By Mike Gridley
When the owner of a 1995 Silverton 41 Convertible told me of his plan to build a stateroom in the space where his dinette currently existed, I thought, “really?” I could not believe that a boat owner would, first, want to take this on, and second, did it even make financial sense to invest the time and money in 22 year old boat?
After a discussion with Gord Joplin—the boat’s owner—on his reasons for undertaking the expense, I bought into the project. The Silverton 41 has a traditional convertible interior layout, with the salon aft and the galley and dinette forward and down.
Based on the numbers, the project got the green light as well. According to The Boat Value Book, a 1995 Silverton 41 with MerCruiser 502 Horizons sold for an average price of $82,200 in 2016. For his family to move up to a lager cruiser, say a 1995 Silverton 46 Motor Yacht with Cat diesels, they would have to shell out an additional $43,400 plus taxes and possible broker commissions, so the numbers started to make sense.
The project started with the snow on the ground and the Silverton was being stored indoors at Wye Heritage Marina in Midland, Ontario. That’s where I met with Gord, and with Bob Barfitt of RJB Customs, who would be doing the work.
As with all renovation projects, after the concept development and planning steps are complete, next up is the demo. You just have to be a bit more cautious on a boat. It took the better part of day one to carefully remove all of the dinette components, cabinets and interior trim. Care had to be taken with things that would be reused and to protect electrical wiring and other elements.
Measurements were taken of every aspect of the space including angles and locations. For elements with complex curves, patterns had to be made to finalize the plans.
At this point, we shifted to Bob’s fibreglass shop to start on the largest and most complex structure for the project. The new dinette would be situated above the stateroom, a layout favoured in today’s cruiser designs. The plans called for a one-piece component that would function as the ceiling and portions of walls for the stateroom and as a seat base, deck and steps for the dinette.
Two moulds were made from wood and plywood to create the form for the fibreglass components. They were filled and faired with a thickened epoxy, sanded, then sprayed with mould release wax to both ensure the desired smooth finish and ensure the components would release from their moulds. Several layers of cloth and resins were applied and plywood and plastic composite coring created the structural strength. It took several days to layer in the sheets of fibreglass and resin along with the coring, then to join the two components. The last step was to use a mix of resin and fillers to smooth out the surfaces of the fibreglass before spraying on the gelcoat.
Fortunately, the boat had removable sliding doors or we would have not been able to create a one-piece structure. It required extra hands to lift it into the boat and set it in position. Multiple fasteners were used to secure the structure in place.
Prefabricated offsite, the main cabin wall was constructed of plywood with a laminate finish that matched the boat’s existing finishes. A pantry cupboard was prefabricated as well and installed on site. Once both were secured, the structure for the stateroom and dinette was complete. While far less daunting, the finishing details would take some time to complete.
Inside the stateroom, the aft and hull sidewalls were wallpapered in a heavy textured vinyl to match the upgrade to the companionway. With that completed, the structures for the twin berths were built in place. The original cherry veneer cabinet from the dinette was installed for overhead storage on the hull side. Finally a hang locker was fabricated to fit above the head of the outer berth.
A new door and frame had to be special ordered to match the existing doors. Once it arrived, it took Bob a few hours to install the frame and hardware.
The last woodworking was the construction of new, curved stairs that followed the line of the new curved wall.
While these elements were being completed, plenty of specialty projects were underway offsite. At G.I. Canvas in Midland, the cushions for the berths and dinette were being patterned and fabricated. In Barrie, Ont., Stainless Outfitters was creating a work of art in stainless steel for the dinette railing and table mounting system.
Back in Bob Barffit’s shop, he planed, laminated, shaped and finished cherry lumber stock for the tabletop and dinette flooring. From the raw lumber stage to the final fine furniture and flooring, Bob’s work displayed serious craftsmanship.
Our final trip to the boat was to see the completed project. The transformation was stunning. The entire look of the Silverton’s interior had leaped into the 2000s. New carpet, trim and the upholstery style and colour created a modern light, airy look. Especially with the sunlight sparkling on the polished stainless steel. The dinette up layout seemed to make the salon look larger, not smaller while providing a comfortable dining and relaxing space with great sightlines.
Inside the stateroom, a wonderful space had been created for Gord and Jenn’s children. The layout will allow for twin berths and a single large berth for adults. As well, storage for toys and clothes and a location for a TV were incorporated making this a fun activity space as well.
Though the project initially seemed daunting, took quite a while to complete and required some serious money, the end result was well worth it. The Joplin’s now have a perfect family boat they can enjoy for years to come.