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The right stuff

Apr 4, 2014

(page 2 of 2)

Tale of the tape

John Kettlewell

A selection of useful items found in what John Kettlewell likes to call “landlubber discount stores.” One of Kettlewell’s favorite jury repair products is epoxy from J-B Weld.

An important category of stuff is tape. It comes in many different types, colors, and prices. Search around a bit and you can find silicone tape. It is generally black, though I bought some in yellow in the boating section at Wal-Mart under the Attwood brand. I found some of the black stuff in Home Depot under the Nashua tape brand. It comes in a short roll with a clear plastic backing that keeps it from sticking to itself. The beauty of the silicone tape is three-fold: it stretches a lot so you can get a really tight wrap; it then sticks to itself tenaciously forming a very watertight seal; and it can withstand high temperatures, the sun, and weathering. It is also a good electrical insulator. I use it to wrap and seal my VHF and other wire connections leading from the mast into the boat. If you want to make a very permanent seal, smear the fitting or wire junction liberally with silicone sealant, then wrap it before it is dry with the silicone self-amalgamating tape, and then protect that with wraps of black electrical tape. Joints sealed like that have lasted six years or more on my boat, even in very exposed locations.

Electrical tape comes in many different grades and colors. Through trial and error I have found it is worth it to pay more for the name-brand stuff, like 3M Scotch Super 33+ in black. I have used this tape in places where it is exposed to the sun and the elements 24/7 and it holds up very well. For example, wraps of the 33+ held chafing gear on my mooring painter all summer long, and some in my rigging has been up there for years. For some reason the premium tape like this seems to have a much greater UV resistance, and I have found that the black version lasts longer than the white stuff.

Another tremendous sealing product found at bigger hardware stores is 3M Moisture Sealing Electrical Tape 2228. This is another self-fusing tape that comes coiled with a backing. It provides a much thicker barrier and is very water and weather resistant. It has great electrical insulating properties and can provide greater chafe resistance than standard tape. It is useful for other things too. I recently used some to wrap a leaking toilet pipe that was not easy to replace.

I always have a roll or two of Frost King Clear Weatherseal Tape on board. It is very sticky and strong, and resists weathering. It is perfect for a temporary fix on a cracked dodger window, and it can be used wherever you might consider duct tape but don’t want it to be as visible. 3M Scotch brand transparent duct tape is another option.

The boater’s best friend, duct tape, comes in many different varieties. I periodically try different brands and grades found at big-box hardware stores. Many of the name brands are far superior to the generic gray stuff found in every discount store. But one premium brand is now widely available — Gorilla Tape. It is probably overpriced, even at the discount stores, but it does have superior stickiness, weather resistance and strength. Again, the black color appears to give the product much greater UV resistance. Gorilla Glue is also a great product for interior woodwork repairs, or anywhere you need to laminate wood together. It is very easy to use and provides high strength when dry, though it tends to be runny.

John Kettlewell

A jury-rigging voyager never has too much tape on board. A variety of types from duct tape to electrical to waterproof can perform a temporary fix until a full-on repair can be effected.


Other stuff
One of my favorite products has a marine name attached, but is widely available in discount stores too: Sta-Bil Ethanol Fuel Treatment and Stabilizer. Go for the blue version in the small bottle with Marine in big letters. At first it appears to be more expensive than the red version, but it treats twice as much gasoline per ounce. The blue works out to be cheaper per gallon. Since I started adding this to every tank of gasoline, I have never had a clogged carburetor on my outboards, even when the gas and motor has been stored over a winter lay up. I also use it in my motorcycle, and I treat my car’s gas tank if I am planning on leaving the car parked for a long period while off cruising.

Like black tape I have found that black-colored zip ties (or cable ties) last much longer than other colors. Every boater should carry a variety of lengths, including some really long ones. You can link two or three ties together if you need an exceptionally long one. Look for ones that tout their UV resistance on the package.

One common use I have for zip ties is to help keep birds from landing on the top of my mast or in the rigging. I attached a bunch of them to the top of the mast pointing up and they provide a pincushion effect that discourages birds. I’ve done the same to bow and stern pulpits. I also use them to secure the pins on my anchor shackles. The black ones last an entire season and can be easily removed. No doubt there are better brands than others, but I have had good luck purchasing whatever brand I find when I need them.

These are just a few of the many types of stuff that can often be found at reasonable prices in ordinary stores. Just because it doesn’t always say “marine,” doesn’t mean it isn’t the perfect solution for many onboard repairs and emergencies.

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John J. Kettlewell has cruised the waters between Labrador and Panama for more than 35 years, and he is now repairing and maintaining his eighth old cruising sailboat. He’s the author of the “Intracoastal Waterway Chartbook: Norfolk to Miami.” When ashore he works in digital marketing at Informz. When not working or sailing he can be found prowling the aisles of local big-box stores looking for “stuff.”

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