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Nov 4, 201311:42 AM

Odduck: Adventures in Boat Restoration

Random Thoughts About Boat Rebuilding

When progress slowed on my boat rebuilding project this summer and fall due to real life, non-boat-related circumstances, I had time to ponder a few things about what I was doing.

A basic tenet of boat rebuilding is to start with something that meets two criteria. One is selecting a model worth spending your time and money on. When it's done, will it be the type of boat that will really fill your needs at a cost of time and material you can live with? I still think I'm OK on that score.

Second is selecting a boat that needs the kind of work you can perform. You can hire-out a lot of the work done, but that kind of defeats the way I like to do these types of things.

Because my project involves a lot of new wood-framing construction that has to tie into what was left of the original structure, several things have become apparent. One is that boats, like old houses, are not square and don't have simple, clean, 90-degree corners. And just like old houses, you quickly learn that everything is connected to everything else. That means you can't do "this" until you do "that" and before you get to "that" you have to take care of a couple other little things. It makes for a challenge to keep the work flowing forward without having to backtrack to do the "this" you forgot to attend to. This has been problematic for me.

Then there's the issues of whether you have a relatively decent and comfortable working environment. Is the boat weather protected? Do you have adequate working and storage areas for both the parts you take off and the new material you purchase? Finally, is the boat in a location you can easily and quickly get to from home and is it in close proximity to the supplies and materias you will need?

Obviously, a garage, shed, storage barn/building that is well ventilated and well lit with a working shop and plenty of storage on your own property is ideal. My grade for this section is poor.

On a personal level, how are you at dealing with developing an overall gameplan and then sticking to it? Boat yards and back yards are littered with project boats that were never completed. According to people with experience in this field, guys who tear apart boats are a dime a dozen. But it becomes a different story when you analyze boat restorers who actually finish. They are generally the guys who don't jump from one job to another or start a new phase before finishing the one they are working on. I get frequent reminders about this from Norris Marine Repair and Restoration.

Outside of the pros who do these types of things for a living, amateurs need to carefully assess how much help they think they will need and how available and how competent that help is. While there is a lot one person can accomplish, there are times when four or even more hands either greatly cut the workload, add a margin of safety or are absolutely necessary to accomplish a task.

So, I have learned a few things so far. Some of it has to do with boat construction and some of it is about myself. I've had to come to grips with the fact that I don't and can't work on things with the same degree of efficiency and energy I did when I was younger. That has altered some of my strategies.

I've also gone through a lot of evaluation about expectations. Do I want to spend the time, energy and money to produce a stellar, high-end product, or are my expectations more modest? Do I want to incorporate a ton of little modifications that would seemingly be great, or am I willing to settle for something that is more "stock." My daughter has cautioned me not to let "the great be the enemy of the good."

What it has come down to is that, like a lot of other projects in my life, I not-so-jokingly say that on some days this is my therapy. But on others, it is the reason I need therapy.

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About This Blog

Follow longtime HeartLand Boating contributor Gary Kramer on his latest undertaking: rebuilding a 1987, 24-foot, aluminum Crestliner Sabre Mid-Cabin Day Cruiser from the hull up.

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