Posted by: wrmcnutt | November 5, 2009

Final Voyage of the Snark

Okay – perhaps the title is a little melodramatic, for the Snark shall sail again.  As per my initial plan, I have taken Dad’s Boat out of the water for the winter.  Kind of a shame, really, because it’s beginning to appear that the best days for sailing in East Tennessee are in the fall and winter.  Yeah, it’s cold and wet.  But the wind is blowing! But not for me.  At least, not right now.

The plan, for those who don’t recall, is to re-glass the Snark this winter so that come spring, in addition to functional, she’s pretty. The Snark has never been pretty.  When Dad acquired it, it was a bare stryofoam hull.  He took one look at his two kids and decided they’d destroy it within weeks, so he coated it with fiberglass.  So it started out the color of rosin.  For those of you who have never worked with fiberglass rosin, it’s the color of snot.  Dad wasn’t an expert on the fiberglassing process, so it turned out kind of lumpy.  Yes, snot with boogers.  Then water got under the glass, and mildewed.  Over the years some of the glass broke loose and had to be replaced.  Then I painted it with house paint.  So it looked like it had plague, leprosy, and measles all at once.  Really, as a SCUBA diver, I’ve seen more attractive boats on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

So anyway, Dad’s Boat has been taken into my workshop, and last night my friend Fritz and I removed some of the fittings and about 90% of the fiberglass coating my Dad put on it, so very long ago.  It was an odd feeling, removing some of my own repairs.  I remember the hours and hours I spent when I was about fourteen shaping the bow while I was chipping out all of that Bondo last night.  I still need to remove the transom and get the fiberglass out from under it, and there’s some over-bound glass along one side of the hull that doesn’t want to let go. It’s the result of a repair I did with an incorrect rosin back in the late 70’s.  It dissolved some of the styrofoam under the glass, which actually caused it the adhere to the foam better.  But it’s black with mildew and nasty-looking, so it’s got to go before I put the new coat on.

Which brings me to another problem:  that’s not the only spot where there’s widespread but shallow damage where the wrong rosin dissolved some of the hull.  I basically have two choices:  sand down the irregularities or fill them in with fairing compound.  Sanding down would remove a notable, but not substantial portion of hull material, and weaken the boat, at least a little.  Fairing compound might not bond well with the deteriorated hull section, and later cause bubbles in the final finish.  Decisions, decisions.

On the up-side, I’ve found out that I can color the rosin, rather than paint the hull when I’m done.  That means that when the inevitable scratches start to show up they won’t show as badly, and can be buffed out.  The secret, expensive, high-tech rosin pigment I have to use?  Rit Dye, from the local grocery store.  Even if it doesn’t dye neatly, it will still make a nice base coat, over which I can then paint and expect scratches to be less obvious.

It’s going to be a long process.  The first step will be to prepare the hull.  Do do that, I will begin by removing the remaining fittings, transom and bow ring, and getting the rest of that fiberglass off.  The over-adhered spot on the starboard side may call for some effort.  I think I will take a cheap flexible metal putty knife to my grinder and sharpen the blade and see if that helps.  After all of the fiberglass has been removed and the loose bondo picked out, I’ll have to sand it all down.  I’m trying to decide if it will be necessary to sand off all of the mildew.  For strength, I want to remove as little hull as possible, and some of that mildew is deep. But glass and fairing compound don’t bind well to mildew, and I don’t want to have to re-glass this hull again in my lifetime.  I’m also planning to lightly sand the inside of the daggerboard well by spray mounting sandpaper to my old daggerboard.  I won’t sand it much, but I would like to knock off any loose debris.  I think I may be able to do my Dad one better. He never glassed the inside of the well. I think I know how to do it. I’m gonna apply glass to some cardboard and stick the cardboard all the way through the slot. Then I’ll peel the glass off the cardboard by pulling it back through the slot, like pulling a sock inside out as you take it off.

But that’s getting ahead of myself.  For now I’m just going to focus on getting the hull cleaned up.  After I’ve remove all the flaws that I can, I’ll get some fairing compound. I’ve got a little money this time around, and instead of defaulting to Bondo, I’m going to investigate marine faring compound, which is actually designed for this use.  If I find that it’s identical to Bondo, but has a higher price, I’ll go with the Bondo. I’ve got a little money. Not enough to throw away.  Anyway, The faring compound/Bondo will fill in any dings in the hull, and believe me, I’ve got a few.  I also need to find a way to patch the hole the mast left in the bottom of the mast well this summer, and order a new rub rail and mast well liner.

This is going to be along, involved project, and I don’t have a lot of free time these days.  But Dad’s Boat must sail again come spring.

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  1. wooohooo for sailing, and a nice long winter project that has true personal dpeth and meaning, so happy to hear you have your dad boat to work on 🙂

    • My only regret is that Dad’s Boat will only carry slightly over 300 pounds, and I can’t ask you to go sailing with me.

      • Sounds like a hell of alot of work. My old Snark looks like hell but I’ve sailed it many times and had ball. The only cosmetic work I’ve done to her is paint her blue below the waterline. Since it was your Dad’s I’ll buy the sentimentality! Hope to see pics of her when done!

      • Actually, there’s more too it than that. Dad’s been bedridden for six weeks now, and now sign of getting up any time soon. The time will come one day when I am no longer able to handle the larger boats I’m currently aspiring to. But the Snark 11 will still be within the reach of a stove in old man, as it was within the reach of a scrawny nine-year-old boy.

        Dad’s Boat, the Snark 11 was my first boat. One day, I anticipate that it will be my last. When it is, I want it to be pretty.

  2. I enjoyed this. I admit I am madly romantic when it comes to fixing up old boats. Sailboats especially.. I could see if you got good at the techniques involved getting really hooked on making them alive again.
    I know I seem to be always quoting old movies to you but you keep reminding me of them. LOL. In The Ghost and Mrs. Muir there is a part where the ghost of Captain Greg is telling her about buying a ship in hideous condition and fixing her up. He tells her that he always swore she sailed sweeter for him than she ever would for anyone else..out of gratitude.

    • I’m buying a bigger boat. Dad’s Boat is just to small for me AND the wife. So I’m getting a weekender. I keep having to actively resist “project boats.” I want to sail, not sand, and I’ve got enough terrestrial projects without adding another seagoing one.

      But yeah, bringing old boats back to life is seductive. I wonder if I could make any money at it?

  3. Ha ha, Bill I really laughed about the snot and boogers and leprosy and measles. Your wit is one reason I keep reading. Another reason is your stories keep me motivated to fix up my own Snark doggy Snark. Thanks, good luck and keep it comin’!

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