Belaying pin rail

As part of the standing rigging replacement process, I had a chance to refinish the belaying pin rail attached to the lower shrouds. The idea with a belaying pin is to keep all of your halyards away from the mast when not in use to prevent unnecessary banging. Noise can be an issue on a boat with so many things running vertically and sometimes with some slack. Pin rails are a very salty accessory. Salty in the fact that ships and cruisers for centuries have used this method for organizing shrouds and other lines on the boat. Modern vessels have faded out the pin rail for other options or simply a bungee to pull them away from the mast. I think it’s great that Satori still has the pin rail, except that they have been painted white using an oil based paint. There is nothing wrong with it except the painted part. I took them home and started the process of stripping, sanding and oiling them back to life.


The state of the pin racks before refinishing
The state of the pin rails before refinishing

I must remind anyone who is thinking about painting over teak. Don’t do it, or if you do then make sure you prepare the surface beforehand. I ended up buying some paint stripper, a gallon of Cetol, orbital sander with a bunch or papers, a Dremel and a bunch or sanding and polishing accessories for the Dremel. Quite a bit of inventory for beginning the painful teak refinishing endeavor. The problem with these boards is that I’m not working with straight edges or newish wood. There was plenty of wear under the paint and the pins have really degraded quite a bit. They have weathered similar to driftwood and within another decade someone will need to mill another set. I’ll keep an eye out until then for replacements. For now I simply did the best I could to remove the paint from the pins and sanded them as little as possible to prevent removing too much material.

Pin rails after paint stripper, before sanding
Pin rails after paint stripper, before sanding

So with a pin rail I imagine they work very much like the tuners on a violin except with a little more play to prevent them from freezing inside of the rail. When you want to free the halyard, instead of unwrapping it you simply pull the pin and the halyard is quickly freed. Put the pin back and it’s ready to ‘make fast’ the next time you need to secure the halyard away from the mast. The pin tips and rail holes (male/female) were not painted originally so they have weathered much differently than the rest so I did a minimum amount of sanding because the material at the pin end is much softer and is quite a bit beyond it’s refinish-able life. So I sanded them minimally and cleaned them as best as I can, then go ahead and oil to assist in preserving for a little bit longer.


I also went ahead and used up a few of my polishing tools on the Dremel to polish the bolt heads so the entire assembly looks bright. Notice in the picture below that the closest pin end is still showing the naturally weathered grey color. This will be sanded as little as possible due to the surface being taken down too far and not making a close fit into the rail hole.

How the raw wood of the belay pin rack looks before cleaning and oiling
How the raw wood of the belaying pin rail looks before cleaning and oiling

I sanded the surfaces first with a 60 grit paper, then 120 grit and finally a 220 grit which really pulled out the color of the dark texture. After lots of sanding and dremel use for the pin holes and shroud notches I finally cleaned everything with mineral spirits and a cotton rag. Then came a coat of Cetol teak oil and a wipe down to eliminate runs.

First coat of oil drying
First coat of oil drying

Update: I took a full day yesterday working on Satori, picked up the new lower shrouds from Northwest Rigging, mounted and tuned them and then attached the rails. I measured them at 30.5″ and 32.5″ from the shroud clevis pin.

Mounting the rails

Newly attached lower shrouds and pin rail with pins
Newly attached lower shrouds and pin rail with pins

Split pin trick:

After a full day of work I now have the lower shrouds mounted and tensioned and the upper shrouds removed along with the staysail forestay. I learned a little trick I thought was worth sharing about bending the new clevis pin ‘split pin’. The split pin is for keeping the clevis pin in place but when working with the shroud tangs, there is limited space to make a proper bend to prevent the split pins from potentially snagging on sailcloth. If you’re working with a clevis pin and split pin, the best way to get the split pin to bend properly is to first push the clevis pin out a little after you have the split pin threaded through the pin hole. Then grab the outside end of the clevis pin with some standard pliers and grab one end of the split pin with needle nose pliers. Rotate the clevis pin with the pliers (on the opposing side of the clevis pin) and hold one of the split pin tips in place and this motion will easily wrap the split pin wire around the clevis. Do this on both split pin ends. The result is a clean, snag-free tang and takes a fraction of the time compared to trying to muscle the split pin ends into spreading properly.