Sep 25, 201303:51 PM

Odduck: Adventures in Boat Restoration

Moving Forward in Fits and Starts

Odduck at Work

At the end of my last post, I was rehabbing from knee surgery, which put a big crimp in my progress. Then, just as I started to move forward, I slammed a car door on two fingers of my working hand, which required 11 stitches and more time off.

Much of that recovery time came during a period of great weather. That was a loss, as the boat is still not under permanent cover.

I finally got back to work and, of course, the heat indexes rose into the three-digit range.

Odduck DeckingMy focus was on installing new decking. The cabin was a straightforward job, laying in a 1/2-inch plywood panel after just painting it with a porch and deck enamel. I used the original stainless-steel truss head screws driven into the aluminum framing. Those screws have a very low dome for usage where a covering will be used. They were used many places on the boat, and as an aside, I have been pretty much unable to find replacements in the sizes I need, even on the web.

The cockpit, which measures about 85 inches wide and almost 11 feet long before the mid-cabin sleeper box takes up about 52 inches of that length, was a bit trickier. Six individual pieces needed to be carefully fitted together.

The original decking had been chopped off and replaced with poorly attached pressure treated, 3/4-inch plywood. I figured the roughly 3 foot by 6 foot section in the middle of the boat that covers the gas tank should be removable by itself.

I climb onto the boat from a ladder along the port wall, so I started there. I squared off the end of the original decking, then cut a piece that would end over a cross brace, drilled a few pilot holes through the plywood and the aluminum underneath, and screwed it in place. Then, I installed the aft piece on that side that ends at the stern. That had to be notched to fit flush with the engine compartment flange.

The next section was a small piece to cover the area forward of the gas tank area. Again, some notching was necessary. Then, the gas tank section went in, but not before I installed and double clamped all new hoses, the vent line and fuel gauge sender.

The starboard forward section was next, and finally, the small panel to the stern went in.

I removed all of them and coated all the edges and perimeter with a couple coat of epoxy, then painted the center sections with an enamel. The theory is that rotting generally occurs on the exposed edges and not so much in the middle.

I laid panel No. 1 in, put an ice pick in a pre-drilled hole, and from there, ran my screws into my existing holes. Later, I drilled pilot holes and screwed a lot of it down while I searched for a source for truss head screws.

But as I was admiring my work, I noticed I hadn't done a good job re-gluing the carpet to the inside of the starboard gunnel. It had cleaned up pretty well, and as long as it will be covered with storage panels, I decided not to replace it. To do the job right, I had to remove the two starboard flooring panels and, using a $20 can of super-adhesive I got from a good upholstery shop, pulled the carpet off and re-glued it before reinstalling the flooring.

Meanwhile, Tom Lanum, a long-time river-boater and Loop veteran with a specialty in electrical design and layout, had been helping me with my plan for an enhanced 120v and 12v system. It will be fairly basic but needs to be upgraded to include shore power, a windlass, refrigerator, some upgraded lighting and electronics, and maybe a small air conditioner. The problem is finding one small enough, probably under 5,000 Btu. I am still debating whether to also incorporate a small, portable generator. I can't decide where that falls on the nuisance-to-benefit spectrum.

While I pondered that, I started building a frame of 2x2s to mimic what the mid-cabin will look like. I was told it originally was just a 3/4-inch plywood box set in place, but I am consciously trying to curb the boat's weight and that seemed excessive. The thinking was that maybe 1-inch square aluminum could be used, then a lightweight skin could be applied inside and outside.


The real problem was what to do with the entrance to the cabin. That forward wall had been whacked, and nowhere could I find a picture or anyone who could describe how it was. Part of that conundrum was there are three doors leading into the cabin. Along the port wall, there is a bi-fold teak door about 19 inches wide that reaches down to about 17 and 1/2 inches from the floor. Next to it and hinged on the other side, is a shorter single door that reaches down to about 28 inches from the floor.

That means the cabin box has two levels. From the cockpit you have to step up that 17 and 1/2 inches to walk forward to the cabin then step back down when you enter it. To reach the helm, you step up again, so the flooring there is about 27 and 1/2 inches off the cockpit floor. That means that where you place your head, you have about 26 inches clearance while your feet have about 16. It is an odd layout but could be a great nook for grandkids.

Odduck FramingFraming all that, without any guidelines except what I thought would work, was timely and frustrating. I must have re-engineered and designed it umpteen times, and each effort was revised when I saw or realized something I had missed as I was constructing the frames.

Part of that, of course, is that boats are not square. The top of the gunnels don't line up with the hull at the base, etc. At one point, I brought on board another experienced boater who is now a surveyor and has best advice was “that I could do what I wanted.” The problem was that I wasn't sure I could build what I wanted and not get to the end and discover several obstacles I hadn't planned for.

All this led to a serious confidence crisis. I am pretty good at doing things once I get a clear plan, but getting to that point is more difficult for me.

After drawing and re-drawing, building and taking apart numerous frames, experimenting with plywood along with the 2x2s, I developed what I think is a final mock-up. The last piece of the puzzle is still elusive, as I can't locate a source for purchasing a reasonably priced large horizontal sliding window for the aft wall. So, that framing is still undetermined.

I have decided against using aluminum but instead will use a combination of 1/2-inch plywood and 2x2s. Now, I am trying to determine what size and how many cross braces I need to carry the 50-inch span that will hold the 3/4-inch plywood that will hold two helm seats. A major factor is that I want to maximize headroom, so what material and what spacing would best support the 3/4-inch plywood that will be the base for the two helm chairs?

All this would be a lot easier if I knew what I was doing.

Late note: After I got to this point, I received an email from my contact person at Crestliner, who informed me he was trying to connect me with a man whose family had the factory rebuild his mid-cabin as a gift while he was out of the country.

Seeing one of these boats, of which few were built, and possibly getting on one or talking to the owner could be a huge benefit while I try to assemble a jigsaw puzzle that has a whole lot of missing pieces.

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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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