Friday, January 13, 2012

A Corroded Aluminum Toerail is No Fun

I've got three bloody knuckles, sore fingers and cuticles that may never be the same. It's been several days of picking aged caulk out from underneath the our toerail, and I'm starting to feel the effects. Vlad looks better (his cuticles are like iron!), but we are both ready for this particular part of boat maintenance to end. Seriously ready.

So why are we putting ourselves through this quasi Spanish Inquisition style torture - I woke up this morning wondering if I still had fingernails - with a 5-in-1? Well, our massive aluminum toerail has some corrosion in some spots. In most places it looks lovely and solid, the kind of giant metal hunk you could really hang your shrouds on, but in other spots it needs some love - namely a way to stop water from getting underneath it and corroding it away.

Some would argue that we should take the whole thing off, clean it and rebed it, but here's the kicker. It doesn't leak. The toerail sits over the hull-to-deck joint and is screwed into the deck, and though water gets under the toerail, it hasn't yet weaseled its way into the boat. If we take the toerail off, it could inadvertently cause the leaking we are trying to prevent. We just want to stop the toerail from getting gobbled up and to prevent the water from potentially doing its weasel thing.

So after many days of scraping and cleaning, we are going to stem the tide with a bead of 5200 marine grade sealant underneath the toerail and 4000 UV along the edge of the toerail. That should happen this weekend. My fingers are really looking forward to it.


  1. Why not use 4200 or 4000 underneath and on the seams?

    5200 is not a sealant, its an adhesive. If you use it and then later you do need to pry up the toe rail for whatever reason (say in a few years), it will be STUCK!

    Nice progress.


  2. Ah, Tate, we've had such a problem deciding which one to use! Originally, we were going to use 4200 with the 4000 on the very edge for those reasons. But Vlad started doing some research, and 3M, among other manufacturers, suggests 5200 underneath toe rails. He also says the toe rail is structural on Bettie (4 of the stays attach to the rail), so we want the extra strength.

    On the other hand, as you mentioned, we are going to be really, really unhappy if we have to take it off at a later date, and we'll be cursing ourselves thoroughly, no doubt. Who knew something like marine adhesive would be such a conundrum? :)

  3. Ditto Tate on the 5200, which is excellent but brutal.
    Sounds like a crappy job to have to do, but at least you are sitting in the sunshine without a coat, and with bare feet. Want to come up here and work on the boat? 42 degrees and raining. No? Don't blame you.
    Today I go down to Moonrise to sand teak so I can make it pretty to attract a buyer. Sanding teak in the cold and rain. MMMMM. It's a great feeling. I'll have to oil it because I cannot varnish in this weather. Hey, there's an upside to everything!
    Rub a little olive oil on those poor cuticles.

    1. I know, I know. It's hard to complain when you don't have shoes on! Even when you're scraping crap out from under a toerail. But before you wish to delivered from the PNW forever, consider the inferno that is Texas in July and August. Good luck with your teak!