One of the biggest complaints that I have heard from 2002-2003 Outback owners is the lack of a midships handle that became standard on the starboard side of the 2004 Outbacks, and later on the newer Sport models. After mentioning the addition of a new portside handle on another site, I went out to check the eyestraps where I had installed an extra "broomstick" handle (note the blue arrow in the first pic below).
I was surprised to find that the stock Hobie nylon eyestrap that serves as the attachment point for the seat support clip on the port side was loose. Since this also happened to be the attachment point for my extra handle on the port side, I obviously did not like the possibility of this eyestrap pulling loose while I was lifting my Outback. It tightened up fine with a screwdriver, but then I remembered an earlier post from someone who had said that the eyestrap supporting his seat support clip had actually pulled loose during normal use. I don’t know about you folks, but I do a lot of twisting around in my seat to reach rods in my crate or to get into my ice chest, and this puts a lot of pressure on the seat support straps, their clips, and the eyestraps.
So, just for the heck of it, I removed the seat support eyestrap on the port side where I had my extra handle installed. I was somewhat shocked to find that Hobie had used only a 1/2-inch self-tapping SS screw to secure these eyestraps. In fact, these screws were so short they did not even penetrate the inside hull wall, instead leaving only a raised "bump" over the screw tip. I was actually surprised that more folks had not complained about their eyestraps pulling out. Anyway, I decided it was time for an upgrade using longer SS screws and SS eyestraps for my seat support clips, as well as for my extra portside handle.
The second pic shows the stock eyestrap and my SS replacements from K-Mart. At upper left is the stock Hobie Nylon eyestrap and the two puny 1/2-inch SS self-tapping screws. Now, I don’t know about you (and a Nylon eyestrap may be plenty strong), but Nylon is still a "plastic" material. I much prefer SS in a "pressure" situation, and am replacing the stock Hobie port and starboard Nylon eyestraps with the SS versions using two thru-bolted, 3/4 to 1 inch, #10 oval head machine screws. You can attach the screws with a flat washer, lock washer, and standard nut, but trying to juggle all three of these up under the hull can be a pain. An easier solution is to eliminate the lock washer by using a Nylock (Nylon insert lock) nut (shown at right just above the handle). The handle itself is a 4 3/4" piece of broomstick painted black, with about a 12-inch length of parachute cord threaded thru, and knotted above it. This paracord is actually a bit shorter than shown in the first pic above.
In summary then, you can add either one or two extra midships handles to your Outback or Sport with relatively little difficulty. But remember to replace the original 1/2-inch SS oval-head, self-tapping screws in the eyestraps with something longer, preferably 3/4 to 1-inch, thru-bolted machine screws. And you may also wish to use SS eyestraps for increased strength, especially with the addition of a handle. If you do not want to bother with reaching up under the hull to insert the machine screws and nuts, you can simply use longer (3/4 to 1-inch SS #10 self-tapping) screws, or wellnuts, or rivets, any of which should work.
1. After completing the installation of new SS port and starboard seat clip eyestraps, a few observations should be noted. First off, Hobie’s use of short 1/2-inch self-tapping screws may have some "method" behind it. The rudder lines pass just below where these screws enter the port side of the hull and you certainly do not want your rudder lines chafing against the sharp tips of exposed self-tapping screws. However, even with my addition of 1 inch machine screws and Nylock nuts, the rudder lines were still about 1-2 inches below these thru-bolted screws, so no problem. Actually, 3/4-inch machine screws probably would be sufficient here. Also the Nylock nuts tend to cover the machine screw tip to reduce the possibility of chafing at these points.
2. I used a 11/64 inch drill bit for the #10 screw holes. Drill at SLOW speeds--just enough to get the chuck rotating. This keeps the drill bit from heating up the hull material plastic, which in turn can melt the polyethylene slightly, thereby enlarging the screw hole more than necessary. A low RPM drilling provides for a nice tight fit, so much so that I had to actually "screw" the machine screw into the hole in order to "thread" it. I also added a dollop of silicone material (blue arrow below) to each hole for waterproofing purposes, even though there is almost no chance of water entering the hull at such points. The silicone may also act to "cement" the screw in the hole to some degree. I then added a single SS flat washer and a 10-24 Nylock nut.
3. The addition of a new eyestrap to the starboard side turned out to be a slightly different kettle of fish. First off, the forward SS screw, rather than being 1/2 inch long, was 3/4 inch and actually seemed to penetrate the plastic core of the starboard built-in handle that extended into the hull here. The aft nut in this eyestrap, however, was the standard 1/2-incher. Since I could not get access to the inside of the handle to use a thru-bolted machine screw, I left the forward 3/4-inch self-tapping screw in place. But I did replace the aft 1/2-inch screw here with a 1-inch thru-bolted machine screw, SS washer, and Nylock nut. The hull material was much thinner here for some reason, so I could have easily used a 3/4-inch machine screw instead. I also replaced the Nylon eyestrap with a SS one since this is a load-bearing region when the seat straps are in place.
4. I also replaced the four 1/2-inch self-tapping screws with four 3/4-inch self-tappers in the after two sets of Nylon eyestraps, and added silicone to each screw hole to waterproof these holes. The silicone might do some good here, since the first after set of eyestraps are located in the bottom of the port and starboard gunwale trays where water can, and does, accumulate. However, since these are not heavy load-bearing areas, I retained the two sets of Nylon eyestraps on each side.
5. View of final job showing the two new SS eyestraps with the extra portside handle in place. Bow towards top of photo.