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Date: 7 October 2019. Petroleum Jelly aboard a Boat.


I have fought numerous battles since buying Seaweed. Trying to open various caps, covers and other threaded items can be a real challenge. More times than I care to admit I've resorted to using Vise grips, a screwdriver and/or a hammer. I always think "this time it will be different" but it seldom is. Finally I came up with a $1 solution. Here is what I do.

This Beckson deck plate is in my cockpit. Opening it is problematic.


In the cockpit Seaweed has an ancient Beckson plate. It provides access to the fuel pick-up line for my starboard tank. The cover sticks. Opening it has been a real problem. If I leave the cover slightly loose stepping on the unit will cause it to become askew. Argh!!!


I have utilized my Vise-Grips while attempting to twist the "easy open" part in the middle. That does not work well.

Next, I get out my Snap-On screwdriver. Using the Vise-Grips as a hammer I can loosen the cover and open it.


I would rather not confess to how often I have used the screwdriver and vise grips percussive maintenance solution in order to open this cap/cover. Suffice it to say, all the ding-dang time. Argh.


Obviously the vise grips and screwdriver opening methods are problematic. Nobody wants to drag out tools to simply twist open something.

This Beckson unit is 35-plus years old. It has been exposed to sunlight for decades. Quite naturally when items are at the end of their natural lifespan they start to fail. It's had a long hard life.

The smart thing to do would be to buy another unit. Rather than spend perfectly good money on a new Beckson Deck Plate I opted for the $1 solution.

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But I digress...
A couple years back I got a bad cold. I told you about that in the
Missing Medicines article. One of the items I tried was some mentholated petroleum jelly aka a knock-off of Vicks Vapor Rub.

The chest rub didn't help me feel better. I believed however that it could lubricate Beckson cap threads.

First I thoroughly cleaned the threads. Then I applied a liberal dose of Vaseline.

Vaseline, for my overseas readers, is a brand of petroleum jelly. Pure 100% petroleum jelly is the exact same from brand to brand. It's identical so I opt for the least expensive 100% petroleum jelly I can find. I recommend you do the same.

There are two varieties of petroleum jelly. One is 100% pure, whilst the other is marketed for those with chest colds. That type, called mentholated, is 95% pure. The remaining 5% contains camphor, eucalyptus and menthol. 

Mentholated is sold in dark blue containers. Because my blue container did not help me feel better when I got sick, I opted for a new use. Rather than throw away the product I utilize it to lubricate the threads on my Beckson plates.

I also added PETROLEUM JELLY around the base of the Beckson.

On the bow of Seaweed I used to have a shiny stainless cover for my water tank fill port.
Then I dropped it overboard. A plastic WATER CAP from West Marine is my temporary solution.

The temporary solution plastic water cap has been in use for over eleven years. I will continue looking for an inexpensive stainless one. Because the caps are so costly this is not a high-priority item. In the interim what I have works.

Side Note: When filling a water tank it is a Very Good Idea to expect an air bubble to send a bunch of water up and out the top like a geyser. This is especially true if you do not have the cover securely in your grasp.

Also remember that stainless steel is not attracted to a
magnet. Once the darn thing goes overboard, it is gone.


The plastic cap is a Good Enough replacement for the stainless one I had. It however became difficult to open. I added petroleum jelly to the threads on the cap. This allows me to open the cap without the necessity of getting out my vise grips.

Channel locks, pliers or small pipe wrenches would work in lieu of my favorite tool. I prefer the vise grips because of the locking mechanism in the handle. For those of us with hands that aren't quite as strong as they once were, vise grips are a good item to have in the tool arsenal.


I did attempt to buy the correct size cap for my water fill on the
bow. Unfortunately the threads are slightly finer in the new one.


The spiffy stainless cover has a nifty loop made by my friend Ken. The Small Stuff line would prevent it from going overboard, however the dang cap does not fit my fill port.


Side Note: Though this cover does not work for Seaweed's water tank I have kept it in my stores. At some point I shall run across someone who needs it. Then I will pass it along.


Out here there is an active trading economy. The Random Acts of Kindness thing that is touted by those ashore is alive and well here on the waterfront. We help each other. That said, being self sufficient is of Primary importance.

Nobody needs to know or have aboard everything for every contingency.
Being able to make substitutions is a valuable skill to develop.

By utilizing online shopping I can have a needed item here within days. The world has changed, and in that regard it is better. I remember waiting four to six weeks when mail-ordering from a catalog.

Having a small container of petroleum jelly in your tool kit is a Good Idea.
I would opt for the 100% variety rather than what I'm using at present.

I hope my friends are doing well. Autumn has arrived. The weather is perfect. Enjoy.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate that. Happy boating.

Where to find Petroleum Jelly: The best place to find this item is at the Dollar Tree or similar discount stores. It will be with the baby items usually, or in medicine near the products for colds. $1 should buy a 4 ounce container though I have noticed the sizes are decreasing slightly.

Buy two: One for your medicine locker and the second for your tool chest.


Captain Stuart Warren [author of Dictionary of Nautical Terms
] added an important fact that I did not include in the article. He says: I had those on my NACRA sailboat but one blew off... really hard to find a replacement. They are supposed to have a huge O-ring just under the lid edge to make it watertight and keep dust, dirt, sand, etc., out of the threads. Also, petroleum jelly will kill a real rubber O-ring, so silicone spray (or grease) would be a better lubricant.

Please Note: If your problem cap has an o-ring, be sure
to use either silicone or lithium -- NOT petroleum jelly.

I'd love to hear what other uses you've found for Vaseline.
And, have you any other solutions for keeping old screw tops opening easily?

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