What not to do
Ever have one of those great ideas gone wrong? Here is one of those stories. About a year ago I purchased my 1st boat, a Helsen 22 for $800 with a trailer. I figured a couple of hundred dollars and an couple of weekends and I would be sailing! On the way home with my new prize the right axle on the trailer collapsed! No damage to anything other than my pride. My buddy came out with his wrecker and we got the boat home. After careful inspection, something I should have done the first time it was decided the trailer was a pile of scrap. Undaunted I proceeded to built my first trailer. It turned out great, maybe a little too great as I blame everything else that has happend on the trailer. After the trailer was finished (over built) we put the boat on it and stood back to admire the work and the once beautiful boat. What a pretty trailer! Anyone see where this is going yet? DANGER YOUNG WILL ROBINSON! The boat looked like crap sitting on the new trailer! So I decided that I would simply clean her up and polish the hull and deck. I fell further into her trap! Yes she was white again but not so shinny, in fact EVERY imperfection in the hull had been magnified and worse yet there were yellow wax marks all over the boat. It seems if there is a scratch in the hull (some up to a 1/16”) they hold wax better than epoxy. Who would have thought it. To add insult to injury I found every spot on the hull and deck that needed repaired and there were plenty to go around. Did I mention that I am new to boating and did not know ANYTHING? Here comes the perpetual and unsolicited advice given by well meaning friends. “Stop worrying about it and just go sailing”. This from a guy who's boat has been rotting on the hard for three years. Another friend was just standing there with an evil grin (real sailor). He added his two cents worth (bastard just couldn't keep his mouth shut) and I quote “Maverick you know you will NEVER be satisfied until the boat looks new! The hook was set! I went home with my tail between my legs and started doing the unthinkable! I picked up a West Marine catalog and started looking. I made a list (long) of all the things I needed (really?) and then tallied up the total. It took my wife, the Admiral in training an hour to get me out of the bath room, dry heaves. I should have got a new boat. Boats are real expensive, but not quite as expensive as West Marine. Spencer you remember Spencer the bastard sailor? Well he came over to talk about the boat. He started to look everything over and told me what was salvageable like the trailer and the hull. It seems the mast, tiller handle, rudder, and something else was OK but everything else was scrap or missing. At this point Spencer took pity on me. I don't know if it was the tears or him having to restrain me and the shotgun, what ever the case I didn't shoot the boat. It was at that point I realized I had the right to cut my losses and quit, I just didn't have the ability! So with grim determination I started to strip the boat. I removed all the teak, wiring, motor mount, table, sink and counter, port-a-podie, wenches, cleats, hand rails ect. Is this what they are talking about when the say bare boating? Remember the guy who's boat is rotting on the hard? DON'T TAKE HIS ADVICE! When I removed the sink and partical board counter in particals I found that the thru hull fitting for the sink was not connected to anything and was open to the great outdoors. It kind of gave me a sinking feeling. It was now time to tackle the bad places in the hull and deck. I filled all the holes, scratches, dings, and dents. It was somewhere during this process I was thinking about the original owners. Who hangs their anchor over the side and allows it to rake, ding, scratch and otherwise attack the hull for years on end? Then there was the rub rail or in their case the crash rail it had to go too. I would have called them stupid, however I was the one who bought the boat, but I digress. After a few weekends of getting the hull and deck just right I stepped back to admire my boat. Holy crap was she ugly! She was now white (gel coat), tan(ish) (fiberglass), pinkish/red (body putty), and not a drop of yellow (old wax), but she was plenty smooth! Paint time! This part should have been easy, but the Admiral (no longer in training) told me she didn't want it white, blue, red, or any mixture of the afore mentioned colors! It was like shopping for clothes or arranging furniture! We (she) settled for a dark green for the hull and a cream/tan for the deck. So it was off to West Marine to buy paint. Don't get me wrong West Marine is a fine store with great products and a helpful staff. Its just the little thing that get under my skin like you don't just buy some paint. There is primer, are you going to spray or roll it, not to mention the the little things like stir sticks, rollers, handles, paint trays, more (deleted explicative) sand paper and such. I masked off the toe rail and anything else I could find and took out my paint tray, roller handle, gloves (that didn't fit), and primer and went to work. By the end of the day all it needed was the number PT-109 on the side of the now battle ship gray boat. Next came the sanding. Why was the paint so rough I had the hull super smooth when I started. Remember the yellow wax? It was brought to my attention that sanding alone will not remove the wax, you need to use a striping agent. This is handy advice if you knew about it in advance. However reams of sand paper will remove primer. I can now say with some authority that I know the hull of this boat better than the people who built it. So with an almost fanatical determination I started painting again. West Marine didn't tell me that the primer was not necessary if the gel coat was properly prepared. Another lesson learned at my expense. So re taped ect. I opened the green paint man it was pretty stuff. I loaded the paint gun my neighbor loaned me and started on the transom. It was laying on like glass my heart soared! As I continued around the port side I would look back from time to time to admire the work. Even with a couple of imperfections (damn bugs) she was looking great! I continued down the starboard side with a song in my heart back to the transom. I was done! As I stepped around the transom to admire my work true horror set in. What was once smooth as glass and glossy was now full of fish eyes and had the texture of stucco. There were runs, sags, and things that don't even have a name wrong with the paint. As I was buying the store out of paint and other implements of destruction they neglected to mention anything about thinner, AKA 333 brushing liquid. Then there were my mistakes little things like painting outside in the heat of the day, putting the paint on too thick not tacking before painting and other thing I learned the hard way. I would be amiss not to mention Wagner paint guns, a fine product for painting oh I don't know a fence maybe because it damn sure isn't a boat!!! Time to plug Interlux Paint. No doubt this stuff will last for years. I had to wait a week for it to dry enough to start sanding it smooth again. All I can say about this stuff is, it is hard when dry. I don't mean like hard like automotive paint I am talking like diamond hard. Anyway about a shopping cart of sand paper later the hull was once again smooth. Time to go back to West Marine and their knowledgeable staff for more paint and THINNER! Resupplied with fresh paint and THINNER it was time to paint again. This time I armed myself with a little knowledge (very little as it turned out) off the Internet. I studied painting boats using the roller and tip method. It looked easy enough, well the weekend came and it was painting time. This actually goes fairly fast and works well. The boat was greenish and still smooth except for the occasional bug. To do this type of painting right expect to put on three and in my case four coats of paint to get the desired effect. Remember that smooth hull, well let me say this about that. It was not smooth enough. Glossy dark green paint shows you every spot you thought you had perfect. Never the less the hull looks good. The following weekend came and it was time to do the deck. Bristol beige is the color and the two go together well. I guess the Admiral was right, something she doesn't hesitate to remind me of. Did I mention we have a new puppy named Swabby, he ranks higher than me. With most of the costly mistakes out of the way the boat is really starting to come together. The Admiral is pleased. The refinished teak looks great and she is getting very close to being finish (I think). New cushions, sink and counter, new table and port-a-podie now grace the inside. A new bronze thru hull fitting with a valve has been installed along with a new rub rail and the old gal is now drawing complements. Spencer brought me a book over about rope work and knots and she is now adorned with fancy work all over the place. The wiring is redone along with everything else but the rigging and sails. I even put a manual bilge pump in which turned out to be handy. I forgot to close the boat up during a rather heavy thunder storm and found the bilge and salon full of water. Having actually learned a couple of thing while working on this boat I used some so called ingenuity when installing the pump. Not wanting more thru hull fittings I thought why not dump the bilge into the cockpit because it is self bailing anyway. I can put the 1 1/2” thru hull fitting into the **** pit and bingo no holes in the hull. I recommend this as it works well with one exception/modification make sure your scupper can pass enough volume. As I sat in the boat pumping the bilge pump quite happy with the speed it was evacuating the water I noticed my butt was getting wet. As it turned out the scupper could not keep up with the volume of water I was pumping and the cockpit filled like a bath tub up to the point where it was coming back in thru the lazerett openings and pouring back into the boat. Simple enough to fix, but somewhat embarrassing. As the saga of my boat refit/rebuild is quickly drawing to a close I want to leave you with a few thoughts.
* $800 boats are a teachable moment!
* Never build a new trailer
* Boats like new owners who don't know anything!
* Don't listen to your boat, she is greedy!
* Never trust a used cars salesman or someone selling a boat!
* Great condition means it still floats!
* West Marine is a great store for Bill Gates!
* Don't shop at Home Depot for boats!
* Boats are NOT a hole in the water to through money in they are a hole
in the concrete.
* Some day very soon my boat will float
* Ugly ducklings do become swans with effort and patience.
* Spencer is an A-Hole.
Pics Pics Pics. :)
priceless, cant wait to see the pic's, good luck
Didn't get past the axle trailer...
But read the moral of the story. Yeah, totally agree with the "don't trust anyone selling a boat" thing. I hear nightmares esp on motorboats where people think they can hand over a check and go to Bermuda. Not so much!
My dad and I went to look at a Flying Scott in eastern VA before we got our clunker. We were lucky enough at that stage of our boat knowledge that a "competing buyer" from a local yacht club came out, jumped up and down on the inside of the hull... it BOUNCED with all the rot in it. He was kind enough to fill us in that we could purchase a NEW FS for what we'd have to put into that one.
And gee, the seller only wanted $400... tried to tell us that it's low serial # *might* mean it was "valuable".
Look for another sucker, buddy.
A cautionary tale.
Great story Maverick!
Maintaining a boat is not very much like maintaining a house. A paint job on a boat is far more involved then changing the color of a room or two. You can tell because the 'special' paint even smells expensive.
At least you have the energy and exuberance to have kept at it and still keep going.
I hope that you and the Admiral get to enjoy your Helsen 22' very soon. What year is it from by the way?
When I bought my first keel boat a friend warned me not to get a boat as old as the one I liked from 1967. He was partially right. Older boats are more likely to need drastic repairs then newer ones but they all need something. We've owned this Tartan 27' for 8 years now and I am starting to think that it was not such a bad choice - mostly because the PO kept it in good shape to begin with.
great post, mav. i can't believe smack hasn't cropped that for the bfs thread. helluva story. and you tell it so well, forrest. naw, man ya put into it what you want out of it. my old shoe? yeah, she looks damn good in pictures, but up close you can see blemishes. i want to sail her, not make love to her. still got the interior to refinish and rewire her. but, she's just a glorified daysailer, so i may leave it like it is........
lol, great post, maverick.
She is a 1975 with a 1967 British Seagull 40+.
This is priceless!
Boats are real expensive, but not quite as expensive as West Marine.
First, doing your basic research before doing any boat project is a must. That would have saved you a lot of time, money and labor.
Second, cheap boats are generally more expensive than anything but free boats. It usually costs far less to buy a boat in decent shape than it does to buy the same boat in rotten shape and refurbish it. That's kind of why I wrote my Boat Inspection Trip Tips thread, to help people save money when boat buying....
Third, there's a reason so many boats are light colors... :D Hides imperfections and dirt a lot better.
Fourth, punctuation, paragraph breaks and the like are good things... you might want to learn to use them. :D
Fifth, welcome to boat ownership...there are lots of places to shop that are far less expensive than West Marine.
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