Rigging, Standing, Chainplate, Forward, Removal and Reinstallation

The forward chainplate, reinstalled
When we speak of chainplates, we often refer to those pieces of stainless steel amidships which, together with the shrouds, help to keep the mast up. Many of us, however, refer less often to those other chainplates forward and aft, which are of equal importance. The forward chainplate, together with the forestay, helps to keep the mast up. Similarly, the aft chainplates, together with the backstays, do the same. In my refitting of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, I removed and inspected all of these chainplates. These projects were related to my larger project of refurbishing or replacing the spars and rigging. In this article I address my removal and reinstallation of the forward chainplate.
Back in the fall of 2009, after I had just purchased the boat, one of the first things I did was to remove most of the deck hardware. For more on this, see my article, "Deck Hardware Removal." The chainplates that everyone always talks about - in other words the amidships chainplates - were in bad condition.
 This boat had an antiquated roller furler.
The removal of this piece of hardware was quite easy, since it had already almost removed itself from the deck. Yes, I had sailed the boat with the furler drum in this near disastrous condition. That was when a friend and I had moved her through the Pamlico Sound of North Carolina for haulout in Oriental, NC. There were so many other things about this boat that were just as wrong.
At the time I removed the deck hardware I did not remove the forward chainplate. It seemed in good condition, and it wasn't something that I could remove very easily. After a few months, however, my curiosity got to me, and I decided to pull it off. My curiosity about this chainplate was related to my curiosity about the rub rails that surrounded the boat. These were clearly in bad condition, and it appeared that I needed to remove them, inspect them, and at least try to clean them up. I began by removing the rub rail end cap at the bow.
This exposed not only the profiles of the rubber rub rail and plastic rub rail track, but also a portion of the forward chainplate that had lain hidden by it.
I address my work on this end cap and on the rub rails themselves in a separate article.

All I will say here is that the rub rails appeared to have been thoroughly dry-rotted. I ended up, however, being able to reuse both them and the rub rail tracks. Barkeeper's Friend, i.e., oxalic acid, restored their youthful vigor.
Having completely removed the rub rails and the rub rail tracks, I could now focus on the forward chainplate.
In the chain locker there were many nuts for the quarter inch machine screws used to join the chainplate to the bow. While a helper held a screwdriver on the heads of the screws, I reached my arm up into the chain locker and removed the nuts.

At the Ericson yard they had installed one, 1/4 inch wood screw at the top of the chainplate. This was necessary because this portion of the bow is solid fiberglass. See the caulk? That was the previous owner's lame attempt at solving a problem. This boat was littered with similar lame attempts. Quick fixes usually aren't good fixes. They are usually contributors to the problem, rather than solutions to the problem. The rub rail is, for the most part, a decorative trim piece that disguises the hull-to-deck joint. Some Ericson owners sometimes experience leaking from the hull-to-deck joints, or at least, that's what they say. More often than not, this leaking is probably not coming from the joint itself, but instead from a rub rail track screw or end cap screw that has penetrated the joint. Applying a bead of caulk to the exterior edge of the end cap does not solve the problem. You must seal the screw hole itself. When I reinstalled the rub rail tracks and the end cap, I used butyl tape for each and every hole.
Now back to the forward chainplate.
After I removed it, I inspected it. I didn't see any cracks or corrosion. That was good.
Distracted by other projects on the boat, quite a bit of time passed before I got back around to reinstalling the chainplate.
Before I did, I cleaned off all the old adhesive with xylene - the best, off-the-shelf solvent for removing adhesive residue. As always, when working with this stuff, or its cousin, toluene, I wore heavy duty nitrile gloves and a 3M brand respirator. Regular, thin, blue nitrile gloves won't cut it with these solvents, just like they won't cut it with the relatively weak solvent, acetone. They quickly dissolve and fall apart.

As I cleaned this area, I started to see the gleam of the original gel coat surface. I also started to see some markings up near the top of the bow.
I've rotated the picture below to make these markings more legible. You must read backwards, from right to left. You'll noticed that it reads, "25 C # 1." It's my guess that this was an inscription, within the mold - the mold that Ericson used to make the hull of this boat. Perhaps the C indicates that this mold was for the centerboard version of the boat. Perhaps the #1 indicates that there were other molds, or at least there were other molds planned for production. It's hard to say unless someone with a fixed keel version of the boat finds something like "FK," or someone else with a 25 C finds a "#2."
In cleaning up everything in preparation for the reinstallation, I also hit the chainplate itself with xylene.
This also required some work with a small scraper. This pecan shell pick came in handy many times in the refitting of this boat.
The old hardware was stained and impossible to clean. I spent a few extra bucks for new stainless at my local hardware store. I cleaned each piece of hardware with acetone to remove the oil that remained from the machining process at the time of manufacture.
I used lock nuts, as I did on so many other pieces of hardware that I reinstalled on this boat. These are more expensive than regular lock washers and hex nuts, but they sure do make things much easier when working in tight spaces.

I used a countersink bit to chamfer each of the screw holes. This chamfer would allow the sealant to form a gasket of sorts around the screws.
I also cleaned the relevant areas of the chain locker with acetone.
I hit the exterior with acetone while I was at it. This removed the dust that I had created while using the countersink bit.
I had a little bit of Sikaflex 291 LOT (Long Open Time) left over from another project, but it was not enough. The local West Marine gave me new tube of it when I pointed out to them at the checkout that all of their tubes were out of date. That was cool. From what I've read and experienced, Sikaflex will often remain good beyond the expiration date. It's not as if it deteriorates, it becomes rubbery and impossibly hard to squeeze from the tube. As long as you can squeeze it, you're good to go.
I applied the Sikaflex throughout the area.
I then applied the chainplate and got to work with the screws. My friend held the heads of the screws with the Phillip's head screwdriver, while I climbed inside the boat.
If you've read my article, "Deck Core Repair, Chain locker," then you'll know how difficult it is to work in this space. The screws for the chainplate are as far forward as you can possibly get in this chain locker. For this reason, they are very difficult to reach.
I considered making a backing plate out of G-10 for this chainplate. I opted not to do this, because I was not sure how much good it would do. The angle of this stainless steel itself probably does more to hinder the vertical movement of the chainplate than anything else. Note that the upper screws have fewer exposed threads than the lower screws. This is because the fiberglass is thicker in the upper region. I would later install acorn nuts on some of the lower screws to protect the nylon anchor line from potential chafing action on the threads of the screws.
It's difficult to see in the picture below, but in terms of the Sikaflex, I also squeezed it into the small gap between the upper end of the chainplate and the bow. This gap was around 1/8 inch wide.
At the time that I installed this forward chainplate, I had not yet developed a zeal, through the urging of some of my buddies, for polishing all the stainless steel on the boat.
Having used my angle grinder, with a buffing pad attachment, to polish some other pieces of hardware, I wondered if I could use this tool to polish the forward chainplate in situ.
One of the downsides that I immediately recognized to doing this on site, is that the buffing compound makes a big mess. Fortunately, acetone cleaned this black stuff right up.
Halfway through, I paused and put in another buffing pad.
It wasn't easy working with that grinder overhead, but this work was starting to pay off.
I did not neglect to polish the aft side of this forward chainplate.

Now it was time for a final pass with the finest grade polishing pad.
This one really put this shine on this chainplate.
Now all I needed to do was to clean it all up once again with acetone.
All of work brought this forward chainplate (along with the rub rails and end cap) back to life. It was satisfying to see this girl looking good again after being forlorned by her former owner for so long.
This ends this posting on how I removed and reinstalled the forward chainplate on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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