“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Preparing Equipment for Life at Sea and the Consequences of Not Taking Early Action

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So what’s the first thing you should do when you get a new piece of equipment for the boat? A new dinghy engine, generator, power tool?

The last thing any of us really want to do, take it apart. Even equipment that is designed solely for life at sea is missing one key thing, anti-seizing treatment on machine screws and bolts.

This was a lesson I had learned early in my boat ownership life. When every you have metal on metal threads it can be extremely difficult to undo these items after they have existed in the salt air for sometime. There are some easy steps you can take to deal with this, primarily by taking apart all of the bolts and using one of the many anti-seize, anti-corrosion treatments on the threads and reassembling the equipment.

I have three “go-to” products for depending on the application.

For stuff that will really get exposed to salt water I use Lanocote from Forespar.

This works great on stuffing boxes, bolts for the outboard motor, etc.  You can get it from Defender, West Marine and I have even seen it in better hardware stores.  Lanocote looks like a thick grease.  I use the small tub and simply dip the ends of bolts or machine screws in the tub before reassembling.

For areas that are above the waterline that might get corrosion due to salt air and occasional spalsh I use Tef-Gel.

I like this for reassembling stanchions, for bolting hardware into imbedded deck plates, turnbuckles, etc.  This can be a little harder to find.  I often order it online and have switched back and forth between the syringe and the tub.  Both come with a brush that makes it easy to apply to the inside of nuts or threaded plates.

For bronze, brass and plastic fittings on water systems I use Real-Tuff by Oatey.

This is a teflon based thread sealant but it also helps as an anti-seizing agent.  I typically use this applied over teflon tape on threaded by fittings.  An example of this is when I built my own exhaust riser/mixing elbow.

Recently I had two examples of why the use of these products is important.

This winter I broke down my new-to-us Nissan 9.8 horsepower, 2-stroke outboard we use on our Highfields Dinghy.  The engine is probably from the late 1980s to early 1990s.  We purchased it used two years ago because it is the lightest 10 horsepower (they are really 10 horsepower and just called 9.8 or 9.9 because some inland lakes have rules that say no 10 horsepower or greater engines) you can get at just 57 pounds.  I like the engine and don’t mind the age but knew I would be in for some work to get it ready for life at sea.

Breaking the bolts loose on the powerhead was difficult but I was able to get them off.  Once I removed the powerhead I found the tube for aligning the shaft was corroded and broke in my hand.


Worse yet, one of the bolts holding this onto the powerhead snapped in two with very little pressure.

Broken bolk

Thankfully I tackled this project here, before we left.  If this had happened while we were out cruising I would have had to try to hand drill this out or use an “easy out” then retap.  But I have a friend that works in a good machine shop (shall remain nameless since he did the repair work while on the clock).  He used an “easy out” but as soon as he put pressure on the broken bolt it crack the cast aluminum engine block.  Again, thankful this happened here as the same friend was able to have one of the welders repair the crack and then he was able to drill and tap the new weld using equipment they had at the shop.  This repair might have been an engine ender if I had to do this using the tools available on the boat.


Notice the large welded are in the upper right.

It’s great to have friends that can help with specialized equipment.  Might be one of the biggest things I will miss when we are gone.  The friends will come and visit us in tropical locations but they won’t have their tools with them.


The repair was perfect.  Now I just needed to reassemble everything.  I used Lanocote on all of the bolts to prevent this from being a rebeat if I have to work on the engine in the future.  I also had two brass screws for the throttle assembly strip out on me that I had to drill out but those were a little easier to deal due to the softness of the material and the location.

This past weekend we finally were able to tackle a leaking pressure relief valve on our water heater.  I had tried to remove it last week but it would not budge.  I soaked it down with PB Blaster and hoped it would be easier to get off this week.  No such luck.  But thankfully our friend Chris was able to get in there and get enough torque on it to break it free.  That didn’t mean the fun was over because once you have it moving there is still no room to work.


Your working over and under the steering cables, around the throttle and shifter cables and you can’t get a full turn on anything due to other parts of the water heater or the cockpit floor only six inches above the valve. Getting the old one off and the new one on took constant back and forth of approaching it from over, then under and you had to take turns using an adjustable wrench, a pipe wrench and channel locks as they all could only grab the valve in certain locations and angles.  When we go the old one off, sure enough for a drop of thread sealant or teflon tape.  Treated the new valve in the usual way and we are back to using hot water.



One thought on “Preparing Equipment for Life at Sea and the Consequences of Not Taking Early Action

  1. Pingback: The Neglected Steering System |

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