Golf Ball Grommets: An Unconventional, Yet Effective Emergency Tarp Repair
By Rich Finzer


Oh the woes of Great Lakes sailors once the leaves begin to turn red. The snow will soon be coming and the ice will soon be coming, and we must haul out and tarp/protect our boats against Old Man Winter. Our southern cousins with their ice free harbors and their snow free Decembers never perform this seasonal ritual, but we must. And after we do, we must still endure the penance of regularly checking our vessels. For when the wintry winds that blast down from the “Great White North” pipe up to tropical storm force, grommets and tarps are frequently shredded and ripped asunder. With the possible exception of an impromptu IRS audit, nothing disturbs a sailor’s tranquility quicker than discovering that their carefully tied tarp has been shredded like a politician’s promises.


Not long ago, a buddy and I made the monthly pilgrimage to the yards where our old girls spend the off-season. As his boat was stored some 20 miles farther to the west of mine, he offered to do the driving. I grabbed an extra spool of tie-down line and he brought along his tools. We discovered that his boat tarp had fared quite nicely. It was snug and had shed the snow and ice load in fine fashion. My tarp was another story. It was old and tired, and several of the grommets had been ripped out. The edges were flapping in the breeze like the lips of the town gossip. My grommet repair kit was back at the house; 25 miles away. Worse yet, it was getting dark and beginning to snow. I began musing about the old joke: “other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” Ever the cool head, my buddy fetched his tool box and reaching inside, tossed me of all things, a golf ball. A golf ball? Yep, a golf ball. Better yet, he told me exactly what I could do with it!

“This is easy” he said, “now watch.” He pushed the golf ball against the inside of the tarp and then twisted the material to temporarily hold it in place. There was now a nice big lump along the outside edge. I cut some line from the spool, formed a loop in the center and tightened it around the golf ball. Then I took the two ends and tied them securely around part of my swim ladder. Bingo, problem solved.

Remember just one thing though. The golf ball grommet is a temporary repair. If the line holding it stretches, and the tension is relieved, the golf ball will fall out and then you’re right back where you started. So plan on adding new grommets as quickly as you can. Better yet, do what I did, buy a new heavier tarp, and of course, a sleeve of golf balls. You just never know....


Rich Finzer earned his power boat operator’s license in 1960 at age 11, and began sailing in 1966. He also runs a winter boat storage business, has worked on a commercial fishing boat, and is an accomplished racing sailor as well. Currently, he cruises Lake Ontario aboard his Hunter 34' “Pleiades.” When he’s not sailing, he supports his aquatic addiction as a technical/freelance writer.