How to Install a Bow Eye on My Boat

Written by will charpentier
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The bow eye of a small boat offers a place to secure the trailer winch's line. When a boat lacks a bow eye, there may be several places to clip the winch line, but none are designed to serve the bow eye's purpose. Installing a bow eye on your boat when a bow eye is lacking is one more thing you can do to ensure that your boat is "ship shape and in Bristol fashion", meaning it's properly and well-equipped.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Bow eye
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Masking tape
  • Drill
  • Adhesive marine caulk
  • Putty knife
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Center punch
  • Hammer

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  1. 1

    Ensure you have access to your boat's stem. The stem is the vertical structural member where the sides of the boat meet at the bow, the pointy end of the boat. It's also the wooden frame you must drill through to mount the bow eye; you must have access to put the nuts onto the bolts that hold the eye.

  2. 2

    Measure the distance from the top of the stem to the bottom of the deck above the stem, with a measuring tape. Add 3 inches to this measurement and record the result. Remove all four of the nuts and the two backer plates from the bow eye.

  3. 3

    Step outside the boat and walk to the point of the bow, the pointiest part of the pointy end of the boat. Measure downward, along the ridge where the sides of the boat form the knife-edge of the bow, the recorded distance and make a pencil mark. Position a bow-eye backer plate on the knife-edge of the bow, so that extends downward, vertically, from the pencil mark. Using the backer plate as a template, outline the perimeter of the backing plate and mark the location of the two mounting holes.

  4. 4

    Move the backer plate and apply strips of masking tape around the outline of the mounting plate's perimeter. Drill the mounting holes through the hull and the stem with a drill.

  5. 5

    Apply a thin layer of adhesive marine caulk in the outlined area, using a putty knife. Apply a thin layer of adhesive caulk to the rear of one of the backing plates. Thread two of the nuts onto the bow eye as far as you can, one on each threaded leg of the bow eye. Insert the two threaded ends of the bow eye through the backing plate so that the adhesive caulk faces away from the U-turn of the bow eye. Insert the threaded ends of the bow eye through the mounting holes.

  6. 6

    Return to the inside of the bow. Slide the remaining backing plate onto the threaded ends of the bow eye -- no need for caulk on this backing plate. Thread a nut on each of the threaded ends of the bow eye protruding through the stem. Tighten the nuts with your fingers, alternating between one and the other, until they are snug, but not completely tight.

  7. 7

    Move to the outside of the bow and ensure that only a small amount of the caulk has squeezed from beneath the backing plate -- remove excess with the putty knife. Allow the adhesive silicone caulk to cure for 24 hours. After the caulk has cured, tighten the bow eye's two exterior nuts fully with an adjustable wrench. Remove the masking tape and scrape away any errant caulk.

Tips and warnings

  • If the ridge of the knife-edge of the bow is so rounded that the drill wanders around as you try to drill the hole, position a centre punch where you want the centre of the hole and tap it, briskly, with a hammer. This will provide an indentation your drill bit can get a "bite" in.
  • The project involves power tools. Read and heed all of the warnings related to the tools.

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