One of the more tedious tasks that I have undertaken towards the refit of my Pearson 36-2 was replacement of the cap rail that sits over the hull to deck joint. The rail is made from PVC and is exposed and can be damaged around docks. I suspect mine was original and after 30 years, the PVC had deteriorated and discolored and had become brittle. It also appeared that previous owners had tangled with docks from time to time, as several sections were broken and had been patched.

My preference would have been to replace the PVC cap rail with an aluminum toe rail. However, despite significant efforts I was unable to find a suitable aluminum rail. The reasons were that 1) the toe rail would have to extend down from the edge of the hull to conceal the underside of the mounting bolts (one of the downsides to an outwardly flanged deck/hull joint), and 2) the rail would have to be wide enough to cover the existing holes in the deck and to allow for its own fasteners to be far enough in from the edge of the deck so as not to make a weak connection. While there were rails available that looked close, none that I found were quite right and pricing on a custom rail was prohibitive. Fortunately, The original OEM cap rail is still available (as are many other Pearson parts) from DR Marine out of Assonet, MA. The Pearson 36-2 parts that DR Marine has available can be found at this page. Working through Rudy at DR Marine, I ordered the replacement cap rails (called a “rigid rub rail”) from DR Marine and they were shipped right to my winter storage facility by common carrier. They came packaged in corrugated drain pipe for protection and arrived in great shape. The price as listed on the website is $450 per side (a 38’ section). I also bought a 10’ piece for the stern section (sold by the foot). The total cost for the replacement rail, including packaging and freight to Ohio, was $1,350.

The first task was to remove the bow chocks (which were replaced with stainless steel Skene bow chocks available from DR Marine upon completion of the project) and the teak toe rail that are mounted to the top of the cap rail with screws that can be accessed from beneath. The process was very straight forward and took very little time. The toe rails were in decent condition but were weathered and hadn’t been treated in a long time. I cleaned them thoroughly several times with teak cleaner, followed up with teak brighter, and then carefully sanded them until they were smooth and clean. I wiped them several times with acetone to remove all oils, and then began applying coats of spar varnish. I marred the surface with a green scotch bright pad and then wiped with a tack cloth between each coat. The finished teak looked nearly new when I was done.

Once the teak toe rails were removed, the bolt heads attaching the cap rail to the hull and providing additional strength to the hull and deck joint were exposed. Using a drill fit with a socket driver, I carefully removed 2/3rds of the machine screws. While the hull to deck joint was sealed with some sort of adhesive sealant, I chose to reinstall every 8th bolt as I did not want to rely solely on the adhesive sealant, thereby risking that the deck and hull would separate. I then began working my way down the deck, prying up the cap rail. I used a combination of tools including a hammer and chisel, wooden wedges, scrapers and screw drivers. I was not overly concerned with scratching the deck under the cap rail but I was careful to avoid marking the deck adjacent to the cap rail that would not be covered by the new cap rail. As I removed the old cap rail, it was evident how brittle it had become as it easily broke.

cap rail replacement

Cap rail removed but several machine screws left in to keep deck and hull from separating

Once the cap rail was removed, the tedious chore of cleaning up the deck began. Using a combination of small wire brushes, razor blades, scrapers, acetone and whatever else seemed like a good idea, I went to work trying to remove as much of the old adhesive sealant and dirt as I could. I then repeatedly cleaned the deck. I also used a Dremel tool to clean up the actual seam between the hull and deck. After wiping that seam with acetone, I applied a bead of 3M 4000 sealant and forced it into the seam with my fingers. The seam didn’t accept much sealant, but I wanted to do everything possible to prevent leaks. I cleaned up the excess sealant with mineral spirits before it cured.

deck hull joint

Deck/Hull joint before it was cleaned and resealed

Installing the new cap rail is definitely a two person job. I dry fit the rail before permanently installing it, and started by suspending the new piece of rail from the lifelines with numerous pieces of nylon cord, allowing the cap rail to hang down to the deck joint. Starting at the bow, one of us held the rail in place while the other drilled up from beneath through the existing hole in the flange. A fastener was then installed and we moved on to the next hole. It took some time to perfect wrestling the cap rail into place, as it twisted and turned and had a mind of its own. I changed the procedure a little as I neared the midpoint as I modified the teak toe rail to add an outboard T track. I eliminated the third piece of teak back from the bow, shortened the fourth piece, installed a mid-ship chock just aft of the second teak toe rail piece adjacent to the cleat, and installed an outboard T track mounted on top of the cap rail for outboard sheeting of headsails and genakers. Fortunately, the existing hole pattern lined up for the new T track. As the underside of the teak toe rail pieces were hollowed out to sit over and conceal the pan head machine screws, the back pieces that were shortened need to be filled on the cut ends to conceal the tunnel. That was accomplished by filling the first couple of inches of the void with a mixture of the following West System products: epoxy, filler and teak coloring. It sanded well, and matched the varnished teak perfectly.

Once the cap rail was temporarily installed using the dry fit method, I removed the fasteners, rehung the new cap rail from the lifelines, and began the messy process of permanently installing it using 3M 4000 adhesive sealant. The reason for using the sealer is to keep water from traveling down the fasteners and into the hull to deck joint. I am not sure how necessary that part of the process is but I was not taking any chances, so I applied a lot of 3M 4000 sealant and did lots of wiping with paper towels and mineral spirits as we worked. The sealant tends to get everywhere as the fasteners are inserted and made fast. The excess cap rail at the end was easily cut with a hacksaw blade. The aluminum T track was flexible enough to bend to the curvature of the cap rail with a little persuasion.

The project was tedious and labor intensive, but well with it. The combination of the new cap rail and varnished toe rail look great. The mid-ship chock gets used every day for spring lines, and the outside genoa track is very useful for attaching blocks for reaching, attaching a boom preventer, attaching fenders for docking, etc.

New stainless bow chocks

New mid-ship chock

Port side cap rail and toe rail replaced.