Maintenance and Upgrade


Defender 29….A tale of Woe and Intrigue
Mike Keers
I had planned to write an article on engines and such for this column, but due to space limitations, that’s been put off until a future issue. I would like to use this space to make several relevent comments about maintenance and repair, however.

A careful reading of most of the articles concerning repairs reveals a common thread; many of the problems encountered in these boats, and probably other brands as well, are either directly, or indirectly connected with leaks and drips…the kind from above, not the below-the-waterline type that Eric White’s poor “Binary” (see article, page nine, C-Nuz 2) must’ve had, to sink twice! But I have some thoughts on that, too, I’ll address in a minute.

Whether it’s leaking thru-deck fittings, like the chainplates that ruined my bulkheads, (detailed in C-Nuz 1) and probably Eric’s also, or simply bad bedding under hatches, ports, stanchions, cleats, tracks and other deck-mounted hardware that allows water into the wooden or foam core found on most boats’ decks, the end results are the same…big problems.

I don’t think it can be stressed strongly enough the need to carefully inspect these fittings, and insure a good, waterproof layer of bedding compound between them and the boat.

In my own case, on my ’65 Defender, the bedding under nearly all the fittings was “factory original”, and I think it was Dolphinite, or something similar, a common bedding compound used back then. It had turned into either a rock hard layer, or worse, a powdery substance, both of which are useless at keeping water out.

“Job One” on my boat was to pull all the fittings, and I do mean all….every cleat, stanchion, track, window, winch, etc….and rebed with a modern sealant. And while you’re at it, you might as well add backing blocks under all those fittings, something most manufacturers neglect, even to this day. This will help limit the flex of the fitting, increasing the chance of the bedding doing its job, and it may even save your life or your boat, by preventing the fitting from pulling its mounting bolts right through the deck.

And the same goes for all the below-the-waterline fittings: new bedding, backing blocks, and please, get rid of those cheap gate valves on your thru-hulls…the “faucets” that probably came with your boat…they corrode dangerously in salt water, especially in these older boats. I had one in my Columbia break off in my hand while trying to unstick it. On dry land, thankfully! It could’ve sunk my boat. Think about it.

This article appeared in the February 1998 C-Nuz 2 issue.

Refinishing Old Teak….

“I love the smell of varnish in the morning”

Tom Clayton
I have been absolutely amazed how dirty-old-dread-dry teak comes back to life with a little elbow grease and varnish. This is what I’ve learned from working on my teak.

I’ve told this story before but it bears repeating. Sitting in the dirt next to my boat when I bought it was a folding teak ladder. It looked so bad–dirty and gray–I picked it up and headed for the trash can, but being a pack rat I stopped short and decided to keep it

I cleaned the bottom half with a two-part teak cleaner and I couldn’t believe how good it looked. Last weekend I sanded it, which made it look even better. Yesterday I put the first coat of varnish/Penetrol on it. I got up this morning, went to the garage, opened the door to the smell of fresh varnish. Ahhhhh!

After seeing the first coat, I am convinced that when I’m done it will look like new. These ladders cost $400. WOW! I figure I’ll have about eight hours in it and about $20 worth of varnish.

I’ve also had the same results with the teak trim, doors and drawers. My first coat consists of three parts Penetrol and one part spar varnish. The dry teak soaks it up. The trim will get two or three coats of glossy varnish and the doors and drawers will get one coat of satin varnish.

Again, never throw out any teak without trying to clean it first!

This article appeared in the March 1999 C-Nuz 6 issue.

Proper Propane InstallationCharlie Miller
Propane on board can be done safely…..provided you follow to the letter the ABYC standards for storage and installation.

  1. The tank must be in a vapor proof, gasketed, latchable storage container above the water line, with a ½” vent directly overboard above the heeled waterline, at least 24” from any access points, i.e. engine exhaust thru hulls to the interior of the boat.
  2. The installation uses (in order from the tank) a pressure gauge, regulator and solenoid valve all inside the container.
  3. All connections use flare fittings and long nuts.
  4. All holes in bulkheads are fitted with grommets.
  5. There is a solenoid switch with an indicator light near the appliance.
  6. There are no connections between the appliance (except for the connection between the line and the flex hose on the appliance) and the solenoid valve on the tank.
  7. You put an appropriate LPG warning label on or in the container.
  8. The tank must be secured.
  9. There is nothing (not even gloves) stored in the storage container except the tank.

A propane heater is another issue. If one is used it must be vented directly overboard and you should install both CO2 and low oxygen alarms. I realize that the main output from an LPG flame is water vapor but there is some CO2 also. The real danger is oxygen depletion. You would place the T connection for this installation inside the storage container behind the solenoid so the switch can control both. I have surveyed many boats with propane systems and find over 90%, I’ll bet, of the owner-installed systems dangerous. Do it right and it is a wonderful convenience, albeit expensive to do right. This article appeared in the March 2001 C-Nuz 14 issue.