Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Working Vacation

The week following the visit by my Dad and Brother, I had the week off of work. With a spring in my step, I got a lot of work done. I continued where we left off on the trailer by first attacking that nasty leaf spring. I got it completely taken apart, clip removed, and the eye bushing pressed out. Removing the old spring eye bushing could be a blog all it's own. I wire brushed them down, removing all the rust, and tapered the tops of the lower leafs just a bit to help them slide a little easier. Then primed with Rust-oleum Rust Converter (just in case) and finished with some hammered bronze. Why hammered bronze, Alan? Because I think it looks cool. And it's my trailer. So bugger off.

In between coats of paint, I started back in on the cabin. I got the rest of the bulkhead removed, and gutted the cabin. Everything came out. The sink and toilet cover are in great shape and just need a little plywood underneath for some strength, sanded and painted. The most mold I found was in the seat next to the sink. There must have been a water leak at the window. I left the would strip in for now that holds the wrap around fiberglass shelf. I think I will replace it, as it is really swelled up and I don't think screws will hold in it again. But I want to wait to pull that until I have some plywood (and a scroll saw) to replace it. And I got the port side slider window frame removed. Only broke one screw. I haven't slowed down enough yet to see what that will take to repair. What is apparent, is the damage at the cabin bulkhead area. The bend in the hull is noticeable. I thought, after a brief discussion online, that I could perhaps save the stringers. Maybe cut then away from the hull in the high spots, and glass them back in after getting it all straight. I think now, the best option is to cut them out and start over. Sorry, Skagit lovers. But the hull is too far out. It looks like that bulkhead is a pretty important part of the shape of it. I need to somehow get a straight support under the hull, then push it down from the inside with a new bulkhead. Then install the new stringers. Or something like that. I haven't gotten that far yet.

The cool discovery for the week was finding the fresh water tank key for the fill plug! I could probably find something that would work, but It's really nice to have found the original.

I've made several shopping trips this week. One to West Marine for odds and ends to start playing with the epoxy, and one to a recycler up north that sells scrap steel by the pound. I found enough material to fabricate the spring hangers, install the cross members, and lengthen the tongue. I fabricated the spring hangers from 2-1/2 square tube, 3/16 wall. The holes took a little while to figure out. The old hangers were banged up enough it was hard getting a good measurement. I later decided for strength (and better weld area) to plate the inside of the hanger on each side with some 1/8" plate. This still leaves room for the spring, and gives me the entire width of the cross member to weld to. I have some galvanized u-bolts on order. After they arrive, I will cut out one u-bolt at a time at the cross members. All the steel will get cleaned, primed, and painted. Then replace the u-bolt with the new galvanized one. I'll get as far to the right side as I can, then repeat the entire spring removal and overhaul on that side.

This week promises 50+ hours at work for me, starting at 12:30AM, so I'm not likely to get any work done. Before I can do much, I need to clean up the garage, once again. Building a solar heater for the pool has left a big mess, and the dead Honda in the garage is taking what work space I had. I did get a good lead on a 100HP Johnson outboard, and I need to take advantage of this soon. I better get that car out of the garage. For the outboard, I have to take the boat and trailer that comes with it. Anyone want a boat?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Little Help Goes A Long Way

So my Dad and my Brother (who is an English teacher and will, I'm sure, take exception to my capitalization and punctuation....) came over this weekend from Spokane. They showed up early Saturday morning. Dad wanted a work shirt right away!

The Old Man did not agree with my condemnation of the trailer. He whacked at it with a hammer. He scraped at it with a screwdriver. He said that, apart from the rotten roller frames, it was a healthy looking trailer. I trust what he thinks, and before I knew it, he and my Brother had the fenders off and were taking apart the left spring! Many of the bolts had to be cut off (no surprise there....) but it all came apart relatively easily. We also got the rest of the bow weight off the trailer and cut the remaining rollers out.

I got a keel guide roller installed on the tongue, as low as possible. This will serve as the starting point for bunk height on the trailer. We also proved we can easily jack the trailer up and move it around under the boat to get the trailer setup perfect. Dad had a really good idea of adding additional cross members under the trailer frame, for installing bunks and keel rollers. We followed this idea to the end and it appears that I can easily install four bunks, and keel rollers, to completely support the boat, by just adding two cross members.

This was a very productive weekend. A few diversions along the way and, as I suspected, ample time sitting in a lawn chair in the garage drinking beer, talking about the boat. I think as valuable as the work they got done, was seeing the trailer is worth saving. Even more valuable than that, was sharing some of this with my Dad and Brother. Their excitement for the boat has peaked my determination again for getting some serious work done. For too long, I go out, look at it, and decide it's just too much work to start right now. I guess they see the same potential in her as I do. Whatever the reason, my new spirit has kept me going for several weeks now. I now find myself looking forlornly at bodies of water as I drive past; I have to get out there!

I doubt I could express, in words to make it clear, just how much I enjoyed the company of my Dad and my Brother. If this blog is never read, at least it serves me to recall my fond memories of boyhood, working on the car or truck with my Dad, or any of many misadventures with my Brother; tinkering, camping, fishing, and the like. They are welcome anytime to stare at the boat with a cold beer or Mike's lemonade. And wouldn't my Dad be surprised to learn, that I still hold on to the memory of helping to change the oil in that old Volvo station wagon. Thanks, guys.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Trailer

No new pictures. I don't want anyone to see how messy I've let the garage get.

It's been a while since I've been able to work on the boat. I realized I couldn't do much else until I got it sitting flat on the trailer. My work schedule through the holidays gave way to Michelle's recovery after surgery. No time, no money. But life slowly gets back to normal, and I have the itch to see this boat in the water.

The stringers at the cabin bulkhead are clearly damaged. I built some small sawhorses and have the boat sitting on them. The aft rollers have been removed from the trailer. The forward rollers will be removed soon.

I now have real doubts that this trailer is safe to tow, much less put in the water again. I had planned on removing the rollers and converting it to a bunk trailer. It sits a little high for that, and I would have to lengthen the tongue. After looking at the rotten frame, and the roller assembly I took out folding in half when I loaded it in the truck to take to the dump (pretty heavy pipe, about 1-3/4", thick wall - was very concerned when it folded and broke with no effort), I am now convinced this trailer is done. I may take the axle and make a utility trailer from it. The rest will be cut up and sold for scrap.

With the boat sitting solid on stands, I started poking at the cabin bulkhead. I took half of it out. It was never tied to the stringers (closing off the cabin compartment) which I'm guessing weakened the structure. Now there is nothing to do but move ahead and start removing the cabin.

The cabin is in really pretty nice shape. Just needs paint. I need to remove everything so I can get under the deck and sniff around for moisture. It looks dry at first glance, but it sat in the weather for a really long time.

My Dad and Brother are coming over next weekend to work on the trailer. I think I'm going to write off the trailer as a loss, so maybe we can get some real work done on the boat? I suspect we may not get a lot done besides "talking" about doing something to it.....

I will get my piles of junk cleaned up from around the trailer and take some pictures soon.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


No new pictures this week. My work schedule is getting more demanding as Christmas approaches, so I haven't got anything done. I did pick up some buckets and drained those fuel tanks. I was afraid I would have one dump over and have a garage floor covered in rotten gasoline. I got about 13 gallons out of the two tanks, the most by far came from the starboard tank, which was pretty close to half full as I had thought.

I have some new masks in hand so I may try to get the rest of the sole cut out tomorrow. That will depend on how boring the football games get.

I am having some questions on the windows and the correct model year of the boat. Everything I have read says the 56 windows are very distinct, but these look more like a 58. I have also heard that it is not uncommon for the windows to come from many sources, so they may not all be the same. Very confusing. I really need to get some better pictures of original boats. I feel some obligation to restore the boat as best as possible. The boat is in, however, rather desperate shape. And besides, many of the boat regulations in place today were not heard of when this boat was manufactured (like the toilet drain just above the water line....) so it can never be original again if it is to be used. I'm not really in love with the original gold gel coat, anyway.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Demolition Starts

It's been difficult finding time to make a lot of progress, but in the last two weeks I have managed to remove nearly all the rotten wood. The only wood left to remove is the sole that was under the fuel tanks, and the furring strips that supported it.

I'll have to stop on my way home from work tomorrow and get a couple more dust masks. I can't get anymore mileage out of the one dust mask I had. I'll need one before I cut anymore fiberglass. The diamond blade I bought for the grinder for doing tile work goes through the fiberglass like a dream, but it's VERY dusty.

I have been able to remove nearly all the wood from the splash well area, and have done some detail demolition on the transom, although I have some cleanup work left to do. I found the original layer of glass that covered the splash well (that had been later removed when the transom was cut done) and I plan to use this layer to locate the replacement splash well.

The splash well bulkhead is completely removed. The cap is molded into the top section of the hull, and is still in good shape, with a few holes to fill. I have to be real careful going in and out, as the cap can't take any weight. I need to temporarily clamp a 2x4 under it to prevent it from being damaged. At the bottom of the bulkhead, most of the old fiberglass came out easily next to the wet plywood. What's left I will need to clean up with the grinder. In the bilge area, there was thick layers of epoxy in the port side, and what looked like porcelain in the starboard side. Most of it lifts easily with a bar and has been removed. I have stripped most of the last ply of the plywood against the transom outer skin. And I've made some progress on the huge layers of epoxy and body filler where the ends of the old plywood were. The starboard side of the transom has very thick globs of filler (the deepest an inch thick).

The center stringer had a messy patch job on it. I pulled up the patch to find a hole. Maybe the center stringer curved up and tied into the transom? Whatever it used to look like, it was cut down when the lower splash well was installed. There is at least two transom, bilge, or splash well repair jobs on this boat, judging from the different materials used. The original fiberglass is easy to identify. It still looks good, and the repair material scrapes right off the top of it.

I will get the rest of the sole removed and any rotten wood in the cockpit area, then I need to address the broken trailer before I go much more. The hull at the cabin bulkhead on the starboard side is definitely being pushed up by the roller on the trailer. I won't be able to do any stringer or bulkhead work until I get the boat sitting comfortably.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


The boat sat for almost two weeks before I had any real time to do anything. Oh, I go out to the garage and look at something or take a few measurements, or marvel at how a spider was able to construct a web in such a short amount of time from the broken windshield frame to the rafters up above. This whole time, and for about a week prior, I was researching the repair work. There's a lot that has to be thought of. The type of marine plywood to use, the type of epoxy, and what catalyst. Which paints will be compatible with that epoxy? Lots of things I still need to decide on, but I have decided on West System epoxy. It sounds like they are the leader, and they have a catalyst that will allow the epoxy to cure down to 40 degrees; important if I am to do any repair work during the winter.

So last Sunday, bored of watching football (the Hawks got there asses handed to them), I was able to spend a few hours working on the boat. I figured there was no better way to get started than to just get the garbage out, and see exactly what I'm in for.

I started in the transom. Some stuff gets saved, like the outboard controls. Old battery cables and fuel lines are all garbage. I got the transom swept and cleaned out with the shop vac, and noticed just how wet everything was, for being inside for two weeks. I soldiered on and cleaned everything, making my way to the cabin. I discovered the cabin hatch is in perfect working order. Sweet!

I quickly saw that in the transom, having removed all the rotten wood, it was starting to dry out already. I started feeling a lot better about the whole thing. I swept and vacuum cleaned the entire boat, every crevice I could get in. Smells better already.

All the dark spots between the stringers are moisture. The following day, these spots would be mostly gone. I hadn't planned on doing anything major until we had transferred title on the boat, but I wasn't done working yet and saw that it may not have been as bad as I had thought. I must keep going! The sole (deck) had been cut out at the perimeter. I could see some wood under the sole that was under the fuel tanks that was never covered with glass and resin, so those spots just looked like mulch. I pushed a screwdriver into one spot, and water squeezed out.

It should be noted that I was convinced I would clean and reuse the fuel tanks. About 30 seconds of Google research and I discovered that the blended fuels used today (with ethanol) will dissolve older resins. The Coast Guard has responded to many boaters with dissolved tanks, and they recommend if you boat is more than 20 years old, replace them. So much for saving the tanks. Out they go.

I started on the starboard tank because the fiberglass had cracked around much of the tabbing, so I figured it would come right out. And it did. 10 minutes and I had it on the floor. The port tank would take me another 2 hours. It may have been removed at some point? There were several layer of very tough fiberglass holding it firmly at the sides and the top. The starboard tank had maybe a few gallons of fuel in it. The port side felt about half full. It was a little more difficult to lift out of the boat. The tanks gone, I swept and vacuumed again. It's looking better every little thing I do. Now time to check out the stringers.

I was surprised when I got really looking, that there are spots in the fiberglass that appear to have rotted away. Puzzled, I started digging around to see if there was rotten wood in there. After some head scratching, and taking note that the four stringers not on the keel are open on one side, I discovered that the stringers are not wood encased in glass. It looks like the Skagit builders laid 1x2 strips in the top of the stringers (these boats are made up-side down in a mold so this makes sense). These served as anchors for sole, which in turn supported the stringers and kept them from laying over. So with the sole removed, and the boat sitting on a broken trailer, and I have no idea how many people have been walking around in it with no sole, the starboard stringer is damaged. It looks like it is pushed over on its side a little. I think it has a lot to do with the trailer pushing on the hull in that spot. If the sole was still installed, it likely would have supported it.

So at least that one stringer will need replaced. And I have no doubt that laminated marine plywood encased in fabric and epoxy will be a lot stronger than a one-sided stringer with a furring strip glassed into it. And anyone who knows me already knows I'll be replacing all the stringers. The stringer over the keel has two sides, and it's also at an angle to reach across the keel. The one might be a little tougher to replace. I will have to drill some holes in it and see if rotten wood comes out. No decision made on that one yet.

Also of concern is the cabin bulkhead on the starboard side. When I rock the boat on the trailer, the bulkhead and the stringer move apart. The port side is solid. I have to get in there and see what's broken.

All in all, I am happy with the little progress I made. I had not planned on doing any demolition, just cleaning, until I got the title settled. But now I am one step closer to making a list of everything that needs repaired so the real work can begin.

Next, I need to finish removing all the bad wood. I'll cut the glass around the sides and remove the furring strips under the tanks, and I guess I need to remove the rotten motor well. This was enough progress for one day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Day One

Michelle's Uncle gave us what was believed to be a 1959 Skagit 20 Express. We later found out that the title was mixed up with another Skagit. This was a '56. In 1956, Skagit Plastics' second year of production, about 30 boats (by the best information I can find) were produced. The majority of those being this 20' model. Some research in to the history of these boats made the idea of owning one very appealing. I still wasn't real sure what I was about to get into.

Michelle and I picked up the boat on Friday afternoon, November 13. An hour or so of wiring under the trailer and we were all set. One thing I had noticed the first time I looked at the boat, was the trailer had two broken rollers, and the hull was resting on the broken tubing. I would find out why this matters later.

By the time we left it was well after dark, and we had our first snowfall at home. The Lang boys can't shop for anything unless it's dark, and preferably raining. I don't have any pictures showing the whole boat. It was cold and dark, and we didn't bring a camera because I didn't think this would turn into the large project that it's become.

It took some finesse to get the trailer in the small garage door. The door is exactly 3/4" wider than the tires on the trailer. Close fit. I had fully expected, and counted on, backing in the big door at an angle, and push the trailer over to the small bay. There was plenty of room for this maneuver, because I had spent the last week moving my clutter around to make room for the new arrival.

As you can see, the transom is not there. The plywood was rotten and had been previously removed. The motor well had also been cut out, and the sole (deck) removed. This was no surprise to me, I knew it would need this work done. I also need to repair, fabricate, or replace the windshield. The boat has been outside for some time, and was under a tarp covered in snow last year (remember the two feet we had in Redmond) and the weight of the snow crushed the windshield frame. I was told the windshield is from a '55 Ford Sedan, but that kind of detail will have to wait until I find out what to do with the frame. I believe I can put the broken one back together. Time will tell.

I am a little surprised, due to the outside storage and overall poor condition, that the emblems, trim, bumpers, even the cabin interior are in good condition. No transom, no problem. Broken emblem, forget it! Seriously, the transom is plywood and epoxy, nothing I haven't done. The trim, etc. are items that I may not have been able to duplicate.

The cabin bulkhead had been replaced with some composite material. It looked expensive, and definitely strong enough. I'm just not sure, looking at it, how the bulkhead door is supposed to go, much less how to frame it in.

Now, I know what you are thinking. The same thing Rylan said when he came out and looked. "This is it? This boat's horrible!"

Well, he's a clever kid, and he's right. It's a horrible boat. But I guess I can't help but see the beauty in something that's a classic, but just needs a little help to make it new again. I have fixed lots of cars, but this will be the first boat I've had to work on. As bad as the transom looks, it's nothing more than plywood, epoxy and cloth. The sole is a snap, and in the worst case, I'll have to cast and mold a new windshield frame. I don't think I'll have a problem putting this in the water next year. The one hangup may be finding an outboard in the 100-120hp range. I'd like to find something vintage, but I won't hold my breathe. Whatever I can find, It's OK if it doesn't run - I've got all winter to work on it.

So stop in once in a while, have a beer, and laugh at my lack of progress as I attempt to rebuild this sorry boat so it may one day be launched to join it's brothers and sisters. Or maybe it's next year's swimming pool. I better get started......