Not too much fun stuff to report this weekend so far. We have been busy but it’s just finishing up other projects.  We sanded down all the holes that we had previously poured epoxy into for the staysail traveler and also all the holes we had filled up near the bowsprit.  We have also reinstalled two stanchions to fix leaks.  Of course it is never quite that easy right?

The problem with stanchions is that they are subjected to lots of pressure as people or things grab and pull on the life lines. Since they are tall they work like levers on the bases and this puts a lot of stress on them and stress leads to flexing or movement, and of course that eventually leads to leaks.  Stanchions are always troublesome on boats.  So I figured we’d give this problem a go.  What to do?

I figured firstly that a gasket that could give and deal with minor shifts would be ideal.  I did a lot of homework and it would seem neoprene would make an ideal gasket because it will resist deformation and distribute loads nicely.  The only problem is that the big box stores charge a buck a piece for washers made of the material.  And frankly, I’m a tight wad.  So what to do?   We bought a giant roll of the stuff and decided to make our own.

The process is pretty simple.  Mark out the size you want, cut it out, and then cut a hole in the center for the bolt.  The first round I made I used a make shift hole punch.  Dani did today’s batch and actually used a blade to cut the center holes.

Imprinting a hole in the neoprene

Entire Neoprene Sheet

So we manufactured a whole bunch of washers.

Final product of Neoprene Washers

So the stanchions on our boat are not normal.  Some of them are bolted normally through the inner side of the hull.  Others were bolted all the way through the bulwark!  I have no real idea why this was done but it seemed an impossible setup.   So when we installed them again we only bolted them through one side.  When we installed them it was like this:

Bolt head -> Butyl tape ->Metal washer-> neoprene washer -> stanchion -> neoprene washer -> hull -> big fender washer -> nyloc nut

(Dani edit) The photos below don’t show the arrangement listed above as this was one of the early designs we later changed but it’ll give you an idea of the how the neoprene works against the hull with the stanchions.
Installing Neoprene washers
Neoprene washers on Stanchion close up

This left us with two holes on the exterior of the hull from where the carriage bolts that had previously passed all the way through the bulwark were.  To fix those holes I figured we could either fill up those holes with epoxy or glass and then paint over them.  I’m not very good with epoxy or paint so instead I decided to just plug the holes with more bolts that didn’t really do >anything< beyond plug the hole.

So these seemingly pointless bolts look like this:

Bolt arrangement with neoprene washers

Another interesting thing about our boat was that it had two U-bolts about mid way between the mast and the stern that were also bolted through the bulwark.  Now I can only assume these bolts were installed as attachment points for a boom preventer or something.  No idea but they aren’t there on most Westsails and they were leaking badly.  So instead of putting them back in we just plugged both the inner and outer holes in the hull with more “bolts to no where”.

Exterior bolts with neoprene washers

You can see the little bits of the neoprene washers sticking out after that had been compressed.
Bulwark outside bolts with neoprene washers

What it looks like from the inside.
Interior shot of bolts inside

I’m sure one day long after I’m gone, a new owner for Sundowner will pull one of these bolts and wonder what in the world they were there for.  Oh well.  =)

So far the neoprene is working well as a gasket between the stanchion bases and the hull.  Even when I really crank on the stanchions with a hose pressed down on the mounting points there has been no leaking at all.  I hope they continue to work well for years to come and don’t fail like old caulk does when it loses its flexibility.