How to Reinforce Your Stem Fitting

While removing and rebedding all the deck hardware on Summer Dance with butyl tape, I decided that I would reinforce the stem while I was at it. A popular only Catalina parts retailer’s website says:

Boats built before ’82 had an inherent weakness: The forestay load was forward of the stem fitting’s forward mounting bolts, supported only by the deck, in an area with many holes in a small space, all forward of the marine plywood reinforcement. It is common to see these Catalina 22’s with stem fittings that are being pulled up from the deck.”

It begins by looking like the picture below. Notice the line of cracks just in front of the forward stem fitting bolts.


Deck beginning to crack from excessive forces on the forestay.

I didn’t want that to happen to me. Besides, with new standing rigging in the refit plan and a new Loos gauge, I plan to tune up the standing rigging properly this Spring. That Catalina parts retailer sells a kit for this purpose. But since I already had a spare turnbuckle that would work, I couldn’t see paying $63.95 for the kit and wind up with another spare turnbuckle. That’s not the $tingy Sailor way.

So I started with a standard Schaefer 85-28 tang off eBay.

BEFORE - A humble tang.
BEFORE – A humble tang.

Then I cut it into three pieces: one long piece for the lower tang and two shorter pieces for the stem bolt brackets. After rounding the ends, I drilled 1/4″ holes for the turnbuckle toggles, 5/16″ holes for the stem bolts, and a 3/8″ hole for the bow eye bolt. Next, I heated the area where the brackets needed bent with a propane torch. Holding one end with vice grips and using a crescent wrench as a lever on the other, I easily bent the brackets into shape. All that remained was a little polishing and it bolted right in place.

Don't pop your top here!
AFTER – A thing of beauty. It looks a little crooked because it’s still loose in this shot

This is a project that just about anyone with basic hand tools and an electric drill can do. It’s cheap insurance considering what could happen if the foredeck failed in a blow. And who doesn’t have more than one of these old closed body turnbuckles left over?

The Bottom Line

Suggested price: $63.95
$tingy Sailor cost: $12.99
Savings: $50.96

How solid is your bow stem and when was the last time you checked it?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. adamsboatworks says:

    Seeing as how I just bought this boat and it is no condition to sail,….yet….. I did notice while degrunging the interior that not only does it not have this reinforcement or the bow eye for that matter, it also doesn’t have that block (of wood I believe) where the eye bolt would go either. I think that no matter how stingy I can be during this project it will nickel and dime me quite a bit. I hope to uphold your standards of stingyness as beest I can. There is alot of work ahead.

    1. Yep, it’s wood. Replace it with a hardwood like oak so it won’t split.

      It takes a lot of discipline for some of us to draw a line and say, “No more improvements!” I haven’t found where the line starts yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.