Deck Hardware Removal

Oystercatcher being stripped of her deck hardware, Oct 2009
There were many maintenance issues to address soon after trailering my new Ericson 25 from Oriental, North Carolina to Charleston, SC, the most pressing of which involved the removal of the deck hardware. When I first visited Oystercatcher in August 2009, I knew that she had some problems with water intrusion. There was a water stain on the bulkhead, which indicated that water was creeping into the boat, either through a chainplate or one of the stanchions. The cushion on the starboard settee was also wet. This indicated that the portlights just above the settee were not fully sealed. With Oystercatcher, it was a case of love at first sight, but these and other issues (such as the centerboard and the companionway hatch, which I have discussed in earlier postings) were unsettling to say the least. I therefore hired a surveyor and returned to Oystercatcher in September 2009 to hear what he might have to say about her. With a clipboard in one hand and a marlinspike in the other, he poked around on the bulkheads, especially in the areas surrounding the chainplates. Fortunately, he determined that these bulkheads were still sound. Next, he took a moisture meter from his bag and walked from stem to stern. Everywhere he placed the meter he got a negative reading, and by the time he reached the end, he determined that the balsa core had not been compromised. He added, though, that based on what he had seen, it would be wise for me to re-bed all the deck hardware and portlights if I were to purchase this boat. Otherwise, he said I would have some serious problems on my hands. On account of these and other positive statements from the surveyor I decided that Oystercatcher had to be mine, and when I returned home with her in October 2009 I was fully prepared to stop these leaks and protect her from the elements.

The first task was to remove the mast and its rigging from the cabin trunk of Oystercatcher. Like most tasks, however, it was not as simple as it seemed. Sure I had sawhorses, but not four extras sitting around that I could instantly give up, simply for storing the mast. I therefore spent the first day turning pressure-treated 2x4s and 2x6s into sawhorses.
Mast and mast-stepping A-frame at rest in my backyard, Oct 2009
Having removed the mast from the cabin trunk, I could now begin to remove the deck hardware. One of the first things to go was the pulpit. One end of the mast had rested on the pulpit during the trailering of Oystercatcher from North Carolina. In the picture below you can see the the pulpit at the bow with the lifelines leading aft to the stanchions. In the picture below you can also see a large gray square in front of the boat. That's me. I don't normally look that way. Wasn't a good day.
The pulpit was a sturdy piece of hardware, and made of the good stuff, 316 stainless steel
With the pulpit gone, I could inspect the area beneath the pulpit bases for any hidden damage.
The area beneath the starboard aft base of the pulpit looked okay, save for some grunge.
The area under the portside base had some cracks radiating from one of the bolt holes. Note scattered beads of silicon around the outer edge. These were the first of many silicon beads I would find all around the deck of the boat. Rather than taking the time to properly rebed the hardware, someone simply applied silicone caulk around the edges.
The areas under the forward pulpit bases weren't too bad, just a little dirty. In the foreground is the deckplate for the chain locker. I didn't get any pictures of my removal of it, but it was in bad condition. The plastic was suffering from UV degradation.
Also at the bow was a 12 volt receptacle. It was as useless as the deck plate. The weather had killed it.
If you had any doubts about the condition of this receptacle, take a look at this picture. Completely shot.
Then it was on to the navigation lights. These were the originals and they showed it. The portside light looked like it hadn't been used in years.
It's hard to believe that this light didn't admit any water. There's little sealant left beneath its flange.
The starboard light was a pitiful shadow of its former self. It should have been discarded long before this time.
While we're at the bow, why don't we go ahead and look at the most troubling discovery I made. Do you remember me talking, in that earlier posting, about that transit we made in the Pamlico Sound - you know, the one where the roller-furler line fouled and we had to wrestle that angry jib into a rebellious and often volatile submission? Well, what would have happened to us if that jib had suddenly broken free at the bow and blown skyward and then downward towards our heads in the cockpit?
Let's see, if I had to frame this picture and hang it in a trendy coffee shop . . . I think I'd put this name on it - Two Turns from Disaster. Would that generate a conversation or two?
The next job to tackle on the deck was the removal of the stanchions. The forward portside stanchion had its fair share of cracks beneath its base. It would have helped if someone before me had installed backing plates beneath these stanchions.
The midships stanchion area on the portside was in pretty good condition. That was nice.
The aft stanchion base on the portside had some cracks underneath it, just like the the forward one. How many times did some guy grab that stanchion when he was climbing into the cockpit? It's not a grab bar is it?
When I removed the stanchions, I also had to remove the lifelines. They went hand-in-hand with the stanchions. There was no way to separate them without breaking the stanchion-caps. More on this below.
Let's look again at that picture with the big gray square in it. If you look at the midships stanchion, not far from the orange ladder, you'll see that the lifeline is disconnected from it. Read on to find out why.
During the transit on the Pamlico Sound, when all hell was breaking loose at the same time - with the centerboard stuck in its trunk and a partially tamed jib roaring to life every now and then, pushing the boat toward a lee shore - my buddy grabbed the lifeline. Are you wondering why? Well . . . for the sake of saving his life. At that very moment the lifeline snapped free of the stanchion. Lucky for him, he's agile and quick on his feet, and he was able to regain his balance without tumbling overboard. Adding a man-overboard situation to the mix at that time would not have been pretty. At least we were both wearing life jackets. The former owner had urged us to don our PFDs prior to leaving his dock. I wonder why?
The culprit in this lifeline-to-stanchion failure was the plastic cap on top of the stanchion. After I removed all the stanchions, I took them all inside a work room in order to remove the lifelines from them. I discovered that all the caps had short, plastic shafts that were glued inside the stainless steel stanchions. The only way to remove them (and thus the lifelines that passed through them) from the stanchions was to snap them off with a wrench. Do you think they all broke off as easily as that one that broke off in my buddy's hand on the transit? Ya. Why, you might ask? That plastic was just as shot as the other plastic hardware on the boat. Years of sunlight had killed it.
The forward stanchion base on the starboard side wasn't so bad.
The starboard midships stanchion base had some starburst cracks - stress marks from being over-worked by careless hands.
The aft stanchion base on the starboard side was tolerable, but still showed some wear and tear.
The next pieces of steel that demanded my attention, on this day dedicated to clearing the deck of its hardware, were the chainplates. You'll recall I said that one of the bulkheads had some water stains around the chainplate. Fortunately, the leak had not existed for a long time. If it had, the bulkhead would have rotted and would have needed to have been replaced. Many an Ericson owner has faced this unpleasant task. I'm glad I was not one of them.
You can see some of these stains on the bulkhead in the picture below. The water has turned the orange-colored mahogany a faint yellow. This was the area that the surveyor poked with his marlinspike to see if the wood had begun to rot.
The most difficult task in removing the chainplates was finding a helper to stand with a wrench in the main salon while I stood in the head and ratcheted the nuts on the other side of the bulkhead. After that, all I had to do was climb up on the deck, remove the four screws from the cover plate, and start pulling.
The starboard chainplate came out easily. Maybe that's why it was admitting some water. One look at it, though, and I could tell that I could not easily replace this chainplate simply by applying some fresh sealant. There was evidence of crevice corrosion. This chainplate, like so many others on old sailboats, was doomed and needed to be replaced.
I then moved over to the portside chainplate to see what I could discover there.
It was a bear to pull that chainplate out. I ended up getting inside the boat and hammering its bottom side to get it moving. No leaks here. This baby had been sealed nice and tight.
Removing the teak handrails was the most time-consuming tasks on this day. It was clear that they had been in place ever since Ericson installed them in Southern California in 1975.
First, I had to extract the teak plugs, which covered the bolts. The photo below demonstrates how I did it (after the fact). I found that the easiest way to remove the plugs was to sink the points of my needle-nose pliers into them.
The wedge-and-lever action of the pliers easily caused the plugs to disintegrate.
The tough part of the job was getting the nut off the bolt. There was little clearance between the circumference of the hole and the nut. In retrospect, a petite nut wrench might have worked. I ended up using the same tool I had used to extract the plugs - needle-nose pliers.
While a helper stood inside the boat and unscrewed the bolt, I pinched the nut with the pliers.
Here's a shot of the starboard handrail with all of its plugs extracted.
It was pleasing to have the rails come right off after we removed the bolts. Some Ericson owners have had the misfortune of having some previous owner reattach the rails with some permanent polyurethane adhesive, like 3M 5200.
Next was the winch. I began by taking an Allen wrench to it.
It wasn't difficult to remove that bolt. It sure would be difficult, though, to remember how to put this sucker back together. I learned long before this time to take lots of pictures and label ziplock bags well.
Having removed the Allen bolt, I could lift off the stainless steel housing to reveal the inner-workings of the winch itself. This was also how I was able to remove the winch from the deck. With the stainless steel housing gone, I had access to the deck bolts.
I thought I'd throw in this picture of the underside of the winch for the sake of those who might be curious.
Here's the way it looked in the galley area of the main salon before I removed the winch nuts. You can see that the previous owner had used a few of the nuts to hold up the bracket for the VHF.
When I removed the nuts and the bracket, I could tell that water had gotten through the sealant defenses in one or two places.
The winch cleat was next. That was easy as pie. Two nuts and it was gone.
The seemingly beautiful stainless steel deck vent was a real mess - pretty on the outside, ugly within. I knew there were some problems with it before I ever got the boat home to Charleston. The first night on the boat, during the transit to Oriental, it rained. Water leaked into the main salon from this vent. This was one of the reasons why my buddy and I threw up a tarp before hitting the sack.
The rubber flange around the base of the vent was afflicted with dry rot.
The previous owner must have known about the problem, because at some point he had applied cheap, household caulk to the perimeter. Somehow, this problem did not affect the balsa core of the deck. Had the balsa core been excavated and filled with epoxy and colloidal silica to prevent such problems in the first place? Of course not.
I hit the cheek block next. It sat not far away from the rotten vent.
It had been well-sealed and presented no problems. Good to have that sort of luck every now and then.
Finally, there was the traveler. With much of its paint missing, it wasn't very attractive.
There were two screws on each of its four legs.
Acorn nuts on the interior of the boat held these screws secure.
Presto. It was done. My guess was that this piece of hardware had been in place since 1975. Time for a little makeover before going back into service.
Having removed all the deck hardware, I ended the day by covering up Oystercatcher with a heavy-duty tarp. I would later build a tent for her, but for now she was protected from the weather. This would buy me some time, while I further assessed these problems and figured out some plan of attack.


  1. Roscoe, this is my next project when the spring gets to spring... great photos on your Oystercatcher...
    Happy Easter

    1. Hey thanks Kevin. I just noticed your comment. Thanks for the tip of the hat. Good luck hitting the deck when the weather warms up. Regards, Roscoe

  2. Roscoe,
    Hey again. I just finished the assault on the winches (wenches) and all seemed to go well. OK, next up is the "rebedding" of the stanchions. I haven't climbed aboard to do this yet as we are in a blizzard warning and I think I need to uncover Harmony to get at the goods. My question is this... is there a "plate" beneath the stanchions that the bolts or machine screws go into or is there a nut below? Did you have a helper on the "inside" to hold a wrench or didja rig a vice grip and try it that way? What was best and how did it work out. OK, let me know what worked amigo. Happy Tuesday...

    1. Hello Kevin,
      To the best of my knowledge the E25 stanchions did not come with backing plates. I know they didn't on mine. When I removed mine, I had a young helper below to hold the wrench on the nut. Hardest task in this regard was the removal of the handrails, but that's another story.
      Take care,