Editorial August 1, 1998 Issue

Major Upgrades, Major Time

Ever since I began buying old boats (which seems like time immemorial), the spring list of things to do has always included at least several major projects. These are in addition to the usual caulking, scraping, painting headaches that plague sailors. All of my boats, with the exception of a Catalina 22 I bought new in the early 70ís, have required major work, from the rudder on a twin-keel Alacrity to the engine and interior of a Pearson Triton and Vanguard, to the wiring and deck work of a C&C 33 to our current Practical Sailor test boat, Viva, a 1975 Tartan 44, shown below as she looked when we bought her in 1994.

Last spring the list included replacing the last portions of teak and holly sole damaged by water; installing a Wavestopper fiberglass hardtop and new dodger; and installing a Robertson AP-11 autopilot. Here is how I graded myself, based on our early season sailing.

Thereís nothing particularly difficult about putting in a new teak and holly cabin sole so long as you have the patience of Job, the humor of a clown and the same number of arms as an octopus. I bought 1/4" teak and holly ply from Somerville Lumber in Massachusetts. It has a 1/25" veneer, which isnít much, so you have to be careful not to chip it.

For patterns, I used stiff photographic paper. Fortunately, there is trim on at least one side of all the pieces, so I had a bit of room to fudge.

The pieces were epoxied on top of the old sole. Eight coats of rubbed-effect varnish gave it a handsome appearance. Failing to line up the holly stripes on one side dropped my grade to B+.

The Wavestopper hardtop dodger, installed by my local sailmaker, Aaron Jasper, looks quite nice, at least to my eye. Some passers-by think the glossy fiberglass non-traditional, but I donít care. When youíve spent as much time as I have under the dodger being dripped on, or peering around the dodger because the windows are milky and wavy, the hardtop has much to recommend it. Plus I can brace a knee atop of it when furling the mainsail. And the Lexan windows are clear as a mountain lake. Aaron gets an A.

The Robertson pilot is a dream compared to the 20-year-old Benmar Coursesetter 21R that came with Viva. I presume the fluxgate compass is a big step ahead of the old mechanical compass, and the adaptive algorithms of the AP-11ís brains promise to smooth out course corrections. Too bad we didnít have room in Vivaís narrow transom to install a hydraulic-linear ram, so are using the Benmar rotary drive. I get a B for buying a tiller arm I didnít need.

Oh, there was one other week-long job I failed to mention. The outside teak. I was going to put off the peeling varnish another year, but our friend Bill Seifert, working on a nearby boat, was so repulsed that he jumped aboard one day, handed me a heat gun and scraper, then spent nearly four hours himself sanding the handrails and coaming. No more varnish for me. Itís Cetol Marine from here on out.

Matriculate to autumn í98.

óDan Spurr

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