Just before the winter rains set in, I decided to something strange; I did boat maintenance. Thorough maintenance.
Although I love my Adirondack guideboat, I never pay it as much attention as I should. For some reason, unknown to me, I was possessed to remove all of the hardware and oil each bit of the gunwales, seats, and floorboards. Unfortunately, as I unscrewed the rowlocks with a nice square-drive screwdriver, the head of one screw popped right off, then sure enough a few screws later, another one did the same. Before long, I had four broken screws embedded in my beautiful cherry gunwales.
At first I figured a missing screw or two wasn’t a big deal- after all, there are ten holding in each rowlock. But then a creeping realization came over me, that maybe if some were bad, they were all bad. I recalled the big crossing of Admiralty Inlet I’d made a few years back, with wind and waves beating onto the side of Terrapin, spray flying. The desperate feeling I’d had halfway through was bad enough without wondering about the boat’s integrity. Now I imagined that same crossing, only this time wondering if I’d be able to use both oars the whole time or if a rowlock would break off and drop into the briny deep.
I dreaded one more task, but instead of dragging my feet, I headed to the most amazing hardware store on the west coast: Wink’s Hardware Emporium (ok, I added the emporium part on there), but these folks live hardware and I knew they could help. I left the store with 40 stainless steel screws and a screw extractor, a tool I’d heard of, but couldn’t imagine how to use until the hardware master enlightened me.
A screw extractor is basically a tube with a serrated tip. You place the tube in your drill, just as you would a bit, then you place the tube over the broken screw and drill down. A few seconds later it pulls out a bit of wood and the broken screw! You glue a dowel into the whole, then you’re ready to put a new screw in.
So fellow sailors, fear not the broken screw. Get a screw extractor, become unscrewed, and you’ll never worry again. (Or at least not about screws.)