– Installing a New Rub Rail / Bumper Rail on a Boston Whaler 13 15 17 Retro Fit

Installing a new rub rail or bumper on a Boston Whaler is not really that difficult.  If you have an older model then a new rub rail will update the boat as well as provide more protection than the smaller original rail.  If you are restoring a boat then you will of course want to replace the rub rail especially if the existing one is old or damaged.

We purchased our rub rail material from Jamestown Distributors.  We bought the largest that would fit on the rail of the boat.  The rub rail consists of two parts.  A main piece that goes on first, and a tube of the same type material that fits into the first piece.  The idea is that the main piece goes on and you glue and screw it in place and then the tube goes in and covers up the screws and provides additional protection.  Once you get the kit you will immediately see how it works.

Installing the main piece was very easy.  It helps to have two people so that one can pull the rub rail around the boat while the other applies 3m 5100 caulk to the boat and then screws in the piece.  Use plenty of 3m 5100 but not so much as to have it ooze out the edges when you put your screws in.

As you can see from the picture above the process is simple.  Just caulk and screw until you reach the other side.  By the way, make sure you have premeasured to that when you get to the other side you have more than you need and not less.

Having someone pull the material around is helpful.  Especially on the curves.  I used extra 3m 5100 and more screws on the corners and front of the boat.  If the rail rubs the ground it will get scratched up but don’t worry about it.  It cleans back up and is going to get scratched anyway. 

I spaced my screws about 6 inches apart.  Make sure to use plenty.  They should obviously be stainless.  Since you caulk first the screw goes through the caulk before going into the boat thus forming a seal.

Once you reach the end just cut off what you don’t need and finish screwing.  Now you are ready for the fun part.  Putting in the round portion of the rub rail.  I tried several methods and finally found one that worked.  It involved a hammer and a helper.  Keep in mind that the rub rail material is tough and strong.  Also, the round portion fits very tightly into the main piece.  I found that the secret to getting it into place is to get the tubing started and then have someone stretch the tubing while I hammer it into place.

Like I mentioned before, this part takes a little time a patience and a hammer but if you stretch the tubing at the same time you hammer it becomes much easier.  Soapy water helps a little.

Work your way around.  When you get to the end you can cut off what you don’t need.  Make sure to let the tubing pull back some since you stretched it.  Then just cap the ends and you are done.

– Boston Whaler 13 15 17 Bimini Top Installation and Review

A bimini top accomplishes a variety of goals. First, it keeps you out of the sun and reduces your chances of sun burn.  Second, it keeps you cool in the shade.  Third, it keeps you out of the rain.  For long days on the water it is a must have item.  After we restored my 1967 Boston Whaler Sport 13 the first thing I ordered was the Bimini Top.  I purchased mine from www.specialtymarine.com .  They carry everything for the Boston Whaler and I felt like I would get the best fit buying a top made for my model boat.  The cost was $389.00.  The model I purchased fits the Boston Whaler 13, 15 and 17 foot models.

It took me approximately an hour and a half to install.  I had to figure out where all the poles went together and then had to screw the fittings on.  The instructions are good and all the parts I needed were included.  Once I had the canvas on the frame I measured the boat width and pulled the two arms of the top together so that the width of the boat and the width of the brackets would match.  After a few tries I got a match.  If you don’t bend the arms and match the width of the boat the top will always be pulling against the brackets from side to side.

I then positioned the bimini where I wanted it to go and marked the position of the main brackets. You should be able to keep the back and middle seat covered if the bimini is positioned right.  I kept the brackets as close to the outside edge as possible because I wanted to drill all the way through and use washers on the ends of the bolts.  (If you just screw into the thin fiberglass with a wood type screw the brackets will work their way loose and the top will eventually come off.)  I drilled through, filled the hole with 3m 5200, pushed the screws through the brackets and the holes and then put a washer and nut on the bottom side.  After the top was mounted I positioned the strap brackets and did the same.  The rear brackets are mounted to the transom so on those I was able to get a strong hold using stainless wood type screws.  Again, every hole was first filled with the 3m 5200.  After everything was tightened up I was done.  There are some stainless arms that can be used along with the straps but I did not really need the extra strength.  My boat only goes about 20 mph. 

I have to say that I am very pleased with the quality of the top.  Everything is stainless.  The fabric is a nice marine canvas with a vinyl backing to make it waterproof.  It is not as thick as I thought it would be but it is fine.  I have a spray dodger and sail cover on my sailboat and that material is thicker.

Note – When you install the top make sure to tighten up all the allen screws.  They are the ones that hold the stainless tube in the brackets.  If you don’t tighten them the top will jump out of the bracket in rough seas.  Also, keep the right size allen wrench on board just in case.


– Replacement Seat Cushions for your 13 foot Boston Whaler Sport

Once I had my 13 foot Boston Whaler Sport refinished, painted and had installed the seats I wanted to put some cushions in so I was not sitting on bare wood.  The site www.specialtymarine.com has a complete set for $295.  I also bought my new mahogany seats and my bimini top there.

The cushions are a perfect fit and come with straps that velcro the cushions to the seats.  The front cushion has a velcro strap that attaches it to the little eyelet in the front of the boat.  It also has snaps at the back that you can use to hold it down.  You will need to install the male part of the snaps on the boat to make these work.  You can just lay it up front but it may have a tendency to blow back in heavy seas.

The cushions are rugged and good quality, however, if you want them to last a long time and look new you need to pull them off the boat and put them in a dock box when they are not in use.  That is unless your boat is stored out of the weather and sun.  I have a habit of buying something nice and then leaving it out in the weather until it is ruined.  I don’t recommend this.

The cushions are available in two colors.  It took about a week for me to receive them.  I have to say that I am very pleased with them.  They certainly make a bouncy boat ride more tolerable.

– Fixing or Repairing Larger Holes in your Boats Hull

Repairing larger holes in your Boston Whaler hull can be a little more involved than small dings, however, the process is still relatively simple.

First you are going to sand or grind into the hole which is actually going to make it bigger.  Sand or grind away until the edges are clear and then sand all the way around the hole.  For a Boston Whaler you also want to create a void behind the hole.  To do this you can sand away or scrape away some of the foam so that the fiberglass is exposed inside and out.  The idea is to be able to fiberglass the inside and outside of the damaged area for maximum strength.  Before the next step you need to make sure the damaged area is very dry inside and out so that the epoxy will adhere.

I normally mix a batch of West Epoxy and then chop up some fiberglass cloth and mix that into the epoxy.  It makes sort of a mush.  It may not be pretty but it will make the repair strong.  After I mix and create a mushy mixture of epoxy and cloth I push it into the hole so that it presses against the back of the hole all the way around and basically fills in the hole.  You can use a stick or a screwdriver to push it into the void.  You want to fill the hole up with this mixture.  Then just let it set up.

After the epoxy mush sets up you should be left with a hole that is filled in but still very rough looking.  To smooth out the hole just take some epoxy, thicken it with colloidal silica and spread it into the hole until it is smooth.  Then you can cut some fiberglass cloth that is a little larger than the hole, mix epoxy, coat the hole and the surrounding area, lay the cloth on, coat it again and let it set up.

Then just sand the area smooth and paint it.  That’s all there is too creating a very strong fiberglass repair that is actually stronger than it was before it was damaged.


– Fixing or Repairing Small Dings and Holes in a Boat Hull

Repairing dings and holes in the hull of your Boston Whaler 13, 15, 17 or larger boat is not as difficult as you would think.  Especially if the hole has not caused any delamination between the hull and the foam.  The steps to fixing a simple ding or small hole are as follows.

First sand the area.  I use a disc sander.  You want to create a rough area around the hole or ding for epoxy to stick to.

Next you will fill the hole or ding with epoxy that has been thickened with colloidal silica.  This is simply a filler that you add to epoxy to give it more substance.  West Epoxy systems carry this.  I normally mix my epoxy and hardener together and then immediately stir in the colloidal silica.  You have about 15 minutes to use the epoxy so you need to get it thickened quickly.  Once mixed you simply take a bondo spreader and putty into and around the ding or small hole.  Spread it onto the roughened area around the ding as well.  Get it as smooth as you can.  Note – you can also use Marine-Tex.

Now you are going to take a vibrating sander and smooth out the area.  You can use a medium grit and then switch over to a finer grit.  If you need to you can mix some more epoxy and spread a thin coat to fill in any imperfections.  Then sand again until it is perfectly smooth.

After the area is smooth you just wipe it down with a solvent thinner and paint the area with a topside paint.

For larger holes see our article to the right.

– Replacement Mahogany Seats Boston Whaler Classic 13 Footer

Replacing or Restoring your Classic Boston Whaler 13 Footers Seats and Interior Wood.

Once you are finished fixing soft spots, filling dings, glassing cracks, replacing hardware, etc… you are going to need to decide whether to refinish or replace your seats.  As a general rule of thumb if your seats are warped then replace them.  If they are straight then you can refinish them.

To refinish mahogany seats you simply need to sand and strip them and apply a few coats of exterior varnish.  A liquid stripper is fine and should be followed up with a good sanding.  If you wish you can stain the wood but since it is mahogany the wood will be beautiful in its natural state.  Make sure to use the spar type varnish / urethane that is made for outdoor applications. (see picture) The indoor polyurethane will only last a short while in a salt and sun environment.

If you choose to replace your seats you can get them from www.specialtymarine.com .  Their prices are good and they deliver quickly.  I had mine in just a few days.  I chose to replace mine since they were warped and had holes drilled everywhere.  I bought all the wood including the side panels for less than $500.

When you replace all the wood in the boat you are going to want to make sure the holes that you screw into are able to hold a screw.  Oftentimes the screw holes become stripped which is common with fiberglass.  Before I put my seats in I filled all the previous holes with epoxy.  Once the epoxy was set I redrilled small tap holes and installed the wood.  Also, I squeezed in some 3m 5200 to waterproof the hole.  This is mostly common sense but worth mentioning.

– Removing Water from a Boston Whaler Hull – Foam Waterlogged

The foam in a Boston Whaler is a closed cell type foam and always has been.  This means it does not readily absorb water.  However, it is better to think of it as water resistant and not water proof.  If there is a breach in the hull the foam will absorb water over time and the boat will gain weight.  This is especially a problem if the boat stays in the water and there is a crack below the waterline.  Or if the breach is inside the boat towards the back where water sits. In any event, if you find that your boat is way overweight then the only explanation is water in the foam.

Removing water from the foam is fairly simple and can be done via gravity or suction.  To remove water you are going to need to drill more holes.   Most people are hesitant to drill holes in a boat but since it is fiberglass, filling the holes back in permanently is not a big deal.  On the boat that I restored we removed water using two methods.  First, when the boat was upside down I drilled out  a large hole on each side of the boat.  The holes were next to the rub rail but since the boat was inverted they were at the bottom.  (see picture below)

As you can see I attached a shop vac to the hole.  Then I let it run for hours and hours.  I did this on both sides. This pulls a vacuum and drys out a large area of the foam. After I removed all the water that I could I filled the void with Gorilla Glue and taped off the hole to hold the glue in.  When it was dry I made a void and filled the area with epoxy inside and out.  Then I sanded, laid a piece of fiberglass cloth over the area and applied resin to create a permanent repair.

The second way I removed water was to put the boat at an angle like the picture above and drill some small holes at the lowest point in the rear of the boat.  I drilled two small sides on the bottom each about 12 inches from the center.  I let the boat drip for a few days and then dried the hole with a wet vac, made a void with a drill bit and then filled the holes with gorilla glue.  Then I made a void in the gorilla glue and filled with epoxy.  Then I sanded and smoothed on some West System epoxy.  The holes were small so no fiberglass cloth was needed.  When winter comes I may drill a couple of holes and let it drip all winter. Every little bit helps lighten the boat.

(Note – One thing to remember is to never pressurize the hull by blowing air into it.  This will cause all the foam to separate from the fiberglass.)

– Fixing Soft Spots or Delamination using Gorilla Glue or Foam Sealer

Gorilla Glue and Foam Sealer both expand when introduced into a void.  Gorilla Glue is especially water friendly and works in wet areas just fine.  In fact the more water the more foam it will create.  Gorilla glue dries harder and does not absorb water very easily.  Foam sealer is a little softer and will absorb water more easily.  In areas where water may get in again and where I need a very stable base beneath the fiberglass I use Gorilla Glue.  In areas that tend to stay dry and do not need as much support I use the foam sealer.

To fix soft spots with either Gorilla Glue or Foam Sealer you can follow these simple steps.

First, locate the soft spot and find its outer edges.  You can trace it out with a pencil if you wish.  If you have multiple spots just trace them all out at one time.

Second, drill holes using a drill no larger than a pencil.  The bit needs to be just large enough for the spout of the Gorilla Glue or Sealer nozzle to fit into.  The holes need to be all the way around the soft spot.   Say one every few inches. Also, put several in the center of the spot.  The extra holes will give the foam a place to escape.  One hole may not be sufficient. I use a very short drill bit so I do not go through the other side of the boat.

Third, squeeze in the Gorilla Glue or Sealer.  Fill each hole.  If you fill one hole and the glue comes out other holes that is good.  You will need to force the glue into the void.

Fourth, place a weight on the area.  This will keep the glue from bowing the surface.  I have done areas and not used a weight with no problems but it is better to be safe.  I use a concrete block and tip it on its edge.  This way it is easier to remove.  If you lay it flat you will glue it to the boat and will not be able to easily get it off.

Fifth, let the glue dry, expand, foam, etc..  It will come out of the holes quite a bit if the area was wet.  I normally wait a few hours or overnight.

Sixth, remove the weight and scrape the excess Glue off with a putty knife or any flat blade.  The grind away any excess until you are back down to the bare fiberglass and holes.

Seventh, take a drill bit or steel rod and put it into the hole and make a void right at the surface down just a fraction.  Do this for all the holes.  Then take a disc sander and hit each hole so it becomes a little divit.  Just slightly.  The idea with this step is to give the epoxy you are going to use a place to bond both inside and outside the holes.

Eighth, mix epoxy or use the epoxy in the syringe and force it into all the holes.  Fill them all the way to the top.  Then let the epoxy set up until it is completely hard.

Ninth, once the epoxy is hard, grind the area down smooth.  If the area is in a place that you feel needs more reinforcement then sand the area, apply some epoxy and fiberglass cloth and let it set up.

After you have completed these steps you can paint the area.

Foam goes in one hole and will normally come out multiple holes.  Use the type of foam that is designed NOT to bow or distort.  It is normally in the blue can.  The other type which is normally in a red can and called Great Stuff may bulge the hull.  I have found the blue can type to be safer.  Also, I have had no problems with the Gorilla glue bowing the hull.  After I filled the holes with foam I reamed out the hole and forced in epoxy. Then I sanded the area and applied a layer of west epoxy with the collodial silica thickener in it.  If there were cracks or weak areas I added some fiberglass cloth to the repair.  Then I painted the area with polyurethane topsides paint.

– Fixing Soft Spots or Delamination on your Boston Whaler – Epoxy

The Boston Whaler is constructed from a closed cell foam center sandwiched between two fiberglass shells.  In other words, there is an inner fiberglass shell, then closed cell foam and then an outer shell or hull.  This makes for a very stiff, unsinkable boat.  When the boat leaves the factory these three components are bonded together and are intended to stay that way.  However, in certain situations these three components can separate.  This is often due to water intrusion but not always.  You can find soft spots by simply pressing down on the inner hull and seeing if it gives any.  If an area gives a little then the foam and the fiberglass are no longer joined.

To fix this issue you are first going to need to drill holes all around the soft area.  I use a short bit so that I do not drill in too far.  A bit with a diameter like a q-tip is fine.  After you have drilled your holes you can press a q-tip into some of the holes to see if there is a water problem.  If the q-tip comes out dry then you can simply squeeze in some epoxy into all the holes an let it set up.  This will rebond the hull to the foam.  After you have verified that the soft spot is gone you simple sand the holes, fill them smooth with an epoxy and go on to the next spot.

If you test the holes and find that there is water in the hull you have a couple of choices.  First, you can cut away the fiberglass from the area, remove the wet foam, then replace the fiberglass piece by bonding it into place and then fiberglassing it in.

If you feel that there is only a small amount of moisture between the layers you can try a second method using gorilla glue or foam sealer described in the next article.  Click here.

– Cleaning and Stripping Your Boston Whaler 13 15 17

After getting your project boat home the first thing you will need to do is strip everything out of it. This includes the seats, wood rails, stainless railing, steering components, the motor, etc.. You can leave the little brass fittings that you tie off to and also the front eye that you use to pull the boat onto the trailer with. Once your Boston Whaler 13, 15 or 17 foot boat is stripped you will need to clean it with either a garden hose and soap or a high pressure washer like at the car wash. Blow off any loose paint, grime, dirt, etc..  As you clean the boat make sure to take note of any damaged areas. Once the boat is stripped and cleaned you are ready to begin the next step.