Whether it’s a bimini/dodger frame, dinghy davits or something else, most boats have some stainless tubing that ends up getting used as a handhold. And the connections can be, well, a little less than secure. Sometimes so bad that you notice the wobbles even when you’re not holding on to it.
This past weekend we redid some of the stainless on our dinghy davits to accommodate a large 345-watt solar panel. We put a larger diameter and thicker wall bar on and added diagonals to make it stiffer and keep the davits from pivoting.
But the whole assembly was still a little shaky.
The problem is that some of the connectors don’t fit snugly together. Great for ease of connections, not so great for creating a sturdy frame.
Our solution is to shim the joints with washers– stainless, of course.
Usually the “jaw” connector has one screw for connecting the “eye” from the other piece as well as a screw that tightens it onto a stainless rail. We usually have to loosen the screw holding it onto the rail as well as remove the connection screw, carefully insert the washers and then stick the connector screw back in and tighten everything up. TIP: Sometimes it helps to line up the screw holes and washers with an ice pick before trying to put the connector screw back in.
If you don’t loosen the screw (sometimes a setscrew) that holds the piece to the rail, you won’t be able to get enough washers in to make a really snug fit. Be sure to use a drop of Loctite (blue — not the red “permanent” type) on each screw.
You can use this same trick to tighten up connections on existing stainless around the boat, too. I’m sure that Home Depot wonders why we buy 50 washers at a time and no bolts or nuts!