Skip to main content
Home Boating

A Riveting Problem

gogittumgogittum Nature CoastPosts: 3,645 Captain
I mentioned a while back that many of the rivets in the bottom of my 16 ft Starcraft Seafarer were corroded and one had popped out, creating a bad leak while I was 9 miles out from the launch.

Don't be flaming at me, now - as I said then, I'd never heard of such a problem and didn't know to look for it.

It were some strange, because some of the rivets were fine, others were completely missing the heads, yet others in between.  Almost all of the transom and chine rivets were in good shape; almost all the keel rivets in the rear 2/3 of the boat were bad.  The rear half of the boat was almost coming apart, the front half almost fine.  Go figure.

I used 3/16" closed end aluminum pop rivets with steel mandrels and I'm here to say those things "really" grab and squash things together.  Can't squeeze more than 1 or 2 with the little rivet popper pliers - I had to buy a big 2 handled monster from Harbor Freight.  That handles them.  It's kind of like a bolt cutter with rivet puller instead of cutting jaws.

The 5 rivets on the right side of this shot are typical of what I found.  They weren't leaking but neither was there any structural strength.  All of those were replaced.  The pop rivets have very close to the same contour as the original driven rivets.  These were among the 1st few that I sealed with silicone.

Where many were bad, in a few places the strake or keel showed a gap between them and the hull, so I used Clecos to suck them together before popping.  Handy gadgets.  The rivets in right and lower right are good examples of those I replaced.

The 1st 15 or 20 rivets were bedded in 100% silicone, then people here told me that I should be using 5200, so I listened and switched.  I really doubt there'll be any problem with the silicone sealed ones, so left them be.  Then I smeared each one to make the ones I'd worked on more visible and smooth them out a bit.  This really shows how bad it was.  I finally finished up today and it took a total of 171 rivets for the repair.

I really doubt these are going to leak; they are rock-solid strong and this will be a lifetime repair.  One question:

Each of those pop rivets leaves a 1/16" hole in the outside, where the mandrel popped loose.  I'm not concerned about them leaking - they won't - but in salt water the steel core might cause electrolysis with the aluminum rivet.  I tried filling them with 5200 and with silicone, but it just smears over the surface and makes a bump.

Is there a practical way to fill and seal those holes, or should I even worry about them ??


  • gogittumgogittum Nature CoastPosts: 3,645 Captain
    Nobody ??

    Is there a practical way to fill and seal those holes, or should I even worry about them ??
  • gogittumgogittum Nature CoastPosts: 3,645 Captain
    I realize this is just a scruffy old boat, but it's a well designed hull by a good manufacturer and has lots of freeboard and flare with a V bottom and a good entry.  Cruising speed with 25 hp will be very adequate as well.  It will be very sufficient to my needs.
  • lemaymiamilemaymiami Posts: 4,771 Captain
    Two ways to go with a riveted boat to protect those rivets... The first is simply to paint it, covering all of the repaired areas - you choose the paint (with maybe an assist from whatever company built it originally.  You're not looking for beauty - on the bottom you're simply looking for coverage... Your second option is a product called Steelflex that air boat builders use to coat the bottom of their aluminum rigs.  It's made by Fasco and goes on like very thick paint and it's a two part epoxy... Before using it I'd want to do a bit of research on YouTube or similar site to see if anyone's posted a "how to" video... 

    Aren't boats fun?  Post up whatever you choose to do - and how it works out... 
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666
  • LostconchLostconch Posts: 1,090 Officer
    I would also carry a few screws to plug any holes when a rivet falls out. I run a scruffy old 68 starcraft and so far have had to replace 1 rivet. Do they make pop rivets with a stainless core? Just asking because I don't know. I am going to repaint the bottom with 2 part epoxy paint. I did the inside a couple of years ago and it seemed to help. I am a big fan of 5200 from my sailing days
  • LostconchLostconch Posts: 1,090 Officer
    Just did some checking and found many poprivets that were aluminum and 304 stainless. Something g good to know.
  • gogittumgogittum Nature CoastPosts: 3,645 Captain
    Naw, this boat will be a trailer queen that sees salt from time to time, then gets rinsed or run in the river.  I really don't think there will be any problem but was noodling a "what if ??"  I Would like to fill those holes, all 171 of them - maybe if I could find a sealer applier with hypodermic point ?? - but not going to obsess over it.  Thanks, guys.
  • The Cat's EyeThe Cat's Eye Posts: 1,704 Captain
    If you don't already have a bidge pump in your boat its time to add one.
  • gogittumgogittum Nature CoastPosts: 3,645 Captain
    If you don't already have a bidge pump in your boat its time to add one.
    I've got one and will soon be adding a backup.
  • MissedMissed O-townPosts: 656 Officer
    Those pop rivets will hold for a bit but watch em and be ready to drill and replace if they start to get loose.  Cheap & easy fix for sure.

    As for filling the rivet divets (holes) - flip it over rough the inside of the pop rivets a little and fill with JB Weld.  It will keep em from leaking and shouldn't come out.  JB Weld is what you want.

    Hope those pop rivets last a good long time.
  • Salty Dawg44Salty Dawg44 Homosassa, FLPosts: 1,385 Officer
    edited October 2021 #11
    I used SOLID aluminum rivets in a 1956 16' Alumacraft. First drill the hole to 3/16". Then insert the rivet from the outside if the hull. Have a helper hold a sledgehammer firmly against the rivet head while you use a ballpeen hammer on the inside to flatten the rivet to draw the 2 pieces of the boat tightly together. They are available from several sources, including Amazon.

    I salvaged that boat that was heading to the dump, restored it, and fished it for almost 10 years and then sold it.




    I may not always agree with what you say,
    but I will always respect your right to be wrong!
  • gogittumgogittum Nature CoastPosts: 3,645 Captain
    edited October 2021 #12
    I used SOLID aluminum rivets in a 1956 16' Alumacraft. First drill the hole to 3/16". Then insert the rivet from the outside if the hull. Have a helper hold a sledgehammer firmly 

    Very nice and a lifetime repair, but 1) mine's already finished and 2) I don't have anyone to help.  I am hugely impressed with these 3/16" steel shank, closed end aluminum pop rivets and seriously doubt there will be any problem with them....ever.  Pop one of them and you'll see what I mean.
Sign In or Register to comment.
Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.


Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now