Port Sail Track

The sail track is a robustly installed aluminum track or rail that runs down either side of the boat along the toe rail and on top of the teak cap rail.  It is through bolted with large stainless steel bolts every few inches.   Its primary purpose is to provide a home for a little car that you run the headsail sheets through to give the correct pull or tension on the sail.  This little car can run up and down the track and every couple inches there is a stop that it can securely fasten to.  The loads on the headsail sheets, and consequently the little car, are massive which is why there are so many through bolts.

Suprisingly none of ours were leaking, however they all still needed to come up so I could take the teak cap rail off, seal the hull to deck joint, and refinish the cap rail.  As mentioned in the previous post, I knew this was going to be a job.  In fact, I have been waiting for a time when Erin could come out and help as through bolts are much easier unfastened when you have a person on either side of the bolt!  Unfortunately, she has not been available and I have removed everything except this part…

All of the through bolts are readily accessible on the port side so that is where I started.  I tried my luck by twisting on a few of the nuts inside to see if they were frozen and to my delight I found they were not!   Thus began the slow process of winding all the nuts off from the inside:

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About halfway through I came across the first frozen bolt.  Of course it was in one of the more difficult spots behind the nav station so I chalked it up to not having enough torque on the nut.  Moving right along… we will come back to that one.  Another couple bolts came off just fine and then I found another frozen one.  This one was definitely not a case of torque because the whole bolt started spinning.  Moving right along… we will come back to that one too… I made my way all the way down the quarter berth and finally pulled the last nut.  In total there were four frozen bolts out of two dozen or more.  Not too bad.

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The stubborn bolts were really stubborn.  To break them free I tightly secured a pair of vice grips around the nut on the inside of the boat and then brought my secret weapon out on deck.  Whats my secret weapon?  The manual impact driver of course!  If your interested I did an entire post on this invaluable and inexpensive tool.

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And free was the bolt! 1/4 turn by 1/4 turn, sledgehammer drop by sledgehammer drop the bolt spun ’round.

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On to the next one… this one was a bit tricky but I got it out… blisters starting to form on my hands now… on to the next one… ok this one is being a bit of a pain…

Wow, this bolt wont budge…

Shit… my bit broke 😦

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A sad sight indeed.

This calls for drastic measures… I began by drilling out the head of the bolt but quickly realized that I had no leverage to break the head off since the track was still in place.  I worried about using too big a drill bit and marring the track itself.  As a result I moved inside the boat, cut off the extended portion of the bolt below the nut and began to drill up the bolt inside the nut.

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This was awful work and it didn’t even release the bond between the nut and the bolt.  I then had to cut the nut vertically just to finally break it off.

Here are the offending bolts:

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After 8 hours of back breaking work, I was finally able to pull off the sail track!!!

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