THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF REASONS to add a handhold some- where on your boat. In my case, I wanted to have a place for people in the rear-facing seat of my runabout to be able to hold on while I execute my standard daredevil maneuvers. Mounting a handle is the same as mounting any piece of deck hardware.
Keep in mind that you’re basically asking people to fall on this thing with their
full weight in an emergency. Having a loose or untrustworthy handle to grab is
worse than having none at all. The last thing you want is someone to fall because
GET A GRIP ON IT
Adding handholds is smart insurance against falls, and gives
your passengers peace of mind By Chris Landers
84 | BoatU.s. Magazine FEBRUARY | MARCH 2015
your poorly installed handle gave them a
false sense of security.
The handle I chose had threaded studs
welded to it. If you have options, make sure
to use thru-bolts rather than screws, which
are more likely to pull out, especially in
Once you know where the handle will
go, make sure the area behind the fiberglass
is accessible, and there’s nothing in the way.
You’ll want to mount a backing plate or
block there – made of hardwood or, more
commonly, marine-grade plywood, painted
or (better) clear-coated with a two-part epoxy
like West System. The idea is to prevent the
fasteners from pulling out when someone
yanks on the handle, and to do that, we
want to spread the load as much as possible.
You’ll also want to figure out whether you’re
drilling through solid fiberglass or into an
area with core material. If the area is cored,
you’ll need to take a few extra steps – see
our Online Extra, below. If in doubt, ask the
manufacturer about the location, or post a
question on an owner’s forum.
Once you’ve got your location marked
out, carefully drill holes in the fiberglass
and backing plate. Make sure to seal the
inside of the new holes with epoxy once
you’ve drilled them. The fasteners should go
through the fiberglass and backing plate, and
be finished off with large stainless flat washers and Nylon locking nuts. After you’re sure
everything will fit, take it all apart again, drill
a slightly countersunk hole in the glass, and
run a bead of bedding compound around
the holes before putting it back together.
Don’t worry about bedding any of the other
surfaces – the object is to keep water from
getting in through the holes. If it gets in, anyway, the epoxy sealing the inside of the holes
will keep it out of the fiberglass, but it needs
to have an exit. After the bedding compound
dries, you should be good to go!
Chris Landers, our former associate editor, now
works for Goucher College in Maryland.
PRACTICAL BOATER | DO IT YOURSELF
To learn more about re-bedding exist-
ing deck fittings, see this article online
For a video of Chris putting his words
into action, see this article at