Pulling Maintenance: Squeaks and Leaks, Lubes, Caulks and Seals
by Ric Burnley
Every boat owner knows that gremlins are real. They live in the boat, avoiding detection and leaving a big mess behind. Chasing gremlins can drive an owner insane but letting these little hooligans run free can lead to even bigger problems.
Of course, we’re not talking about little furry devils that should avoid water and late-night snacks. Boat owners know we’re talking about leaks and squeaks that can be just as dangerous as any horror film monster.
“If you don’t take care of little problems, they will eventually turn into big problems,” points out Capt. Jake Hiles. As a full-time owner/operator of a 1966 Ray Davis sportfisherman called Matador, Hiles has chased his share of gremlins. “We’ve done everything to that boat,” he says, his voice a mixture of accomplishment and exasperation. “You have to remain vigilant,” he says, “and take care of problems as they arise.”
Hatches! We Don’ Need No Leakin’ Hatches!
One of the worst sources of aggravation is a leaky window or hatch. Hiles has replaced both in the Matador. “The best preventative maintenance is using the best stuff,” Hiles stresses. He reasons that high-quality materials and installation will save time and trouble in the future. When these connections do break down, Hiles goes all in. “Don’t piddle around and try to patch something,” he adds, “do the whole thing all at once.”
Stephen Blackwell is a project manager at Jarrett Bay Boatworks in Beaufort, North Carolina, where he works on new construction and restorations. Being involved in both stages of a boat’s life cycle, Blackwell has caught plenty of gremlins and among the most common is a leaky hatch or window seal. Blackwell says that these joints need constant monitoring and quick repair. “Typically, it’s a good idea to thoroughly inspect seals every two or three years, especially on deck hardware that can leak without being detected.”
When one of these connections needs to be replaced, Blackwell starts by removing the old sealant. “All you can do is use a razor knife and keep cutting and cutting at the sealant,” he says. As the knife works away the material, Blackwell will gently tap a wedge between the hardware and the deck. “There are solvents that will break up the sealant, but I’ve never had much luck with those,” he admits, stressing that the best solvent is elbow grease. To remove a window seal,….(Click here to purchase the full feature or subscribe to InTheBite)