Boat Jobs

Content provided by Tom Neale

If you’ve done a boat job, no matter what it is, you know the ugly truth. They NEVER go the way you expect them to.

The Day that Mel got 3M 5200 in her hair wasn't a good day. Bad hair day, yes, but I'm not talking about bad hair days. I'm talking about bad boating days — the kind that have nothing to do with the weather, or even paying the boat bills. They're what almost always happens when you take on any boat job to make things "better."

5200 is really interesting stuff. I've been using it for years and I hope I'll be using it for years to come. This stuff redefines "permanence." Which is why I was so surprised when I learned that it has another characteristic. Before it sets up, it can be very slippery.

This particular project started out with good intentions. Our deck junk had become somewhat spectacular from our many years of living and cruising aboard. I used to be proud of my deck junk. I thought that people going by would recognize us a "True Cruisers." Instead, as I sat cowering below, I repeatedly heard such comments as, "Good Gawd, Martha, look at that boat. It looks like Sanford and Sons." So we decided to do something about it.

We bought four beautiful new deck junk boxes. The sign in the store called them "dock boxes" but what did they know. I wasn't going to admit that I was actually going to put them on my deck. I didn't want to bolt the boxes through the deck because I figured that if that big wave came I'd rather it sweep my boxes into the ocean than tear out huge chunks of deck. So I came up with an idea to avoid thru bolting. It was to screw the boxes into thick teak boards which had been permanently and thoroughly glued to the deck. I could have just screwed the boxes to the top layer of cored fiberglass deck. Each glass layer of our decks is at least twice as thick as the hull of any boat built today. But I know about boat jobs. I avoid putting holes in my boat.

Tom's Tips About Cleaning 

Up After Boat Jobs

  1. I not only like 3M 5200, I like many other products similar to this. But they all have one thing in common. How do you clean up the mess you make with them?
  2. Most product manufacturers have other specific clean up products which they'll be glad to sell to you if you have any money left over from buying the first product. These usually work well.
  3. The 3M 5200 clean up recommendation can be found on their official data sheet and most products have similar info on their web sites.
  4. But one thing I've always observed about official cleanup stuff is that you never have it around when you need it.
  5. So I often use something like acetone, WD-40, alcohol or turpentine. Of course, the consequences of using most of these chemicals can hurt you and other things if you're not very careful. Read labels very carefully and always test before you commit.
  6. You must be sure you don't use some of these cleanup products where you want to re-apply, because of the residue they may leave. You must then clean that residue with another boat job product.

I decided to use 5200 to glue on the teak boards. We gooped up the bottom of the first board and pressed it carefully onto the deck right inside the neatly drawn pencil lines. (Mel, my wife, being the artist that she is, always draws neat pencil lines to assist my installations, somehow having doubt that I will get the thing--whatever the thing may be--within 3 feet of where it is supposed to go.) She just wants to make it all very clear to me. It was indeed clear to me and I got the gooped up boards perfectly in place. I walked away to another chore, planning to return after they'd had a chance to set up a little. Fortunately I took an admiring look at my precision placement a few moments later. What I found was a 6 inch wide white track of 5200 following the path of the board down the slope of the deck. I had pressed the board down tightly within the penciled lines. I just hadn't reckoned on that other remarkable characteristic of 5200. It stays slick for awhile. Then came the next surprise. Strangely enough, picking up the teak plank that had just slid so easily down the deck proved to be relatively impossible. I felt that it would have been a good time to move on to another project, but Mel said "No." With big screwdrivers and persevering patience as the evening grew darker and the gnats grew bolder, we gently coaxed this very expensive piece of teak off the deck.

I carefully placed it again within the pencil marks, and this time pushed down really hard. The board scooted out from under me so quickly that I crashed down into the trail of white goo. Mel, who had been kneeling close by and leaning over to assure that I honored the penciled lines, was kneeling by a little too closely. At least it didn't get in my hair.

So, we decided to bite the bullet and screw the boards into the top layer of the deck, so that they would stay in place until the 5200 could dry. When I make a hole anywhere in my boat, I get a case of what the shrinks call "reality based paranoia." As I said before, I know about boat jobs. I want the screws to not only be in the right place but also the drill bit of the right length. I've seen quite a few boat jobs where a stream of water followed the bit as it was pulled from the hole. (I'm not saying this has ever happened to me, I'm just saying that I know about boat jobs.) I wasn't worried about this, since I was drilling through my deck, but with my luck and skill, I was thinking, maybe I should. First we predrilled the blocks of wood for the screws that would fasten them to the deck, taking care that the holes were not where the corners of the box would be located. We placed the planks exactly where they were supposed to be (under the strict and unrelenting supervision of Mel) and used those holes as templates to make little tiny holes in the deck. We then slathered the bottom of the planks again and screwed them to the deck, exactly between the now fabled penciled lines.

We had already drilled holes in the "appropriate" places in the corners of the boxes. We set the boxes in place on the teak boards (sans 5200), carefully aligning them. We then used the holes in the box corners to make template holes in the teak so that I "couldn't possibly mount the boxes in the wrong place." After that we took a deep breath and put a small measure of 5200 underneath each box corner, where it would surround the screw holes, for extra good measure. We used big fat pan headed screws with washers and threaded them through the holes in the bottom of the box and lined the points into the holes in the teak and carefully screwed them in. After we finished the last one, we stepped back to view our work with pride…considerable pride. Fortunately our moment of pride wasn't ruined because I didn't yet know I'd stepped in a blob of 5200. I didn't know this until sometime later when traces of it showed up everywhere I'd been, including on the new carpet in the salon below.

We proudly started to finish this boat job by loading the deck junk into the boxes. But you can guess the end of the story. We couldn't begin to fit it all into the boxes. And there's so much in there that when you look in to find something it's like looking for a drop of water in the ocean. And worse, everything gets so tangled up with everything else that removing one piece of junk usually results in having to remove it all. Mel suggests that I do just that…remove it all. And take it ashore and put it in the dump. But then what would I do with my deck junk boxes? Maybe I could convert them to life boats. That would be a great boat job.