Boat Restoration

There are about as many boat repair/expense jokes as there are former boat owners:

“Two happiest days of a boat owner’s life: the day you buy and the day you sell.”

“B.O.A.T stands for Bring Out Another Thousand.”

“Boat ownership is like taking a cold shower while simultaneously ripping up hundred-dollar bills.”

“A boat is a hole in the water in which you can throw endless amounts of money.”

“The definition of ‘cruising’ is just fixing your boat in exotic places”

and so on…

A very wise friend once told us that you can’t own a boat if you keep thinking in terms of dollars. His preferred unit of measure was “Boat Units”. For example, instead of saying “Honey, we need to spend another $2,000 on the boat” we can say “Honey, it’s only going to cost us another two Boat Units”.

Much less painful, right?

In the beginning, I kept a spreadsheet of boat restoration expenses so we could keep a ball park figure on what the boat was costing us. Somewhere along the way that file was corrupted… or deleted… or shredded to bits in a fit of hysteria. It makes no difference. The boat is our home, and we keep doing what it takes to keep her afloat and keep us comfortable.

In The Beginning:

In 2005, we began casually looking for an island hopper boat to explore the San Juan Islands. We’d only been out of school for a few months so our budget was small but our dreams were big. One night around midnight a friend called and insisted Elan make the 20 minute drive up to Blaine to check out an old boat. Our friend had stumbled upon an older gentleman crying by a beat up boat out on the hard. As it turns out, the man had bought the boat new in 1974, and raised his family sailing the East coast of the US and the Bahamas. A divorce and financial hard times led him to haul the boat in Blaine around 1992… and there she weathered the years. Although the owner had paid the year’s dry dock fees in advance, the condo association owning the marina was shutting it down. The man didn’t have a phone, so didn’t know until the last-minute that the yard planned to have the boat crushed the next day. He didn’t have the resources or the energy to rescue his beloved boat from it’s doom…

Enter Elan and Ashley.

The man offered the boat to us for free, if we could arrange to have it moved the next morning and spare her from certain death. We made the calls, had her moved and gave the man $500 as a sale price. Come daylight we saw what we had gotten ourselves into.

Taking delivery!

One of our earliest photos – After a goooood scrub down and pressure wash.

  • All windows had blown out and the boat was full of leaves and garbage;
  • Holes had been drilled in the hull to let rainwater escape;
  • The engine was seized;
  • Not much remained of her interior and most “paper teak” panels, including counter tops had rotted;
  • There were a few soft spots in the deck and cockpit floor where the balsa coring had rotted away;
  • BUT her hull seemed sound and the standing rigging and some sails, removed for storage, seemed to be in ok shape (but we replaced all of that later anyway).

And so, we spent many, many, many hours working, sweating, freezing, and bleeding to bring her back to life over the next 5 years. We are proud to say that we have done 100% of the work ourselves, with two exceptions; We hired someone to help rebuild the first transmission, and we hired a kid to finish scraping our bottom paint (because he was hard up for cash). In summary, here’s what we did to convert “Jay Jay” into “Silver Lining”:

Mechanics: We pulled the seized Perkins 4.107; replaced it with a rebuilt Perkins 4.108 with less than 500 hours; installed re-built mechanical transmission; added extra fuel filters; replaced prop, prop shaft, cutlass & coupler; and ran new steering cables from binnacle to quadrant. In the Tehuanepec, the 4.108 threw a rod, so we replaced the engine again with another, newer, re-built 4.108 in Chiapas, Mexico. The original Paragon transmission gave up her ghost in San Blas, Panama so we replaced it with a Hearth.

Installing a new engine in Chiapas, MX. Its the 2nd engine we have installed, and the 3rd for the boat.

Hull: We stripped the bottom paint; ground out blisters, filled, faired and primed the hull; painted 8 coats of ablative bottom paint below the waterline and 6 coats in “Flag Blue” brightside above the waterline; added vinyl graphics with the new name; and replaced all thru-hull fittings. As we loaded the boat up for cruising, we accidentally raised our waterline by several inches, so we eventually painted over that beautiful white boot stripe with bottom paint.

New top-sides, bottom paint and boot stripe.

Adding the vinyl pinstripe.

Applying the name and hailing port.

Name on!

Fresh paint and Ashley’s old motorcycle.

Decks:We cut out and re-fiberglassed soft spots on deck and in cockpit floor; painted decks and cockpit with grey non-skid paint and white brightside; and replaced lifelines.

Rotten balsa coring on the cockpit floor. We cut out the fiberglass, removed all rotten wood, and filled void with layers of mat and roving, then laid the fiberglass floor back down.

Laying fiberglass mat into cockpit floor.

White paint before we painted the non-skid.

Repaired cockpit floor and new white paint.

Electronics: Added GPS plotter, radar, VHF radio, SSB radio, FM radio/CD player, autopilot, depth sounder; re-wired and installed new lighting, and installed all new electrical switches/panels.

Plumbing: We installed a 56 gallon flexible water tank (because at first we couldn’t locate the built-in 100 gallon main tank to inspect the hoses and fittings); installed a 15 gallon flexible waste tank; ran all new water and waste hoses and fittings; installed new Jabsco toilet; plumbed an Espar D5 hydronic cabin heater with heating loop and radiator/fan; installed PUR Powersurvivor 35 water maker; and installed a SeaGull4 water filter inside the refrigerator.

Rigging:We upgraded the 9/32 standing rigging to 5/16; replaced and re-bedded all chainplates; and replaced all running rigging.

New and old broken chainplates, replaced in Panama.

New hardware on the bob-stay

Sails and sail hardware: We installed a Harken roller furler with custom genoa and mains’l made by Rolly Tasker; replaced the Barient 21 winches with Lewmar 48 self-tailers; installed boom kicker; installed Monitor self-steering wind vane; and changed from end-of-boom sheeting to mid-boom sheeting which meant installing a Harken traveller over the companionway.

Windows & Hatches: Both the windows and the hatches took us several tries to get right. First we bedded new plexiglass windows into the existing plastic frames – they leaked. Then we removed the frames and through-bolted frameless plexiglass windows – they leaked. Finally we ordered custom aluminum framed windows with 3/8in tempered glass – success! We originally replaced the hatch covers with a marine ply and plexiglass combo but the sun and rain destroyed them in less than a year, so we made frameless plexiglass hatch covers that hinge open. We replaced the original 3-piece wood companionway doors with 2 3/8in plexiglass panels.

One of our window finish attempts… These trough-bolted windows leaked.

New plexiglass companionway hatches.

Take #2 on lazarette hatches: tongue and groove teak. #1 was plywood, #3 is currently “new wood”.


Galley: We pulled the original gimbled propane stove/oven and replaced it with a two burner Princess alcohol stove; replaced rotten paper teak counter tops and finished with laminate; refaced all cabinets with bamboo and custom cherry doors; and converted the icebox to a refrigerator by installing a Norcold, which we eventually replaced again with an Adler Barbour cold plate.

Installing ew counters and stove (with window attempt #2).

Interior: We sewed new cushion upholstery and curtains; covered paper teak bulkheads with veneer; refinished most of the teak trim; laid teak and holly Lonseal sole; and installed bookshelves.

Ash with her completed upholstery.

New upholstery.

Fresh finish on the teak companionway stairs.

Ground tackle: We re-bedded the bowsprit; added a Lewmar Profish windlass; upgraded the 35lb CQR anchor to a 60 lb CQR, and carry a 24 Danforth, and an FX27 Fortress as backup.

Replacing rotten bow sprit bedding and adding the windlass.

Power: Installed Air-X wind generator, installed 6 solar panels for a total of 200 watts, installed new batteries (housebank: 430ah, and starting: 80ah); and installed 20amp shore power charger (which melted down in Panama- we are currently without a charger).

Canvas: Installed a dodger and bimini, and made a center panel to connect the two; added a mains’l cover with lazy jacks; and sewed canvas covers for all doraed vents, jerry cans, hatches and windlass.

Canvas (#2) with 6 solar panels mounted above.

Fuel: Drilled an inspection plate in the 70 gallon diesel tank and had the 15 year old diesel tested- it passed. Fabricated stainless steel racks to hold jerry cans outside of rails, for an additional 50 gallons of capacity.

New jerry can rack (a la Elan) and jerry can covers (a la Ash) to stow the cans outside of our walkable deck space.

Dinghy: Originally bought a very tippy 8ft Walker Bay rowboat, but replaced it with a 10ft Walker Bay inflatable with a 6 horse Merc. We installed davits to hang the dinghy from the stern and eventually had them lengthened to work around our self-steering windvane. We fabricated another davit to help hoist the 6hp Mercury outboard onto the boat in rough water.

“Launch Day” after a decade and a half on the hard. These are two HAPPY people!

Just feet from the water…

And… I’m sure I’m forgetting lots of other stuff – my brain does its best to block some things out as a manner of self-preservation! After all of the years of blood, sweat and tears, we are very attached to and proud of our little boat…

No boat is ever complete, so therefore this page won’t be either. Check back from time to time to see how things are progressing.

3 thoughts on “Boat Restoration

  1. Great job you guys, what a project. We’ve been out cruising for many years and miles but that was over 10 years ago and now we have a deposit on a boat in Greece so I guess the cruising bug never leaves you. Your web page is pretty cool as well, its great to see young people with the balls to take a few risks in life, good on ya. Have a wonderful 2013. Cheers, Robert and Carla

    • I am glad you have enjoyed our blog! Good luck on that boat in Greece. I would love to sail there and see that part of the world. We have really liked seeing how different the world is from place to place. Greece is high on the list 🙂

  2. wow, looks great, know how it feels when a plan comes together as we are re biulding a narrow boat. its still not in the water yet and it will be a scarey feeling on the day, finger crossed. thanks for the write up on your wonderful project. Happy Sailing 🙂

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