When Nobody Else Is Around

Your typical marina or boat yard is busy most of the time. And this means there are usually quite a few fellow boaters around, which is good because, should you be doing a little work on your boat, it’s quite possible you’ll need a spot of help now and then. The tightening of a large flathead-type machine screw from on deck is a very good example of the phenomenon if, that is, the relevant nut is inside the boat and wholly unsecured so that it merely spins when you turn the screw from outside.

Ideally, such thorny issues would be simply left to percolate until a day dawns when there are more people around or, more particularly, that one special person who agrees to either immobilize the nut with a socket wrench from inside the boat or turn the screw with a Phillips screwdriver from outside the boat while you deal with the other half of the equation.

But what if time if of the essence? And there’s nobody else around. Is there a solution?

Well…try tossing a pair of Vise-Grip pliers (you know: the old-school tool with a set of curved jaws that clamp down and temporarily lock) into the mix. While Vise-Grips won’t work in all circumstances, they’ll work in lots of situations that at first appear to demand the presence of two people, one inside and one outside.

Let’s return to our flathead-type machine screw. With any luck, inside the boat, on the underside of the deck, let’s say, or on the inner surface of a large swathe of bulkhead, there is some kind of obfuscating structure like a protruding bolt or a beefy bulkhead, anything that will stop your Vise-Grip pliers from rotating, either in a horizontal or a vertical orientation, once they have been securely (albeit temporarily) attached to the nut that turns maddeningly when you apply screwdriver torque from outside the boat.

Now, from inside the boat, go ahead and clamp the Vise-Grip pliers to the nut, whether it be under the deck, behind a bulkhead, or wherever, and, after making sure the pliers are locked up tight and destined to encounter the obfuscating structure when rotated, go topside to turn the screw with your screwdriver, trusting that while the nut may turn a bit initially, it will stop once the Vise-Grip pliers encounter what you’ve determined is an immovable object.

We offer two caveats concerning this handy–dandy technique. First, when using it to remove hardware—meaning the nut and bolt will eventually part ways and gravity will become the operative force—merely loosen the relevant components, don’t separate them. It’s much safer and potentially less damaging to surrounding surfaces to actually remove the Vise-Grip pliers and relevant components by hand at the last minute, as opposed to simply allowing everything to fall precipitously onto a nice varnished or gel-coated surface. And second, don’t lock your Vise-Grip jaws too tightly around small parts, especially nuts. Applying too much pressure can cause a slight but problematic deformation.