Has Your Boat Bitten You Yet?

One of the tasks I've enjoyed over the last few years is my role as a judge for Cruising World Magazine's Boat Of The Year contest. A lot of folks not familiar with how CW conducts this contest think that its just a bunch of us going out sailing for the week and deciding which boat we liked the best. Well it is that, but a lot more. We actually dig into the boats that enter the contest, I mean really dig. My role as a systems and Standards compliance specialist gets me right into the guts of the boats ...

23rd February 2010.
By Ed Sherman

One of the tasks I’ve enjoyed over the last few years is my role as a judge for Cruising World Magazine’s Boat Of The Year contest. A lot of folks not familiar with how CW conducts this contest think that its just a bunch of us going out sailing for the week and deciding which boat we liked the best. Well it is that, but a lot more. We actually dig into the boats that enter the contest, I mean really dig. My role as a systems and Standards compliance specialist gets me right into the guts of the boats that enter, every nook and cranny. What am I looking for you might ask? Details, details, thats my job. I thought I’d share with you one of my pet peeves today so you can check your boat closely this spring, before it bites you…………….

In the photo below you will see someting that is unfortunately turning into a bit of a trend with some builders, and my hope here is that someone will point out my disdain for this technique with a builder of their choice.

What you are looking at in the center of the photo are the back side of the boat’s shore power inlet receptacles. What are they held into the boat with? Self-tapping screws and I would add, self-tapping screws that are way too long for the job at hand.

First of all, self-tapping screws are a lousy choice for this job. A properly sized threaded machine screw with a flat washer, lock washer and nut would be the proper way to secure these inlet receptacles. But hey, that would take more time and add cost to the boat right? Exactly, which is why this trend to self-tappers, they’re quick and easy and will indeed hold things in place, at least until the warranty on the boat runs out…… But lets move beyond the mere quality side of this issue into the safety side.

In the photo above I didn’t actually crawl too deeply into the boat. These sharply pointed screws where just sitting there in a cockpit locker just waiting for you to reach in to grab a dock line and bite the back of your hand, sure to draw blood. Depending on the boat, I find these exposed screws all over the place just waiting to bite you or leave a nice tear in that new spinnaker you just spent a gazzillion dollars on.

You’ve got two choices here. The easy way around this is to acquire some plastic or rubber tubing that will fit snuggly over the screw and cut a length just a little bit longer than the exposed screw threads. Slide it over the screw leaving the excess length of tubing to protect the point of the screw from coming in contact with your body or your new sail. This I must emphasize, is NOT my recommendation for a proper repair, but at least you will have prevented your boat from biting you while you’re still making payments on it. The best bet is a bit labor intensive. Carefully inspect all the nooks and crannies of your boat and one by one, replace these self-tappers with properly sized machine screws, washers and your choice of nylock nuts or lock washers and regular nuts. In all cases, if the screw is too long for the job, resize it so you don’t have all of the excess as shown in the photo above. Don’t let your boat bite you!


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Ed Sherman

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Ed Sherman is a regular contributor to boats.com, as well as to Professional Boatbuilder and Cruising World, where he previously was electronics editor. He also is the curriculum director for the American Boat and Yacht Council. Previously, Ed was chairman of the Marine Technology Department at the New England Institute of Technology. Ed’s blog posts appear courtesy of his website, EdsBoatTips.
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