Stanchion & Lifeline Restoration

Oh, more Mobyisms:

  1. Projects are never as easy or simple as you imagine them to be when you start them. Take the time and double it, then double it again and you will still be optimistic.
  2. The probability that something will give you a problem is directly proportional to the difficulty in accessing the area to work on it.

How hard can it be to simply remove the lifelines, railings, stanchions and bases? Just a few screws and bolts right? Well I quickly found out that none of the screws holding the bases on would move. The caulk that was used to seal the holes was all over the threads of the screws and rock solid. After realizing it would not be easy I decided to bring out the big guns, the heat gun. I would heat up the bolts sticking out the bottom of the deck and unscrew the nuts. Worked pretty slick. Taking the screws out would be easy right? Wrong! I had to heat up the bases so that the screws would turn even after removing the nuts. I also had to pry off the bases with a putty knife (my other favorite tool) once the screws were removed.

The hardest to remove were also in the hardest areas to access, the stern railing and the bow pulpit (see Mobyism #4 above). It was a good thing that I brought emergency supplies down the cockpit hatches with me when I removed the stanchion bases in the cockpit. You don't want to be climbing in and out of that area often! Another difficulty I ran into was the simple task of removing the tee's from the stern railing. Wouldn't you know that the railing was bent after the originals were put on! I thought I would have to cut the railing under one of the tee's and then join it back up after I put on the new ones. After posting my problem on the Tanzer group someone suggested just bending the railing enough to slip the old tee's off. It worked! More Mobyisms:

  1. If you KNOW a job will be simple it won't be.
  2. Hours of thinking and planning are no substitute for shear dumb luck.

Now that the stern railing was bent, putting the new tee's on would be dead easy, just slip them on. WRONG! The new stainless steel ones were about 1/32" less in diameter and maybe a 1/4" longer so the radius of the bend that they can slip over is much larger than what was needed to slip the old ones off. Now I was worried that I would have to cut the railing but I thought I try one thing first. I went to Boater's World and bought a tee from a different manufacture. Guess what, it fit! See Mobyism #6.

After finally getting everything apart and off the boat I sent the bases off for replating. I would have liked to have bought new stainless steel ones but I did not feel like filling and drilling new holes to match new bases. I am also trying to keep the boat as original as possible and replating was about the same cost as new ones. They were done by a company in MA called The Whitman Company. They did a fantastic job at a reasonable price and I would highly recommend them. You can see the results below. I also applied liberal amounts of elbow grease on the tubing and they came out looking like new.


I tried polishing the bases because I thought it was just some kind of sea gunk (wishful thinking). They turned brown (more precisely bronze) instead of shiny silver. I then began to realize that they were chrome plated bronze.

No amount of polish will make these shine again

Here is a shot of the bent (or unbent) stern railing. I did not have to straighten it out too much and by squeezing a little more the fitting slid off. Try not to turn the fitting or it might scratch the rail (OK, it will scratch the railing).

Bent stern railing

This is the setup I used to straighten the railing. I supported one end on a chair so it could slide back then I put my weight on the corner of the other side. The carpet held the end in place and prevented scratching. I don't have a picture of how I re-bent it but I used one of the lolly columns with a bit of carpet around it as the fulcrum point and the end was braced against something solid then I just bent it back into the correct shape (after putting the new tees on of course).

How much I had to bend the railing to slide off the tees

The stainless tubing cleaned up nicely with a metal polish and lots of elbow grease.

Before cleaning

The old lifelines were dirty and would not clean up well. The plastic cover was also cracked in many places. I was surprised at the cost of replacing just a couple of lifelines. I was going to swage (pronounce like it rhymes with age or like swedge like it rhymes with ledge, not sure which is correct) them myself but I was told that's a no-no. They have to be machine swaged with thousands of pounds of pressure. Hey, who am I, the newbie, to argue with professionals? The best deal was at West Marine. I just gave them my old ones and they made new ones to the same lengths and fittings.

Old lifelines

Getting the stern fittings off was a pain in the neck (OK, back). Put everything you need down there before you go. Of course you'll forget a couple of things no matter how hard you think about it. Oh, yeah, PB4UGO.

Put some padding down (and maybe a couple of beers) before climbing in

Getting at these nuts was a real challange. I used vise-grips to lock onto the nuts so I could unscrew them from the outside.

Used shorter screws on aft stanchion bases

There was lots of crud under the bases. I think a lot of the streaking I get on the boat is due to some of this stuff coming out of the places it had accumulated, especially the rubrail.

Pretty grungy

Here they all are, all 17 peices I sent out to get refinished. Anything I could get stainless steel for, I did, like the tee fittings and some of the end caps. And so ends the destruction phase of this project.

Before plating

After about 6 weeks they came back from the shop. WOW, I had to wear sunglasses they were so shiny.

After plating

They really did a great job. I can tell they used some sort of acid bath to clean them because I noticed that the edges were more rounded. I don't think it compromised the integrity of the bases at all.

Close-up of after

And here are the new lifelines. I love writing about this after the fact because it seems like everything happens really fast. I did have to go back because they messed up the order and forgot one of the lifelines. Not a big deal.

New lifelines

And here are all the nice and shiny tubes. What a difference and the best part it didn't cost anything, just time and energy.

After cleaning

To form a little o-ring around the bolts I countersunk the holes on the deck with a larger drill bit. I just turned it by hand to slightly enlarge the top of the hole. This is another great idea I got from the Tanzer Yahoo group (thanks everyone!).

Creating countersink

Boy, I took pictures of everything. It's a wonder I got anything done with all the picture taking going on.

Counter sink screw hole to create caulk ring for better seal

This is one of my peices I did for art class. It's titled "Tale of the Four Towers". The first step to intalling these bases it to line up each fitting to the holes on the deck. They are all slightly different so I had to play musical chairs till I got them right. I also put the tubes in to make sure the holes for the screws line up correctly. I still ended up drilling an tapping some that were slightly off. I could not think of a label that would survive the plating process.

Base ready for installation, caulk only around base to avoid gumming up of threads

I used tape to hold the screws in place and keep the cauld from coming up when pushing the base into the holes.

Tape holds screws in place during insertion

Before reinstalling the bases I used a drill to clean out the holes. There was lots of old caulk in there. I guess it is my philosophy is to seal the top and if water drips in, I want it to go into the cabin and not soak into the wood core. That's the theory anyway.

Drop 'er in

I tightened the nuts below hand tight.

Nice oozing

Remove the tape and tighten the screws till they are tight. Remember, the o-rings should provide the seal. I want these bases very secure.

All tightened, clean excess caulk

I used 4 visegrips to hold the nuts while I tightened the screws. This prevented many up-down trips which is important for the bow and stern fittings.

Extra hands make the job much easier

One thing too, I used all new bolts and nuts for the bases. I also used new screws, both Allen and pan-head machine screws for securing the tubes. The old screws were a hodge-podge of lengths and heads. Some were even galvanized and rusting instead of stainless. Besides, the old screws for the bases were hopelessly gunked up with old caulk. I did try cleaning one and that was a big waste of time. Anywho, here we are with all the deck stanchions and lifelines reinstalled. I was able to keep the original Gibb turnbuckles after I cleaned and inspected them.

Stanchions and new lifelines all installed

These puppies were really hard to reinstall. The tight space made it really hard to thread the nuts. I also used shorted screws (about 1" vs. the 2" ). I'm not sure what these markings mean but I thought I'd take a picture before putting them on.

Bottom of aft stanchion base. Not sure what these mean

Here I'm just checking the angle of the bend before tightening all the screws. I did have to bend it some more to get the tubes to line up with the bases.

Nice shoes

Came out pretty good. I am very happy with the results after all that work.

Cockpit railing all installed and looking good.

Of course with nice shiny stanchions I start noticing all the other stainless steel that needs cleaning. I should be focusing on stuff that needs to be done before launch.

Time to lean, time to clean

Oh well, so much for focus.

All clean and new turnbuckle installed

Last but not least, the pelican hooks were cleaned up and reused. They are chrome plated bronze but still passable.

Reusing the old pelican hook. A little elbow grease does wonders

Before launching I went around are tightened all the bolts from below so as not to break any caulking seals. After many rainstorms and washdowns with the hose there are no leaks. They also look 100% better and once I compound and wax the deck the boat will look almost new. I also can have confidence that my lifelines are secure and will hold. Safety is job #1 in my book.