Bristol Channel Cutter "Angelsea"

Bronze stanchions

A few years ago we hauled out in a great little boat yard in St Martin. The name of the yard is Time Out Boat Yard or TOBY. I highly recommend the yard. This was a major refit and we’re in the yard for 3 months. It was a major financial stretch.

As I was removing the SS stanchions (that were 28 years old at this point) I saw they were all cracked. This was a big disappointment. The price for replacement SS stanchions were $250 each. So we had 10 stanchions and this would have been a $2500 financial hit. Which was out of reach for us with all the other necessary repairs. So I need an alternative. We had always wanted to go to bronze stanchions to match the character of the boat. So I decided to do a little digging. Maybe check out EBay.

Boy did I suffer sticker shock. Bronze stanchions were priced at $350-450 a piece. So $3500-$4500 total. No way!

Finally a found some bronze stanchions bases that were used on Cape Dory Yachts. They were 4 hole with a bail and 5° angle inboard which was perfect for the BCC. The price was also attractive at about $45 each. (This was 6 years ago). Currently the price is $69 at

A Cape Dory bronze stanchion base. Perfect fit for a BCC.

Next was the stanchion itself. I found some cast bronze ones at Port Townsend Foundry, but again way out of my budget. I thought of getting some bronze pipe, but I would need to make or buy a top to thread the lifeline through. I wanted to simplify not only from a cost bases but a time bases also. Why not use solid bar and just drill a hole in the top? Hmmm, that sounded pretty good. So I called up Alaska Copper and Brass at their San Diego location. 

 The salesman at Alaska C&B was very helpful. Sure no problem he said. Do you want it cut to length? Sure why not as it would ship better and save me a step. So with his advice I ordered 8 28” lengths of Naval bronze which would match the height of the standard BCC stanchions. Why only 8 instead of 10, well read on. I believe each piece cost me $50. So that was $400 or $105 apiece with base. Total was $840, a far cry from 2500-4500.

The next step in the process was to drill the holes in the top of the stanchion to thread the lifeline through. Did I mention I was going to use rope lifelines? Stay tuned for a blog on that. Be warned you can’t just drill bronze or brass or any soft metal with a standard drill bit. You need to modify your bit just a little. You must knock off the sharp edge of the drill bit. Not the face of the bit that does the boring but the sharp edge. It will dig into the side of your hole and stop the drill in its tracks. The edge just needs a few passes with a sharp file or Dremel Tool. 

Get a good quality drill bit.

With this mod your drill will go right through the bronze like a hot knife through butter. I would suggest finding a drill press to use. It will make the job easier and more accurate. As far as hole size is concerned I used 3/8” so I could put 5/16” rope through the holes.

Sand paper and elbow grease.

Next I just needed to polish things up to look good. The bronze bar had a rough finish to it plus milling marks. It is fairly easy. Just start with a course grade of sand paper. I used 120 to start then 220, 400, 600 then I got a buffing wheel and used Jewlery rouge. It went fairly fast. The key is to start out with a fairly rough sand paper.

Pretty, if you can’t sail good, you should at least look good!

Last but almost not least I had to bed the stanchions down. I used butyl in a caulking tube and not the tape. The tape oozes for months afterwards and requires continuous clean up. I use the Red Devil Pro Butyl Rubber Sealant, White. It has worked well for over 16 years so far that I have used it on this boat. It’s used for sealing roofs so it’s designed for a hostile environment. This stuff cleans up with paint thinner. But be careful it’s STICKY.

Now for the rest of the story, why I only ordered 8 stanchions instead of 10. I lashed a brass thimble to my intermediate stay at the proper height. This was exactly where my 9th and tenth stanchion would have sat. I used these thimbles and Tarred marlin which you can find here  use #60 for most purposes on Angelsea. This stuff holds a knot really well and last for years in the sun because of the black tar. Don’t worry, it’s not sticky or messy. This saved me an additional $210. I got the idea from Lin and Larry Pardey.

Note the Dyneema rigging.

Finally I used u-bolts to strengthen the attachment of the stanchions. I bolted through the wood bulwarks. Unfortunately I could not find Bronze or brass u-bolts.

An article about bronze stanchions.
Still looking good after 6 years of service. I do hate stainless.

So that’s my story about Angelsea’s stanchions. If you have questions or comments please feel free to leave them below.



Presently at anchor off the west end of Vieques, Puerto Rico.