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Know-How -- The virtues of "Stuff"

“How did people go boating before the advent of green garbage bags?"

By Mike Saylor

“How did people go boating before the advent of green garbage bags?” muses my wife. Today I wonder how people leave the dock without the “stuff” I’ll be covering here. You’ve got to be prepared for problems. Boat and towing insurance are wonderful, as the marina guys do the repairs and maintenance, but sometimes they ain’t available. Remember, you usually can’t just leave the boat and walk for help.

1. Duct tape: Michael LaBella, an editor at Soundings, quips that with a little imagination you could use duct tape to build a house or a boat. He’s not far off. In a bind I’ve used duct tape as a temporary patch for a torn sail; to hold together a broken tiller; to seal a cracked window, cracked hull, and damaged pipe and hoses; to secure rags or carpet pads to prevent the chafing of boat covers during winter storage. Duct tape is inexpensive and works well as long as the surface is dry. One drawback is cleaning up the sticky residue the adhesive leaves behind. And over time the tape breaks down, and you’re left with an unsightly mess.

2. Rigging (or self-amalgamating) tape: This stuff is well-known to sailors, but it should be in every powerboater’s kit as well. It’s a stretchy tape that is tough and resists puncturing. It’s used primarily to prevent cotter pins from snagging lines and clothing and from tearing sails or skin. It’s not as inexpensive as duct tape, but it has the virtue of adhering to itself. It can be wrapped around wet surfaces, such as leaking pipes and hoses, and other slippery surfaces, wet or dry. It doesn’t break down as readily as duct tape and leaves no adhesive residue.

3. Bulldog grips (wire-rope clamps): Regardless of whether you are a sailor or a powerboater, if you have cables on your boat — steering cables, for example, or wire-rope standing rigging — bulldog grips are an excellent way of holding things together if the cable parts. A bulldog grip is a U-shaped clamp that fits into a bar that has grooves to fit the lay of the wire rope. The clamp is slid down onto the working end (the short end) of the wire rope and is secured with nuts against the grooved bar. Always position the cable with the standing part against the grooved bar, then tighten the nuts. If you overtighten, the U-clamp can crush the wires of the rope; this is why the standing part rests against the grooved bar. You can make eyes in wire and you can secure broken parts of wire rope together. Usually this technique is applied to 7x7 or even 7x19 wire rope, but in a bind I’ve used it on 1x19 and was watchful of the loads being placed on the repair. This is a tremendously strong technique. In fact, you can see examples in guying power poles and wire railings alongside highways and on some bridges. Just make sure the U-clamp is always on the standing part of the wire.

4. Multitools: I wrote about multitools as a suggestion for our annual gift guide in the December issue. There are many offerings of this type of tool since the concept was introduced by Leatherman. The multitool typically consists of pliers, a knife blade, screwdrivers for slotted and Philips head screws, and can include a metal file, saw blade, punches, etc. They take the Swiss Army knife concept a step further by including pliers/wire cutters. Many also offer serrated blades. I’ve carried them for years. They’re great for minor repairs and save you from rummaging through a tool box.

5. Hose clamps: Since most boats have plumbing and/or an engine of some sort, you need to keep hose clamps on board. You also should have an assortment of hose sections of different diameters, some of which can be used as sleeves. Hose clamps will allow you to temporarily repair damaged hose or splice sections together if needed. Along with hose clamps you’ll probably want some hose fittings. When dealing with plumbing always use two hose clamps, with the screws positioned at right angles to each other.

6. Wire: Wire of different gauges is handy to keep on board. On boats 40 feet or smaller, 14-gauge wire will work for almost any application. Along with wire you should have wire ties, which can be useful for securing items other than wire. Keep a variety of sizes on hand. Secure them and hoses with wire ties.