The Bracket Racket, Part 1

The Resourceful Sailor is not an authority, but rather, a conversation starter. The series provides examples about fixes that worked best for the sailor in question, given their boat, resources available and budget. The intent is to promote problem-solving through sharing so sailors can find the approach that best suits their needs.

I could hear a ticking sound from the direction of the stern as I was gently rolling side to side. With the sails up and the motor off, the new and unusual sound warranted investigation. I finally tracked it to the outboard bracket mounted on the transom. It was showing some age, with corrosion and wear. Sampaguita, my 1985 Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, came with the bracket in question when I purchased her, and apparently when the previous owner did, too. It was easily over 10 years old. While the bracket was not worn to the point of dysfunction, I had plans to cruise up the west coast of Vancouver Island the next summer. Since I was not very keen on how the bracket had been originally mounted, replacing it would also give me an opportunity to improve the mounting, thoroughly inspect the transom, and instill confidence in the voyage to come.

The original bracket installation, as seen from the (no duh) inside.
© 2019 Joshua Wheeler

Corrosion had commenced in two places. First, it began with the knob used to tighten the bracket in the up or down positions. The knob was corroded in an open state, meaning the bracket was still usable. I ignored this until the next situation presented itself. The ticking sound heard was a result of corrosion and wear in the holes where the stainless steel bolts passed through the aluminum bracket. These bolts held the bracket together and provided pivot points when raised and lowered, and corrosion caused increased “play” in the bracket. With 105 pounds of motor hanging off the transom, the stresses caused by the boat’s motion in a seaway were likely the culprit and would continue to exacerbate the problem. The bracket, the Garelick offshore model, is still manufactured and well built. I would trade out the old for the new and skip the production of sizing and fitting a different model.

Let’s not forget the load that’s put on bolts, washers and a few millimeters of fiberglass.
© 2019 Joshua Wheeler

Evidence of previous bracket replacements was clear. You could see various epoxy-sealed holes on the inside of the transom. The bracket was through-bolted to the transom with only fender washers on the inside. The load was not spread over as large a surface area as a proper backing plate would provide. Additionally, a hollow, synthetic, lumber-like material was used as a spacer on the outside, between the bracket and the hull. Its footprint matched the bracket and did not aid in spreading the load. I wanted to improve both load-bearing features, and this was where the production would require more thought.

The new internal bracket. Note the larger washers.
© 2019 Joshua Wheeler

This project would be done in her slip, as Sampaguita stays in the water year-round. Fortunately, I can warp her stern up to the dock for easy access to the transom. With the motor raised and inclined, it then hung over the quay and could be lifted from the bracket easily. I then removed the four carriage bolts holding the bracket onto the transom. Since the nuts for these bolts were located deep in the quarter berth and I was working alone, I attached a halyard to the bracket so that it would not fall into the water once released.

I cleaned and inspected the bolt holes. There was no sign that water had gotten into the plywood-cored transom. This was great news or, maybe, great luck. The previous installer’s work was not exceptional. They had drilled three holes on target (mostly), but the fourth was not. So a new hole was drilled adjoining it. But rather than fill the “miss” with epoxy, they just filled it with sealant when attaching the bracket. There was no epoxy filling around any of the holes. Fortunately for me, a future owner, they got away with it.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Bracket Racket, where the Resourceful Sailor completes the project.

5 Comments

  1. Gus van Driel 2 weeks ago

    I like the idea of publishing articles like this one on a regular basis. It will be a terrific resource for the DIY boater to diagnose and fix relatively simple but very important problems like this.

    • Joshua Wheeler 2 weeks ago

      Gus, thanks for the feedback, and thank you for reading. Naturally, I have to agree.

  2. Kelvin D. Meeks 2 weeks ago

    I second Gus van Driel’s sentiment. These kind of discovery/exploration – and discussion of the approach, strategies considered, and trade-offs – are very interesting.

  3. Pat daly 2 weeks ago

    Much better if you put a single backing plate, instead of larger washers, inside.

    • Joshua wheeler 1 week ago

      Thank you for reading. I understand that perspective. This choice will be explained in part 2.

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