35 knots

We ticked a lot of boxes on the punch list for the SeaFlite ski boat over the past week. The old gas tank was unsalvageable so for now we’ll go portable.

With gas in the tank, the new battery tucked in, and a hose hooked up to water pump feed ‘earmuffs’, the engine fired right up. So I towed a mile over to the Petaluma River ramp, and just like that the 33 years streak of sitting on that trailer came to an end!

No leaks and nothing suspicious. The interior wasn’t installed yet so I grabbed a footstool for a captains chair and pulled off the dock. Made some circles near the ramp, in case there was any trouble. Made bigger and bigger loops, and stepped up through 2,000 and 3,000 rpm. Wow, this is fast with the 120hp outboard! It stalled a couple times and wouldn’t hold an idle, and the wind and current really picked up. So I put it back on the trailer and pulled up to the flushing station (our river is actually a tidal slough). Here the engine ran perfectly, so I relaunched the boat, removed the motor cover and fussed with the spark dwell setting, and got a good idle. I had great plans of giving you guys a first-launch video, but with my new GoPro chest strap I managed to capture ten minutes of the dashboard and knees. We’ll do better for you this weekend!

Anyway, with the idle sorted it was time to open up the throttle. Got a sailing phone app open and saw 35kts boat speed at about 5200 rpm. There’s more speed in that throttle, and probably more top end with a higher pitch prop. This one is only 15” and it planes pretty much instantly. This little boat is a screamer. 35.5kts is 40+mph, so we hit that goal I told Rick a couple weeks back ;). Satisfied, I pulled it out, rinsed out the salt, and happily marched home to do cosmetics.

Got some indoor/outdoor carpet off the 12’ wide roll at Home Depot.

Then spent an evening scrubbing 3 decades of shed grime off the while vinyl upholstery. It’s still serviceable!

And yes, you old timers are wondering if the seats fold down flat… yep, total 70’s day bed loungers.

Got Jeanne out to the driveway and she was inspired to polish up some metal bits. I went after scrubbing the orange paint. We removed what was left of the registration numbers and a deep layer of DMV stickers. Last one in the pile shows about what year it was painted (originally dark olive gelcoat).

You can see in that stern photo the motor is low in the water, and at speed it threw some side spray, meaning the anti-cavitation plate is too low in the water. So we hooked up the chain hoist over the garage again, and it was a fairly easy task to loosen bolts and take the motor up about an inch and a half.

After this, we kept on with some interior trim stuff, and today found a used full boat cover from Craigslist. Not photographed, but definitely sweat over in the heat, was a complete rewire and new fixtures for the trailer lights, new safety chains and winch/retrieval strap. Four rubber keel rollers and the bow stop are rotten, and being replaced at the next launch time. But we’re leaving the hideous 70’s carpet on the trailer bunk boards for the kids. We’ve got one last big cosmetic item, painting the motor, and then it’s time to go enjoy some river time before this little number slips away to the younger Carters in Colorado. Griffin doesn’t know it yet, but after this much work I’m giving it to him with the caveat of anytime I want to drive to Denver and grab it for a trip to Lake Mead or other western hotspots, it’s fair game. I

f you’re local and want a ride, speak up now. Just bring a chin strap for your hat.

Making a place for the outboard

The ‘69 SeaFlite got her beefy transom upgrade in the last couple of posts, and now we’ll recap building the outboard motor well. The theme of this project is “up cycling” i.e. taking old stuff for free or low cost and make it go faster!

The old motor cover donated itself as panels for the motor well
Didn’t have quite enough width from the old stuff, so the front face is leftover plywood from the transom thickening
The sides come together. The yellow squiggles are old glue that held crappy “sound insulation” around the Merc inline 6
Tying the motor well to the transom gussets
Had to rebate some of the old engine bed to get the new 3/4” floor panel to fit.
This 50 year old boat now has a bit of modern carbon fiber foam core bulkhead panel composite structure in it! (We has some scrap pieces available)
This is under the new motor well; we’ve left a bilge where the old transmission was. Will put in a pump and keep the original drain plug hole.
Finished product, ready for some fairing. Didn’t take any photos of the monotonous fairing passes. Mainly because I wasn’t as particular back here like we were with Ravenswing;)
Pulled up the filthy old carpet and found the original plywood floor had been left untreated. So we did an epoxy skimcoat. That old plywood drank the epoxy like an Annapolis cadet on shore leave. So we’ll probably fill gaps tomorrow with some putty before painting it.
Yea! Glassing work done and first primer applied. I think once we mount the engine this thing will look pretty close to a factory original outboard model.
Yesterday I dove in to the electrical and removed the entire old system. We’re not saving the stylish dashboard and gauges, but hopefully some restorer will buy it all! The tape is around the old MerControl throttle. Sadly I had to cut the old unit because they installed it before bonding that interior panel to the hull. Damn, those old units get $150 on eBay and this one was in good shape.
Making the 3.5” hole for a 1990’s throttle assembly
I’d really like to use the old chrome Merc handle but it just won’t retrofit. Trying to figure out how to “sixties-ize” the used stuff we bought. Stay tuned.

Next up is a bit more primer then hopefully our International Orange from Ravenswing is a good enough color match. I spent Sunday in Sacramento pulling a 90’s Evinrude 120hp V4 from a going-to-recycling boat. mid 90’s heat and it took from 9:30am to 2, including throwing my chainhoist over the old guy’s front yard tree, but we got everything we need including gauges, shifter, a nice Teleflex steering system and the full wiring harness. The motor had recent work by a reputable mechanic, and it fired up and ran well, so FINGERS CROSSED!

A lot of orange

We’re seeing orange these days. You guys will cut to the final scene here, getting the new transom ready for the motor install.

That’s actually the second paint job. Using Ravenswing’s int’l orange Awlgrip was not even close on color matching. Looked kinda silly to have a different color tail. So the nearby Kelly Moore paint store made a decent match with their toughest enamel, then we also sprayed three layers of automotive clear coat. It’ll do, and if we like this boat, it’s going to need a pro repaint someday anyway :)

Ok, just above the garage doors are the usual big header beams. I’ve bolted on a sturdy piece of aluminum angle with a hole big enough for a huge shackle.

That’s our anchor point for my hillbilly chainhoisting adventures.

No problem, except I noticed a bit of oil leaking from the lower unit. Hmmm, it was serviced and hasn’t been run since. That’ll need investigating before we launch :(. On to the install! The boat was staged just outside the garage for a quick swap of the two trailers, to minimize ‘hang time’ of the motor in the garage doorway.

We sized the well expecting to find an inline 4 cyl motor, which are quite narrow. Ended up with a wide body V4, so when it’s tilted up, the side to side range is limited. Not a problem, but before I hooked up the steering it flopped over and scratched the fresh paint, of course. Oh well.

The motor fits this boat really well, and as RickWS says, it’s all going to look ‘period correct’.

It’s funny how the very easy stuff ends up taking forever. This is the new control box that came with the motor.

Actually, that’s the guts of it that none of us should be seeing. It’s a universal retrofit unit; nothing is labeled and i could find no instructions. The gear selector wasn’t moving and there are many holes / different combos of ways to set it up. This turned in to a six hour ordeal, chasing down ball and roller bearings that weren’t seating well, getting throttle but no gear, then vice versa. And on about the ninth try of various little configuration choices, it all suddenly worked. Phew. It’s averaging upper 90’s here this week, so I was a sweat drenched cussing fool.

After showering and calming down, we got the dashboard going.

Today was wiring day, and this went smoothly.

It’s a good mix of old and new. The 50 year old switches cleaned up very well, but the fuse holders shattered as I twisted off their caps to check fuses. Things that were reused all got proper cleanup.

Learned from a radio guy in Puerto Vallarta to smear Vaseline on the electrical connections, to fight marine corrosion. But because this is a fresh water inland boat, I didn’t do full heat shrink protection on all connectors. It’s more like a factory wiring job, vs. our hard core offshore job on Ravenswing.

We’ve also spent some time cleaning up the shiny bits, and I look forward to the weekend when hopefully we’ll be adding back a bit of bling. Inspired by the amazing detailing we saw in MX of Cam & Vicky’s big tri. We all watched the Marina LaCruz guys spend three+ days polishing all that metalwork and it looked fantastic.

Also in the mix last week was retrieving boat #5 of the Five Little Boats odyssey, doing some cleanup, and getting it quickly moved to a new home. I’m thrilled that 14 yr old Liam up in Lake County is really in to sailing and needed more than his family’s Capri 13. This Coronado 15 will keep him and a friend busy, with its racing hull and double hike-out trapezes. I had to say no to the two senior citizen guys that wanted it – they need a mellower O’Day or similar! The faded red C-15 only stayed in our driveway 6 days. That’s pretty good movement for a scrounger like me.

Well, I just went back outside after dark to check the day’s work. All the electrics work. Motor key kicks over, cell phone (USB) charger good, horn – check, bilge pump, check. The last switch … you guys can see for yourselves :)

PS, those are 50 year old bulbs in the bow and stern lamps!. We’ll probably get some LED swap outs.

Making the cut

Can I go to New Zealand and do some boat work apprenticing? Those people sure do it right. Needed some guidance on how to size this new outboard motor well, and here are the answers on outboardmarine.co.nz   And we could meet the good people at PredictWind, the amazing weather and wave forecasting software we use to guide Ravenswing’s travels.

Click to access transom-specs.pdf

So we took these figures, grabbed a level, tape measure, pencil & tape, and dove in.


Grabbed the hole saw and made the first cut; no turning back now!

 To plug the old outdrive hole, there was just enough of the cutoff to form the patch. Last night we started the wiring & rigging removal. Took the seats out and dove in to the dashboard. Kinda fun disassembling stuff that was properly installed 51 years ago. Except for finding the mouse turds and wasp nests up in the fore peak.

Thank you Todd, Tony & Rick for really questioning moving the engine weight out behind the boat with a new outboard motor bracket. The info I was reading showed some cuddy cabin boats where the outboard bracket worked well, but those small boats have a bunch of weight up forward to balance against the motor. RickWS asked the pros at Kitsap Marine in Washington, and they have seen the mistakes of 15-19′ boats not able to get up on plane with this new engine mount. Apparently it’s really tricky to get the balance back, and you’re adding trim tabs (expensive and complicated). We then spent an evening considering an old-school outboard well in front of the boat’s transom, sort of mimicking an inboard V-drive. But in the end, let’s just convert this boat as inexpensively as possible to a normal outboard back end. And we’ll try to make it look ‘factory’ like other late 60’s boats, re-using panels from the original motor box…

Ski boat transom work

We’re splitting time these days finishing the rock walls, working on vegetation, and rehabbing the ‘69 SeaFlite. After 57 tons, I’m pretty f’ing sick of lifting rocks. So let’s work on boats.

Got some 3/4” ply, cut it into approximate size to fill the original thin-wall sections, and glued up double layers with fiberglass in between. Now we have 1-1/2” solid transom material to fit…

Then made up a bonding paste of chopped strand mat and thickened polyester resin, and clamped & temp-screwed them in to position.

It’s thick goo, to deal with the irregular surface of the existing boat.

A layer of 18oz kyntex went over the top and was tabbed to the hull.

As an inboard engine boat, this was designed to put the propulsion force into the old engine beds, and not all on the transom. So we’re structurally tying the forces from the new motor mount area to the original zone. We’re using composites to unify the transom, stringers and original engine bed. It starts with offcuts from a big carbon fiber, foam core panel that Cozmo gave me a while back.

Did you catch the glassing boo-boo? Second to last photo, in the middle of the transom. I did a big 78” wide, 20” tall Kyntex single piece across the whole area. It got very hot in the late morning sun and I’m using the last ounces of my fast set good epoxy. After I had it all peel-ply’d and squeegeed out, I took off for the rock store to get the last retaining wall stones. Came back to the boat late in the day and found that big spot had bubbled. Pretty sure that part in the direct son kicked off too fast and trapped some air. Darn, had to end the day by grinding away some of the morning task. That’s boat repair life.

Now we’re stopped until we get more epoxy, hopefully tomorrow. It’s cardboard time again anyway – need to mock up the new outboard well this weekend.

Coming back to life

We had a good weekend in COVID times, gathering a small tribe to put some love into an old boat. Say hello to Triple Zero. This is the prototype, the actual first boat built, of designer Dick Newick’s Summer-Salt 26. The model was picked up and a dozen or so built in Chicago as the Outrigger 26. Check that out here:


Our man Anton responded to a “free boat” ad a few years back. It was in Colorado with a man in his 70’s who realized he just wouldn’t get the boat going again. Anton convinced him the Newick would splash again if she went to California. I got to see it in Anton’s barn as we discussed what would be needed to get her sailing. Since that day the barn creatures and Father Time further conspired against seaworthiness.

Fast forward to last week, when various parties got a rallying call – grab your facemask and grubbies, drive to the ranch, and join the Newick work party. He promised to tow it out into the open, power wash the owl crap off, and provide some COVID-safe hospitality. We got ten folks across the weekend, and kept things socially distanced and/or alcohol wiped. No handshakes, only the Wuhan ToeTap for personal connections.

The day 1 inspection found damage to repair. Main hull transom rot, starboard ama deck/hull join delamination, and rotten net lashing bars on the ama decks. So Saturday was consumed with prepping the structural repairs. A couple of us were assigned to make trampoline nets between the hulls. It made me realize again how thankful we were for Carlos and Dean four years ago in Napa when they did that amazing job installing Ravenswing’s nets in Napa. So hey, Damien and Beth, do you recognize this?

Rumor is this is Brizo’s (awesome refreshed Catana y’all saw in MX with us) former bow net. We cut it in half which is just about right for this:

You can see the new temporary nets lashing bar at the bottom of that photo.

By 7pm of the day that hovered in upper 90’s, and featured itchy fiberglass grinding, Anton called for an Eldo Run to Lake Berryesa. (Above Napa). Good thing, because they weren’t going to let us each go in the house for showers!

Kinda surreal to spend the day cleaning up an 80s boat then joyriding a mostly clapped out ‘76 Cadillac.

PS my mask flew off when he hit 65 down a country road. That’s after he cleaned the car with the leaf blower.

We swam in the lake for sunset, rinsing off old-boat grime. Ate some good food back at the ranch, watched the comet, and hit our distanced tents / vans / pickup beds.

Sunday morning after fresh goats milk & chicken eggs, it was time to slew some West Systems epoxy. I was thinking about the Gougeon brothers and Dick Newick; figured they’d be pretty happy about today’s work.

The new transom work was dubbed red neck vacuum bagging.

Here’s a net lashing bar underway.

And the ama deck / hull join repairs underway

The nets are important with this design; they hold the amas, beams and main hull in tension together. So once we had them laced up, it was time to roll out of the barn into the former horse arena.

You wouldn’t believe this rusted out trailer covered the 1500 miles that got the boat to Anton’s place. Today as he tugged it over bumps we watched it falling apart like the comet. Leaves rust trails when the frame touches the ground!

Time to stand up the rig! Doesn’t everyone have a man-lift in their yard?

The mast and boom are in very good condition. It’s a 26 footer with a proper rotation foot setup and a nice CDI furler. The production boats had 31’ sticks but we’re thinking this will be enough power for windy SF Bay.

Such a good feeling to see your friend excited. This guy is ready to see what all his hard work has earned!

Keith, we ended up with perhaps all the needed cordage, but that’ll get checked carefully soon.

I’d never seen a boat rehab party done entirely on the scrounge. Not one trip to a store the whole three days, and this thing is about ready to sail. Judy says he’ll have to buy her a few little sailmakers notions to get the jib repair done next weekend, and that should do it.

The trailer was deemed by group consensus as, “none of us will help you launch the boat from that piece of shit”, so Anton will borrow an actual boat trailer (already onsite). There’s a bit more uni fiber to add on the stern before refitting the rudder on the rebuilt transom. The dagger and trunk look ready to go. I’ve implored him to take a few more hours now, during the trailer switch, to sand off the failed bottom paint and epoxy barrier below the waterline. Despite that old brochure, this is not a frequent-trailer-launch boat. Some bottom paint now will save potential headaches soon.

We want to know any history on this boat. Found a mooring license sticker from the public marina in Chicago for 1987, but no other info is known. If anyone had any clue on the life of this first hull, please comment back here or on the Multihull Anarchy thread I’ll start tomorrow. Thank you!

So there she sits. The prototype of Newick’s SummerSalt design. Almost ready to relaunch after a couple decade drought. Stephen will approve- another Golden Oldie will live on.

Boxes of rocks

We had never actually seen gabion (rocks in cages) walls in person. Phew, good thing we love the results! Turns out our new walls will take about 90,000 lbs of rock in total.

The work should be pretty straightforward but it was tricky to figure out how to stack a good looking outer face and keep it all vertically plumb. It was a wise move to hire Ari Reis and the two guys he brought. Pending the next rock delivery, we hope to finish the wall construction mid week.

The water trough veggie boxes came out well.

Each bin has a water feed from our existing sprinkler system. Picked up a couple of circuits from the former lawn.

Now I’ll make you look at pictures of dirt, so we can remember where the pipes lie.

While we were on lunch break, the LoneStar new owners came to take it away. They sail a Hunter 33 and had been looking for a day sailer to refresh.

It was good to clear a driveway spot :)

Back to the back yard

Today we wheeled the orange boat into the garage, to keep it out of the way for this weekend’s retaining wall build. Haven’t done much more on that boat – just the start of plugging the outdrive hole.

I think I’m stalled because, shockingly, I can’t find any epoxy around the joint. Time for a Svendsen’s order tomorrow.

This afternoon was to be the final run to the rice farm with the five boat situation. The guy for the LoneStar didn’t show! So I had to leave the red/white Coronado 15 up there, and towed the LoneStar home where it’ll be easier to ‘rehome’. Tell me if you think the ad is compelling enough:


But now the boats need to sit a few days, and we got yard work a’ callin.

While at Tractor Supply picking up those 16’ cattle panels to make the retaining wall cages, I got to looking at the livestock tanks… we planned to make fancy raised bed veggie boxes for a decent kitchen garden. But after drawing it up, I was seeing days of work and many hundreds of materials bucks. Turns out we both like this easy fix.

We fit 6 big tanks in that trip and got started on laying out irrigation pipe. Will button that up tomorrow.

It took three days to build the gabion wall rock cages. They’re all hog-ringed together. (Technically Shoat Rings). We bought 1600lbs of rip rap with the pickup early in the week and made the first small section to test the materials. It’s a winner.

Sadly, on a DIY budget, one faces the reality of what 46,140lbs of rocks really looks like. I calculated we need somewhere around 35 cubic yards of rock for all these walls. Was not thrilled when the Shamrock Materials dispatch guy said, “oh that’s about 70 tons, and $3,500. You know those aren’t easy to work with, right? I can’t guarantee the quarry will hit the 6-12” target.”

We’ve hired three men to come help on Saturday. We have to hand-place the jigsaw puzzle of the front facing. Then you can dump the rest behind. Tedious work. Standing in a cage. And forcast is for mid 90’s. What an idiot. All so we can get this done so there’s time to go sailing again. I can hear Ravenswing calling. But there’s a storm spinning in the Pacific west of Cabo. Geez.

Out with the old

July4th weekend was quiet around here. Jeanne noted it was the first time in decades we didn’t have doggies freaking out over fireworks. RIP Coco & Lola :(

We had a nice 4th afternoon with Dad here.

That nice shadowbox is a gift from the new owner of Dad’s long-time Catalina, Maggie. That was such a good ownership transition.

Sunday morning we grabbed the tools and climbed in to the SeaFlite, having decided to convert it to outboard power. It was a long day, but we got it done!

Oops, realized you have to pull the outdrive first, to get the prop shaft out of the back of the engine.

50 year old seals needed a little help from the gate post, and with a nudge of the pickup throttle, the drive popped right out. Then it was back to freeing the motor.

Then the transom brackets inside and out. Had to cut away two bolts that were frozen in place. That added probably two hours of trying various techniques. Typical dealing with old stuff.

Late in the day, we got back to a blank slate!

Also as we dug around, the original sales receipt and brochure were found. $4,500 in 1969. This thing was classy! And it was dark avocado. I like the orange respray, personally.

We actually have the pictured hardtop, in white, from that brochure. One leg is broken off, but the parts and here and some day that’ll get a refurbish too. It’s too nice to trash.

The whole drivetrain went up on Craigslist Sunday night for $250, and yesterday Ray from Santa Rosa was thrilled to come get our old junk. He’s a boat mechanic and will be replacing a four cyl in his 1963 runabout. Says he needs the extra 40+hp to get back up on waterskis now in his 40’s :)

RickWS checked around and suggests I cut in a transom mount. But Jeanne was disgusted by my taped cut marks, saying we shouldn’t ruin the good looking lines of this boat. She’s right, and instead later today I’ll start forming up an outboard bracket to bolt on to the existing transom. Gotta do it low cost, like plywood and fiberglass. Not spending a couple grand on a metal one like this photo below. There’s a lot of web info out there, but if any readers have specific experience doing this conversion, give me a shout! Thx

Finding homes for old boats

Today we picked up boats 2 and 3 of our save-5-boats project.

The Snark is indeed an easy car-topper. Just tossed it right up on the paddleboard rack, about 7’ up. It has no glamour left after so many years in the sun, but after the new owner sews up a replacement sail, I think this little craft will be a good seat of the pants sailing trainer. Hey, remember all the soda pop merchandising displays in the 80’s? I got a laugh when this sail was unrolled today.

Wendy, everything you need is here. So if these photos don’t scare you off, the Snark is yours.

Boat #3, the Chrysler LoneStar 16, needs your help. Perhaps Anton wants to take the plunge? Or Don has a line on someone who wants it on Tomales Bay? This one looks to have all the needed parts, and the sails appear usable (made of decent fabric). The main needs a restitch along the foot, but I’d be willing to fix that if this ol’blue doesn’t have to come to my yard!

This one comes with all the paperwork since they bought it 40 years ago. Including clear title on the little trailer. Let’s find this one a home ASAP, and I’ll deliver it.

Boat #4 was a surprise bonus from the nephew of sailboat donating man. When I picked up the Lido last week Steve the landowner asked if we’d be interested in an old ski boat. He didn’t know the Carters owned a ‘69 Corvette this very same color, and I regret losing that car to child-rearing practicalities 30 years ago. So heck yeah, who wouldn’t want a ‘69 SeaFlite?

We put on new trailer tires and fresh bearings. Made the afternoon run Sacramento to Novato on 1987 license plates, non stop in the left lane of two freeways with no trailer lights. This boat sat in a shed unused since the early 80’s because one day they launched with the on-land motor flushing plate still attached, blocking intake flow, overheating and cracking the exhaust manifold. He even bought the new part 20 years ago (it’s still in the box today) but never got back to it on their big busy farm. Piston hole 1 has a lot of rust, so we’re looking in to engine swap options. Charlie, can you and Ben tell me what to do with this Chevy mercruiser six? Outdrive and hydraulic steering look good. I’ll have to revamp the gas supply and redo wiring.

This boat will get a makeover and move to Colorado for Griffin & Taylor. My goal is to be dragged around a lake on a tube by my kid driving his ‘69 ski boat within a year. We even got the original removable hardtop, although it has some bad damage and I have other fiberglass projects ahead of that. Jeanne and I really dig the lines and vibe of this Apollo era retro ship.

OK good people, let’s get the LoneStar re-homed, and then I can tell you about the original owner Coronado 15 that is #5 in this unexpected adventure.