Rub Rail upgrade

Mike Ondra


We are considering adding a more durable wearing surface to the rub rail. There have been previous posting of applying a “Starboard” strip to the recess in the rub rail such that it protrudes a bit and takes the bulk of the abuse. I believe Starboard is HDPE (high density polyethylene). King Starboard seems to be a slightly different formulation for marine use. Starboard is apparently manufactured in ¼” and 3/8” thicknesses in 4’x8’ sheets and works easily with carpentry tools (can be cut into 1” strips on a table saw). For anyone who has done this how did you attach it to the rub rail (mechanical fasteners, bedding adhesive, both), and how has it held up over time? What other solutions have been successful to enhance the durability of the rub rail?


There is an even tougher material, Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMW PE) available from Interstate Plastics in Sacramento, CA that is intriguing. Its potential advantage is its availability in 1” wide coil allowing for a continuous single piece from stem to stern. My concern is the difference in Coefficient of Thermal Expansion between laid up fiberglass and the UHMW PE (it expands about twice the rate of fiberglass). Often this is addressed with oversize or slotted holes allowing the movement, not an installation detail that seems desirable for this use. It would seem preferable to fully adhere the strip to the rub rail, largely eliminating the need for mechanical fasteners. So the question is this, with a high strength bond to the fiberglass rub rail, what is the likelihood that the UHMW PE can internally absorb the stresses caused by differential expansion/contraction without buckling and breaking the bond? If we cannot be confident that this approach works, we would go with the 8’ pieces leaving the joints to allow for the expansion/contraction.


Mike Ondra

S/V Aletes SM#240




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