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.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.


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