Curing the Hardened Sole

What to do when your sailing shoes lose their grip.


Curing the Hardened Sole

My closet is full of boat shoes and sailing boots that are in excellent condition on the topsides, but to a sole, their bottoms have become hard and slippery. Is there any known cure short of replacement?

Last week, when heading out for a sail on an unfamiliar small boat, I put 80-grit sandpaper on my Makita sander and worked the bottoms of a pair of old Tobago sailing sandals, until the sole felt less slippery. On board, the sandals gave me much more traction than they had for a very long while. Does Practical Sailor have any other possible solutions?

Bill Crowley

Clarsa, 1979 Venture Newport 23

Sailing Education Adventures,

Napa, Calif.

Hardened sailing-shoe soles are not limited to just a few brands; most grippy soles lose their stick after a while. Soles designed for high-traction gripping are typically made of a soft rubber. This soft, tacky rubber wears down more quickly, eventually hardening over time. Sailing shoes are regularly subjected to salt water, abrasive nonskid surfaces, sun, and numerous wet-dry cycles; a soft material in a harsh environment obviously won't last long.

None of the sailing-shoe makers we contacted could offer any better tips for returning grip to a hardened sole. However, rather than ditching a perfectly good upper, we recommend having the shoes re-soled. There are a number of re-soling businesses online-some specialize in sailing shoes-and chances are good that youll find a few local cobblers in your own area that can do it as well.

Since we have a closetful of old sailing moccasins, sandals, and athletic shoes, weve decided to do a review of re-soling businesses (online and local). We welcome reader recommendations; email

SSB Mounting

What is the recommended way to mount GTO-15 SSB antenna wire to the backstay without sacrificing a good contact or encouraging corrosion? Everybody seems to have a different opinion, including: hose clamps, lots of tape, and electricians putty (coax-seal).

Mike Hirko

Destiny, Tayana Vancouver 42

Gig Harbor, Wash.

Single-strand, high-voltage wire, such as Ancor GTO-15, is a good choice for connecting antenna tuners to a backstay or long wire antenna. The physical connection between the isolated stainless-steel wire or rod rigging can be tricky, both due to dissimilar metal issues and diameter differences.

If you are installing insulators on a backstay, its a good time to have a rigger slip a Nicopress fitting on the stay, close to the lower terminal end. The second portion of the dual-slot Nicopress receives a short, tinned, stranded copper wire of about the same diameter. Once crimped, the rugged pigtail connection (about 6 inches long) should be clamped to the backstay and fitted with a heavy-duty ring terminal. The GTO-15 lead is also fitted with a ring terminal, and these can be fastened together with a small copper nut and screw.

If the backstay insulators are already in place, the tinned, stranded GTO-15 conductor can be clamped to the backstay with multiple hose clamps. Though less elegant and durable than the Nicopress, the GTO-15 is a functional alternative, but it should be checked often for broken strands and corrosion. Coatings can help, but dielectrics can impede signal propagation.

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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