good alternative is 3M string calk used around automobile windshields. It is available through NAPA Auto Parts in small quantities and is very resilient. It beats the usual silicone or 101 for that purpose. Just lay the lexan back on a well-cleaned bed with that stuff, then tighten the frame down such that it seals both surfaces. You might also want to seal around the screws holding the frame rings.

Hatch and Port Material:
Hatches could be:
  • Lexan / polycarbonate (with UV protection).
  • Acrylic / plexiglass.
  • Tempered glass (1/4" or so).
  • Safety glass (two layers of glass with plastic between them).
Lexan / polycarbonate is:
  • Nearly unbreakable.
Acrylic / plexiglass is:
  • Harder.
  • More flex-resistant.
  • More resistant to scratching.
  • More resistant to UV crazing.
Tempered glass is:
  • Very strong but not unbreakable.
  • Permanently clear (doesn't get cloudy).
  • Inflexible, so can't use if port/hatch has bend to it.
  • Has to be tempered after being cut ?
Safety glass is:
  • Safer: stays together in one cracked layer when broken.
  • More expensive than tempered glass.
  • Inner plastic layer can become cloudy.
Article about replacing Lexan ports by Sue Moesly in 1/2001 issue of Cruising World magazine


From Fred Gerbstadt on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
My boat was completed from a bare hull and launched in 1984. My original portlights were made of 3/8" General Electric Lexan. A 4'x8' sheet is required for all my ports ($300 in 1991).

In relatively short time they got foggy. I replaced them in 1991. Now [5/2000] they are foggy again. Time to replace them again, sigh. It is not difficult, just time and money consuming (like most boat projects). I always wash Lexan with a soft cloth ... never plastic deck brushes or the likes.

I think that UV is the culprit in these (premature) failures. Lexan is a very soft, almost gummy material judging by the way it cuts. For most folks it is the material of choice because of its strength. But usually no one mentions that it is soft and susceptible to UV damage.

I have decided this time to reglaze with acrylic (Plexiglass, Perspex, etc.) material. My Atkins&Hoyle hatches are glazed in Rhom&Hass Plexiglass. Acrylics fail in a different way than Lexan but, I think, over a longer time. Mine and other acrylic ports and hatches fail by crazing again due to UV, I suppose. But until they craze really radically they remain clear. ...

From Nelson Bailey on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
Buy the Lexan that has the UV coating on it. LexanXL is what I think the brand name is. There is also another polycarbonate similar to LexanXL called PalSun, don't recall the manufacturer. Both have a UV resistant coating on one side. You must make sure that side faces the sun. The reason Lexan fails rapidly is because people try to save a few bucks and use the standard Lexan that has little UV resistance. I would not use acrylic (Plexiglass) because it does not have the impact resistance of Lexan. If you drop a winch handle or spinnaker pole on Plexiglass it will break and Lexan will not. If you use the UV resistant Lexan do not use an abrasive cleanser, as that will remove the coating. Approved cleaners are listed on the packaging film on the Lexan.

From Ron Jones on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
The MR-10 Lexan (coated) is supposed to go at least ten years before discoloring.

From Jared Sherman on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
[Re: Lexan:] ... GE is very good about technical information and their web site also has extensive tech literature and installation diagrams. Do what they say and you will get the best possible installation. They also can tell you which grades of Lexan are the most scratch-resistant and UV-resistant, because a few more bucks can get you a MUCH better long term result. (Lexan is like "wood" or "brass", it is a whole family of different products.)

In general you do not want to GLUE Lexan to anything, you want to use gaskets that allow it to work as it expands and contracts. And sealants that will not degrade the materials or the joints. They have specs for all of that.


NU-VIEW and MR10 are the scratch resistant grades, don't just order "Lexan".

"Clear lexan lets in too much heat."

See Troubleshooting / Techniques section of my Boat Maintenance page for acrylic / plexiglass / Lexan polishing tips.

Non-skid on Deck:
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Installing Treadmaster Nonskid"

Can get molds for many non-skid patterns: Gibco Flex-Mold.

Treadmaster (imported into USA by Simpson Lawrence, available from Defender)

From Neil on Cruising World message board:
I have done Treadmaster once, and never will again.

Most people seem to get it to stick, on about the third try.

It is heavy, expensive and rough on bare skin.

I suggest paint with sand in it.

First paint all you want to be white. Then mask all corners and about 1" around all fittings. (You do not want non-skid in the corners, because it gathers dirt.) Paint with a good polyurethane paint, and put LOTS of dry sandblasting grade sand on it. When dry, brush off the excess. Paint one more coat.

Moderate cost, not heavy, and easier to repair than Treadmaster.

Summarized from ACB on Cruising World message board:
I have Treadmaster on my companionway ladder steps, where it is very effective.

We have a launch which came with Treadmaster on the thwarts. At first I thought this was a strange idea, but then I realised that ... you can step safely on the thwarts, and more interestingly the Treadmaster dries off very much faster than painted wood does.

From Frank Holden on Cruising World message board:
My boat also has a smooth surfaced version of Treadmaster on the cockpit coamings between the winches. These coamings are about 8 inch wide and without the Treadmaster you would be on your ear quicksmart.

From jas on Cruising World message board:
Treadmaster is a strong, durable surface, but there are caveats ... Treadmaster is brutally tough on human skin. The diamond pattern consists of four sharp points in each little segment and, believe me, they can be uncomfortable. Forget bikinis. Just try kneeling on it to do some deck work. Additionally, Treadmaster soaks up oil, paint, and assorted glop that unaccountably gets on decks. Eventually, something will snag on an edge, like a sheet, and you will have a break or a tear. There is virtually nothing you can do to make it look new again. Also, even with the best commercial adhesives on the market -- like liquid gold in price -- some part of the surface will eventually come up. My experience is that it is nearly impossible to ever get it to stay down permanently. Now, and very important, there are two types of Treadmaster: a heavy-duty, commercial sort, and one called "Sport". Sport is what you want. It is thinner, more flexible, and far more suitable for the rec boater, even when he thinks heavier is better. I had it for six years and would balk at having it again.

Don Casey has Treadmaster and likes it: unmatched traction, and still looks new after 10 years.
From Phil Sherwood on list:
Re: Kiwigrip:

I put down light gray Kiwigrip when I removed the decrepit teak from my deck a couple of years ago. I've really liked the product all the way from application through to today, when it scarcely shows any signs of wear. It does tend to trap dirt, though, which is the case with many if not most non-skids. Maybe if I used lots of boat soap to foam out what doesn't come out readily by brushing I could get it completely clean (not that it would stay that way for very long). But there's no boat soap where I am (I've long since exhausted the supply I brought with me) and I have to schlep wash water out to my boat in 5-gallon vidones (bottles) via my dinghy, which discourages profligate water use.

Some thoughts:

My son worked alongside. We ground down the deck pretty much to the fiberglass. Was messy and dirty but not hard, thanks to having a couple of good Bosch oscillating grinding tools and a bunch of disks. Even though I was on a mooring, powering grinders and sanders wasn't a problem thanks to my little Honda 2000 genset.

After filling and fairing the deck and cleaning everywhere with acetone, I used a two-part epoxy primer such as what an auto body shop would use on bare metal prior to painting a car. It's easy to mix and apply, if a little stinky, and bonds really well to the fiberglass and gelcoat beneath it, and the KG bonds really well to it.

The instructions are right when they say to not work in direct sunlight -- the KiwiGrip sets up pretty quickly. I had no choice as I was in Balboa, Panama, in March, and you don't get cloudy days there at that time of year. And when it's cloudy, it's typically pouring rain or about to pour rain. One of us troweled out the KG and the other rolled it out. Don't count on the roller to spread the KG around evenly -- spread it with the trowel or comparable spreading tool (a notched spreader works well), to get an even coat before rolling. We worked really fast, but with the two of us it came out fine.

Thin the KiwiGrip about 5% with water, to extend working time and especially if you want a less textured finish. And extra especially if you can't avoid working in the direct sun.

I used the foam roller the KG distributor supplied. Despite sun, heat, and not thinning the KG, the texture came out exactly as I wanted it -- not ridiculously aggressive, but fairly aggressive, a nice positive feel underfoot. I wouldn't want to face-plant on it, but I can walk barefoot on it and kneel on it with no problem. If you want a less aggressive or very mild texture, thin the KG or use a different roller or knock down the peaks a bit with a trowel or spreader or roll the KG out normally and when it's dry paint over it. I don't see the sense of this last approach, but it might be right for some people. I think the instructions include info on how to get a milder texture.

Mask off once for the primer, pull the tape before the primer has dried, or at least before it has fully cured. Mask again for the KG, and likewise pull the tape before the KG has dried, to get a nice clean line.

That's all I can think of right now. I'm very happy with the product. You can see some pix of the deck job at -- click on the thumbnail above the "Deck Removal" title. You might want to skip ahead to p. 3 to get right to the primer and paint application stage. All the descriptive text went away in a massive site failure a while ago, but the pix more or less tell the story.

Teak Deck:
A teak deck can be screwed-down or glued-down.
If screwed-down, every screw-hole is a potential leak.
In either case, a teak deck is hot on the feet and hard to maintain.

SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Techniques for Removing Teak Decks"
SailNet - Ken Newell's "Homemade Teak Decks"
SailNet - Ken Newell's "Homemade Teak Decks, Part Two"
Installing teak deck article by Ken Newell in Epoxyworks #20 Fall 2002
"Teak Deck Care" article (maintaining, refastening) by Susan Canfield in issue 2002-#4 of DIY Boat Owner magazine

From John Dunsmoor:
> ... with an old boat whose teak deck has
> turned into a maintenance nightmare, maybe a
> rational thing to do is to remove the teak
> deck and just have a fiberglass deck.
> Any idea how much this might cost ?

I would NEVER purchase a vessel with that particular job in mind. If the boat was obviously in such poor condition then the price of the vessel would be nearly nothing, deservedly so. If it was not so obvious then the price would not reflect the amount of work necessary to make the vessel right, correct the problem.

It is bad enough to have a vessel leaking from deck hardware and such without having the entire deck leak. You just can not imagine the troubles, first of all most decks are cored, either with balsa or plywood. These materials rot if water is migrating through them. And migrate it does, from a screw through a piece of teak to a bulkhead three feet away into the interior of the vessel.

Some decks are solid glass, few, and while these are more saveable, it is still too large a job to be practical.

The cost: tooooooo high for practical purposes. Say you wanted to replace the deck for a Mason 43 ... with what, more wood, fiberglass, tread master?

If the job is not perfect, it ruins the resale value of the vessel. To replace the deck with teak, rebed, fix all the damage, replace part of the core. Twenty to a hundred thousand dollars, could be numbers that are not out of line. That is why most will elect to rid themselves of the burden and move on to another vessel.

Advice: do not purchase any vessel with a teak deck, period.

They are hot, and if kept up, slick when wet. Teak is very expensive and the quality is not what it used to be. Skills that are necessary for laying teak barely exist any more. I have seen some serious butcher jobs over the years by supposed professionals that were learning how to do the job as they went. Also teak is a material that wears away with time. So no matter what, you will be replacing the deck on almost any vessel after a decade or so.

In the old days they knew and understood these facts. First in the days of wooden vessels, wood decks were no big deal. Heck the whole vessel was made up of tiny pieces of material tenuously held together with nails, caulking, screws and the grace of God. Leaks were the norm, it did not matter how much water entered the vessel, only that the pumps were ahead of the game. Teak was a great wood for decks and it was five quarters thick and lasted for ten years was good. Now, good teak is seven to nine dollars a board foot and teak decks are barely thick enough to hold a screw, within a few years you are popping plugs and having all kinds of problems.

One guy's opinion.

From Larry DeMers on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
... the advice that I have heard and given regarding teak decks is to pull it off, throw it as far as you can, and fill those screwholes up. I have seen perhaps 20 boats with delamination in the decks, and a high percentage were or had been teak covered boats. The screws leak after a few years, and there is no way to permanently seal them.

Overcoating the teak with a surface preparation is covering up the problem, which will spread amazingly fast (I have a 1 ft. round area of delam on my boat..last year it was the size of a it's time to dig out the drill and epoxy I can see).

As nice as those teak decks look and feel underfoot, they are the worst thing you could have there for decking. Now if it was possible to permanently bond the teak on with a good contact screws, that would be the answer, until you needed to replace a board. Heh, I guess there is no easy answer here.

One thing that I wanted to mention; when taking the decking off, each hole must be carefully filled and capped off so that water cannot get in ever. It would probably be faster and cheaper if you did a general overcoating of the deck with epoxy, then put in a non-skid pattern copied from the rest of the boat (using latex poured on a 1 ft^2 sample of the non-skid on the rest of the boat). Then repaint the deck with a one-part polyurethane to match the rest of the boat. It's a huge job, but you will notice the difference in weight for one thing.

From John / Truelove on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
... In Trinidad, where we've been hanging out recently, there is much of this work being done, and we know many cruisers who have contracted for it. Seems that the best fix is to remove the teak, plug the holes, and lay a new teak deck using a special adhesive. The underside of the planking is scored and then laid directly on the deck, without fasteners, using an product made by Teak Deck Systems (Florida?). Those we have spoken to say "it's the only way to go."

Of course they grow teak in Trinidad, and, coupled with the labor rates there (US$15), a "teak job" (and everything else) costs about 1/3 of what US yards charge. Depending on the size of the boat, it may be a worthwhile trip. We know one couple who had this done last Spring on their 85' ketch for $8500. It does matter who you contract with! In Trinidad, most every contractor will say "I can do that," even if they can't, so be careful, and get references. One company we can recommend is Fortress Woodworking, located in the Power Boats compound.

BTW, teak decks are not as hot as they are reputed to be *if* they are kept clean. The wood itself is not what burns the feet, it's the black Thiokol caulking.

From Dave Dietrich on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
I just completed a deck project on my True North 34.
  1. Remove all deck hardware: 20 hours (involved drilling out some screws)
  2. Teak deck removal: 40 hours (very hard work, no attempt to save teak)
  3. Countersink and fill all holes with epoxy: 20 hours
  4. Open foredeck, recore, reglass, fair: 80 hours
  5. Detail prep deck, tape off nonskid pattern: 60 hours
  6. Lay Spantex Rolltex ground rubber and hapalon based coating: 4 hours
  7. Lay Spantex Colortex coating x2: 6 hours
This project took a little over a year start to finish. 230 hours, 3 gal of rolltex, 2 gal of colortex at $85 each. The reason this took so long was partly the weather and partly my fear of "digging in". I am very happy with the results.

I have no affiliation with Spantex but highly recommend their products.

From cabo79:
Used chisels and large screwdrivers to remove the teak, then ground off the beat up gelcoat that was underneath along with any of the black glue I was unable to get with chisel or scraper, get off all you can as it gums up when you grind. Then drill out the holes with 3/16" drill, use a depth stop on the drill so you don't go much deeper than the screw went. If you find areas that are wet, drill lots of extra holes in those areas. Note, I had the boat covered with greenhouse film, like a tent, If you have much wet you'll need to let it dry with the tent on over the summer. Use the West system syringe and mix epoxy to a flowable but a little thick mixture. Fill the holes to overflowing. If you have any areas that are still wet the mixture will bubble out, try drying by putting acetone in the wet holes. If you find any areas that are rotted you'll have to cut that area out and put in new core. When done filling the holes do a final lite grind to level the holes. Then cut the fiberglass in sections you can handle. Fit and stack to the side. Have all sections done and ready to go. I used an isopropyl resin, it sets quick so you have to put it down fast. If you use two layers grind between, do a final grind to get as smooth as possible, fill with putty where you have to. I used gelcoat on the top with a non-skid in it, but would not do that again. Try using the system that Interlux markets, it looks much better. I bought the materials thru Fiberglass Systems.

From Gary Elder:
> I have been warned away from teak decks,
> especially ones that are screwed down.
Someone gave you good advice. All of them are bad.

> On the same subject, have you heard of
> people tearing off a screwed-down
> teak deck and replacing it with fiberglass ?
Yes, it is done. Usually the teak is screwed down onto a normal fiberglass deck, sometimes to hide a soft deck core. There would be a jillion holes to fill, followed by repairing or replacing the non-skid, then new gel coat or paint.

> Is that a horrible, expensive job ?
It's even worse than that.

From John Anderton:
I have not discovered any leaks on my teak deck [on Cabo Rico 38]. I do have one leak through my deck but it was caused by the original owners attachment of a LORAN in the quarter cabin and drilling too deep into the ceiling!

Teak decks, and several other features of traditional boats have received bad press due to the shoddy workmanship and marginal boat building practices in the Far East. There are several models of quality brand name boats that used non-marine grade woods in their construction. There were several pilothouse 48' foot Hans Christians that were cored with household plywood! Indeed Bob Perry has gone to court to have his name removed as the boat designer of several boats, the Union 36 being one.

From John Dunsmoor:
> ... caulking on teak deck was in bad
> condition, yet has no leaks.
> Is it only the screwing and coring
> that matters in terms of leaks ?

Do not have teak decks, DO NOT, UNDER any circumstances, ever, EVER have teak decks, EVER ... EVER.

So you might ask, what is your REAL opinion on teak decks :-)


Teak is crap deck material. It was great when there was nothing else and wood was cheap and plentiful and everyone understood that it was sacrificial and there were plenty of skilled craftsmen to do the work.

Evolution, I believe in evolution, I know I have made the same statement a hundred times. Circumstances have evolved and good teak is hard to come by, is very expensive, the craftsmen that are left charge $35 to $50 an hour to lay deck. It is no longer two inches thick and lasts for ten years, it is 7/16 inch thick and will barely hold a plug.

How do you properly keep a teak deck ? Simple: you let it weather naturally and once a week you pumice-stone the deck and you always keep it wet. The stone is just like sanding, so the deck has an open grain, about two hundred grit, kind of like the feel of suede. Wet feet stick to it like glue. Yet it has little texture. Let the grain rise and it is different, still a good non-skid but does not look as good.

In a seaway the deck can get very slippery, I call it "salt snot". The sea comes aboard and evaporates, and comes aboard and evaporates. After a few days the deck is slick with salt and what it needs is a good rinse, salt water and brush cures the problem. "Salt Snot" slick will happen with fiberglass non-skid also.

A lot of what teak is all about is labor; keeping it nice is hard work. Now since teak wears away, is sacrificial, many skippers try to save their decks by varnishing, or oiling. Now we really have a case of stupids. The only justification for teak in the first place is as a non-skid surface, so how non-skid do you think fifty feet of varnish or oil is?

That was a mis-statement about the only justification is as non-skid. The fact is the only current justification is looks. A new teak deck gives a new vessel a rich look.

Oiling is no better than varnish, I once was on a trip with an oiled deck. Dry it was not too bad, but with the addition of "salt snot" it was as slick as a fiberglass slide at a Disney World water park. The only problem was the deck was weathered and had a lot of raised grain. So this young fellow slid about ten feet and was stopped by a splinter about three inches long, soaked in deck oil drilled its way into the fellow's foot. Damn that hurts just thinking about it.

Now let's move on to other features and advantages of teak. The note that you had from John Anderton was absolutely correct about a lot of vessels having plywood core with glass then teak, having problems. But the fact is most decks are cored, it is the only way to keep the deck light and make it rigid and any coring that has ten thousand screws stuck into it is going to have problems, maybe not today but eventually. Every deck is going to have problems, and why can I be so darn sure of my words. Simple: cost.

Replacing a deck is a monumental undertaking. I was involved in putting a new deck on a 63-foot motorsailer and the cost for the deck alone was sixty grand. This did not include another thirty repairing rot and leak problems.

What is the best deck method using teak? I know of a vessel that had a cored deck, foam core but the top and bottom skin was more than 5/16" thick. Then the deck was cut and set in caulking with no screws at all. The deck was 3/4" thick and no plugs or screws. It was a painstaking job, but the guys that did it, did the nicest deck job I have ever seen. No teak was bent, all the curves were sawn, all the teak was old growth Burmese that had been air dried for fifteen years. This was a fifty foot custom vessel and I'll bet that deck was worth a hundred grand.

For the rest of us, we will live with the teak deck till the interior of the boat turns into a rain forest of rot and then sell it to someone else before taking on such a task. Cruising to me is more about sailing, snorkeling, walking on deserted beaches and not about fighting deck repair. One more note, teak decks are hot and most of us want to sail in the tropics and adding another ten degrees to the interior does not make a lot of sense.

From Thomas Burkett on the newsgroup
My teak deck was leaking, should have been, 1200 holes drilled into perfectly good plastic. I tried to reseal, recaulk, and save the deck in many ways.

Bottom line, I removed the teak, which turned out to be totally shot, drilled out all the holes to oversized (about 1/4" holes where #8 or #10 screws had been). Filled the holes with epoxy, redrilled as necessary. Once the holes were properly filled, deck faired, primed, painted, painted on non-skid, now the deck no longer leaks.

I had thought of reteaking the deck, but felt that the teak looked nice, but bottom line, cost and maintenance, teak is now gone, and I like the non-skid.

From John Bierrie on Yacht-L mailing list:
... the thickness of the teak is not the only factor in whether or not the decks leak, etc. In fact, more to the point is the condition of the caulking between the teak strips, the condition of the crossmembers / sub decking below it (loose allows movement, thus more leaks), etc. The decks on my boat started out at 1 1/2" thick when new. Some places are now down to 1" and the deck averages 1 1/4". This is after 40+ years. My leaks, and I have a few, are strictly due to the caulking starting to break down after 40 years or so. ...

Bottom line ... Teak decks require continual maintenance to keep from developing problems. You need to keep a close eye on the caulking on a routine basis, they should be rinsed down with salt water as often as possible, daily is best, twice a day even better. If areas around the edges of the boards or around bungs seem to stay a bit wet longer than the surrounding areas (dark spots), then a problem exists in that area and you need to take care of it, quickly. etc ... etc ... etc ... They need to be washed from time to time to keep the wood doing what it does best, just don't use a scrubbing brush ... They need sanding generally once a year, maybe every other year, depending on how you want them to look, etc ... Luckily, most people learn very quickly that trying to "finish" them is more than just a waste of time, so they let them "age" naturally, but that does not eliminate the required maintenance ... On the other side of the coin, for all that attention / effort / sweating, you will end up doing, you will have the most beautiful decks around ... Just don't walk on them in bare feet in the hot summer sun, unless you just rinsed them down with salt water ... :-)

From Chuck Harris on Cruising World message board:
We removed our teak decking on our Tayana 37. It took three months of hard work to remove and repair the damage from 1300 screws in the fiberglass. We dried the core and then repaired the deck and gelcoated. Estimated cost was about $10,000 for everything, the most being about $5,000 for the gelcoating job. But it looks nice now and we are rid of all the problems. ... we cut a 2'x2' section of deck off in order to see if it was rotten. It was not, so we drilled quarter-sized holes about every foot in the deck and let the hot Florida sun dry it out. We had a surveyor check it w/ a moisture meter and it was OK according to him. (I think that moisture meter stuff is voodoo magic but it was all I needed to patch up the holes and get on w/ my life.)

Can replace teak with "fake teak": Trex.

From Jeff on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
I recently took up my teak decks on my Island Trader 38 ketch. The job was tough going and slow but I finally got all the teak up. The hardest part was getting up the black rubber glue that was used to attach the teak to the decks. Now that the decks are down to fiberglass and all the holes filled I'm hoping the boat will finally be watertight. I'm sure it will be better anyway.

The problem I now have is the decks don't have the strength they had with the teak on them. They bow a little as I walk around on the decks. I would appreciate any recommendations on what to do next to strengthen the decks.

From Marce Schulz on The Live-Aboard List:
Re: Teak deck seam caulk:

When we were planning to redo our decks, we originally chose Life Calk. One afternoon we caulked the foredeck, and the next morning, the strips of caulk were just lying in the grooves, loose. We could pull it all up with no problem. This was a complete product failure for us, and although the company blamed our preparation (which amounted to meticulously following their directions), they refunded our money.

Meanwhile, we had collected a few products, divided up the fantail, and caulked different sections with different caulk, using the same prep method. A year later, the Teak Decking Systems sys-440 looked brand new, with no voids, and perfect adhesion to the teak.

Because of that, we caulked the entire deck with sys-440, and couldn't be happier. Since then we've used both black and white sys-440 for a variety of caulking and bedding. We shared some with a friend on another boat and he raves about it too. Shelf life is excellent. We had a few tubes for years, and it was still perfect. Even an opened tube keeps for 6 months or so.


[Late 2004:] We recaulked the original, traditional screwed and bunged 42-ft deck, and also the newly laid glued-not-screwed cockpit decking. Both still look fresh and it's been a couple of years now.
Teak Decking Systems sys-440: Silicone seam sealant. Downside: Cannot go back to non-silicone, ever.

From 12/2003 issue of Passagemaker Magazine:
Charles Culotta used a spray-on truck bed lining material to permanently seal over his leaky teak deck. Still happy with it three years later.

From Mark Luesse in Trawlers & Trawlering's "Horror stories":
Before starting a complete refinishing of your teak deck, consider how much you really love your boat. If you've ever thought about selling it, do it now. Otherwise, you'll need a good set of knee pads and a palm sander. And be forewarned: Unless you like back-wrenching tedium and strong chemicals, it won't be a lot of fun!

I put about 200 hours into recaulking the deck of our 33' Albin. The worst part was removing the old caulk. I found that cutting the edges with a carpet knife, then pulling the caulk out with a small straight blade screwdriver with the end bent worked the best. This gets the majority of caulk out, but you still need to clean the inside edges of the grooves down to the teak. You will need to apply a break tape to the bottom of the groove (another serious pain in the ass) so that the caulking adheres only to the sides. The reason for this is to allow the expansions of the deck to be absorbed by the entire width of the seam, otherwise the caulk will eventually peel from the side of the seam where the edges of the planking meet.

The grooves will need to be cleaned with acetone and primed immediately before caulking (The 3M primer says 1-4 hours after application). Be sure to use a good grade of one-part polysulfide caulk such as 3M 101 or Sikaflex. Do not attempt to use two-part unless you have access to an evacuation chamber to remove entrapped air.

Before starting to caulk, it is worth practicing how to fill and smooth the caulk in the grooves and avoid air entrapment. I found that using a 6" metal ruler with a rounded end made just the right groove shape. I made one pass to scoop up the excess and then made a finishing pass in the other direction. The trick is to do it in one shot.

The more you work it, the worse it gets. Don't worry about the excess or cleaning it off the teak. Attempting to do so without messing up the grooves would require the patience of a monk. Once it dried, I used a plastic scraper to remove the majority of excess and light sanding cleaned the rest.

I did all of my work under shrink-wrap in the winter/spring. If you want to do it in the summer you will need to keep the boat covered since the decks likely provide a water seal to your interior cabin space. The polysulfide can take from 1 to 3 weeks to cure, enough to sand and finish the deck (depending on temperature and humidity). Wear a good respirator, particularly with the teak primer and the polysulfide.

The Albin 33 with only the main deck in teak required 23 tubes of caulk. Half way through I discovered that the two cases of 3M 101 I purchased were different. The tubes were slightly different, but there were no indications of any difference in the markings. However, the texture, viscousity and curing properties were quite different. Fortunately the difference in the finished deck is imperceptible.

Looking back, I have to say that the decks are now beautiful, BUT, I'd sooner pave them in concrete than go through a refinishing job again.

Deck Leaks:
From Randy Stroschein on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
Of all the techniques I've heard [for finding leaks], the one I think works the best is to seal up *all* openings on the boat as best you can, take a vacuum cleaner [or air compressor ?] with the hose inserted in the blow (not suck) position and use it to positively pressurize the cabin, and dump a 5 gal pail or two of soapy water on the deck and wherever. Then just look for the bubbles.

From Mike Rich on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
Someone once suggested using food coloring, but I thought it would stain the deck (it really didn't). Use it to trace the water flow from rain, since water runs and then may enter the cabin 20 feet from where it started.

Wait until there is a dry day and hose the area down very well, then put the food coloring tablet in the area of question. Finally, spray the area again lightly with the hose and see where it goes. If you can't find colored water from the suspected area, you might have to find another area to try. You can use different colored tablets for the same area to trace the water flow.

From Michael Enriquez on The Live-Aboard List:
I've used this method a few times with good results. Make a heavy concentration of soap in a bucket of water (dish soap is OK). Slosh it around topsides using a mop. Using either the exhaust end of a vacuum cleaner, portable air compressor, or a leaf blower, aim the flow of air below decks, at different surfaces in and around the area where the leak was found, with the idea that the increased air pressure will find it's way back outside and cause bubbles. Have someone topside looking for the bubbles and "voila" you have your leak point of entry.

You may have to increase your search area, depending upon how far the water is running before it "drips". This method can also be used to find how water is getting in through windows, and around portholes.

From "The Voyager's Handbook" by Beth Leonard:
  • Exterior rust usually signals a deck leak.
  • Scrape caulking, get black == leak.
  • Gaps or dirt in caulk == leak.
  • Interior rust or water trail == leak.
  • Test porthole/hatch gasket by dusting all around with talcum powder, then closing and hosing, then opening and looking for breaks in the powder.
  • Reduce/avoid leaks by never putting loads on lifelines and stanchions. Don't hang fenders on them, don't tie spring-lines to them, don't grab them to come aboard.

  • For sealing deck leaks: Elmer's Squeez-N-Caulk (siliconized acrylic latex) ?

  • Repair deck leaks from the outside, not the inside.

Deck Delamination:
"Wet Deck ? Here's The Fix" article by Nick Bailey in issue 2002 #3 of DIY Boat Owner magazine

From Rick Simone on the Morgan mailing list:
... Due to neglect, water intruded into the balsa core unchecked (through all the through-bolted blocks etc). We knew there was a delamination problem when we bought the boat and researched how to deal with it.

I used a roto zip tool to cut the top skin in sections. After removing the sections I scraped out the rotten balsa (it was so rotten it was mushy and smelled really bad) and let it dry.

The boat is in cape may nj and we had to build a tent around it to do the work because it was winter time and climate was a factor. Heaters were installed in the tent.

Anyway, instead of using new balsa, I came across a product known as Bond a Lite, a structural polyester adhesive manufactured by a company in Groton, CT. As this material can stand up it made perfect sense to replace the core with this, section by section. Also, water would never travel again!

What I did was fill in each section and replace the top skin. After curing and sanding, I took fiberglass tape to cover the seams, etc.

A good friend of mine, with a lot of fiberglass experience, did the final sanding and fairing in, therefore assuring a professional appearance.

Although it took all winter it was well worth it. After one full and very busy season the results are still very satisfactory. The deck is solid and dry.

My advice to anyone with a bad delamination is to:
  1. Take your time and find out exactly what you are dealing with.
  2. Do not settle for just pouring epoxy into a hole that you drilled in the deck.
  3. Do not cut all the way through, just the top layer of glass.
  4. If you are intimidated by the size of the task, do a section at a time.
From Rick Simone on the Morgan mailing list:
The company that makes bond a lite is LBI Inc at 973 north rd. groton, ct. 06340
ph no is 800 231 6537

Bond a lite is a structural polyester based adhesive. It is easy to work with and has a consistency like peanut butter, therefore it can be stacked up. Although not a miracle, it did a good job in replacing the rotten balsa core.
From David Carpenter on the Morgan mailing list:
Everything you say about repairing delamination on the deck is good advice, with one exception: #2 of your list leaves out a necessary qualification: i.e., you're right to advise against simply pouring epoxy into a hole one drills into the deck to fix delamination. However, enlarging a thru-deck hole, enough to slip an Allen wrench or some other L-shaped instrument inside the core, to thereby determine how far into the deck the mushy/saturated core extends, is a MUST before cutting the deck into sections, lifting it and removing the core. In many instances, the saturation of the core doesn't extend more than a few inches beyond the thru-deck hole, and this wet core can be pulled out bit by bit (time consuming, yes). A heat-gun (on low-heat setting) or acetone injected into the hole (forget using the heat-gun if you choose to use acetone to evaporate the moisture) will dry the core sufficiently (over time) so that one can actually vacuum out the bits of core one has worked loose with the L-shaped instrument. Once one can feel solid core, and all the saturated core has been removed, then an epoxy-adhesive mixture can be successfully poured into the hole to complete the repair.

Sometimes it's also better to drill several holes -- with sufficient space between them (say 3 to 4 inches) -- in the immediate vicinity of the area where your little hammer has indicated delamination in the deck. I'll opt for oversizing holes to withdraw saturated core material any time I can, if that means avoiding cutting sections of the deck out, cutting through the non-skid grid, and then having to reglass the reinserted sections after replacing the core.

From Noel:
> I have had a Westsail in the past and would like to
> keep to that era of build quality.

> However, I notice that so many boats even from that
> era have balsa cored decks and topsides.

> I am taken at the moment by a Whitby 42 which has both.

> My question is that apart from the obvious need for
> a thorough survey to ascertain the integrity of any
> considered purchase, have you come across problems with
> 30-plus year old balsa cored (or indeed any sandwich) boats
> that are more or less pandemic problems apart from those
> problems you would expect from leaks / poor fitting installation?

> I cannot get my head around how a sandwich construction
> of any age can maintain its integrity when there are two
> materials of different compressive strengths and moduli of
> elasticity constantly flexing against each other for hundreds
> or thousands of hours on end.

> People are constantly trying to postulate an expected
> age of fibreglass construction. Surely a balsa sandwich is
> bound to fail well before the glass itself fails.
> Is it reasonable to expect that the majority of the
> resin is still chemically or mechanically
> attached to balsa after 30 years of use ?

> Is an aging balsa core construction really a fibreglass
> skin - wood powder - fibreglass skin arrangement?

> Do you have comment on this?

I'm no expert, but here are a few observations from my 1973 Gulfstar 44, which has balsa-cored decks:

1- Many of the holes drilled through the decks (for windlass, for example) did not have the edges sealed properly, so they provided avenues for water to get into the coring.

2- Many of the screws and such penetrating the outside layer of the deck were not caulked properly (by the manufacturer, I think), again letting water into the coring.

3- I can dig wet coring out of the edges of the bigger holes (such as when I took out a hawse-hole fitting to re-caulk it).

4- While there are a few slightly soft or flexible spots on my deck, it generally seems fine and I don't intend to start carving it up to remove wet coring or anything. This on a 33-year-old boat.

So, given 1, 2 and 3, you wouldn't expect 4, would you ?

That's all I know !

SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Deck Washdown Systems":

Rubrail suppliers:, Taco

From Jim Isbell on GulfstarOwners mailing list:
On my GS 36 MS the portside toerail is rotting away and needs to be replaced. I am thinking of taking them off altogether or replacing them with aluminum or plastic to eliminate the problem of rot.

One of the considerations is cost. I was quoted $2000 to replace a 20-foot section of toerail. At that price I could fiberglass $20 bills in a vertical position to the deck and have an interesting toerail and it would be cheaper.

  • Vinyl-coated wire.
    (No way to un-swage the swaged fittings on coated-wire lifelines so the fittings can be re-used.)
    (Coating traps water and encourages rust.)

  • Bare wire.
    (Can add "snap-on cable covers".)

  • Bare wire, but swaged ends tied to stanchions with rope.
    (Gives little stretch, with no expensive fittings at ends.)

  • Rope.
    (Too stretchy.)

  • Low-stretch rope.
    (Hard to cut and splice.)

Replacing wire lifelines with rope lifelines:
From Ken on "Silverheels 3":
Rope stretches and sags when wet. Would be nice to keep the old turnbuckles, if you can.

Might be a good idea to knot the lifeline at each stanchion, instead of just at the (more distant) ends, so when someone hits it, only a short segment stretches. But this would make it very hard to tension the lifeline properly, and would look a little uglier.

My thoughts about equipment on deck:
Why mount equipment on deck permanently ? Better to make it removable, and mount it on deck only when you're using it. Much of the equipment is needed only in certain situations; there's no need to have it on deck and exposed to the elements while you're at anchor for a month.

Things you could make removable:
  • Navigation lights.
    (As far as I can tell, this is legal.)
  • Anchor light.
    (Not legal, but I find hanging it from the boom or inside the cockpit makes it more visible to dinghy-traffic, keeps it out of the elements more, and eliminates climbing the mast to replace the bulb.)
  • Wi-Fi antenna.
    (Just clip it to the top of the dodger while you're using it, and stow it inside when you're not.)
  • Anchor windlass.
    (Not easy to do, if it weighs a lot or has a belowdecks component.)

Homer Simpson asking about poop deck

Mast (spar)

Some choices are:
Keel-stepped or deck-stepped:
From Paul T on Cruising World message board:
It would seem that the pros of a keel-stepped mast are that a direct attachment to the keel is seen as "stronger." The cons are that they leak around the boot, you need a crane to step or destep the mast, and they can be a little awkward (in terms of space) down below. Additionally, I've heard a few "horror stories" from folks who were dismasted when the keel-mast fitting failed, and on the way down the butt-end of the mast wreaked havoc on the interior of the boat as it spun wildly.

The pros of a deck-stepped mast are no leaks, easier to put up/ take down, compression post takes up less room (usually can be concealed), and if you do get dismasted, at least you don't have to worry about getting impaled by the mast butt.

From Christopher Gordon:
I've yet to hear of a keel-stepped mast that does not leak eventually.

Paraphrased from "Modern Cruising Under Sail" by Don Dodds, I think:
"A keel-stepped mast is stronger if properly wedged at the deck, and if the deck is strongly reinforced there, but those conditions are not usually true in practice."

Base of a deck-stepped mast should allow for proper drainage.

Keel-stepped better:
  • Stronger.
  • Likely to be more left if dismasted (easier to jury-rig).
Deck-stepped better:
  • No leaking (at deck, from holes in mast, or from masthead).
  • Easier to step/unstep mast for maintenance or bridge.
  • Takes less space in cabin.
  • Less damage to boat and mast if dismasted.
  • Mast is shorter.
  • Easy to alter position and rake.
  • Corroded mast step (likely for both kinds of mast) is easier to repair.

From Barry Brazier on World-Cruising mailing list:
When I lost my rig with a deck-stepped mast I was able to tie it on deck and bring it home. Repairs were not too expensive. In the case of the keel-stepped mast, I had to cut it free to stop it wrecking the boat's belowdecks. It messed up the bulkhead and cupboards as it was. As the mast was mangled at deck level and then cut free I had to buy a new mast as well as rebuild inside. In both cases a cap shroud parted in big winds. The rigging wire was in each case about 10 years old and showed no sign of impending failure. The failure was due to fatigue which does not show until too late. Nowadays I always replace SS rigging after 10 years no matter what it looks like. Even when the boat's just sitting at its moorings the rigging is still working (vibrating) due to wind. I have also lost a mast due to a chainplate pulling out. Three masts in 40 years sailing. Even so if I bought a boat with a keel-stepped mast I would not change it and it would not be the major factor in my boat choice.

External or internal halyards:
External halyards better: easier to inspect/replace; less noise; fewer holes in mast; probably less friction.

Internal halyards better: less windage; safer if sheave breaks when using to climb the mast.

From Don McNair:
Today's fat boats tend to have a lot of initial stability but fall short on ultimate stability and once capsized, have a tendency to stay that way. When I was living aboard I found that my boat would turn over at 112 degrees and want to stay there! After a lot of "what ifs" I found that filling the mast with Styrofoam and going external with the halyards increased the stability to nearly 120 degrees and had the added bonus of keeping the mast quiet. I used the log form of Styrofoam not the beadboard or beads, which tend to soak up water. I made plywood templates of the inner mast cross-section and nailed them to both ends of a 4 ft Styrofoam log, then made up a hot-wire rig and cut the Styrofoam to shape. One side had a notch in it and so that a PVC pipe could be held in place for the internal wiring. Shoved the Styrofoam in place and it worked great.

SailNet - Tom Wood's "Upgrading Spars"

From Tim C on Cruising World message board:
[Re: changing from aluminum to carbon-fiber mast:]

Main problems are that the mast is likely to have been built by a composite builder - (my builder is omohundro). The builder is likely to be not that experienced in building rigs - so you may have design problems (I did). Also rig building is unlikely to be their bread and butter so the rig business won't be that important to them, the high cost of the rig is likely to be peanuts to the numbers they're used to dealing with when building RADAR domes for the DOD. All this means that you're likely to have worse customer service than with a regular rigger.


... disadvantages?

Cost Cost Cost and lousy customer service. All in all this has got to be the upgrade to your boat with the least return per dollar. Make sure you've done everything else first.

Also the Carbon fiber is more delicate than the Aluminum - scratches and abrades and is sensitive to UV.

In short I wouldn't bother and if I was doing it again I would definitely stay with the Aluminum - when I was specing my boat I had the choice between Aluminum fixed rig and taller rotating Carbon so the carbon was more compelling. Now that there is a Aluminum rotating rig available I would choose that even if the cost were the same (which it's not: the carbon costs more than double - 13.5k vrs 6k).
Other problems with carbon fiber masts: very difficult to repair if damaged, and fibers can degrade from reaction with stainless steel fasteners.

Ways of stepping/unstepping the mast:
  • With a crane, in a boatyard.
  • Against a bridge, with a winch from a truck or tow-truck on the bridge.
  • With an A-frame, on the deck of the boat.
  • Rafted up with two other boats, using bridles from their halyards to your mast.
If you have a boatyard unstep your mast, make sure they don't just cut the electrical wires !


"The weakest point of a boat is the nut attached to the tiller."

Rudder types:
  • Keel-hung: protected, but requires full keel, and must be large (and thus heavy).
  • Skeg-hung: good compromise (as long as skeg is strong).
  • Spade: (may be balanced or not) best performance, but most vulnerable.
  • Transom-hung: easy to repair/replace, but vulnerable unless protected by skeg or full keel, axis probably not exactly vertical.

Barry Duke's "Rebuilding a rudder"
Rudder repair article by Martin Parker in issue 2000 #3 of DIY Boat Owner magazine.
"Rudder Tubes" article by Bill Sandifer in May/June 2001 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
"Rudder Fixes" Q+A by Jan Mundy and Nick Bailey in issue 2002 #1 of DIY Boat Owner magazine
"Repairing Water-Soaked Rudders" article by Nick Bailey in issue 2002 #3 of DIY Boat Owner magazine
"Rebuilding a Rudder" article by Barry Duke in Epoxyworks #22 Winter 2004

  • Rudder should have stops that prevent it from deflecting more than 35 degrees or so.

  • Rule of thumb: rudder area = LWL x draft x 0.05

  • Typical reasons for rudder failure: Joint where shaft enters top of rudder lets water in, because metal and fiberglass expand differently (probably best to use 5200). Water corrodes welds inside rudder. Metal webs inside rudder may not be stainless steel.

  • New/repaired rudder: want stainless steel inside, large area on metal plates, plates glassed to one side of rudder fiberglass (not just floating in the foam), long welds of plates to shaft, 8-lb high-density structural foam.

From Tom Leonard on Cal mailing list:
... a trick that worked for me last winter when I dried my rudder. I drilled several 1/2 inch holes into the rudder and loosely packed paper toweling into the holes with 4" or 5" of paper sticking out like a flag. This will wick the water out of the rudder and expose it to the outside air and evaporation. Doing this and keeping it in the furnace room where it was nice and warm and had plenty of air circulation really did the trick.

While in the boatyard, I was thinking of drilling a hole in the bottom of the rudder to see what came out. But the rudder shaft didn't have much play, the rudder seemed firm on the shaft, and the yard manager said "yeah, you could drill a hole and stuff would drip out, and stuff would KEEP dripping out for the next 8 months !". So I didn't bother to do that.

Rudder suppliers:
Foss Foam
Buck Algonquin

From Mark Mech on The Live-Aboard List:
> which is easier to work with: 2-part foam or foam sheets ?

I would build it from sheets; if you use a styrene-based foam you can cut it with a hot wire to an exact foil shape. You should use a dense foam, at least 4 to 6 lb or "spider foam". The two-part foam has a tendency to not be uniform and can have large bubbles which make weak spots. Some are better than others, if you find a good one, it won't be a problem and you can mold it around your frame.

North End Composites can CNC-machine a rudder foil shape in foam in two halves for you.

From "Steering Check" by Roger Hellyar-Brook from Ocean Navigator:
Assuming you are hauled out for the season, grab the rudder from under the boat and check for any play in the rudder shaft. If it is a spade rudder, the bottom bearing is taking all the side loads as it exits the hull, and any excessive play will show up as movement there. Several manufacturers offer complete bearing replacements that can have roller bearings instead of bushings at top and bottom to reduce friction, and they come with a new stuffing box. That is usually a professional installation, as it can involve structural fiberglass work. A new construction could have a greaseable bronze lower bearing with a stainless-steel rudderstock, which would be a very rugged and reliable setup.

If you have a skeg-hung rudder or a full keel boat with keel-hung rudder, there are more bearings to support the shaft. The bottom bearing on a keel-hung rudder can wear excessively from sand, mud and other debris getting deposited in the gudgeon and acting as grinding paste.

Although they are called bearings, most rudders have a simple bushing that maybe is bronze on bronze, or a stainless steel or bronze stock in a "plastic" bushing. This plastic is usually a high-molecular-weight material (like Delrin or Teflon) that can be machined as an insert. Some companies manufacture complete assemblies made from ultra-high-molecular-weight (UHMW) plastics as new or retrofit bearings. If a keel shoe or skeg bearing is worn, there might be sufficient material, so it could be machined and an insert fitted to save a custom casting.

Emergency Rudder:

Tiller versus Wheel:
Tiller better:
  • More sensitive.
  • More feedback.
  • Tells you if boat is not balanced properly.
  • Simpler: less likely to fail, easier to fix, cheaper.
  • Easier to attach windvane.
  • Takes up less cockpit space when anchored.
    (But wheel could be removed and stowed outside lifelines.)
  • Makes it easier for single-handler to handle sheets.
  • Can see rudder direction at a glance.
  • Keeps helmsman's weight closer to center of boat.
  • Get "Tiller Stay".
Wheel better:
  • More mechanical advantage (important in heavy weather, and when reversing, and on larger boats).
  • Easier to attach below-decks autopilot.
  • Takes up less cockpit space when underway (large boat would need a long tiller or a very well-balanced rudder).
  • Gives better view and control when docking.
  • Better access to throttle/gears/steering when docking.
  • Tiller can be dangerous when backing up at speed (which you shouldn't do anyway).
  • Better resale value; most people want a wheel.
  • If you have to stand to get good visibility from your cockpit, a wheel will be easier to use than a tiller.

Wheel steering types:
  • Cable and quadrant: quadrant-to-rudder-post attachment can be weak link.
  • Hydraulic: centerpoint of wheel can drift as fluid seeps (need rudder position indicator), more turns lock-to-lock (can cause problems for some auto-pilots).
  • Geared: wheel must be very close to rudder post.

Hydraulic steering:
Hydraulic steering article by Steve D'Antonio in Sept/Oct 2001 issue of Ocean Navigator magazine.
Norm Johnson's "Hydraulic user offers maintenance tips"

  • Check for leaks while at rest and while in use.
  • Want pressure gauge on reservoir.
  • Want dust-covers to protect rams.
  • Can be disconnected or bypassed quickly to enable steering by hand ?
  • Ram piston should not function as rudder stop.
  • Ram piston attachment to hull is highly stressed; must be strong.

From Gary Elder on the Morgan mailing list:
Don't use aircraft hydraulic fluid in your steering system. The seals won't like it. Or put another way, just because it's aircraft stuff doesn't make it better for a boat.
From BoaterEd forum:
... I found oil (hydraulic) leaking beneath the steering wheel ... it is leaking right at the steering wheel shaft and housing (hose fittings are good) ...

Most Hynautic units have a repair seal kit. Typically the repair is to unscrew 4 screws from cover plate, slide off old "O" ring, slide on new ring without nicking it. Put cover plate back on. Teleflex tech assist can talk you through any problems. Take a look at their web site.


Seal kit is cheap. Make sure you have a clean working area, such as a table with newspaper ... The unit pretty much explodes when you take it apart - lots of balls and springs.


Just try the top "O" ring first. You shouldn't ever get down to the balls and springs. The replacement should be able to be done without removing unit.


Repair kit will have instructions. Depending on the location of the seal, you may or may not have to drain some fluid. You will lose some.

From Greg Barker on Yacht-L mailing list:
[With hydraulic steering,] You get air in the system, and steering becomes extremely sloppy to the point of being downright unpleasant. My understanding is that when it's working, it's powerful as long as you don't mind the lack of feel. Hydraulic steering is probably going to require more attention than wire or rack and pinion.

Rack and Pinion: most expensive, most difficult to install, practically bullet proof and lowest maintenance.

Wire: normal cost, more hassle to run from a center cockpit, inspect and tune once or twice a year.

Hydraulic: reasonable cost, easy to run, no feel, really a PITA when there leaks or air in the lines.

I helped deliver a 48 foot boat with hydraulic steering. I would never have it. Cherokee has a center cockpit with cable steering. I lose a little stowage under the aft berth and settee. Oh, well.

From Bryan Genez on World-Cruising mailing list:
Re: Hydraulic steering:

Pros: hydraulic steering is a simpler solution than cables for boats with an aft cabin (i.e., center cockpit). Cable steering on those boats can follow a tortuous path, with many bends, each of which becomes a potential failure point. Hydraulic steering is quite strong, which means very little effort on the wheel will turn a large rudder. Many boats, especially larger boats, use hydraulics for multiple systems: backstay tensioners, solid boom vangs, even furlers and winches. So one properly designed system can serve multiple functions.

Cons: if they leak, you have a mess. I've spoken with owners who claim their hydraulic steering "creeps" - causing a slight rudder turn while the helm is amidships. There's no "midships" marking on the wheel, as that point will change. There's no feedback or "feel" from rudder to wheel; if you're not watching your compass, you can easily wander off course. I don't know anyone with a windvane + hydraulic steering, so no help there.

From Spencer on World-Cruising mailing list:
If you value the "feel" of a sailing boat that gets transmitted through the wheel or tiller, hydraulic steering may be a disappointment. Hydaulics are also hard to repair without specialized tools or lots of spare parts. That said, thousands of boats have hydraulic steering as it is adaptable and powerful.

From TTollef552 on the Morgan mailing list:
Edson Steering Pedestal Maintenance Discovery

On my Morgan 366, I have endured a squeak which grew into a groan when port helm was applied. After tightening the port cable at the quadrant, the noise increased. After consulting with the Edson International service desk, it was revealed that there are two oil holes where needle bearings are used on the one-inch shaft to the steering wheel. I found one hole and saturated it with Teflon based oil found at the local hardware store. The second oil hole could not be found.

The steering cables in the pull-pull system connect to the bicycle chain which passes over the sprocket also requires frequent lubrication. This is difficult from the bottom through the conduit bracket but can be done from the top after removing the pedestal top assembly (not difficult) and pushing a Teflon oil saturated rag taped to a 36 inch flat aluminum one-inch bar or a shotgun bore cleaner and working the rag (blindly) up and down the two cables as the wheel is turned full left to full right and back. Saturate the rag again and repeat. Teflon grease at the quadrant termination of the cables as they emerge from the aluminum cable conduits is also recommended.

SailNet - Will Keene's "Checking the Wheel Steering System" (mostly about cable steering)
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Steering System Spring Checkup"
[Cable] "Steering Tune-Up" article by Nick Bailey in issue 2001 #1 of DIY Boat Owner magazine.
SailNet - John Kretschmer's "Emergency Steering"

Through-Hulls (throughhulls, thru-hulls, seacocks)

From Jeff H on Cruising World message board:
... a Through-Hull is the fitting that passes through the skin of the boat. It is usually a separate part from the valve. ...

In the context of "things that can cause leaks", we should include sensors installed through the hull as "through-hulls" (also: vents, studs to grounding plates, stuffing boxes, etc).

Materials for through-hulls and valves:
  • Bronze. Ball of valve may be chrome-plated.
  • Brass, steel, aluminum: corrodes.
  • Marelon: glass fiber-reinforced nylon.
  • Other plastics and nylon: not suitable.

Valve types:
  • Gate valve (or globe valve): like standard valve on a household garden hose.
    Bad: can't tell if open or closed by looking at it, may feel fully closed but be stuck open on debris, not good for solids (waste), made of brass/zinc which corrodes.

  • Ball valve.

  • Tapered plug: much more expensive, because usually they have more parts so they can be disassembled and cleaned/fixed.
A true "seacock" valve has a cast base/flange for bolting to the hull, and has straight threads on the end that screws onto the through-hull. Some valves have no base/flange, and have tapered pipe threads.

Modern plastic ball-valve seacocks:
Get Marelon, not nylon.

Some pipe dopes contain acid; make sure the dope is compatible with the material you're using it on.

It's easier to cross-thread plastic than metal; be careful.

Lubricate Marelon valves with vegetable oil.

Free stuck Marelon valve by heating the body on both sides with a hair-dryer. Heat until it's almost too hot to touch. Lubricate with vegetable oil as soon as it's freed up.

From Brian Woloshin on Cruising World message board:
IMHO there is nothing wrong with Marelon ball valves ...

There are definite advantages to the plastic ball valves. You do not have to worry about electrolysis, they are very tough and the only maintenance they require is occasional lubrication. All of my seacocks and thru hulls are plastic and have worked well without fail for many years.

The only theoretical argument against them that has any merit is that if you are struck by lightning they may melt.

From JAX on Cruising World message board:
They swell slightly in water and get sticky ...

Some people try to force the valve fully open and break off the handle. They blame the Marelon, rather then the strong arm technique.


The trick is to not quite open them all the way. Marelon swells up slightly when wet and if you push hard to get the valve completely open, you can end up with a mostly open valve and a fully broken handle.

From Loren Beach on Yacht-L mailing list:
... I have all original Marelon thruhulls in our 1988 Olson, and they all still work fine. How they seem to fail, altho "fail" is overstating it a bit, is that the ball appears to gain girth or friction over the years and the handle gets harder and harder to turn. Eventually the handle breaks off in your hand. I have not heard of any failure of the valve body. We have 5 of these in our boat and are debating going to bronze/teflon seat ball valves in a general upgrade this year or next. Cost is about the same either way. ...

From Don Chambers on Yacht-L mailing list:
I specified Marelon seacocks when I bought my boat new in 1993 but after having them "seize up" twice over 5 years and breaking handles, I finally replaced with bronze and somewhat reluctantly because it certainly does deal with the corrosion issue. Were I a better sailor, i.e., more compulsive about maintenance (worked the valves on a regular basis; replenished the grease (was it vaseline?) at haulout) they might never have seized on me. Once seized, even seasoned professional boat-guys couldn't get them unstuck. ...

From Jeff H on Cruising World message board:
... I think we all agree that gate valves should never be used for seacocks under any circumstances. I personally believe that a well-made ball valve is more reliable and lower maintenance than a tapered plug seacock but when something goes wrong with a ball valve there is nothing that can be done to fix it. My conclusion is that for coastal cruising where you are opening and shutting the valve more frequently ball valves make sense. (I have 15 year old Marelon ball valves on my boat and I have never had to replace one.) On the other hand if you are going offshore or into remote areas tapered plug seacocks are the only way to go. Lastly the French love to use galvanized steel or aluminum body ball valves. These are junk and should not be left on board.

From Gary Elder:
> I may have to do a bit of seacock and throughhull replacement
> myself. What is your thinking on it ?

I think that I mentioned once before that because replacing thru-hulls can be a problem, I'm going to let a yard do it, even though I have lots of experience. It can be quite easy to 'spin' a thru-hull in it's mounting hole, and I don't want to do that kind of repair.

> I'd like to go to Marelon for everything, and ball-valves.

I like Marelon for seacocks / ball valves, but I don't trust boatyard employees to install them properly. I have seen too many boatyard employees come to a store I'm familiar with, looking for replacement valves after they have ruined the threads on the soft Marelon during installation. They frequently have a comment about how the other valves they installed will probably be ok, even though they 'may be cross-threaded'. They often use lots of 3M 5200 to 'repair' the threads. These valves require almost monthy maintenance to keep them operating freely. They also have a reputation of breaking handles, which leaves them impossible to operate. No thanks.

> Magnolia has 15-19 through-hulls, all bronze, and gate-valves;
> the surveyor suggested installing a sea-chest.

If "sea-chest" is the same as a manifold, they work well if properly designed. I have never been able to justify it because of the expense of removing the old thru-hulls, re-plumbing the boat, and glassing the holes in the hull. I do know a man who did it, and it was a really big job.

Seacock article by Bill Sandifer in Sept/Oct 2000 issue of Good Old Boat magazine
Don Casey's "Installing a Seacock"
Installing seacocks article by Steve D'Antonio in 6/2004 issue of Cruising World magazine

From Maurice Nunas on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
[To unplug a barnacle-clogged discharge through-hull,]
atop the seacock, put a T-fitting, with the straight-through part of the T lined up with the through-hull and seacock, and the discharge hose connected to the "base" of the T. Screw a plug or cap onto the remaining orifice on the T. Then, when the through-hull gets stopped up, you just remove the cap, rod out the through-hull and put the cap back on. If you use a rod that is just the size of the seacock/through-hull inside diameter, then you don't even take on any significant quantity of water, as the rod stops the inflow and you can close the seacock just before the rod is fully removed.
Another way: close valve, remove hose, attach short hose with open end above waterline, open valve, stick rod through short hose.

Fixing frozen bronze seacocks while hauled out,
from Kent R on Cruising World message board:
Disassemble them, thoroughly clean them up, then apply a valve grinding or lapping paste and reseat the tapered plug by turning it within the body of the valve. Once you are satisfied that you have a good fit between the two parts, clean the compound off both parts THOROUGHLY, apply a waterproof grease such as waterpump grease and reassemble. Then operate the valves on a regular basis and you will avoid the frozen seacock problem.

Dialog I had with Gary Elder:
Re: Replacing through-hulls and gate-valves

> I'm trying to think through removing
> all of the bronze through-hulls and gate-valves
> on my boat and replacing with Marelon.
> [2/3 of the gate-valves in my 28-year-old boat are frozen.]
> Replace hoses too.

It seems like I sent you something about the reputation of Marelon valves, and their problem of broken handles. It's pretty basic; if the handle breaks off, you can't open or close the valve. These valves have a very high incidence of breaking handles.

> Does this approach make sense ?

> 1- Measure and list everything (diameters, hose lengths, etc).
> [Not even sure how to measure inside diameter of
> something in place. Measure OD and estimate ID ?]

Some hoses have their ID printed on them. Hose ID's are always the same as hose barb OD's(a one inch hose barb fits inside a one inch hose). Sometimes hose barbs are slightly oversize, but that is ok. Some ball valves have TAPERED threads, some have STRAIGHT threads. Most SEACOCKS have a straight thread on one side and a tapered thread on the other. Don't try to put tapered and straight threads together. The thru-hull size will be determined by the size of the hole in the HULL. Because of the age of your boat, you could find all sorts of mis-matched sizes of things, such as undersize hose stretched over a barb, or the correct hose squeezed down onto an undersize barb, or the correct size hose stretched over an oversize barb. The possible combinations are almost endless.

> 2- Buy parts.
> 3- Get hauled out.
> 4- Start with easiest one, see if I can do it myself.
> 5- Do them until stuck.
> 6- Get boatyard people to take over.

Many boatyards don't like to 'rescue' boat owners who can't finish their own work, and raise their prices for such work.

> [Need helper on outside to install each new through-hull.]

> To remove each one:
> a- Put penetrating oil on (before hauling).
> b- (after hauling) Unclamp hose.
> c- Put wrench on gate-valve, try to free from through-hull.

Many yards never try to un-screw these things ... They just cut them off - it's faster.

> If stuck, heat valve with torch and try again.
> If still stuck, saw off.
> d- Put wrench on through-hull nut, try to free.
> If stuck, heat nut with torch and try again.
> If still stuck, split nut.
> If still stuck, saw through-hull into chunks.

> To install:
> 1- Clean the hole.
> 2- If the hole is damaged or too wide, epoxy and filler.
> 3- Caulk on through-hull.
> 4- Helper inserts from outside, tighten nut from inside.
> 5- Let dry.
> 6- Tighten a little further.

No. That's an old wives tale. If you torque on it after the sealant kicks, you will break the seal.

> 7- Thread valve on.
> 8- Double-clamp hose on.

> Sounds like a lot of work !

It is a lot of work!! Best left to the yard to do.

> Does this make sense ?

Not to me. I think we exchanged e-mails, and had a conversation about this project. You may recall that even with my experience, I am planning to pay a yard to do mine. Even if I was 28 yrs old I wouldn't do it.

> Is a Dremel powerful enough to saw through
> bronze, or should I get a Sawz-All or something ?

If there is enough room, I would prefer a Sawz-All.

From John Dunsmoor:
> I took a shot at removing a gate-valve
> (picked one I didn't need, and 6 inches above
> the waterline), and it was frozen so tightly
> to the through-hull that the through-hull spun
> when I tried to free the gate-valve.

> So I think I learned that the yard will probably
> have to cut off every through-hull to get the
> gate-valves out.

> Had to cut the hose off; no other way to free it.

> Also, the valve was not fully closing even though
> it felt as though it was.

There are a number of ways to beat the stuck fittings. Since the gate valve is a goner, put the torch to it, pack ice around the thru hull. Warning, I would invest in a couple of CO2 fire extinguishers. These can be used without destroying the boat. A fire blanket is another good tool. Dry chemical is great putting out fires but causes almost as much damage, maybe more, than a fire. The stuff is terrible to clean up.

But heat, even from a heat gun, temperature expansion differences will do an amazing job. Another reason for not using Marelon. Another method is to saw the valve off. This is not as bad as it sounds if you can actually get to it. You should have a good 4 1/2", 10K rpm disk grinder as part of your tool box. Purchase a good one, around a hundred bucks. Get a cut off blade, which is no more than a thin fiber reinforced disk, maybe a 1/16" thick. This will do one heck of a job. Then you cut the valve vertically on opposite side, being very careful not to cut the thru hull threads. Once this is done if it has not released it hold then you can carefully tap the split with a cold chisel. I have been successful at this without have to cut the top section of the valve off, but then again I have done this also.

The disk grinder will also make short work of hoses, by cutting vertically. If will also give you one nasty burn if you are not careful.

Now all this presumes that this thru hull is somehow valuable enough for all this work. And the truth is, it probably isn't. That is why you wait till you get to the yard. You use the same cut off tool to cut the thru hull in two, extracting the flange one way and the valve the other way.

I have backed off the thru hull nut. Then worked the flange outbound till it sticks out the bottom of the boat. And then with a regular hacksaw, cut the flange off. This allowed me to pull the rest of the thru hull, valve and hose out of the hole to the inside and at the same time all the sawing and swarf was left on the outside of the hull.

Golden rule, never leave anything in the bilge. It so easy to have helpers and workmen leave all sorts of bits and pieces, wire ends, tywraps, paper, saw dust in the bilge only to give you fits later on.

Hoses are usually done for, they are expendable and should be replaced.

From Stuart Burgess:
Re: problems with pipe removal. This is not unusual especially on older boats where the plastic pipe has hardened.

Two remedies. Cut the damn thing off and replace it all. Use a mini hacksaw and cut it just off the hose tail and then use and extra sharp knife or the mini hacksaw to score the remaining bit and then prise off.


Get yourself a heat gun. I use a Bosch 2 speed and it's great for removing paint and varnish and heating up the pipes that have to be put over hose tails. Use gently on the piece of hose to be removed and it will soften and become pliable.

Over here in the UK we have an additional problem. All older boat fittings are Imperial measurement and all hoses are now metric. To fit a metric hose on an imperial hose tail requires thought. Putting the hose into hot/boiling water just isn't practical. It's only a question of time before you spill the water and the hose never stretches enough anyway. By blowing hot air from the heat gun down the pipe and then forcing a wooden plug (one of those tapered plugs for through hulls) down the pipe after a liberal application of lubricant (washing up liquid) on the wooden plug, opens the pipe up for easy fitting.

From Bob Johnson on The Live-Aboard List:
Through-Hull fitting remover:
Go to a plumbing supply store. I purchased one there and have heard it called variously a spud remover and a radiator nipple remover.

From Robert on The Live-Aboard List:
Through-Hull fitting remover:
One can devise such a tool - it consists of one threaded rod, two nuts/washers, three blocks of wood. Don Casey had described such a tool in one of his books; you can also get an free excerpt from a BoatUS store.

Getting rid of seawater intake thru-hulls:
Use a single through-hull and sea-cock, which then has multiple hoses and sea-cocks tapped off it. Have to make sure the through-hull is big enough so that suction from one place (e.g. head) can't starve another place (e.g. engine raw water intake).

Instead of a multiple-tapped hose, can have a small multiple-tapped tank (aka "sea chest") that operates the same way.

Advantage: fewer holes in hull.
Disadvantage: single clog/break kills everything; longer hose runs.

Groco Hydromatic ($1200) is a combined seawater strainer, sea chest, and automatic macerator that clears the strainer.

From Tom O'Meara on Yacht-L mailing list:
One of the features of most "real" sea chests [as opposed to multiple-tapped hoses] is that the top of the chest extends above the waterline of the vessel to facilitate cleaning. Even more importantly, it allows unclogging the intake without a haulout.

Toilet intake should always be separate from other intakes, since some small backflow of waste can get through pump and check-valve.

From SG on Cruising World message board:
The design of a manifold is dependent on number of variables which would change the answer a great deal:

i) The diameter of the intake thru-hull,

ii) Whether you're moving though the water and the nature of the water flow along the hull at the mouth of the thru-hull,

iii) how far below the water surface the manifold is located, and,

iv) how many of the devices are on at once, and,

v) the nature of the pumps, and,

vi) what happens if one is "starved" or gets "un-primed".

Now, let's start with your intake diameter first: Because of PI*r^2 (cross section area) - the doubling of the diameter adds about 4 times the capacity. For a manifold to work, you need some multiple of the maximum requirements of all of the devices that might be demanding water in order for it to work. If you needed a 3/4" intake - then I'd stop there. Get another thru-hull. If you have, say a 1 1/2 intake and strainer, and you only "calculate" about 1/2 that capacity, then I think you might look at a manifold.

Secondly, if you get beyond that - you have to deal with the potential consequences of starving an intake. The saltwater wash-down and foot-pump are positive displacement pumps - they'll get water sucked-up from a source. The AC unit and watermaker probably DON'T have positive displacement pumps. They either get starved or lose their prime (that, as you may know is a pain or worse).

I believe that you need to keep a located where it is under the water level so that it's always "charged" with water, you need to have an oversized source, you need a strainer (like a large Groco).

We have 2 AC units, a Village Marine watermaker, and a Glacier Bay refrigeration unit off one manifold. Each units probably would "figure" with something about 1/2 of intake - IF the strainer is clean and there's no flow constrictions. We have a 2.5" (or is it a 3") intake, HUGE Groco strainer, a full size hose leading to manifold which has tee's and an end which serves the Watermaker. The watermaker is "in-line" so that any turbulence may have less interference with it's use.

The TOP of the manifold is about 3" below the sole floor - which is about a foot or so below the "water level". The manifold is less than 2" off the centerline of the boat (you have to deal with the various issues of what happens if you're heeled-over the "wrong" way.) It's best to keep the manifold LOW and near the CENTERLINE.


From Maurice Nunas on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
[Re: Getting rid of underwater discharge thru-hulls:]
Dashew on his Sundeers has a great idea. You find a suitable place along a bulkhead and bore a hole in the bottom of the hull the size of a nice big piece of pipe --- a "stand pipe" [AKA a "manifold"]. Insert the pipe into the hole secure along the bulkhead, and glass and fair. The top of the pipe extends well above the waterline. It is sort of like those pips you see in houses for washing machines. Then, you close off all your discharge through hulls and plumb the various sinks and tubs to Ys that enter the standpipe. If anything chokes up the standpipe, you can pass a wire or something right down it to clear. On a big boat, you could have more than one of these, but the idea would be to have as few as possible. You eliminate discharge side seacocks entirely with this.

From John McGinnis on the IRBS live-aboard mailing list:
... in-water repairs of seacocks on my Tartan 10:

  1. I arranged to make the 2-3 thruhulls all the same size.

  2. Go to a plumbing supply house and ask for a 'plumbers thumb'. They look similar to the drain plugs on planing boats, same principle. These are made up in various incremental sizes up to about 6" I believe. Get the size that will just slip into the ID of the thruhull. Get several.

  3. If I needed to work on a thruhull I just went over the side, placed the thumb in the hole and twisted the head till the rubber body made a good seal to the ID of the thruhull. Having barrel seacocks, I could disassemble the whole thing, make necessary repairs, etc.

  4. Once repairs were complete I simply reversed the procedure.
The plumbers thumb saved me two haul outs for minor repairs. In one case I had one in for a month while an engine was being overhauled.

Obviously this is not a replacement for emergency bungs.
Can do same with a collision mat or sail or tarp over the through-hull.

From Keith on The Live-Aboard List:
Since pretty much all antifouling paint is based on copper compounds, someone suggested putting a little piece of copper tube in your strainer would have the same effect on your A/C system.

I put pieces of copper foil into all my strainers a while back. Maybe 1" x 6" or so for each, depending upon it's size. I cleaned my air-conditioning strainer today and voila! Not a single barnacle, critter, etc. Some slime that easily rinsed away, but otherwise no fouling at all. I'm sold ...

Hose clamp article by Jan Mundy in issue 2000 #1 of DIY Boat Owner magazine.
"What You Should Know About Hose" by Jan Mundy in issue 2000 #2 of DIY Boat Owner magazine