Installing the Boston Whaler Rub Rail -Boston Whaler Restoration Part 16

Installing Rub Rail

In this segment of the Boston Whaler restoration I will take you through the process of installing the rub rail. If you have heard these rub rails are difficult to install, you would be correct! They are however within reach of most do it your selfers.

What You’ll Need

  • Two drills, one with a drill bit (1/8”) and one with a Phillips driver bit.
  • Four mini bar clamps, I used the Husky mini clamps in the link at the bottom of the article
  • You’ll need caulk  to seal the holes you drill. I used a Silicone based caulk for this.
  • #10×1 316 Stainless Pan Head Screws
  • A Measuring Tape
  • A Sharpie to mark where you will be installing screws
  • A heat gun will also be handy as you approach the more complicated bends of the hull.
  • And of course you will need the rub rail and mounting hardware as well.
    heavy Duty Leather Work Gloves
  • A Rubber Mallet
  • A roll of Toilet Paper, Yes, seriously, I’ll explain later

Start of the Rub Rail Installation

To start off with the install I left the rub rail in the sun for a few hours. It comes rolled into a tight coil. The railing has a long memory and we had to fight it all along the install. Heat helps to unwind it, it is in a roll and can be challenging to unwind while installing. I figured the heat would help make it more pliable and also make the install go much easier. When starting the install, leave some excess hanging off the back of the boat to give you a bit of working room. Then clamp the Rub Rail to the Rail on the boat and do it in sections, a couple of feet at a time.

Incidentally, this is where the TP comes into play. I used it to wipe off any excess caulk and to clean off the nozzle of the caulk gun periodically. Why toilet paper? You can easily discard it after using it once and start with a fresh piece. Similar to wiping, well, you know.

 Next, after placing the clamps on the rail I drilled a hole about two inches from the transom. I then injected caulk into the hole before inserting a screw to insure that no water can get into the hull. After that, I moved the clamps further along and placed a screw about every six inches. You will proceed up to the point where the hull starts to curve at the bow. I’d recommend doing about four or five screws at a time then moving on to the next section.

Tackling the Rub Rail Curve at the Bow

This is where the heat gun will come in handy. A normal hair dryer will probably work as well. I carefully applied heat to the area where the rail makes a sharp bend around the front corner of the bow. You’ll want to use your work gloves when using the heat gun. The railing and heat gun can get extremely hot, the gloves will help protect your hands.

At this point, be careful and take your time. A mistake at this point can be disastrous and hard to

 correct. I learned this the hard way when I did the starboard side of the rail. I overheated a small section which ended up buckling around the curve. Luckily, I was able to get most of that buckle out, but it took quite a bit of effort to clean that up.

One last thing to consider is screw placement on the corners of the bow. I placed a few screws closer together here. My thought was that having these areas reinforced would help since it seems that the rub rail base had more stress at these points.

Once you get through the two tight curves at the bow it’s simply a matter of running down the length of the boat until you get to the transom. At that point, you’ll want to leave a few inches in excess which you can trim off later. The last thing I did was add a second screw about two inches from both of the ends to make sure the rail was secure.

Trimming the Rub Rail end Pieces

I used a flush cut saw to trim the edges off. Before doing anything, I put masking tape on the transom next to the rub rail ends. This would protect the fresh transom paint from any errant marring with the saw. When cutting, I placed the saw flush with the transom and angled it back slightly. This helped protect the paint on the transom. Additionally, it gave the rub rail a slight bevel which would make it easier to bend the insert around to the transom when finishing the rub rail.

Before Installing the Rub Rail Insert

Another thing to consider when restoring a classic Boston Whaler is the electrical. The Whalers are foam filled so running wire between the hull and the inside shell is not practical if not impossible. Many restorers (including  myself) chose to run wiring within the rub rail channel itself. The rub rail insert has a good size channel that will hold wire comfortably. 

I ran the wiring for the navigation and anchor lights inside the channel. I initially ran all the wiring and held it in place with small dots of hot glue. That turned out to not be ideal. I found that having a small bit of slack in the wire made it easier. This lets you place the wire into the insert before placing it in the rub rail base.

Installing the Insert

We’re getting down to the wire at this point. Before you start, get a spray bottle with a small amount of dish soap mixed with water. Trust me, this will make getting the insert installed a lot easier.   

You want to start putting the insert end at either side of the transom. Leave five to six inches of overhang. You’ll use this later to bend over the insert and attach it to the Transom. Start by spraying the inside of the insert with the soapy water mix. This allows it to slip into the channel a bit easier. If you press the bottom section of the insert into the base, you can then pinch the top down and it will slide right into the base. If necessary, you can use the mallet to tap everything into place.

Things will get a little bit trickier when you get to the wiring. Once again, give the inside of the insert a good squirt of soapy water. You’ll want to place the wires inside the channel in the insert. You can then place the bottom of the insert into the rub rail base. Pinch the top of the insert down and place it into the base of the rub rail. After that, pushing against the insert should click it firmly into place. If it doesn’t, the mallet should help you get them into place.

Capping off the Insert at the Transom

Cutting Channel Off of Insert

The last thing we want to do is cap off the insert at the transom. There are a few options for this. I chose a more traditional option. With this method, the ends of the insert are trimmed, wrapped around and secured to the transom with a Stainless Steel screw and finish washer. To start this, I trimmed the insides of the of the insert off with a razor blade starting at the transom and extending out about five inches. This allows the insert to lay flat against the transom.

Finishing off insert trim

Next, I measured 2-1/2″ from the edge of the transom and cut the insert there. I then used a round plastic cap to mark off a semi-circle at the end of the insert and cut that shape with a pair of heavy duty shears. The final step was to drill a hole through the rubber insert into the transom and secure it with the stainless steel screw and finish washer. I then repeated this on the other side.

This completes the rub rail install. I should be posting an article soon on the console wiring for the switches and tachometer. Stay tuned for it!

Make sure to check out the entire Classic Boston Whaler 13 restoration series here 1966 Boston Whaler 13 Restoration. Also, here is a link to the YouTube video of this article: Installing Rub Rail on Boston Whaler 13

Previous Whaler Restoration Article

Next Whaler Restoration Article

Amazon affiliate links to items I used:

Here is a link to the rub rail parts I used for this article: Rub Rail and Inserts