May 31, 201310:47 AM
Odduck: Adventures in Boat Restoration
What Do I Do About... Figuring Out How to Rebuild a Boat
As I stand back and evaluate the specific steps of my rebuilding project, I keep thinking, "What do I do about...." There are so many facets of this project that I don't really know how to do, fix, rebuild or modify that I spend a lot of time just pondering options.
Deciding what to do is probably not a great problem for an experienced boat builder/rebuilder, but for me, it is a big part of trying to go forward.
The kinds of questions that keep me awake at night are ones like: What do I do about...an engine and outdrive; designing, fabricating and covering an engine box and jump seats where there were none; designing, fabricating and covering a mid-cabin and mounting seats on top, again, where there were none; providing for lighting and ventilation there; planing, upgrading and installing both a 12-volt and 120-volt system; the kind of surface on the cockpit deck after I replace all the plywood and what non-skid goes on the outside decks; re-doing the cabin upholstery and improving the storage there; eliminating the porta-potti by installing a composting toilet; building a pulpit for a windlass and wiring it; finishing off the welds that will be done to fill any number of screw holes in the deck and hull; a whole lot of canvas, with pretty much a permanent bimini and camper back; deciding to refinish all teak trim and accents or making new from a synthetic material; prepping the entire boat for painting, plus which epoxy barrier coating and bottom paint I should use; making sure I have the right anodes and that the boat's electrical system is properly bonded; installing a small air conditioner, maybe in one of the front windows?
Finally, how do I do all this without spending a fortune by farming everything out?
Taking stuff apart is easy, and replacing existing components and material is not too hard when you have the originals to use as patterns. But on my project, I will be designing and building components that were not there to begin with.
So, I ask questions. But the problem with that is you get as many varied answers as the number of people you asked, so sooner or later, you just have to pick a path and follow it.
Because the boat will hopefully spend some time in saltwater and because the 205-hp,V-6, 4.3L engine had a cracked block, I considered replacing it with an outboard. There would be a weight reduction, so I looked at a 150-hp motor. But by the time I paid to have the transom beefed up to hold a bracket that also had to be added, I was investing a fair amount of money before I bought the motor.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should say I am receiving consideration from some manufacturers. But I also need to add I contact them only after I determine what brand of product I want for a particular application. In the end, however, the discounts are minimal.
The combination of the transom work that had to be done by a real pro plus the cost of the motor put the idea out of reach. While I was cogitating about all this, one of my contacts mentioned he had a friend who was selling a 4.3L Alpha One with a Generation Two outdrive. It was a fairly new take-out from a Lake Michigan boat whose owner wanted diesel power. It had very low hours, was extremely clean, had all the pumps and the price made it a better choice than rebuilding everything I had.
Currently, the boat sits outside under a tarp, which complicates matters some more. As weather permitted, I removed all the seating and floorboards, took out the gas tank to clean it up and check it, then removed the plywood transom that sat inside the aluminum skin. The main piece, about 92 x 42 inches was a full, one inch thick. Where the drive was mounted, there was a second, smaller piece bonded to the larger one. I was able to get both pieces out together without hacking it up.
The follow up to all that was the fun part. With all the decking out, I started at the bow with a pressure washer and thoroughly degreased and flushed the keel from front to back. I only did the bottom of the keel because the hull is divided laterally and longitudinally into small compartments, and they are all full of foam (see above image).
To use the existing plywood transom for a template, I had to do some measuring and extrapolating to get the right size, because the outer edges were rotted away. The top part of the cut-out for the drive was beveled, so I copied that angle when I cut it. Unfortunately, I forgot there was one angle on the side walls and different one across the top, so I cut them all the same. I used a high-quality epoxy wood filler to bring the top back to the proper angle. Finally, I used West System Epoxy Resin to seal all the end grain and several inches away from the edges on the entire piece. The rest of the wood got a sealer coat of oil base paint.
The original did not have all this protection and still lasted a long time. Who knows, maybe one of my grandkids will have an interest in the weird old boat Grandpa Kramer worked on at one time.
Author's note: Part of my quest involves using the lightest materials I can, so if you know of lighter weight products that can replace plywood for various applications, send me a note at email@example.com. And I'm also looking for a good aluminum trailer, preferably used. Thanks.