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Two Steps Forward, One (mast) Step Back

posted May 17, 2010, 10:04 AM by Christopher Hubbell   [ updated May 17, 2010, 10:13 AM ]
While taking a break from leaning off the starboard cabin fitting balsa core I decided to pull the mast step in preparation for re-bedding it and repairing the two center screws which I knew to be stripped.  The two fore bolts came out nicely using my mondo-sized screwdriver from Harbor Freight.  The two center screws practically danced into my hands.  The aft most two bolts however, did nothing of the sort.

The bolts simply twisted in place making no signs of releasing the nut.  I'm guessing that the glassed-in nuts are spinning inside the fiberglass, and need to have a wrench on them in order to remove.  The good news is that I already had the headliner pulled, so I can see right where I need to work.  The bad news is, I now need to grind the fiberglass out of the way so I can get to those nuts.  Big mess in the cabin, and more research.

I've been reading that the practice of encapsulating bolts / nuts in fiberglass has fallen out of favor because it can trap moisture or increase corrosion by other means.  It also clearly makes maintenance a real pain in the butt.  I'm trying to decide whether or not I think removing that fiberglass is going to cause me any new problems before I grind it out.  I'm leaning toward just going for it, as I don't think I have a choice.

Once it's off I'll need to look carefully at the surface and see if I think a backing plate would be a good upgrade.  I'm thinking that's probably extraneous since the step hasn't shown any sign of compressing the deck after 30 years.  I don't need to take on unnecessary projects, but we'll have to see once I get there.  I picked up a sheet of 1/4" FRP for just this sort of thing.

As usual, stay tuned...