Rebedding Deck Hardware Part 1: cabintop handrails and cleats

I have no idea if SWEET PEA’s deck hardware has even been removed and rebedded.  From the looks of the boat I believe that almost all items have been in place since Jerry Montgomery, SWEET PEA’s builder, completed her in 1983.

It was clear that some, if not all, of the handrail bolts were leaking.  There were water stains around four bolts … one that would drip on my head when sleeping (this is a basic law in boats – if there is a leak it will drip on the captain’s head).  The cleats on the starboard side of the cabin top were also loose, meaning I could wiggle them with little effort.

The decks of Montgomery sailboats are cored with balsa.  This is a good compromise between strength and light weight.  The weakness is if any water gets into the core rot will result.  Extensive repair is required if the rot is wide-spread.  I have found no evidence of any rot in SWEET PEA’s decks.  Even so, i know there were leaks.

To stop the leaks one needs to remove the hardware and ‘rebed’ with new sealant.  As the holes in the deck used to thru-bolt the hardware can allow water to enter the balsa core it is better practice to ‘plug’ the holes with epoxy, making a watertight seal between the thru-bolt hole and the balsa.  None of the bolt holes on a Montgomery are sealed this way.  The task is not difficult, and not all that time consuming to conduct.

First step is to remove the deck hardware.  The cabintop cleats were easy as I could both access the top and bottom of the bolts.  Even though i could wiggle the cleats, it required a few wiggles and tugs to remove them from the deck – 3M 4200 is sticky and strong stuff.

The handrail removal could have been complicated.  The bolt heads are covered by a teak plug.  When turning the nut the bolt can become ‘unstuck’ and turn in the handrail.  If this happens you must drill out the teak plug, pick out the glue and remaining wood so you can use a screwdriver to keep the bolt from turning.  It should be clear that if this is the case removal of the handrails becomes a two person job.  I was lucky as i was able to remove all the nuts without ‘breaking loose’ the bolts within the handrail.

Once the bolts were removed I used slow and steady pressure to rock the handrail in order to break the seal of 3M 4200.  BE CAREFUL doing this as you can break the handrail … 4200 is strong and sticky stuff (even after 27 years!).

After removing the hardware you can see clearly in these pictures the 4200 had failed.  The 4200 sealant used was white, and you see mostly black.  This shows that water was getting under the hardware –

handrail and cleats removed 1
You can clearly see where the hardware was attached.

closeup handrail
The location on the left was leaking.  To the right was not allowing water into the cabin/balsa.

With the deck hardware removed I now can ‘seal’ the bolt holes in the cabin top with epoxy.

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