By Michael Crabtree
Whether you are restoring a house, a car or a boat – anything for that matter – it’s a process of discovery. Unfortunately, most of the discoveries you make are not welcome ones and they will always have a price. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to do your homework when buying a second-hand boat. Change of Pace was definitely no exception to this rule.
I knew going in that buying a 35-year-old boat was perhaps a lot risky. But I decided it had such good bones and heritage that it would be a thing of beauty at the end of the day, even if it was going to be a huge job. Of course, the end of the day never really arrives with a boat of this age, but it is a thing of beauty.
The shake down cruise for Change of Pace took a whole summer. During that time I was able to get a real handle on what issues needed to be fixed immediately and where to best allocate the budget.
Mechanically, the boat was in fairly good shape. The engine had been pulled out of the boat before its Loop voyage and completely rebuilt. Much of the boat had been re-wired and plumbed during this refit, which included the addition of a generator, bow thruster, a large battery bank, new refrigeration and stove.
There were pieces that had to be replaced or repaired right off the top, which I did immediately. This allowed us to use Change of Pace that whole first season. Things like adding Weaver davits to make deployment of the dinghy quicker and easier were simple enhancements that we are still using today.
The bigger issue was the state of the exterior and interior of the boat. Some may say this was purely aesthetic, but many of these issues were beyond a spit-and-shine solution and would require major work. The boat’s integrity problems extended to portlights, windows, canvas, badly oxidized gelcoat, heavily coated (and in many areas non-existent) varnish on the wood, outdated electronics – the list goes on. It helped that I was willing and capable of taking on a lot of the grunt work myself. And for those tasks I couldn’t do, I would find capable hands to assist.
After more than 30 years in salt water, tropical heat and exposure to the four seasons, I decided Change of Pace was due for a paint job. This required a heated shop the boat could winter in, so I could strip it down to the bare hull and topsides and do the extensive prep. This would also give me the opportunity to replace the portlights, measure and have the canvas fabricated, Plexi eye brow, reupholster all of the cushions and bunk mattresses, complete new heads (including flooring and platform), paint the shower stall, and even install and duct a heating system to battle this northern climate.
Change of Pace went in the shop in November and the dismantling started immediately. During this process, I was randomly sounding the deck for high levels of moisture. We did discover that where the access hole had been cut through the flybridge sole – yes, a very odd route to take to extract the engine – the moisture readings were way over acceptable levels. A good 10 to 12 square foot area had to be cut out, re-cored and fibreglassed over.
You are probably asking yourself, “So what did you do about the non-skid?” Well, that was a big R&D issue. We needed to decide if we should re-sheet the non-skid, which would require perfect adhesion to the sanded deck, or opt to spray and grit. This decision had a broader implication because it would affect the selection of the paint for the whole boat.
There are quite a few options available in boat paints and they all have their pros and cons. I boiled it down to a choice between Awlgrip or Perfection as they are both two-part, epoxy-based paints that would provide years of durability. Given the amount of time and expense, you want to choose wisely and go with what will last the longest.
I sought the advice of a spray technician who had experience with both paints. They were both brilliantly glossy, tough-as-nails, dense surface paints when applied. His only comment was that if we had to make a repair to the paint (quite likely) an Awlgrip patch was a bigger challenge to blend in than Interlux Perfection.
For the non-skid, we kept it simple and went the paint route, adding a dulling agent and a 50/50, fine/coarse grit to a mid-grey coloured paint, which looked great with the surrounding bright white deck and coach house.
There are inevitably also some very pleasant discoveries when doing a project like this. My greatest one was meeting the owner of Change of Pace’s sister ship online. There is a wealth of knowledge to tap into on boat and repair forums if you are willing to ask nicely, be patient for responses and reciprocate in kind.
Mike T was one of these diamonds in the rough. He was in the process of completely gutting and redoing his DeFever 40 at the same time as I was undertaking my project, only he was in Florida. Mike’s was a much more extensive mechanical and internal reno. He literally gutted the boat hull and rebuilt and re-powered from scratch.
An unbelievably talented craftsman who can do everything exceptionally well, Mike is a true jack-of-all-trades and master of all. If there was anything I needed to know about the dark, conceivably inaccessible corners of the boat, he could shed light on them. Mike even fabricated two fibreglass plugs for me to mount the two new forward portlights in. These would alleviate a slight corkscrew caused by a compound curve of the deck; a design oversight that no doubt resulted in leaks over time. I can’t thank him enough for his pictures and guidance.
Another terrific benefit of taking things down to the bare, so to speak, is that the years of old electronics mountings, canvas top mountings, and unnecessary and redundant fixtures can all be taken off, patched over and the new ones mounted on freshly painted surfaces. There was a lot of this done.
They say preparation is 80 per cent of the job, but I’d say that’s a debatable percentage in this particular case. The spraying of the boat went well. There were a couple of areas where we had to go back in and re-sand and paint because of orange peeling (a texture caused by surface contamination) and a few annoying paint runs. But on a boat this size it is not unusual to encounter a few headaches.
While the boat was being painted, I took all of the wood railings, access doors and the swim platform off, stripped them down to bare wood and gave them three fresh coats of varnish. For this, I chose Cetol due to its low-maintenance properties. Some people don’t like the orange cast it gives, but the upside is it is easily repaired and re-coated and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Once the boat was sprayed, the big job of reassembly began. All of the hardware had to be properly bedded with sealer, along with anything that was in contact with the deck. In many cases, I had to source and replace pieces so heavily oxidized or corroded by salt water they couldn’t be used as they would have ended up staining the new paint job.
New canvas was discussed, measured, fabricated and installed. This is a step that should never be taken lightly. There are vast living and functionality improvements that can be incorporated when re-tenting a boat flybridge: the shape and height, the window design and how they open (smiles or frowns), features to make the install and removal easier, rain drainage, etc. A good canvas fabricator can and should bring a lot of ingenuity and past experience to the table. And it should be tight as a drum to reduce wear and tear in constant winds.
There are always line items that cannot be addressed with the schedule.
Having run out of time in the heated shop I left the new cabin sole and the coach house windows to do at dockside. I installed the new galley teak-and-holly floor over three weekends that summer and the new windows went in the following spring (while still shrink-wrapped in the water). It was odd to see a boat at the dock with its winter coat still on, but it afforded a dry workspace to install while the inside of the boat was fully exposed.
Many hours of work continue with ongoing improvements and repairs. Boating is as much a hobby as a pastime for a lot of us. But I can’t see a better or more rewarding way to be out on the water enjoying, in my case, the beauty of Georgian Bay. A big shout out has to be extended to the many people who encouraged me and those, like the folks at Beacon Bay Marina (Mike and Robin), who lent a hand and accommodated some pretty unorthodox requests along the way.
This article is featured in the Summer 2014 issue of Boats&Places.