Rebedding Toerails

by Paul Tara

We found Zoop, a 76 Islander 36, abandoned in a boatyard. A past article described Islanders as "leakers". As we observed the streaks of mold and slime streaming down the inside of her hull, we realized where this reputation might have come from.

Water stained wiring covering boards, soggy sidedeck headliners, streaks in your lockers, or mysteriously damp cushions, are all signs of leaking toerails. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the hull-deck joint, this is not a problem that lends itself to a spot repair. The only sure cure is to remove the entire toe rail and rebed it.

Zoop is constructed with an inward turning hull flange on top of which the deck is fastened. The deck is cored with 1/2" marine plywood, except near the rails, where it tapers to a solid glass flange. The deck was bedded in a flexible compound of unknown origin (which had turned to dry flakes on our boat) and tacked in place with flathead self-tapping screws. You can see the points of these protruding down below the hull flange in the cockpit lockers (be careful they're sharp). Finally, the extruded aluminum toerails were placed on top of the deck and bolted through both it and the hull on four inch centers. If I remember correctly, there are NINETY-THREE Phillips flat or oval head 1/4" machine screws (bolts) through each rail

The problems with this joint are twofold.. First, the top of the hull flange is a smooth molded surface, while the underside of the deck is raw glass; the two don't mate well. Second, the bottom of the extruded toe rails are not flat, but are a shallow "L" with the long leg sitting on the deck while the short leg covers the edge of the deck flange. You can see this shape in the scuppers, which are cut through the extrusions at the winch islands. Because the edge of the deck flange is uneven, there often is a small void which runs lengthwise under the entire toe rail. When water penetrates into this area, it can migrate the entire length of the boat until it

finds a point of entry below. This is why replacing individual bolts may not result in stopping leaks; the origin of a leak may be several feet from where the water actually appears

For us, this was a two person job, (three made it much easier) which took two week-ends. It can be done either in or out of the water. It would be misleading to describe it as an easy job, but neither does it require skilled labor. It does require a certain degree of determination as some of the bolts can be difficult to remove. It is recommended that those involved have good communication skills and a sense of humor. (Since you must work as a team, with one on deck and one below, do not attempt this if you or your partner has a hearing problem!)

The tools needed are:

1. 1/2" electric drill with torque handle.
2. 4 BIG Phillips bits for above.
3. Deep 1/2" socket with driver.
4. 1/2" box end wrench.
5. A "Superbar" type flat prybar
6. A small (4") handheld electric grinder
7. Liquid Wrench or equivilant.
8. A hammer and 3/16" drift punch
9. 14 tubes of 3M 5200 (that's right 14!)
10. Caulking gun (power if possible).
11. Island Girl cleaner or stove alcohol.
12. Two rolls blue 1" blue masking tape.
13. Packages of coarse svnthetic steel wool.
14. 2 stiff 1" putty knives.
15. utility knife with extra blades
16. 3 sawhorses
17. A dozen pairs of rubber gloves.
18. A cockpit full of paper towels.
19. Two days worth of newspaper.

OK. Ready? Here we go.

1. Remove all cushions from the boat or place them on the opposite side. Clear all lockers and remove drawers and sliding doors where necessary.

2. Remove the wiring covering boards, (3 or 4 self tapping screws each).

3. Try not to notice what your headliner's been hiding. Look for the bolts and nuts on four inch centers with the alternating points of the self-tapping screws protruding every 18" or so. If you do not see these smaller screws, STOP! Your deck might spring loose from the hull when you unbolt the toerails. You will need to drive short screws up through the hull flange to secure the deck temporarily (bummer).

4. CarefuIly mask completely all the way around the aluminum toerail, on the deck and on the hull. IMPORTANT

5. Secure a jib halyard to the forward end of the toerail; a spinnaker halyard to the center (you'll have to bring it aft around the cap shrouds and spreaders) and the main halyard to the after end. Take up the slack and cleat off. As the rail comes off, it will partially straighten, springing outboard, to end up completely supported by the rig.

6. Let off the backstay. If the deck and upper hull are under too much compression, the joint can pop loose when the rails are unbolted. DON'T NEGLECT THIS STEP!

7. With one person on deck, using the drill and Phillips bit, and another in the chain locker with the socket, start removing the bolts, working aft from the bow. Some may be frozen. Try some Liquid Wrench on top, and driving them up with the hammer. You may need to drive some up and out with the drift punch. If the nut is frozen and the screw spins, grind it off. If all else fails, drill adjoining 1/8" holes up through the glass all around the washer then go on to the next bolt - when the rail comes off the nut and washer will pull up through the flanges, helped along by a sharp rap with a hammer at the appropriate time. You can fill the hole with epoxy putty later and redrill the hole. We only had two or three of these and all were aft near the lowest point of the shear.

8. Take the rail off the boat. If it's stubborn, use the putty knives and super bar to help it along. (Ours just fell off.)

9. Each rail weighs about 60 pounds. Put it on the sawhorses (see why you need 3?) and use a putty knife or scraper and the synthetic steel wool to clean up the bottom. If you're a perfectionist, now's the time to have it reanodized or powder coated ($$$$).

10. Use the putty knives, Island Girl or alcohol, and synthetic steel wool to clean the deck and hull. Try to stay inside the masking tape. Remove all the old bedding compound, prying as much as possible out of the old joint itself. (you can even loosen the small screws to temporarily pry up the deck flange).

11. Put 7 tubes of 3M 5200 in the sun to warm up for a couple of hours.

12. Remove the old masking tape and carefully remask the outline of the toerail. Put a second outline of tape around the first. Make sure the tape edges are sealed by burnishing them with a hard object. Down below, use the tape and newspaper to thoroughly mask the inside of the hull from the sheer on down.

13. Rehang the toerail from the halyards. Adjust the rail's height and position until you can dryfit the first forward bolt. You want the rail to be nearly tangent to the sheer line for the first couple of feet, but actually slightly outboard and above it for the rest of the way. Adjusting the main halyard will control its height, while the spinnaker halyard will control rotation. Attach a "sheet" just forward of the scupper and lead it to a cockpit sheet winch (if you lead from aft of the scupper it can kink the rail as you "sheet in"). Remove the bolt and support the rail outboard (a boothook wedged against the cabin side works).

14. Load up the caulking gun and cut a big hole in the end. Start laying in thick beads of 5200, going back and forth from bow to stern, until the entire area inside the masking tape is covered with at least 1/8" of compound. A power caulking gun would really make a difference here. Make sure it's really thick on the hull right at the deck edge. 5200 cures slowly, so don't get in a stew if this takes a while.

15. Move the forward end of the rail in, put 5200 on a machine screw and insert it in the forward hole, while the person in the forepeak puts on the nut and snugs it up hand tight. Don't torque it down yet!

16. Slowly pull in the "sheet" and insert the next bolt, gradually pulling the rail in and lowering it down onto the sheer, inserting bolts as you go. Put on the nuts hand tight. The idea is to gradually lower the rail so that it captures the 5200 against the deck edge rather than scraping it off. Having three people here really helped, because one could tend the sheet and halyards while the other two did the nuts and bolts. When you have 20 bolts set, go back forward and torque down the first 10. When you have 30, torque the next 10, and so on.

17. Once you get to the scuppers, you'll have to relead the "sheet" from further aft, or just muscle in the rail for the last dozen or so bolts. Be careful to not kink it at the scupper.

18. Use the putty knives, paper towels, and Island Girl to clean up the mess (try to get as much up as possible with the knives). Island Girl will actually remove cured 5200. Remove the masking tape. Don't procrastinate on this last step. Contrary to the label, even blue tape will be hard to remove if left several days.

By using this method, we were able to not only rebed the rail, but actually force 5200 completely through the hull-deck joint in spots. After doing this twice, removing and rebedding the teak head and taff rails will seem like a snap!

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