Inspecting Rivets and Screws for Trouble

sailboat rivet inspection

Drew Fry

One of the interesting conclusions from our testing was the surprising strength among all of the test fasteners when loaded in the shear. Even old fasteners, as old as 20 years or more, can continue to offer good service in small spars if maintained reasonably well and engineered with an adequate safety margin.

sailboat rivet inspection

Drew Frye

1. Mast gates are good for threaded fittings, since they will be removed occasionally. Be sure to use an anti-seize coating such as Tef-Gel or Loctite to prevent the screws from seizing.

sailboat rivet inspection

Drew Frye

2. This bent stainless steel strap is not correctly aligned with the load and possibly under specification.

3. Aluminum rivets secure this mainsheet padeye. The fastener itself is under very little load, but corrosion is clearly taking its toll on the fastener head, and more critically, the stem, which is inside the spar, invisible to us.

4. This rivet on the mast of a beach cat spent 25 years at the beach and then 15 years in the backyard covered in leaves. Forty years later, the strap is ugly, but the rivet is sound.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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