After a couple of years of reasearch and looking at more than a few boats, when we finally decided on the Ericson Independence 31 we did not view it as a stepping stone to a larger boat. With that mindset we determined to make the necessary repairs no matter how large or small, and to do it right, one time. Well, doing it right is one thing but doing it one time is often a different matter. The point is we plan on owning Emerald Lady, Hull #51 for a long time. We are also of the odd lot that enjoy working on and maintaining the boat as much as we do sailing her.

We approached our initial assessment and order of projects much like we do a remodeling project. The first order of business was to fix all leaks – ALL LEAKS. This task was make somewhat easier as we initially removed the vinyl headliner, vinyl sides in the V Berth, Teak ceilings, all doors, drawers, and everything else that could be un-screwed and un-bolted.

Teak ceilings, doors, and drawers were taken home sanded and varnished (five coats). All of the plywood at the settee’s were rotted due to years of leaking toes rails, and port lites. The wood around the port lites was also rotten and was removed.

With most of the interior removed we had easy access to take care of some of the more significant leaks. I will address all the different things that we did to stop water intrusion in later posts but am going to concentrate now on what we consider to be a once in a lifetime project. Removing and re-bedding the teak toe rail.

There was no question that the toe rail was a major source of water intrusion, and while the water mostly made its way to the bilge it took quite of tool on all of the wood in its path that was not Teak.

Having heard that Martin King had re-bedded the toe rails on his Independence 31 I contacted him via email for any advice he had to share. He gave me several bits of advice but I can honestly say the only thing I heard was that his toe rail came off in pieces – small pieces. His closing comments were this is not a project for the faint of heart.

Not having fully committed to the daunting task of removing the first toe rail, while messing around the dock one day I noticed my starboard side toe rail actually appeared to be loose i.e. I could push it down and it appeared to move ever so slightly. positive thinking on my part? I grabbed a small chisel and popped out a couple of the toe rail bungs. The toe rail definitely had some slight movement. I took a large  slotted head screw drive and began to turn the first machine screw. It turned quite easy so I ask Patricia to go below with a 7/16″ wrench and see if she could hold it. She could in fact hold it however, I could not turn it. She could turn it with the wrench from below, but I too could not hold it. After a bit of effort I did get it to break loose and was able to remove it.

The toe rail was installed with 1/4 – 20 pan head machine screws. Once this first screw was removed the toe rail popped up about an 1/8″…………it was definitely a sign of hope. We set about removing the remaining bolts with varying degrees of difficulty. With all of the screws removed except for one it was apparent that unlike Martin’s experience our toe rail was loose and in one piece. One screw was not accessible as it was under the anchor platform. Having just made and installed the bow sprit and anchor platform I was not willing to remove it to get at this last screw.

We were able to carefully raise the toe rail up and attach it to a life line stanchion with the last screw still in place.

Patricia methodically cleaned all of the old dried bedding compound from both the boat and the toe rail. The toe rail was in overall quite good  condition. There was some spitting at the aft end where the joint occurred but nothing beyond repair.


Toe Rail stripped, sanded, re-bedded using Life Caulk Teak Polysulfide ready for bungs and ten coats of varnish. Starboard side bow complete, the rest of the boat to go……………….



About Keiffer Phillips

Learning his trade first as a carpenter and later a journeyman cabinetry maker, quality and attention to detail have been trademarks of Keiffer throughout his career. Outside of work Keiffer spends his time keeping up with 5 new grandchildren. And, the restoration of his sailboat the Emerald Lady, a 31' Ericson Independence.
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