Section 8 to 8-5
January 1972

Maintenance of today's fiberglass sailboats is extremely simple when compared with the upkeep necessary to keep boats of other materials in "Shipshape and Bristol Fashion Nevertheless, certain basic maintenance practices must be followed if the bright, sparkling, original appearance of your boat at delivery is to be retained throughout the years. Much of the maintenance information has been found in the foregoing sections where it related to specific items. In this section we will try to pick up any "loose ends" and try to answer any remaining questions on keeping your boat in a yacht-like condition! You can also keep up on new ideas with the boating periodicals. "Yachting's" annual Spring Maintenance issue is a good one.


When your boat is not in use the tiller or wheel should be snugly secured to prevent the RUDDER from moving. This constant movement of the rudder shaft in the shaft bearings and packing box will result in unnecessary wear and, consequently, in excessive play or "slop". Also, a tiller banging around in the cockpit from wave and water action on the rudder could cause considerable damage. If the rudder action is stiff, a light grease such as "Lubriplate" should be used. Each time the assembly is lubricated also check for play at the upper and lower ends. "Nylotron" shims easily remedy excessive play.

The KEEL is one area where drag producing slime and bottom growth can accumulate if proper care is not exercised. During regular haul-outs the keel should be thoroughly sanded and any bare metal CAREFULLY touched-up, as outlined in Section 2-2.1 of this manual. Please remember that copper based paints are INCOMPATIBLE with iron or steel keels and the continued use of the original factory applied T.B.T.F. type bottom paint is mandatory.

The instructions in Section 2-2.1 also apply for subsequent coats of BOTTOM PAINT and must be followed if you decide to paint an unpainted bottom at a later date. In this case, the bottom must be well sanded to remove all gloss from the gelcoat. After sanding, the entire bottom must be washed with whatever is recommended by the paint manufacturer, BUT NOT ACETONE, as any residue of acetone may react with the bottom paint and cause severe blistering.

While two coats are normally recommended for a good bottom job, it is a good idea to run a third coat for a distance of about 8" to 10" below the boot top. This area collects all the harbor scum and tends to get brushed harder and more often than the rest of the bottom so it can stand the extra coat!


The surface of your ALUMINUM SPARS is protected from corrosion by a natural film of aluminum oxide. Unfortunately in time dirt, salt, and chemical contaminants will break through this natural protective film, causing it to appear grimy and unsightly. To prevent adherence of these materials, coat the surface of your spars with a good automotive paste wax or a commercial protective coating. Brolite Z-Spar Mono-Poxy is used on factory painted spars. It consists of a prime coat, two undercoats, and a gloss coat. This product is compatible with other paints if touch-up is required. A good hosing with fresh water helps, and ALWAYS keep the halyards tied away from the mast. Besides protecting the aluminum oxide or painted surface it does away with the din created by halyards slapping against the mast, which makes any anchorage sound like a tin can factory.

Periodically take a trip aloft to check the entire rig. Look for signs of chafe and check all nuts, bolts, screws, cotter keys, blocks, and masthead sheaves. Make sure the spreader tips are well covered with tape or leather to protect the sails from chafe and tearing. Take along a rag and bucket of fresh water to clean the rigging and mast on your way UP. A clean rig means clean sails! On your way DOWN, re-apply whatever protective coating you have decided to use on the mast and your work aloft is done - until the next time!

The halyards, sheets, and guys, along with all rope and wire splices, should be carefully checked before and after each sail for wear. Wire rigging must be examined for broken strands and signs of frayed sections. Particularly close scrutiny should be given to those sections which rest on sheaves. When sails are lowered, be especially careful not to pull down hard on the wire halyard. What happens is that the Nicropress thimble, which forms the loop for the dacron halyard tail, is jammed into the masthead sheaves and sheave spacer plates, causing dangerous chafe on the wire and dacron tail. The lines supplied with your boat are Dacron, have little stretch, and wear very well if not abused. Sheets and vangs often lead where they will rub together or chafe on lifelines. By adjusting leads or by applying inexpensive chafing gear expensive damage may be prevented. When not in use, running rigging should be tied away from the mast or neatly coiled and hung in regular locations where it can readily be found. Frayed ends should be burned and whipped while chafed eye splices may be re-spliced following the instructions available from Samson Cordage Works, 470 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, Mass. 02210. All blocks, sheaves, turnbuckles, and winches used in conjunction with running rigging should be lubricated periodically with a light grease such as "Lubriplate" or sprayed with a protective film such as "WD-40".

Why is my stainless steel rusting? Basically it is a galvanic action and you can prevent it with a cleaning rag! If you keep the stainless hardware on your boat free of marine growth and polished it will last longer and look better. Saltwater sailors must hose off with fresh water after a hard, wet sail, and a rub down with a chamois helps. For a complete explanation on stainless steel in non-technical language read John Fisher's excellent article in the January 1972 "Boating" magazine.


On all boats whose masts are stepped on a keel and go through the deck, the following procedure was used for setting the mast collar and sealing the mast at the deck. If you un-step the mast, or for any reason this seal is broken, we recommend that you follow the same procedure using the same material, or materials of equal quality. Make sure you wait long enough for the sealants to properly cure BEFORE you start water testing with a high pressure hose.

  1. After a thorough cleaning of the mast, mast collar, and deck, use a generous amount of either PRC-7000, Silastic 732, or DuPont Imron sealant between the mast collar and deck. Then screw the mast collar into position, using #14 x 1" SS flat head sheet metal screws.
  2. After the mast is stepped, wedge or pull it into a position so that an equal space is left all the way around between the mast collar and the mast.
  3. Inside the boat, close off the bottom of the gap with masking tape. Pour a generous amount of sealant all the way around between the mast and the mast collar to fill it to the top.
  4. Using Minnesota Mining's #471 2" wide plastic vinyl tape, tape a boot over the mast collar to the mast at least three layers thick. After the sealant cures, remove the masking tape and fit the two piece interior mast trim, using #14 x 1" SS oval head wood screws.
  5. Check for leaks by using a high pressure hose to spray water around the mast collar.


The glossy outer surface of your laminated fiberglass boat is known as "gelcoat", a polyester resin into which coloring pigments and weathering retardants have been incorporated. It should be hosed with fresh water after every outing and routinely washed with a good detergent. Use a sponge on the smooth surfaces, while a stiff deck brush will be helpful on the non-skid surfaces, followed by more fresh water to avoid streaking the topsides. Do not use abrasive cleaners as they will rapidly dull the gelcoat surface.

At least once a year the smooth gelcoat surfaces should be waxed and polished with a good automotive wax or a boat wax like Meguiar's Mirror Glaze, that is especially formulated for fiberglass surfaces. A power buffer will make work on the large areas, like the hull, easier, but care must be taken not to cut through the gelcoat surface, particularly at corners and edges. Color in gelcoat, as in any material exposed to direct sunlight, tends to fade, dull, or chalk, and will require heavier buffing to bring back the original luster. For power cleaning use a LIGHT abrasive cleaner such as Mirro Glaze #1, while a heavier rubbing compound such as DuPont #7 may be used when polishing by hand. After buffing, wax and polish all surfaces EXCEPT THE NON-SKID AREAS.

Regardless of the amount of care lavished on your boat occasional scratches, cracks, small gouges, along with a badly crushed section or even a large hole, are bound to appear. It is best to discuss the proper course of action with your local dealer or a professional who is SKILLED IN THE REPAIR OF FIBERGLASS SAILBOATS. Two excellent books are presently available that will give you the background information necessary to be knowledgeable in this area. "How to Repair Fiberglass Boats" is published by Ferro Corp., One Erieview Plaza, Cleveland, Ohio 44114 at $3.00. Another more definitive book "Fiberglass Boats: Construction and Maintenance" by Boughton Cobb, Jr. is available through Yachting Publishing Corp., 50 West 44th Street, New York, N.Y. 10036, at $3.00. We have included a copy of Fiberglass Boat Care and Repair Manual" by H. B. Fred Kuhls Company that gives some very good basic information for your perusal. Minor gelcoat touch-up and patching is not difficult. It takes a little study, practice, and, if possible, help from a knowledgeable person.


Sails should be folded for storage whenever possible. This means always on small keel boats, and almost always on larger keel boats. If you leave the mainsail on the boom always remove the battens and then flake it down carefully, with one person at each end of the sail so that the flakes are smooth and wrinkle free, before putting on the sail cover. Proper folding will help keep wrinkles out of sails and will prolong the life of the chemical fillers in the cloth which hold stretch to a minimum. Windows should always lie entirely within one fold to eliminate creases.

In a long race it is sometimes difficult to fold large headsails, so just stuff them loosely into their sail bags. After the race one of the first jobs is to wash off any salt water, dry, and then fold these headsails by flaking them down in alternate folds, starting with the foot, with creases running parallel to the foot. If you remove the mainsail from the boom, fold the first flake so that the bolt rope is on the outside. The sail can thus be put back on the boom more easily next time you sail.

Hosing down sails with fresh water to remove salt is a good idea. Also, perhaps once each year, spread the sail on a soft surface, such as a good lawn, and go over it lightly with a very mild detergent and a very soft brush. Both practices comprise good maintenance. Pay attention to your sails and if any tears, rips, or worn spots appear on the corners, slides, or headboard, or stitching begins to chafe or has been caught and pulled to pucker the sail, make a note of the damage and its location. Many small tears and worn spots can be covered with tape until it is convenient to take the sail to a sailmaker for a professional repair job. (non-porous white Johnson's adhesive tape is good). Any rip at the edge of the sail, such as at the leech or foot of a genoa, must be fixed immediately. Tears here can spread quickly through the entire sail. Small holes in spinnakers can be covered with "Ripstop" and sewn until it is convenient to deliver to the sailmaker for a proper repair job.

Quite a lot is written about sails in any book on sailing but three FREE publications should be especially valuable to you. "Modern Sail Handling" may be obtained from Ratsey & Lapthorn, Inc., East Schofield Street, City Island, New York, 10464. The quarterly journal "The Sailmaker" from the Hood Loft, Marblehead, Mass. 01945 is a wonderful way of keeping up-to-date. McKibbin Sails, 1821 Reynolds Ave., Irvine Industrial Complex, Santa Ana, Ca 92705 has "The Illustrated Sloop" which is a sail chart that will guide you to what sails to hoist for practically any point of sailing or wind velocity.


The exterior and interior trim is teak, one of the most durable and decorative of all hardwoods - but it must be maintained to keep it from splitting and discoloring. Teak may be maintained in three ways:

Leaving the teak untreated and allowing it to weather naturally can cause splitting and a poor appearance. Bronze wool or fine sandpaper should be used periodically to clean the surface and a commercially available preparation such as Teak-Brite should be applied to combat the dull gray appearance of naturally weathered wood and help eliminate splitting.

A second way is to help teak maintain its natural color and life longer by treating regularly with a preparation such as Weldwood's "Wood Life".


Never use steel wood instead of bronze wool or sandpaper. Small filaments of steel break off and cause rust spots that are very difficult to remove.

The third alternative for maintaining your exterior teak varnishing - imparts the last word in a yacht finish but requires the most maintenance. However, for those who wish a "Bristol" condition yacht it is the only way to go. If you decide to varnish be prepared to add at least one additional coat approximately every four months. If the teak has been "oiled" it must be cleaned by scraping and/or heavy sanding with #80 or #100 paper before sealing and varnishing.

While the teak still has its original color and texture, smooth with medium grit sandpaper (#120), dust the surface carefully and seal with a good sealer such as Brolite S-94 Clear Acrylic Sealer. Make sure you select a dry warm day, and do not seal or varnish much after noon as afternoon dampness will prevent proper drying and cause your varnish job to look discolored and uneven. Allow the sealer to dry at least overnight, then smooth the raised grain with #120 paper, dust carefully, and apply the first coat of a good quality spar varnish. The second and third coats are applied with at least a day's wait in between and sanding with #120 or #180, depending upon the roughness of the grain, will provide a minimum varnish covering for your exterior wood trim. Four or five coats are better, now sanding in between with #180 sandpaper, and several thin coats always result in a far superior finish to a lesser number of thicker coats. A good rub with a chamois after hosing down will keep the gloss and also lengthen varnish life.



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This page last modified October 18, 1998