That Grab Rail at the Mast

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Well, this is how this grab rail looked in May of 2001. What I really need to show you is the bases, and I thought I'd taken a picture of them but it turns out I didn't. I'd just been looking at them so long... Here's the deal: When someone installed the self tending jib track he suddenly realized that the track wouldn't fit unless the stainless steel bar was moved. But that was too much trouble, so he just shoved the whole thing until it fit. The rails didn't bend, but the fittings deformed and pulled up out of the deck a bit. No problem, says the moron, I'll just smear silicone in there.

The edges of the bases were lifted up about 1/8 inch on a side. What's worse, they were just screwed into the balsa cored deck. Personally, I think anyone who just screws in deck hardware should be taken out behind the woodshed and spanked. Hard. So I started working on a solution in my odd hours between other projects. It was clear that I'd need to change the location of the bases by a little bit to make them sit flush, which meant that I'd need to cover the old holes.
I decided to set them on pads big enough to hide the old holes and also give me lots of caulk at deck level to keep water out.

I used a 4.5 inch hole saw to cut pads out of 1/4 inch fiberglass laminate from McMaster-Carr.

It turned out (ouch) to work perfectly.

I stuck the fiberglass disk on the dowel, and held it up against my belt sander, then spun the disk around. It doesn't take a lot to make me happy, but this moment was definitely worth a smile. Serendipity.

By setting the belt sander table at an angle, I added a 45 degree camber on the top edge. Then I wet sanded the whole thing, which smoothed it all down.

I had a hard time getting a perfect disk drilling a fiberglass sheet with a hole saw (try it some time!) To make it just perfect, I invented this trick. The hole saw left a hole in the center of the disk. Casting about the garage, I found this piece of exotic hardwood with a dowel glued in it tossed into my scrap box. Hmm, I wish I could remember why I did that...
but I sure am glad I keep a scrap box!

Then I painted all three pads with Interlux Polyurethane, which should last a while. I think I put on four or five coats.
I dunno... three coats was the minimum, and then I kept sanding and painting until it looked nice. It's a gloss finish, but I didn't bother to use a flattening agent because for an application like this it's going to get scrubbed often, and it'll be a flat finish soon enough!

There's a period here where I pulled the bar off, reamed out the old holes and let it all sit in the hot sun until the balsa core came up dry. Only three holes had evidence of wetness,
and only one with rot.
(No deck delamination, so the rot is local.
Call me Thumper, but Bambi's buddy's got nothing on me!
I thumped this deck out big time.)
The one hole with "black balsa" got extra special treatment,
i.e. I enlarged the hole and reamed back as far as I could reach with a 3 inch cutting tool. Fortunately, near the end of my reach I found brown stuff, so I injected it with Alcohol and tented with plastic for a couple of weeks to let it dry.

I did the right thing on the holes... that is, I marked where the new holes need to be, drilled a 1/2 inch hole, then reamed out the core with my Handy Dremel Tool for about a 1/4 inch or so around the edges, then filled it with West System epoxy thickened with MicroFibers. The next day I used my Handy Dremel Tool to grind them flush, put a bit of bevel on the edges, and got ready to finish the job.

Here's another little new trick. I used the 4.5 inch hole saw with an Exacto knife to cut the masking tape for the job. It worked really well.

Since I painted the pads black, I'm going to use black caulk. For the record, I HATE black caulk. However, white would have looked goofy for this application. Big white pads under the bases would have looked even goofier...

Here's what it looked like when it was all over. The rail is now firmly attached with bolts that are fastened with big fender washers on the back side. It's water tight, and you can put your full weight on it. That's important for a grab rail at the mast!

Note also that the self tending jib is gone. I had to take it off to get this job done, so I managed to create a new project... although I wanted to do it anyway. I can't sail this boat until I add tracks for the headsail. Grrrr, it's MARCH and I want to be sailing in APRIL. Will this pace ever let up?

I encountered a huge problem, despite all my planning. (It's a boat!) The inboard rear bolts didn't come down in an area that's covered by the headliner inside, but came down in an inaccessible area just under the interior grab rails.

You'd probably have to own a C&C Landfall 38 to appreciate what I'm talking about. Trust me, I couldn't get at that one little area of the underside of the deck to put the bolts on without creating a hideous mess. I ended up doing one of those bizarre things where you have a small wrench with a nut and fender washer fastened firmly with caulk and tape to the end, and you fish the wrench into an inaccessible space and then run up on deck and try to shove the bolt down and hope it somehow catches before everything falls with a distant tinkle onto the cabin sole. On the 30 or 40th try it will catch... if the caulk that's smeared into the threads hasn't started to set. If you've never been there, you wouldn't understand the FLUSTRATION, especially after skipping lunch and being hypoglycemic and trying desperately to finish the job before sunset without leaving little smears of black LifeCaulk all over the white decks.

I would like to thank the crews of BUSHWACKER and ABACUS for fixing me dinner.
I really needed food and someone else to fix it.