“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


The Neglected Steering System

The poor steering system on Smitty had been neglected.  According to the manual from the manufacturer (copies of manual on the bottom of The Boat page), Edson, there are certain maintenance activities that should be done annually.  I know I have never done them and I doubt the previous owner ever gave it a second thought.  This was the last project on my “must do” list before we head out cruising.

This task starts with removing the compass from the binnacle.  You will want to put up the cockpit table before you start otherwise the weight messes with the binnacle as you remove pieces.  There are two screws holding the light onto the compass, after you remove those the whole metal collar around the compass can be lifted straight up.  The compass light can be disconnected via a quick connect located under the metal collar.  I then removed the compass by loosening a small clamping screw at the base. Don’t set the pieces you remove on the table as the weight will mess you up later on.



Once the compass is removed you can turn your attention to the 4 bolts holding the compass base on.  These are about three inches long and thread into the bottom metal stand of the binnacle after passing through the section that holds the gear shifter and throttle.  One of my bolts was very tough to get out.  It was under the Nav Pod for the chart plotter so you could get straight down on it and the flat head opening was starting to strip.  It should really be a bolt here instead of a screw so you could use a ratchet or wrench on it.  I tended up using my impact driver to get it started.  I don’t think Catalina used any anti-seize or corrosion agents when they put this together.  Once I got the plastic base for the compass off, I set it on the cockpit table, this prevented having to cut and reconnect the compass light wires.


I found the access was good enough for this task without removing the shifter and throttle section.  I looked for any signs of loose parts or wear. I cleaned the chain with a rag, then sprayed WD-40 Specialist Water Repellent Corrosion Inhibitor and Lubricant (I would have used Boshield T-9 but I ran out and the box store I went to only had the WD-40, this Specialist is a similar product) on the chain as I moved the wheel back and forth.  I lubricated the chain with motor oil.  A common mistake is to try and grease the chain.  The correct lubricant is 30-40 weight motor oil.  I used 3-In-1 Oil Motor Oil, the bottle makes it very convenient for application in this use. When the oil in the bottle runs out I will just refill it with the same oil I use in the diesel engine. Again, I moved the wheel back and forth several times during the application process.

On either end of the shaft for the wheel there is a needle bearing.  These need to be checked for play by trying to move the wheel shaft around.  Mine was good and tight with no play. Edson says to grease these needle bearings with Super Lube Synthetic Grease.  I get mine in the small 1 ounce tubes and you can easily push the tip into the holes on either end.  Again turn the wheel while applying to get a good application.


The brass portion of the shaft in that looks like it has a grid pattern stamped on it is where the brake grabs.  Be careful not to get any grease, oil or lubricant in this area. I checked over the shifter and throttle and lubricated those areas with spray lubricant while I had the area open.  Then I just but everything back together.  When it came time to put the 3-inch screws back in, I treated the threaded area with Lanocote for corrosion and anti-seize protection like I talked about in the Preparing Equipment for Life at Sea post I did a couple of months back.  I caulk the heads of the bolts and the wire penetration through the compass base with some BoatLife Life-Caulk just to try and keep the area under the compass as dry as possible.  It appeared that Catalina had done the same during the initial installation.

Next it was on to the below deck portions.  The first thing you have to do was access this area by removing the fiberglass shroud.  I actually did this last weekend to look at the plate at the base of the pedestal.  Catalina had sent out an email warning of potential corrosion issues but I examined mine and found it to be in good condition.  To remove the shroud I had to remove all the screws and then cut away the caulking that was put there to make this a water tight area.  I used a utility knife to cut away some sort of white polysulfide caulking.  I then clean off all the old caulking and prepped the area for new caulking with acetone.


For the maintenance, I checked all of the cables and idlers for play.  The cable was taught but not like standing rigging.  I check the steering radial drive and rudder for play. I also checked the alignment between the idlers and the steering radial drive. It took two people to really check this area over well.  I was down below while my Bride was turning the wheel back and forth for close to an hour. No major issues were found.  I found some surface corrosion on the idlers and the quadrant that was easily cleaned up a rag and some WD-40.  There is one area about the side of a pencil eraser of surface corrosion on the starboard wire that I don’t like. I can see this area when the wheel is hard over near the water heater.  I will continue to watch this area.

IMG_3808 IMG_3807

I oiled the wire with motor oil by dripping it on top of the wire as my Bride turned the wheel.  I had to do this in several locations to get good coverage of the wire.  I also ran a paper towel over the wire as I was lubricating it. I used the paper towel over a rag because if there where any fish hooks or other defects in the wire it would tear off little pieces of paper towel and indicate I had a damage and the wire needed to be replaced.  I didn’t see any paper towel pieces or other indications of problems with the wire.

I then checked the rudder bearing, packing gland, rudder stops and through deck fitting. I had to open the top access panel where you attach the emergency tiller for part of this inspection.  I didn’t find any issues in this area.  The bolts for the packing gland were a little loose so I tightened them up a little.  You don’t want to over tighten these as that is the equivalent of over tightening a stuffing box.


Rudder stops on my boat are glassed into the hull where the deck drops down for the top portion of the rudder bearing. The stops look good and so does the stop that bolts onto the radial drive to make contact with the stops.


Glassed in Rudder Stop


Rudder Stop Attached to the Radial Drive

I put a wrench on every bolt and nut in the steering system: the take up eye; the wire clamps; the bolts holding the quadrants of the steering radial drive together; etc. I checked everything to make sure there were no loose connections, no loose wire, no missing bolts or nuts. I feel pretty good about the steering system and it now turns smooth as can be.  I am thinking about ordering a spare Edson wire and chain but at $300 I may not go for that spare.  The most likely point of failure based on my inspection would be the wire.  But that is 1/4 inch wire and I should be able to find that pretty easily throughout the Caribbean.  I put the fiberglass shroud back over the steering components and recaulked it with some more BoatLife Life-Caulk.

So now I am done with the “must do” projects.  I am into bonus time.  Anything I get done from here out could also be completed along the way.  The first bonus project I tackled was installing a 12 volt outlet at the helm.  I found a spot in the engine controls to tap off some power.  I installed the outlet next to the connection point for the RAM Mic.  Now I can power the iPad while underway easily.

Next up will be to install the Navionics Sonar Phone T-Box.



Upgraded Battery Selector Switch, Installing an Inverter and a Chart Book Holder

As I have mentioned before, we have been completing a lot of projects as we push towards our departure date.  Here a few that have been banged out in the last couple of weeks.

Upgraded Battery Selector Switch

My go to guru for all things electric, Maine Sail aka Compass Marine, has said on several occasions that all battery switches not made by Blue Sea Systems are essentially crap.  This means that our stock Perko battery selector switch was on the list for an upgrade.


After checking the measurements I was glad to see that the Blue Sea Systems 9001e Selector Switch would fit exactly in the same spot.  The only down side is that the Perko switch had 5/16″ terminal studs while the Blue Sea Systems switch had 3/8″ terminal studs.  This mean cutting off the old terminals, putting on new ones and new heat shrink.  Using the same hydraulic crimper I had purchased last year (cheapy for Amazon) I made the new terminals.  Luckily there was enough excess wire to do this without too much difficulty.  I also had to add larger terminals to the wires from the analog volt meter and the bilge pump.


I did have to get longer machine screws to mount the switch to the electric panel.  But the whole size is perfect for a direct change.  This took about an hour and cost about $60 ($40 for the switch plus terminal lugs and heat shrink).

Installing an Inverter

After some back and forth I decided to go with the Xantrex ProWatt SW 2000 true-sin wave inverter.  Our primary uses for this will be running power tools at anchor (i.e. heat gun, drill, jig saw, dremel), using our small 2-hp shop vac, and recharging our cordless tools (i.e. Dyson DC44 cordless vacuum, impact gun, drill, etc.).  Finding a location to mount the inverter was a little bit of a challenge.  According to the manual, Xantrex recommends mounting the panel within 6 feet of the batteries (12 foot total run) and using 0 AWG wire.  However the location of the batteries on a C310 make this a bit difficult.  The only places I could find were the port lazarett or on the bulkhead in the rear berth.  But we want to use that port lazarett for dry food storage and mounting it here would mean that I would have to open the lazarett every time I wanted to use the inverter. The bulkhead in the rear berth is where I think we will install a water-maker, if we choose to get one. While it’s not ideal, I found that with a 10 foot distance (20 foot total run) I could mount the inverter below the navigation table.  This was not perfect but it will do.  To accommodate the extra length I went up one wire gauge size to 2/0 AWG wire. I had already installed the fuse holder in the positive buss bar when I did my last battery system upgrade.  So I ran the wires, put on the end terminals and installed the inverter.  I used a 300 Amp ANL fues from Blue Sea Systems.

DSC_0017 DSC_0018

Initially I had thought to tie this into the boats 120 V outlets but after thinking more about it I decided it was fine just to use the two outlets on the inverter instead.  This made the install much easier and cheaper. After the install I ran a couple of tests.  I can run my heat gun on low but not on high, which is sufficient to shrink heat shrink electrical connections.  I had no problem running a drill or jig saw off of the inverter.

Chart Book Holder

We insist on always having paper charts with us and easily available.  Typically this is easily accomplished from one Maptech Chart Book covering a large area.  As we start to head south we will need more and more chart books since our cruising area is expanding.  To keep these charts readily available but out of the way we bought a teak magazine rack from Defender. We mounted this on the bulkhead between the head and the saloon area by a couple of through bolts.  It’s now a convenient area to keep charts, cruising guides and some other items.



Tuning the Rig on a Catalina 310 with a Traditional Mainsail

Catalina does provide a pretty decent tuning guide in the owner’s manual.  But a lot of the specifics in that tuning guide are more qualitative then quantitative.  So it’s difficult to judge if you have tuned the rigging correctly.  I mean how do you really judge “a 50 pound push should deflect the upper shroud about 1″ at shoulder height”?

Loos & Co. Inc. does make tension gauges that give you some quantifiable numbers relative to your rig tension.  And we have the PT-3 Tension Gauge (a tool, of course I have it). But the answer isn’t to simply put every wire to 15-20% of its breaking strength.


To tune the rig correctly you need to account for rake (the distance aft of the mast base that the top of the mast will bend), prebend (the bow in the middle of the mast) and performance under load. Add to that the complication that the boat wasn’t constructed with all of the shrouds precisely located an equal distance from the mast base and that split backstays need to tensioned differently than a single back stay.  This can get more complicated then simply turning turnbuckles until you get to a number.

Side note on turnbuckles.

Turnbuckle with cover

These brass turnbuckles with a built in cover that Catalina used on our C310 are horrible.  There is not flat spot to grab these with a wrench, so you have to resort to putting a large screwdriver into the slot and using that to turn.  When you actually start to really torque down on them the soft metal bends and you can’t really tension them well.  I will eventually switch these out for standard, open body stainless steel turnbuckles.

Open body turnbuckle

Back to tuning.

Here are some resources that I used to put together a rig tuning plan: Selden Masts Hints & Advice (large pdf); Practical Sailor’s Article Boat Clinic: Tuning the Masthead Rig; the C34 IA Techwiki on Rig Tuning; and the C34 IA Rig Tuning Chart.

From what I have been able to gather from Catalina, riggers and other mast manufacturers when you setup a deck stepped, masthead rigged mast with perpendicular spreaders for cruising you want the mast centered between starboard and port, a 4-6 inch rake and a 0.5-1 inch prebend.

The forestay should be set at approximately 15-20% of the breaking strength of the wire.  This is impossible to measure directly because of the roller furler. You have to measure this indirectly by the tension on the backstays. This is where it really gets a little complicated.  The angle from the bow to the front of the mast is larger than the angle from back of the mast to the stern. This means the back stays will have more power in their pull than the forestay.  The forestay is 5/16″ wire and has a breaking strength of 12,500 pounds.  So 15-20% of this would be 1,875-2,500 pounds.  Based on the angle difference I estimated that the backstays are 20% more efficient than the forestay (this is a bit of a SWAG). So that would mean that I would be looking for a tension setting of 1,500-2,000 pounds on the backstays.  The backstays consist of a single 1/4″ wire from the masthead to approximately 12 feet from the stern.  At 12 feet from the stern the backstay is split into two 1/4″ wires at a stainless steel plate.  A 1/4″ wire has a breaking strength of 8,200 pounds; the tension setting of 1,500-2,000 pounds would be 18 to 24 % of the breaking strength of the wire.  Based on this, I set my goal tension at 1,500 pounds or 18% of the breaking strength of the wire. As I said, the backstay splits at 12 feet from the stern.  This point is too high for me to measure above the split.  So I have to take my readings below the split on each leg.  But that means accounting for the tension of both legs.  The angle of the split is approximately 25 degrees.  If the angle was at 45 degrees then each leg would just need to be set at 50% of the desired tension.  Using another SWAG, I estimated that each leg needs to be set at 60% of the desired tension.  That would be 900 pounds.

The upper shrouds are 5/16″ wire.  Based on my research I wanted these to be set at 15% of the breaking strength.  The intermediate shrouds are 1/4″ wire and should be set at the 10% of breaking strength. The lower shrouds set the prebend and are 1/4″ wire.  Since you want a 0.5-1 inch prebend you will have more tension on the forward lower shrouds then the aft lower shrouds. Neither should be more than 15% or less than 8% of the breaking strength.

Based on all of the above, here are my goal tension settings:

  • Backstays: 900 pounds, 10 on PT-3 Loos Gauge
  • Upper Shrouds: 1,875 pounds, 29 on PT-3 Loos Gauge
  • Intermediate Shrouds: 820 pounds, 9 on PT-3 Loos Gauge
  • Forward Lower Shrouds: 1,230 pounds, 13 on PT-3 Loos Gauge
  • Aft Lower Shrouds: 656 pounds, 6 on PT-3 Loos Gauge

In an ideal world these tensions would be equal on the port and starboard sides of the boat but that would not likely be the case since the boat isn’t laid out exactly symmetrical.

First thing I did was loosen all of the shrouds and backstays to hand tight.  I measured to two points on the toe rail that was the same distance from the mast base.  I then used the main halyard to measure if the mast was straight.  It wasn’t so I straightened the mast by adjust the upper and intermediate shrouds.  I sighted up the mast to make sure it looked correct.

Then I tensioned the backstays until I got to the desired rake.  But guess what? The turnbuckles bottomed out and I could only get about 3-4 inches of rake.  I measured the rake using the main halyard with some weight hanging from it (I used a water bottle).  The backstay is too long.  The easiest way to fix this is to cut about 6 inches off of the backstay above the split and use a Sta-Lok Eye Fitting to terminate the wire. But that will have to weight for another day.  I was able to get to 3-4 inches of rake and an 8.5 on the Loos gauge (around 800 pounds).  While not being perfect it would work.

Next I tensioned the forward lower shrouds.  At 12 on the Loos gauge I had about 1/2 inch of prebend.  I measure the prebend by attaching the main halyard to the goose neck for the boom and putting tension on it. I then made a visual estimate of the bow towards the bow at the point where the forward lower shrouds attached. I then took up the aft lower shrouds until they read 7 on the Loos gauge.

I then alternated port and starboard side, making a couple of turns on both the upper shrouds and the intermediate shrouds.  I kept checking that the mast was straight with the main halyard. Eventually I got to a point where I couldn’t tension the upper shrouds any more.  The brass turnbuckles were just warping under the pressure and I didn’t feel comfortable.  Both the port and the starboard were reading 25 on the Loos gauge.  But when I sighted up the mast and measure it with the main halyard it appeared that there was a slight bend to port. So I loosened the port a half turn at a time until it was straight.

The next step in tuning is to see how it performs under sail.  I simulated this at the dock.  When sailing in 10-15 knots of wind we are healing between 10-15 degrees.  So I attached the main halyard to a cleat at the dock and cranked it in until we were healing 10 degrees.  I then went and checked the “leeward” side.  Only the intermediate shrouds felt loose.  So I took up two full turns on it.  I repeated the process on the other side and got the same result.

I pinned the turnbuckles and I am ready to sail. The whole rig feels a lot tighter and more secure than it did prior to the tuning.  I had one of my sailing buddies that races a lot and has been crew on many delivers over and he took a look.  He was amazed at how straight I got the mast port to starboard.  He said he would feel very comfortable sailing on our boat offshore.

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Time Seems To Be Moving in Fast Forward

The last couple of weeks have been a flurry of activity.  We have been working on the boat, getting Summer’s vet paperwork in order, getting our final vaccinations scheduled, getting our captain’s licenses all set, dealing with work and trying not to get overwhelmed by everything we still need to do.  I have lots of photos and lots of upgrades to post about.  Hopefully I will be able to throw up some of those really soon.  But man does this final push really feel stressful.  Here are some of the things we have done in just the last two weeks:

  • Took Summer to the vet to get an international micro chip installed, an expensive blood test for rabies, and start the paperwork for her health certificates;
  • Installed a tank monitoring system on the freshwater tank and holding tank;
  • Tuned the rigging;
  • Cleaned the bottom on Smitty;
  • Installed a 2,000 watt inverter;
  • Installed a chart book holder;
  • Tuned the outboard for the inflatable;
  • Cleaned the bottom on the inflatable;
  • Upgraded the battery switch.

More posts will be coming soon on these items.  As I write this we have only 33 more days of work left (48 days total).  It’s hard to believe that our cut the lines date will be here that soon.


Running Rigging

So I tried to farm this research and work out to an expert rigger, but after going back and forth with him for over 4 months and still not having anything to show for it I gave up. I fired him a few weeks back and started doing my own research.

All of the running rigging with the exception of the furling line on Smitty is original.  That makes it 14 years old and it is showing it’s age.  There are numerous locations with noticeable dry rot and some chafing. Most of the white line now looks gray with the exception of the areas that are either always in the mast or in the organization bags in the cockpit.

We also will get a little bit of bagging in the base of the sail.  I had a sailmaker look over the sail last year and they said it was in near new shape (not a surprise, the previous owner only sailed the boat a couple of times a season and the sail still had creases when we bought the boat). Thier recommendation was that the halyard had too much stretch and that we should add a cunningham.

One of the good things about owning a Catalina is that they have very good owners manuals.  For the C310 they have a page in the manual that gives you all of the diameters and lengths of line you need for the running rigging.

Rigging Specs

So with that in mind I started looking at different types of lines.  I started with Catalina Direct.  They had various halyards and sheets for sale.  For the halyards they use a 3/8″ Dyneema core line with a polyester cover that is supposed to provide an extremely low stretch halyard for about $1.85 per foot. For sheets they use a 7/16″ polyester core with a dacron polyester cover that is supposed to provide a low stretch sheet for about $1.00 per foot.  After doing a little research I decided that the lines offered by Catalina Direct were good for day sailing with the occasional coastal cruising but that we should upgrade to something better for Caribbean cruise.

I next looked at Samson Ropes, they are sold by Defender and our friends Pam & Chris have used these lines on their Catalina 30.  The Sampson XLS Extra is a Dyneema core line with a polyester cover; in 3/8″ line it has a breaking strength of 5,100 pounds and an elastic elongation of 0.8% at 20% load at a cost of $1.39 per foot.  This would be a good upgrade for the halyards.  The Sampson XLS is a polyester core line with a polyester cover; in 7/16″ line it has a breaking strength of 5,800 pounds and an elastic elongation of 2.2% at 20% load at a cost of $0.99 per foot.

I also looked at New England Ropes, they are sold by West Marine, Defender and a couple of other local companies.  They were recommended by the rigger I tried to higher to do this work.  The New England Ropes Sta-Set X is a polyester core line with a polyester cover.  However they use a patented parallel fiber core that is supposed to provide superior strength and lower stretch than Dyneema.  In 3/8″ line it has a breaking strength of 5,300 pounds and an elastic elongation of 0.7% at 20% load at a cost of $1.65 per foot at West Marine.  Again, this would be a good upgrade for the halyards.  The New England Ropes Sta-Set is a polyester core line with a polyester cover; in 7/16″ line it has a breaking strength of 7,100 pounds and an elastic elongation of 2% at 20% load at a cost of $1.80 per foot at West Marine.

After weighing these options and reading some reviews on the typical boating forums, I decided to go with New England Ropes. I was able to get the lines much cheaper than West Marine from a shop called Rigging Only located down in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.  I ended up paying $0.88 per foot for the 3/8″ Sta-Set X and $1.08 per foot for the 7/16″ Sta-Set.

The next thing we had to figure out was how to connect the line to the shackles.  A common approach is to splice an eye in the end of the line.  This gives you close to 100% of the strength of the line.  But one downside is that splices can make the line thicker for about 6 inches at the splice.  This can get jammed in the sheaves at the masthead.  Another issue is that is more difficult to periodically end-for-end the line to prolong the life of the line.

Another option is to tie the shackles to the line.  Knots reduce the strength of the line but with the high breaking strength of the Sta-Set X I wasn’t really concerned.  I looked at 3 knots that seemed to be commonly used by cruisers as follows:

  • The bowline: commonly known knot, reduces the line strength by 40-60%, can be tied in about a 4″ length on the size lines for the halyards; can easily be untied; pulls straight on the headboard;
  • The figure 8: commonly known knot, reduces the line strength by only 20%, can be tied in about a 1.5″ length on the size lines for the halyards; can easily be untied; can pull off center on the headboard, and;
  • The buntline hitch: new knot for us to learn, reduces the line strength by 25-50%, can be tied in about a 2″ length on the size lines for the halyards; cannot easily be untied; pulls straight on the headboard.

We decided to go with the tying a buntline hitch onto the shackles.  This knot is relatively easy, can be tied close to the shackles and doesn’t reduce the strength of the line too bad.  We might have to cut the knot off when we go end-for-end but that’s not a big deal since we would want to get rid of that portion of the line anyways.

To learn the knot I went to Animated Knots by Grog. After a couple of test knots I was good to go.

To run the new halyards I put them end-to-end with the old line.  I then used some waxed polyester whipping twine and a sailmaker’s needle to connect the two lines.  You don’t have to do much, just 4-6 loops through both lines will keep them together without adding much thickness so they can pull through the sheaves easily.  It took me about an hour to replace the 4 halyards on the boat.

Let’s talk about the 4 halyards for a minute.  Smitty has those nice, fancy labels on all of her clutches that label the lines.  According to those we have a boom topping lift, a main halyard, a jib halyard and a spinnaker halyard.  The boom topping lift and the main halyard run up to the two sheaves on the stern side of the mast and the jib and spinnaker halyards run up to the two sheaves on the bow side of the mast.  Technically the “spinnaker” halyard is just another jib halyard as spinnaker halyards on masthead sloops would go through a block that is outside of the mast to allow for the proper angle of approach from a spinnaker.  But we don’t have any plans to fly a spinnaker and the primary purpose of this line will be to lift the dingy so it’s not a big deal for us.

Also, we don’t technically need a topping lift.  We have a rigid boom vang that supports the mast without the topping lift.  The primary purpose of the topping lift on our boat is to hold the Dutchman system for the mainsail. An upgrade suggested by the rigger before I fired him was to replace the small diameter topping lift with the same line as the main halyard.  This would give us a backup halyard incase anything happened with the primary main halyard.

Once all of the halyards were replaced, we bent on the sails.  Smitty finally looks like a sailboat again!

We still have some of the other running rigging to replace.  Also, I want to give the mast a good tuning before our trip to Provincetown for July 4th.  But it’s nice to be a sailboat again.


Starting to Look Less Like Liveaboards and More Like Cruisers

Lots of little projects or little parts to big projects going on the last couple of weeks.

For instance we finally installed the ubiquitous board to hold our Jerry Cans.



We used an 8′ section of PVC board and some U bolts.  The whole thing costs about $30 from the local box store.  Now we need to plan out how we want to secure the jugs to the board.

The kayak rack will go on the other side but we haven’t finalized that setup yet.

We also decided to do some plantings on the dock again for this year.  We used the same planting box as last year.  But this year I decided to use the trellis system to help the tomatoes.


Some peppers, tomatoes and mint.  Need to find some chives to fill out the box.

Some peppers, tomatoes and mint. Need to find some chives to fill out the box.


Some write-ups on bigger projects are on their way.

I also got my first “byline” in the Summer 2015 volume of Mainsheet Magazine.

IMG_3347We even got out for a sail this weekend.  Not on Smitty but on our friends’ boat, Windchaser.  After getting the sails on things started off a little rough.  We had to do an emergency lube job on the steering system.  But an hour later and a little spilt compass juice we were getting the sails up for a nice afternoon sail.


Under 130 days until we cut the lines!

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

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.