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A New Solution to Replacing Rub Rails

July 11, 2008

Rub Rails

Rub Rails

When I traded my 1966 Dodge Coronet Convertible for a 1984, 7.3m Tanzer sailboat a few years ago, the replacement of the flexible rub rail was the first major project. Few projects do as much to improve the appearance of an older boat as a bright, new rub rail.

The previous owner had a marine fiberglass repair shop and his new wife didn’t like the “tippy” boat, so the trade worked out for both of us.  He got rid of the boat slip payment, his wife was happy and I got a great little sailboat made by C&C, one of the best sailboat builders in Canada, with a solid hull.

The owner had spent a bucket load of money making the boat hull as smooth as a baby’s bottom, removing every little bubble, blister or crack.  The new Awlgrip paint job was beautiful! The boat had been on stilts for 4 years while he and his crew spent their spare time painting every surface outside the boat.

As time went on, the rub rail needed to be replaced.  It was cracking and powering, looking old and worn next to the beautiful paint on the hull and decks.  No amount of cleaning and buffing seemed to make the boat’s rub rail look better.

In order to keep the boat as original as possible, the rub rail that was originally installed on the boat was purchased by contacting the boat builder to find the manufacturer and part number.

The boat was hauled and the yard put it up on mounts so that work could begin on the rub rail installation.  The flexible rub rail came in one piece, coiled into a box and it was a very heavy, thick, almost rigid vinyl rubber.   The instructions called for a heat gun to make the rubber pliable while two people guided the rub rail into place as it was stretched from the back of the stern, along the starboard side of the boat, around the bow and back along the port side to meet at the stern.  

Personally, I couldn’t visualize trying to manhandle the rub rail into place while using the heat gun.  Instead, I rented a large, industrial cook pot, cook stand and propane bottle from an equipment rental service, filled it with water and boiled the rub rail until it was soft.  Using thick, heat resistant gloves, it was easily stretched into place.  It took a fraction of the time and all I had to do was watch the water boil. 

You can’t imagine how many people in the yard told me it wouldn’t work.  After I contacted the manufacturer to make sure I wasn’t going to destroy the rub rail material, I decided it was a far better procedure for softening the vinyl enough to maneuver and apply to the seam. The rub rail covered the junction point of the fiberglass boat deck and hull. 

3M 5200 Adhesive/Sealant

3M 5200 Adhesive/Sealant

We used 3M 5200 fast cure marine adhesive/sealant to glue it in place and provide a waterproof seal.  It’s tack free in about one hour and completely cures in 24.  The polyurethane adhesive delivers strong, flexible seals, and is ideal for applications where a fast, long-term seal is needed above or below the boat waterline, such as hull to deck seams, wood to fiberglass, marine hardware, and hull and stern joints. This sealant remains flexible, allowing structural movement, and has excellent resistance to weathering and the marine environment.

There are a variety of options available when you decide to replace the current rub rails on your boat or upgrade to a different material, change rail size or both. Picking the best rub rail material for your boat depends on where and how you boat. If your boating adventures take you to unprotected docks or other areas where you want more protection for the hull of your vessel, choose a bigger, thicker rail. To lessen impact, go with softer material. A heavier rail made of harder material may be your best option if you have a work boat.

Today, companies like Taco Metals provide Rub Rail Guides by Boat Make in order to help boat owners locate new rub rails. Some rub rails are available as kits and also provide rail end caps to give your project a finished, professional touch.

Taco Metals  - Rub Rails

Taco Metals - Rub Rails

If you are unsure of which material or combination of materials will best suit your boating needs, the material descriptions will help you determine which of TACO Metal’s rub rails will best meet your requirements. TACO Metals has been manufacturing quality marine products since 1959 so you can trust that their materials have stood the test of time.

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