This weekend we finally get to the part of this blog where we actually involve chainplates!   Yes.  The old chainplates are finally coming off.  Interestingly enough they are doubled up.  I suspect at the last time they were changed that someone just put the old chainplates ontop of the new thinking two is better than one.  So for the six spots we have side stay chainplates, we actually have 12 pieces of metal.  The Dirty Dozen.

The work started with removal of some bronze long plates that cover the gaps in the rub rails over the plates.  A seemingly easy job until you realize that long years haven’t been kind to the little bronze screws that have all turned pinkish (as sure sign of galvanic corrosion) and decide to literally strip out with any pressure. 

So the only answer to that was to fit a smaller flat head screwdriver into the slot, tap it with a hammer and then pray the screw would back out.  This job that should have taken 10 minutes took more like 45 minutes.  Gotta love boats right!

After that little chore was done it was time to remove the nuts on the back of the carriage bolts that hold the chainplates to the hull.  All of them were fairly easy to get to except the forward starboard chainplate which  has its access through the back of a closet.  Into which I disappear.

Eventually we got the bolts out for the entire starboard side and I was able to break the chainplates free from the hull.  I’m not sure what was used to bed them up against the hull but it is some pretty tenacious stuff.  The process I used was to first remove the “outer” chainplate by driving a wedge between the two plates.  This usually pulled the carriage bolts out enough to allow me to get the claw of a hammer under them for leverage and pull them out.  Then I could pull the outer plate off.  Finally I’d gently use a very thin pry bar to break the “real” chainplate lose from the hull.

Underneath was an incredible glut of caulk that was rusted, mottled, and molded.

So I turned my caulk-scraper extraordinaire loose on it.

After over an hour scraping and then sanding we finally see the raw hull again.

While Dani was working on cleaning up the starboard side of the boat I went over to the port side to repeat the process.  All went smoothly up until I was removing the port aft chainplate.  I had removed the “outer” plate and could not get the real plate to part with the hull.  Finally I just decided to push the top part of it where it rose above the hull.  I wedged myself against the cabin top and put increasing amounts of pressure on it.  At the point where I was really straining very hard the plate broke free from the hull and there was a very loud “SNAP” noise.  Beau, who was watching, exclaimed, “Oh my God!”

At first I was terrified that I’d done something really horrible.  But no, it was just a feat of strength.  The chainplate did break free from the caulk but it literally SNAPPED at the bottom when it did so.  This 3/8″ piece of stainless steel broke with just some pushing.  It wasn’t even at one of the holes where breaks are common.  And the metal at the break looked clean on the underside.

But looking at the cross section, you can see just how bad a shape these chainplates are in.  None of this is totally obvious from the exterior but look at the depth of the corrosion.

Here are the eight plates that we have removed so far.

This is the “outer” side of the plates.  They’re in order of pairs.  You can see the “cleaner” looking ones were what you could actually see when looking at Sundowner but the badly corroded inner plates were hidden from view.

Here you can see the “inner” sides of the plates.  Notice how in the above photo the shinier plates are very badly corroded on their backsides and vice versa.  This is the dangerous nature of stainless steel hardware.  Always hiding what is wrong.

A close up look at the carriage bolts that were holding the plates to the hull.

Let that sink in for a bit…

And finally, the last act of the day was to take down the staysail stay.

So hopefully next weekend we’ll install all the lower chainplates, remove the uppers and possibly start replacing the stays.  Can’t wait to show you guys the new chainplates.  They’re so shiny!