Handrails and Hatches with the Salvation Navy

When you’re given a winter season to haul your boat and get into and underneath all the systems, it’s a great time to look at what’s failing and rethink how to make things better. Such is the luck for Matt Cline who feels smarter this season and is using his knowledge to update some repairs he made to his catboat last season.  Time and weather tell the story of a project gone bad aboard most boats, so it’s never a bad idea to redo something when you know you can make it better – even if it means time on the hard. Cline shows us how he tackles some of these projects and how his new love for TotalBoat Thixo is making him want to re-bed the whole boat!

Check out Matt’s YouTube channel and let him know we sent you in the comments!


12 responses to “Handrails and Hatches with the Salvation Navy

  1. I enjoyed your post, but….

    By burying the heads of your bolts so deep into the handrails, you have left open the possibility that the handrail could fail if it checked and split along its grain above the spacers.

    I use carriage bolts to fasten handrails to preclude this possibility; I countersink the heads slightly. I consider them a permanent safety feature and have always used 3M 5200 for bedding – although I’m sure Thixo is sufficient. I, too, use fender washers and acorn nuts below.

    BTW: IMO, Maple has no place on the exterior of a boat. I would use White Ash, Mahogany or Cypress for your hatch work.

    All the best,

    1. My experience was that sealing the hole with a plug and embedding the bolt within is far more secure and maintenance free by keeping out the water, which is what causes the most damage by coming in. Anything exposed, open and dependent on sealer as a first line of defense fails and water gets in, then the problems start. Can’t imagine the embedded bolt failing or causing a split, but If the handrail fails, then I replace it. Not that big of a deal. Things on boats wear out and fail no matter how good we work on stuff. Just hoping for later than sooner.

      As for the maple, I have used it on boats for years and even though I prefer mahogany or other traditional marine woods, I use what I have. Wish I had money for higher end woods for all needs, but I don’t. Never had a hard maple fail on me yet. My bet is that maple cap will outlive you and me both.

      Best regards,

  2. I would never permanently bond handrails because I have had to replace them due to splitting, as the above comment mentions and other reasons. He could have achieved a tight handrail simply by through bolting and using a caulk that doesn’t glue (not 5200) so that replacement is much simpler.

  3. With Thixo having some flexibility, it won’t be as difficult to remove if i need to. Even though there are always issues with failure potential, there is no failure faster and more imminent than when water gets into somewhere, between things, in things, etc. My top priority (other than strength of the fitting) is to keep the water out. That will do more to keep things from failing than anything.

    1. I’m less inclined to keep my handrails pretty, than to have them keep people onboard the boat. I believe in rust-proof fasteners THROUGH the deck, for strength. Whatever bedding is used, it must not allow water into the Balsa Core that many of us have. Acorn nuts on the interior, prevent holes in the scalp (been there).
      I currently have a broken Teak rail, that I have been using boiled linseed oil and spar varnish, wiped on. I’m not convinced that it made the wood water repellent and harder, like it does on my workbench. The rail is held together with a fiberglass wrap “bandage”, until I get a new rail. Metal is not out of the question but I couldn’t live with plastic. “Star Board” is probably better than wood, for zero maintenance and strength, but it has no visual appeal to me, in this application.

  4. I am retired 70yr. young woodworker/engineer with some wooden boat experience. In general, it is relatively easy to make things “strong”. It is not so easy to make things functionally strong, reliable, and repairable. Your attachment method in my opinion is overkill in terms of wooden material, dimensions, functional strength requirements, and repairability. A quality bronze/SST slightly oversize screw and some sealant applied to one side of thin gasket would suffice. I do appreciate your willingness to share.

  5. Matt, very good and informative, I’m interested as I have to pull my handrails and I know they are attached using thru-bolts and 5200, not looking forward to it. I’d like to throw out a question to the group here. I recently replaced my jib track and it was fastened using ‘acorn’ nuts much like you used facing upside-down. Water was trapped in the nuts with no escape and there was substantial corrosion found when disassembled. I now don’t like acorn nuts so much (although they look nice) and replaced them with ny-locks. Any thoughts?

  6. I am not sure why you put the Thixo under the rail ? If it was an attempt to seal out water, There were better choices available to you. If it was a bonding attempt, you glued it to the deck paint. The bond would only be as strong as the paint adhesion. Thixo has no UV protection properties, the edges of the seam will fail. I do believe you have securely attatched the hand rails regardless of the other issues. You can still glue the bolts into the rail but not the deck in the future, that makes it easy for one person to remove them . I have glued hangar bolts in handrails with great success, no plug to blend and one person installation. But, nothing will be as secure as thru bolting them.

  7. A lot of critics out there. There are as many solutions to water intrusion as there are products to to prevent it and methods to apply them. There are so many because none are perfect. I’ve had boats since 1962 and worked on them and many others. So, do I think your method will work? Yes I do. It will last as long as most methods. I do agree with the comment that sinking the bolt heads will weaken the wood in the rail, but only slightly. When you were drilling the rails for the through bolts you followed the through hole with the larger releif drill. Next time you do this try using the larger drill first. It will leave a drill point for the smaller drill to follow and perfectly center it, too.
    Nice video and well narrated. Pretty boat, too, by the way.

  8. TotalBoat Thixo is not recommended for use as a bedding compound. It’s great to use for drilling out holes, filling with Thixo and drilling again for handrail attachment. The second drill-out into the Thixo would then be best suited with TotalSeal or a sealant. Thixo is a great way to beef up your deck attachments, making any deck core or area around the drill holes a waterproof epoxy that can then be counted on for years.

  9. 1)Holes drilled into composites need to be countersunk to help prevent cracking as well as giving a proper surface and area for a sealant. 2) NEVER use 5200 on anything that even possible might have to come apart. 3) Destructive testing has shown that screws from the bottom thru the cabin into the handrail hold better than thru-bolts. Tests to failure were done using both wood and plastic wood handrails. Failure was most often breakage of the rail in the thru-bolt or screw area and happened at lower forces on the thru bolted handrails. 4)Regular”few washers” are poor backing plates. There are many better options.

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