Have you checked your chain plates lately? Chain plates are one of those pieces of equipment on the boat that you just don’t pay much attention to on a regular basis. They receive the shrouds and stays that hold the mast in line and vertical. However, they do need to be inspected on a regular basis. They need to be on your list of spring commissioning items to visually inspect or a once a season check.
Usually, what you see above decks looks good with no compromises but it is what you don’t see that is the problem. I recently looked a little closer at the chain plates on a 1984 Bayfield 32’ and this is what I found. Above deck looked great…nice and shiny. The plates protruded above deck by about 3” and then below decks by about 11”. I went below and looked a little closer and saw some areas that were of a little concern. There were 4 bolts that went through the plates and bolted them to the knee or bulkhead below.
Some of the 3/8” bolts were pretty rusted and looked pretty bad. On top of that there was some rust build up in several places on the chain plates themselves. This is caused by leaks over the years getting past the deck and running down the plates. As it sits there it attacks the softer parts of the stainless. As I pulled them off one by one some of the heads on the bolts snapped off. One of the chain plates came out in two pieces and the others were barely hanging together.
I ended up replacing 4 of the 6 with new ones that I had fabricated locally. It was not a real bad job but if it had been neglected it could have been a pretty bad predicament if there was a failure under way.