Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Update on the boat...

I have mentioned several times about inheriting a sailboat.  The boat had belonged to Brent, a friend of mine who died back in 2006.  His sister had the boat at her house. Unfortunately, she didn't have a place to keep the boat out of the weather and the covering had broken during a heavy snow storm and the boat was filled with snow and later water and ice. In addition, it hadn't been properly placed on the trailer and the pressure points with all the water in the boat broke five of the ribs in the hull and cracked fiberglass in a number of placed. Also warped and pealing from the water were the seats and the decking on the floor.   Brent's sister offered me the boat with a promise that if I couldn't get it back "ship-shape," I wouldn't tell here that I took it to the dump.  Back in early May, I picked the boat up from Pennsylvania and brought it home and began to work.

I really wish I had done a better job of photographing the boat's transformation, or at least had taken a picture of what the inside of the cockpit looked like before I ripped it apart.  Above are a few photographs that shows the peeling and cracked seats, one of the cracked ribs and how the pressure was pushing in on the bottom of the boat.  My first task was to clean up the boat and to take out all the wood from the cockpit so that I could see what I was working with (there were five bad ribs, two bad bulkhead supports, several rotted runners (the go under the ribs).  My first task was to work the warp out of the seats which I did by placing them on a flat concrete and putting sand bags on top of them.  Next, I stripped the wooden seats and floorboard (the seats were mahogany, the boards on the floor were mahogany and oak).  After a lot of chemical stripping, I turned to a sander (using both a belt sander and a smaller rotating sander).  Once the boards were natural, I had to re-glue a couple of them before staining and varnishing (six coats).  

Next, I had to cut out the ribs and places where the fiberglass had cracked.  The ribs that were broken were all rotten and it was hard to get them back together enough to trace out a new rib and I had to remake a couple of the ribs before I got the pattern just right.  Then I paid a visit to a friend who is an engineer at a local fiberglass factory.  He had me talk with one of their layup specialist about working with fiberglass and they gave me a byproduct they use (ground fiberglass) that I could mix with resin and harder and make a paste to both glue down the ribs and to make a bead (as you do with caulking) so that the fiberglass wouldn't have to have a tight bend that often causes cracking.  Afterwards, I laid back in the ribs and bulkhead supports with this method.  I also used this to fill in some of the places where the runners had rotted.  Next, I fiberglassed over the ribs, runners and bulkhead supports with two layers of fiberglass.  After it had hardened, I spray painted the fiberglass and then set out reassemble the boat.

My final task was to reassemble everything.  The seats were easy to identify, but getting all the support pieces in was like working on one great big jigsaw puzzle.  But with some thought before I started screwing things together, I got everything laid out and armed with a cordless screwdriver, went to work.  This is what the cockpit looked like right after I had put everything back together.  I'm hoping to get this into the water tomorrow!
Isn't she beautiful?  There are a few things that I'd like to do next winter like refinish the wood around the keel and the splash guard on the bow, so that it matches the mahogany seats.  The sails all seem to be in good condition, but I am missing the spinnaker pole (does anyone have an extra one laying around)?  I am also going to have to replace the jib halyard and the main sheet (ropes that pull up the jib and control the mail sail) at some point as they are worn, but I think I can get a few days sailing out of the old sheets.

Anybody up for a day on the lake?


  1. Wow! What a great transformation! You certainly do have some skills...

  2. nice...really like the mahogany...such a rich color...a work in progress but she is coming along nicely...

  3. Whatever about the computer, the cordless drill is the single biggest leap forward in the last 50 years. That and marine ply. :-D

  4. A fun and worthy project, my friend! Lovely work - especially with the wood.

  5. Oh, how wonderful. So much work, but how satisfying was that?! You took something your friend loved and loved it yourself.

    How lovely of you.


  6. Yes indeed, I'll head right over, with a picnic basket too! Wait a minute you're like a lot of miles away from here. How far does your sailboat sail? Ha! Ha! This is such an interesting post, it should be a How-to put life back into a poor sad lost little wants to sail boat! Just think of the inspired bloggers out there! We have gained one also, not by their death, he's just unable to do much sailing anymore, and we have the space....and I have the children that really want to put that thing back to life! Lost things a win-win for some right! You did well!

  7. I find that there is something very therapeutic building or repairing boats. I guess because the work is not so physical that it allows your mind to wander. That is how I want to spend my retirement doing exactly what you just did.

  8. If there is an apocalypse, I hope I can come and hang out with you. Sounds like you can actually build shit. I'll bring my guns and some beer. :)