Renovate It!

by Sherwood Heggen

So, what do you do with a boat that is showing its age? Maybe it was not originally good looking for lack of style or construction materials, and/or it’s just time to do something with it. Well then, RENOVATE! The dictionary defines renovate as – to restore to an earlier condition; improve by repairing or remodeling. I interpret that to mean that it isn’t a restoration to original appearance, but to the original condition with improvements.

Recently, I was given the freedom to renovate the 1961 CC Sea Skiff owned by Darwin Nelson of Vermilion Dam Lodge. I am not a proponent of making something unrecognizable from the original, nor am I one who changes something so much, it can’t be returned to the original. But, when something was made in what I see to be an inferior way and it can be improved, I consider doing it.

In the case of the Sea Skiff, it was time to do something or literally lose the boat. The fore deck of plywood was covered with authentic simulated mahogany planking and deck seams done in vinyl covering. The aft deck was a piece of plywood stapled to the frame work. The transom was a 1/2’ piece of plywood screwed and bedded to the transom cheeks and base. One can recognize this as a very speedy and economical method of constructing the decks and transom, but in my opinion, it lacks eye appeal.

This boat had an excellent base to work with. That is, there was no rot in the hull short of a small area in the starboard side transom base. The boat was solid. The distracting part was the chalky looking vinyl deck and the obviously delaminated plywood on the decks and transom. The transom was missing the mahogany veneer from the water line down, but otherwise looked solid. The decision was made to replace the plywood transom. The plywood was cut free from the transom cheeks with a saber saw and the screws holding the transom to the transom crown were removed. What a surprise I got when I gave a little pull at the top of the loosened plywood. The plywood transom planking crumbled at the bottom and fell off. Any more time in the water with the transom in that condition and the boat may have gone down.

The plan acted on was to replace all of the plywood decks with solid Philippine mahogany planking epoxyed to a plywood base. The plywood transom was also replaced with solid mahogany planking with seam battens as in typical Chris Craft construction. The interior, or ceiling boards, which were an added improvement in someone’s mind, were 6” wide strips 1/4” mahogany plywood screwed to the frames lapstrake style. The 18 foot Sea Skiffs did not have ceiling boards, but the idea of including them is a good idea because it definitely dresses up the interior. The new ceiling boards on the Sea Skiff are 5” wide, 1/4” thick planks rounded on the edges. They were screwed flat to the frames with a 1/8” spacing between them as is again typical to Chris Craft. Other little things changed were replacing the aluminum rub rails with stainless steel to provide a little more class and durability and changing the flooring to black pyramid vinyl. The steering wheel was restored and the upholstery redone with vinyl in a rich shade of dark blue. The boat has taken on a proud, rich looking character. When Darwin saw his renovated boat for the first time, he asked the not too surprising question,” Is this the same boat I brought down to you?” It definitely is a worthwhile improvement.

Now, what is going on out there in restoration land with other BSLOL members? Here is a quick look:
Kirby Allen – 1940 17 Chris Craft Deluxe Runabout Barrel-back – Bottom is all done and painted red. New side planking is in progress. Here is an interesting sidelight. Kirby kept telling me that the deck seams on his boat are orange. I said to myself, somebody had a strange idea when redoing the seams on this one. Then, I remembered that I have a Chris Craft color ad on the back of an April 1940 Motor Boating magazine. The boot stripe and the deck seams appear to be orange. Being accustomed to white as the time-honored color, I just assumed there must have been something wrong with the color printing technology 57 years ago which affected the true colors. When you look at the picture, there is white where white should be, but orange deck seams and boot stripe. Is it really true? Did Chris Craft make boats with orange deck seams and boot stripe?? Does anybody know for sure?

Bill Raasch – 1939 Chris Craft Utility 17 (formerly owned by the late Nancy Jay). Boat was completed this summer and was at the 1997 Minnetonka Rendezvous where it won a couple of awards. Great job, Bill! Beautiful boat!

Ray Kittleson – 1948 Chris Craft Deluxe Runabout with a KBL. Boat will undergo a complete tear-down and restoration. Keel is soft, side planks are beat up, decks are sanded thin, and the upholstery needs replacing. The boat was useable but tired looking.

Jim Brown – 1941 Chris Craft 17’ Deluxe Runabout with a K95. Boat needs some deck frame repair, some minor wood replacement, stain, varnish, upholstery, and who knows what else! Jim will be busy this winter!

Bill Krumholz – 1949 Century Deluxe Utility with a Gray 6-112. The boat was restored this past year and was at the 1997 Minnetonka Rendezvous. The restoration consisted of new frames, a new bottom, new decks and ceiling boards. Also, the engine was rebuilt, the hardware rechromed, and the the upholstery redone. Bill definitely has a beautiful boat!

Mitch LaPointe – Chris Craft Racing Runabout. Slowly but surely, Mitch is getting this boat done right. This is a complete rebuild of a very rotten hull. Last time I viewed it, it was looking great. Keep at it, Mitch!

John Nemmers – 1965 Century Resorter 17’ with a 352 c.i. Interceptor engine. John is pulling the bottom to freshen things up for the long haul and will work his way around to the decks later on.

herwood Heggen – Still working on the 1938 Chris Craft Sportsman 19’. Instruments and steering wheel are restored. Hull is rebuilt, stained and 6 coats of varnish are applied. The motor box is built and the ceiling boards are all cut and fit .They are now removed for staining and varnishing. Engine will get new life this winter. Should be in the water in 1998.
Brian Bergman – 1949 Chris Craft Special 17’ with a K95. This a cedar-sided boat. Brian replaced two bottom planks. The sides are in good shape but will be cleaned up and repainted. This winter, Brian will replace the decks and hopefully be in the water by summer 1998.

Jerry Valley – 1957 Lyman 15 12’ Outboard. Jerry is doing a full restoration on this boat. He is directing his effort now at the sides by stripping off the paint and sanding down to clean wood. He has revarnished a lot of the interior brightwork. Jerry will be writing more about this restoration in a future article.

I’m sure there are others who would like to share what they are going through to get their boats back in the water. Give me a call and I’ll put your story into print. Also, if you have a restoration question, give me a call. The question and answer may be worthy of printing for everyone to read. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!