Boat Rigging Part 11: Gunnel Tracks

Gunnel track systems offer countless accessory options, it’s almost foolish to not include these things!

Track systems such Bert’s Custom Tackle has become widely popular over rail systems because of their versatility and durability. Boat manufacturers such as Ranger have changed their gunnels to better accommodate track. You can add, remove and even put heavy downriggers in places that would not otherwise be possible.

Below are the necessary steps to install track on a fiberglass boat:

  1. Layout the track, being careful to not drag it across the gunnel—it will scratch your boat!

  2. Make sure that wires or other rigging devices are clear beneath the designated areas.
  3. Either tape the track in place, or better yet, have a friend hold them in place while you mark the holes with a marker.

  4. Remove the track and drill the holes with a bit indexed to the given size screw.

  5. Use a countersink bit to slightly widen the hole and eliminate the chance of spider cracking.

  6. Place an adhesive such as 3M 5200 or a strong silicone in the drill holes and down the center of the track. Avoid getting adhesive near the very end that could fill the threaded endcap hole.
  7. Use an impact drill to tighten the screws starting at one end and working your way down. If the boat has an arced gunnel cutting and shaving a piece of starboard to fit the gap may be the best choice because the gunnel track could become damaged if it is forced to fit the arc.

Like so many jobs, prep is the key. Taking time to layout the track and measure it twice so it is centered will make for a much better finished product.

If you have an aluminum boat, or a fiberglass boat that has relatively thin glass, use bolts instead of screws. Also, large fender washers or a backing plate will better secure the tracks.

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Capt. Ross Robertson

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