Saturday, March 23, 2013

How To Finish Drift Away

Most of you regular readers know the history of Drift Away, but for those of you new readers who do not (and there are many new readers, no doubt because of my Craig's List ads) here is a very brief synopsis.

Pam and I bought Drift Away from an estate.  It sat on the hard for over 20 years in Connecticut.  It was unused, unloved, and uncovered for much of that time.  That's not good for any boat.

Luckily, Drift Away is fiberglass.   Fiberglass practically lasts forever.  Wood though, does not.  The boat had screwed down teak decks, and they leaked, just like all screwed down teak decks.  The core of the decks, I believe, is marine plywood.  I couldn't find any rot, which would weaken the core and so too the boat.  I didn't want to take the time and expense to rip up the teak decks, cut open the core to look for rot, and seal it all back up again.  I had no intentions of cruising around the world.   So I did the next best thing.  I fiberglassed right over the teak, effectively giving Drift Away two cores.  This would make the boat stiff, and the added weight of leaving the teak on a 50,000 pound boat is nothing.  This would be a concern on a sailboat, but not a big trawler.

Fiberglassing the decks stopped the leaks, now what of the damaged wood parts?   Well, the really nasty stuff, the wood that was all rotted, we scraped into garbage bags and tossed it.  It's only a veneer covering fiberglass and not structural.  So some of the wood is gone, some that's left is beyond repair, and some is water stained.   To quote the 1950s movie Tobacco Road, it don't hurt the  runnin' of it none.

This is what's left to do inside the boat and how I would approach it.  You may have other ideas, and I'd love to hear your suggestions, since if Drift Away doesn't sell, I'll be tackling all this next winter.

In the photo above, you can see where water leaked from the flybridge deck and down across the paneling.   I think this paneling can be reused.  My thought is to take a heat gun or a chemical stripper to these panels and remove all the old varnish, sand it, stain it, and then revarnish.  Most of the main saloon needs to be done.  A big job.  Working at it full time, a good solid week probably.

This is the parquet floor in the main saloon.  The finish is worn off.   This too can be sanded and refinished, but I think I'd have wall to wall carpeting installed throughout the boat.  Carpeting wouldn't cost much and would have the added benefits of being warmer than a wooden floor and a good sound insulator to boot.   It's also not slippery like a varnished floor, and slippery is never good on a boat.  Total time zero, except for driving to the carpeting store.  Total cost, I don't know, but certainly not much.  Yes, I suppose one could do it oneself.  I did the bathroom in the master stateroom, but that was just a little itty bitty space and there were no seams to worry about.  Pay a pro to do this one.

This is typical of the lower staterooms.  It looks pretty nasty, doesn't it?  The white shelf was once covered in teak veneer and that screw held down a fiddle (a piece of wood to keep things on the shelf, for my landlubber friends).  Not only was that water soaked because it's a flat surface, but a bit of it wicked up the wall.  I think what I'd do here is to put tile over the shelf and part way up the wall.   I used tile when I did the head remodel and it looks pretty nice.   You can read about that project here.  I'd figure about a week in the master stateroom and maybe two weeks in the middle stateroom and hallway, which suffered most of the damage.

So what does that leave?  Except for painting the topsides (which is a big job, about two man-weeks of work, maybe four if you're slow and fussy) small stuff.

Replace two gauges in the main helm.  Maybe check the flybridge to see if those gauges work (I don't know, we never steered from up there.  I should check).  Replace the Morse engine controls in the flybridge (I have a new replacement in a box in the junk store room) and reconnect the cables in the engine room.

Oil or varnish all the cabinetry.  

Replace the non-functional garbage disposal if you're so inclined.  We're more inclined to just toss biodegradable stuff over the side for the fishes.

I think I'd get a power washer and spray the engine room.   It's got a 33 year accumulation of grit and grime that would be nice to clean up.

So if all this is so easy, why haven't I done it?  It's tough when living aboard to do those kinds of projects.   But our plan is this.  If Drift Away doesn't sell by the end of April, it goes on the hard for the summer while I play builder in upstate NY and construct our little place up there.  Next winter, we return to Drift Away.  Pam goes to her mom's with the dogs while I paint the hull and restore the main stateroom, main saloon, and middle stateroom.  That would take me a month or so.   Then we launch the boat and go cruising some more.

Yes, we'll sell Drift Away if someone buys it in the next four weeks.   That way, we can focus on building the house and barn in New York.  But if we don't sell it, it's not really a bad thing.  Besides cruising next winter, I think the boat market, which is already showing signs of quickly becoming a seller's market, might even be booming.  

And if we never sell Drift Away, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  A friend with a sistership just cruised from Florida to Cube to the British Virgin Islands and back.   That sounds nice... and I've heard that the west coast of Florida is beautiful.

As I wrote the bulk of this last night on the laptop, this was my view from the dinette table...


  1. I had similar issues with my cheoy lee ( a ketch a few years older.) From what I was told the deck was cored with scrap teak so rot should not be an issue there. As for the paneling the spots where mine was bad did not seem to be fixable and I never did much about them. As for carpeting I would worry about mildew. Leaving a boat down there = different issues than up north.
    About your plan for Green Cove springs, make sure they have vacancies. I had to vacate before their summer season.

  2. In the long run you'll probably learn to love your new life style, but pangs of regret are bound to surface for a while. Hell, that's obvious already from your recent posts. My guess is that it would be better to entertain them than to repress them.

    Taper off from Drift Away, and keep your boat card contact list alive so that you can visit those folks in coming years. You and Pam would be welcome to come visit Tarwathie any time.