Tools Tools Tools...
Finally, the long awaited continuation of the Boating Necessities Post, as we delve into my small boat tool box. I often joke that my toolbox only needs three tools in it: WD40 (if it doesn’t move and should), duck tape (if it moves and shouldn’t), and a big engineer's hammer (if it’s broken, beat it until it starts working or needs to be replaced completely). Unfortunately, I couldn’t fit a big enough hammer in this toolbox, so I had to go the more traditional tool route.
Again, the tools you will be able to carry will be dictated by the amount of space you have on your boat, but my 14-ft Lone Star Malibu is likely as small a boat as you’re going to find with a dedicated tool box. On the houseboat I have virtually unlimited space/weight restrictions and as a result I went overboard (pun totally intended) on my tool kit; I dedicated an entire closet to tools.
Obviously, I had to scale it back to the barest of necessities on Boaty. It would be nice to have all the tools in the world, but with limited space and weight, I had to put a considerable amount of thought into what tools I might actually need when the stuff hit the fan and I had to do some repair work on the boat. I limited myself to the smallest, and cheapest, Harbor Freight plastic toolbox; the $6 (I think I had a coupon for $4) 12-in toolbox with removable upper tray.
That’s another thing about this toolbox, it’s going to be cheap in addition to being small. I can’t fathom (again pun totally intended…I guess just assume that all puns are totally intended) putting high quality tools in a toolbox that I will hopefully never need to use. Okay, I can’t fathom spending the money for something like Snap-on for my regular tools either, but I do generally buy good quality tools and may have a fine German instrument (some Knipex pliers or a Wera wrench when I find a deal) mixed into my toolbox here and there. That will not be the case with this kit; I’m going cheap, so there will be a lot of Harbor Freight and other bargain tools…as long as they're functional enough to get the job done.
Let’s start with the small storage boxes built into the lid. These proved to be the perfect spot for electrical connectors and small parts. I’ve stocked them full of varying sizes of crimp connectors (butt connectors, eyes, spades, etc.), replacement fuses, and wire nuts. Hopefully, everything I would need to do a minor wiring repair to limp back to the dock.
In the top tray I’ve got a few more consumable items and parts, like a small assortment of hose clamps, some JB Weld, spare spark plugs, and a couple new utility knife blades (note I need to buy a new tube of 5200 adhesive/sealant that would also be included there). I also keep a battery terminal cleaning tool and a small roll of SAE wrenches in the upper tray. Fact is, most modern boats and cars are metric, so you'll likely want a metric set, but on a 1968 Evinrude, you’re not going to need any of that European crap, just good old fashioned fractional SAE wrenches will do the trick. In this case I am using an old set that was passed down to me from my grandfather; a Lakeside (Montgomery-Wards house brand, similar to Craftsman for Sears) open end wrench set.
Now we’re getting into the bulk of the tools. More often than not, when I’ve had trouble on the water the nature has been electrical. As a result, I have the extensive collection of connections/fuses above, and I need the associated tools. I’ve included the cheapest Harbor Freight multimeter, which they used to offer as a free coupon, but can be had for about $6; again, I’m not putting a Fluke in this kit and while this Harbor Freight multimeter isn’t the most reliable or well built, I have diagnosed many a problem with them. I also have an old set of wire strippers/cutters/crimpers (not my favorite, but they will definitely work), a length of 12-ga wire, and some electrical tape.
There are a few other consumables that can come it very handy. These include a collection of zip ties, some Teflon tape, and a roll of duck tape (this is duck tape, please stop correcting me to “duct tape” spellcheck; it was developed during WWII to seal ammo cans and shed water as if off a duck's back, it is completely inappropriate to use on duct work as the adhesive dries out and it leaks; use aluminum foil tape instead). You will notice that the duck tape is conspicuously missing from the above picture, that’s because I made an exception for that as it didn’t fit into this small toolbox and had to be carried separately; it can be seen in the photo in the previous post.
The only thing left is to round out the rest of my hand tools. I’ve got a Harbor Freight pliers set, hex key (Allen wrench) sets, utility knife, razor blade scraper, and wire brush. I’ve also put in my old Stanley screwdriver set, which isn’t great quality, but beats the free Harbor Freight sets. One exception I might make is for a more expensive tool is if I can get greater functionality in a smaller package and I’m considering throwing in a multi-bit screwdriver like the MegaPro maritime screwdriver shown below, but sometimes there's no substitute for a real screwdriver and I like the MegaPro I have too much to relegate it to the seldom used boat tool kit...I think Harbor freight might have a free coupon for a 6-in-1 screwdriver now.
Obviously there are several tools that I would like to include, or you might want to add to your kit, but storage space is at a premium when you only have 14-ft of boat. I'd love to include a full socket kit, or even just a ratchet and the necessary sockets for the boat; a spark plug socket sure would be handy, but I can get to my spark plugs with the open end wrench if I have to. Box end or combination wrenches would also be nice, but take up more space and the open ends should be fine. You might need to include a prop wrench, but it's not necessary for my little 33-HP Ski-twin. All of these can be had for very reasonable prices if you look around, even a name brand sets like Crescent or Channellock can be found for between $50-$75 on Amazon. A couple other items that I would have included if I had the space are a mini hacksaw and a soft wood plug set, but I don’t think those are essential and I was plumb out of room. If I add anything, it's going to be a few spare parts, like a propeller, but I haven't yet found those for the right price on eBay.
All in all, it's a pretty compact little set that should get me out of a jamb...if I can figure out what's wrong. If you've got any suggestions for additional tools, I'd love to hear them in the comments; I'm always up for buying new tools. Until next time, here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
After finishing the Lone Star Malibu, the only thing left to do was to outfit the boat. It’s a tough balancing act to have everything you need on the boat, but at the same time fit it into limited space and weight allowances. This is magnified on Boaty given the tight storage in the 14-ft hull.
The first stop is to check the equipment carriage requirements for your vessel. The US Coast Guard has requirements based on both the size of your vessel and where you will be operating that vessel. You can find the Coast Guard requirement on a variety of websites, but they are what I would consider the barest of essentials and most states will have additional requirements for safety equipment. For that reason, I would start looking at the equipment requirements for the state in which you will be operating the vessel, which will by default include the USCG requirements.
One of the best safety equipment check lists I’ve seen is the one available from the Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which I have reproduced below (click on the image to go to their website). My boats have generally be registered in Colorado or Washington, but spending as much time at Lake Powell as I have I’ve become very familiar with their carriage requirements. I think Utah DNR does a great job of clearly communicating the required equipment, which I can't say for Colorado or Washington.
As you can see from that chart, my 14-ft open runabout with an outboard engine, is required to have the following equipment:
There are other required items outlined in this chart, like registration, insurance, navigation lights, etc., but I wouldn’t really consider those equipment. Also, you can see that while my open vessel with no enclosed fuel storage or engine compartment does not require a fire extinguisher (see Note C in the chart), it is recommended; as are a Type IV throw-able PFD and a sound producing device (e.g. horn or whistle). Obviously, as long as it is realistic to store them aboard, I would carry all of these and, in line with the USCG’s motto of Semper Paratus (Always Ready), I generally carry quite a bit more.
For those that don’t want to read an exhaustive description and justification for everything, here is the abbreviated list.
For those wanting to get into the nitty gritty, you're in luck.
I purchased a 4-pack of type II PFDs with a storage bag on Amazon for about $40. I will normally have other life vests aboard, but having this package of four stowed under the nose ensures I’m always in compliance and that we will definitely have enough if worse comes to worse. I also opt for the “strongly recommended” Type IV throw-able PFD, which in my case is a red float cushion that I have rigged with a life line. You can purchase a life line in a throw-able bag, but I opted to make my own using polypropylene line and a cheap mesh bag.
With respect to the bailing device, I have two. A collapsible bucket, which is a great option for an effective bailing device that takes up the minimal amount of room, and a manual bilge pump, which is a lot more effective, though slightly more difficult to stow.
As for auxiliary propulsion, I have two collapsible paddles, which again take up a minimal amount of room, but provide a very realistic alternative propulsion method for a vessel this small.
On the houseboat I went all out with medical supplies, including c-collar and full basic EMT bag, but on a small runabout like Boaty I have to reel it in a bit. I opted for a well-stocked off the shelf boating first aid kit that I bought for my first boat, which will do in a pinch. I'm sure they don't sell that one any longer, but there are no shortage of reasonably priced options on Amazon.
While Boaty does have a horn, I rebuilt it with spare parts from a Harbor Freight horn and I don’t know how much I trust it to be my sound making device. As a result, I carry a rechargeable air horn that can be filled with compressed air and a whistle.
A vessel this small operating on inland and protected waters, is not required to carry any emergency signaling devices. However, if I really need help I don’t want to have to rely on waving my arms up and down at my sides to attract attention. I included a distress flag (a black square over a circle on an orange background), a signal mirror, and a small battery operated strobe light. I also have a spot light that could be used for signaling at night and can be invaluable if you find yourself unexpectedly navigating on a moonless night and needing to pick out unlit buoys…not that I’ve ever done this.
As pointed out in my post about VHF radios, I wouldn’t leave the dock without one, and Boaty is no exception. I carry a small handheld VHF, which may not be the most reliable, but will do the job in a pinch.
A nice little handheld GPS is also nice to have; I threw a Garmin eTrex that I used to use for Geocaching into my boat bag. Most phones will probably do just fine for GPS navigation and there are also plenty of great apps that will turn them into quasi chart-plotters, but more often than not, I find my phone without signal at most lakes I frequent (which can inexplicably make GPS apps not work) and thought the added GPS unit wouldn’t be a bad idea…beside, what else am I going to do with it?
A pair of good quality binoculars goes with me on almost every boating journey as well. After spending a few years standing a bridge watch, scrutinizing every navigation marker and passing vessel with my binoculars has become second nature. After years of using Fujinon on the bridge, I purchased a more consumer grade version (Fujinon Marinier WPC-XL) for myself, which I’ve been happy with. The important thing in choosing binoculars for the marine environment is the optics, which should be about 7 x 50. The objective diameter (50) means they have good performance in low light conditions, producing a sharp, bright image, and the 7 time magnification is ideal as they are easy to hold steady on a moving platform, like a boat. I wear glasses and the generous eye relief of these binoculars allows me to use them without difficulty while wearing my glasses, which is something to consider if you are likewise visually challenged. This model includes a compass, which is a nice feature for approximating the bearing to objects you are viewing.
The rest is pretty much just general boating gear; mooring lines for tying off to the dock, fenders for same, an anchor and line for…well, anchoring, and a skier down flag for…hmm, now that I think of it I don’t think Boaty has quite enough oomph to pull a skier, but maybe a tube…very slowly….yeah, I could probably take that out.
The final item on my list is a tool kit, but that is a whole post in and of itself. Until next time, here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
Float Your Boat
As I mentioned in the previous post, there are virtually limitless options when it comes to foam. So, what foam should you use for flotation in your boat? It can be perplexing, but hopefully after reading this you’ll have a better idea about adding flotation to your boat.
Should you even use foam at all? I’ve seen quite a few people (though definitely a minority) argue that foam floatation is just a hassle and, if you aren’t required to, you should just skip it. They argue that regardless of the foam you use, it’s going to absorb water, and it’s going to take up space. Floatation foam is designed to keep your boat at the surface with water up to the gunnels, but “they” would argue that the boat would still be a total loss having been submerged (clearly, judging from my boats, we have a different opinion of what constitutes a total loss). Obviously, I think “they” are wrong; not because the boat can be salvaged, but for safety. “They” will say they have a life jacket, so it’s no big deal, but as anyone that has done man overboard drills with a dummy knows, it’s a lot harder to spot a person floating in the water than you might think (even if their head is orange). It’s a lot easier to spot an overturned or partially submerged boat than it is to see a person. Aside from that, a partially submerged boat also provides shelter and a means to get yourself up and out of the water, which makes a substantial difference in survival time. So, the answer for me is, yes you need foam. The federal government agrees with me and per USCG requires all new boats under 20-ft to have integral floatation that will provide at upright and level floatation when fully filled with water.
I’ve seen a few people argue for the use of sealed flotation compartments or just filling compartments with sealed bottles. They point to the fact that these flotation methods won’t get waterlogged like foam can, but the counter argument is that they aren’t as reliable as foam. Granted anything that will displace water in a large enough volume to float your boat will work for flotation. Foam provides a more resilient flotation, whereas a sealed compartment or 4 sealed milk jugs have a greater possibility of failure. Even if you damage a block of foam (break it in half, stab it with a knife, etc.), it will still provide significant buoyancy. Whereas, if you poke a hole into a sealed compartment filled with air, it will lose all its buoyancy, and poking a hole in one of the 4 milk jugs will result in losing a full 1/4 of your buoyancy. That is why I prefer foam, but I am not vehemently opposed to other methods.
Now you just need to figure out what type and how much foam you need. Should you use polystyrene or polyethylene or liquid urethane foam or something else? There’s no shortage of choices and I’m not going to give you a definitive answer on which one is the best; they all have strengths and weaknesses. You need to look at their respective properties and see which one is going to fit your needs the best. The most common foams I’ve seen are the above listed polystyrene, polyethylene, or poured liquid urethane foam. Any of these should work fine, the most important thing is to use a closed-cell foam and ensure you have enough of it to float your boat and gear.
Foam is made up of bubbles; in the case of closed-cell foam, those bubbles haven’t popped and thus won’t absorb moisture. Open-cell foam is like a sponge and will be useless in providing floatation for your boat. Now, to the point that any foam will eventually become waterlogged, that is largely due to improperly storing your boat or poor installation of the floatation foam in the first place. If you allow the foam to sit in water, it will eventually break down and absorb water (water is the universal solvent). In installation, you want to make sure that the foam is placed such that water can drain away from it and doesn’t become trapped (e.g. limber holes). When you store your boat, make sure the water has somewhere to go by pulling the bilge plug and raising the bow so that water will flow down and out the bilge.
Even a closed cell foam has voids between the cells and will absorb some water. As an experiment I took a piece of packaging Styrofoam (polystyrene) and submerged it for a week to see how much water would be absorbed over time. The 3-in by 1.5-in by 0.5-in piece of foam initially weighed about 1.8-grams. I placed it into a tub of water and placed a water bottle on top of it to keep it submerged. The table below shows the time that the foam had been in the water and the weight at the time.
After an initial rapid weight gain, which is a result of water making its way into the rather large voids within the foam, the weight changed more gradually as the water worked its way deeper into the smaller voids. After a week of soaking it had doubled in weight, gaining an additional 1.8-grams of water, which is about half a teaspoon. Removing it from the water and letting it dry for 24-hours returned it to the starting weight of 1.8-grams and a subsequent dunking provided similar results. So, the longer you let it sit in water, the more water will be absorbed and the more difficult it will be to fully dry out.
This is more of a concern in cold climates, with freezing temperatures in the winter. Any trapped water will freeze and rupture the closed-cells of the foam. It then thaws and is absorbed into those now open-cells only to refreeze and do more damage to the foam. As this freeze thaw cycle continues the foam breaks down and will eventually become saturated with water. Keep it dry when you’re not using it (i.e. your boat sank) and it should be fine.
Now, we just have to calculate how much foam you need to float your boat. The first step here is to figure out how much weight you need to float. You can do this three different ways (more really, but these are the most realistic):
Once you have this total weight, it’s a relatively simple matter to calculate the volume of foam you need to float it all. You can use the formulas from the USCG boat builder’s handbook (http://uscgboating.org/regulations/assets/builders-handbook/FLOTATION.pdf) to determine the amount of flotation needed.
Fb is the volume of flotation needed for the boat hull, Kh and Kd are conversion factors for the materials used for hull and superstructure (0.33 for aluminum), Wh is the weight of the hull, Wd is the weight of other structural components, We is the weight of any equipment or gear, and B is the buoyancy of one cubic foot of the foam being used. Most flotation foam has its density represented as the weight of a cubic foot of the foam. Usually, flotation foam is 2-lb foam; so a cubic foot of foam would weigh just 2-lbs and displaces a cubic foot of water, which weighs about 62-lbs. Thus that foam provides 60-lbs of flotation, which is your value for B in these equations. In the Lone Star’s case, I got approximately 1.667-cuft of foam for the boat and associated gear.
Fp is the volume of flotation required for propulsion equipment and G is the weight of the engine, battery, and associated equipment. With an engine and battery weight of nearly 200-lbs on the Lone Star, I got a value of 2.5-cuft.
Fc is the flotation required for the personnel capacity and C is the maximum weight capacity. With a planned capacity of 4 people at 150-lbs each (I wish, but my wife offsets my extra cushioning), I ended up with a value of 2.5-cuft.
Once you have these values you simply add them all together to get the total required flotation requirement (in my case 6.667-cuft). In total, I actually have almost 8-cuft of foam packed in the Lone Star between the bow, the benches, and the transom. The trick really is figuring out where to put it. Now I just hope that I never need it.
Until next time, here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
When my uncle’s friend, Paul, showed up at his small private airfield in Eastern Colorado he was interested in a large box of parts on the ground in the hanger. My uncle’s cavalier response was that he had just rebuilt the upper end of the engine on his Cessna 175 and those were the left over parts he didn’t know what to do with. Paul didn’t find that particularly amusing as he was there to do my uncle’s Biannual Flight Review (BFR) and was about to go up in said aircraft. Truthfully, he had just replaced the cylinders and the box was old parts that he was discarding; he is one of the best mechanics I know and helped me and my dad rebuild my first engine (an old in-line 6-cylinder Mercury 115-HP outboard). Never the less, things always come apart a lot easier than they go back together and after finishing up the paint work I was ready to start piecing my boat shaped puzzle back together…hopefully without too many spare parts.
Prior to painting out the interior, I first tackled replacing the flotation foam. The polystyrene floatation that was concealed in the nose and the bench seats was in a sorry state with rodent nests and severe degradation from sitting out in the elements for nearly 50-years. So I cleaned it out and got to the business of replacing it.
There are any number of different types of foam to choose from; polystyrene, polyethylene, polyurethane, polyisocyanurate, and polypropylene, just to name a few. Rather than going into detail on determining the right type or necessary amount to keep your vessel afloat in this post, I think I will ave that for another post. I ended up using a combination of poured polyurethane and some rigid polystyrene.
The foam in the nose was held in with aluminum strips that were riveted in place; I just drilled out the rivets on one side, slid the old foam out, slid the replacement foam in and put in some new pop rivets. I wanted to remove the foam in the back bench and move it closer to the transom; given the weight of the outboard, I thought more flotation at the heaviest part of the boat would be a good idea. Also, I was hoping to use the back bench for storage. I was able to get a little over 1-cuft of foam glued under the transom well with polyurethane glue. I would have liked more, but I just couldn’t figure out a good arrangement to get more foam at the transom without major modification. I guess if it ever sinks, it's going to float down by the stern.
On the front bench, I decided to go with a poured liquid urethane foam. My first attempt didn’t turn out so well; I failed to read the product literature completely. The foam I have used in the past has a shelf life of 1-year prior to being opened, but the brand I purchased for this project, FGCI, only has a shelf life of 6-months and apparently they mean it. I purchased the foam about 8-months before trying to pour the bench full, since Amazon had a sale and I figured that I would use it before the end of the summer. Anyway, I poured a gallon, which should yield 4-cuft, enough to fill the front bench with a little overflow, but only got about 1-cuft of dense "foam." Luckily, I had lined the bench with plastic sheeting (disposable table cloth) to contain it and that made removal of the failed pour a snap (just pulled it out and put it in the trash).
After reordering the liquid urethane foam, I made a second more successful attempt. I first laid some wood sticks in the bottom through the limber holes in the bench to keep them clear and allow water to flow to the back. I then laid in my plastic sheeting and poured the foam in two stages. The reason for breaking the pours up into two stages was firstly, to ensure I didn’t have a major overflow, and secondly, to prevent it from heating up too much. The expansion of the urethane foam is exothermic and, if you’re not careful and pour too large a quantity the excess heat will degrade the foam and yield a more dense foam than expected. When I was working at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory on the TOA buoys we always poured in multiple stages. The buoys were just giant fiberglass donuts (the original mold was based off of an over inflated truck inner-tube) that were then filled with poured urethane foam. Initially they were doing this in one pour, but found that they were getting a lot of heat (so much that they worried about fire) and far denser foam than expected.
With such a small pour as this, it’s unlikely that there would have been a problem, but better safe than sorry. Even with the precautions, I may have gotten a little over zealous with the second pour, but nothing a serrated knife couldn't fix.
Once the floatation was in and I got the interior painted, I was able to show off my skills, or lack thereof, in carpentry. I debated adding wood to this aluminum boat; I'm not a huge fan of the maintenance that goes with bright work, but it seemed appropriate for this boat. The wood adds a lot of beauty to the boat and I don't think the dash board and bench tops will be too much of a maintenance headache; if they are, I can always remove and replace them with HDPE (high density polyethylene, commonly called Starboard) in the future.
In order to make the dashboard, I created a tape template of the dash by laying up several layers of masking tape onto the dash and then just peeling it off. I then used my template to cut the 1/8-in thick mahogany plywood to size and transfer the necessary holes for switches, steering wheel, and mounting hardware. I planned to through bolt it in four spots for final mounting.
I fabricated the seat bench tops, to which I attached standard marine folding seats, out of mahogany (both solid and ¾-in plywood). Fabrication was fairly straightforward, just measure once and cut three or four time…wait, that’s not the saying. That might have explained some of my snafus. In any case, I cut all my lumber to size and then faced the decision on how best to glue and screw them together. I was torn between doing it the easy way and having visible fasteners (i.e. screw heads) holding the bench tops together or going the extra mile and putting them together with hidden fasteners. It would be easy to clamp them and glue and screw them in place, but then the screws would be visible. Alternately, I could pull them out and fasten them together from underneath so that you can't see the screws, but keeping the geometry correct out of the boat so that they go back in without an issue would be a lot trickier. In the end I went with the easy way, but I bought brass screws and called them a nautical detail.
On the plywood sections, which were the whole bench-top in front and the opening lid on the back bench, I needed to cover up the end grains of the plywood. I purchased some iron on mahogany veneer and went to work wrapping all the edges. It was pretty easy, just cut to length, iron in place, and then trim off the excess with the trim tool that I purchased along with the veneer.
Once the fabrication was done, it was time to move on to staining and varnishing. I used all Minwax products, since they are readily available from the local big box store. I seem to be fond of saying this, but I am not an expert and that is especially true of painting and finishing. Most of what I know I learned from the internet and reading the literature with the products I bought, though I do have some experience in this area that I can contribute.
Staining is relatively simple. I went with Minwax Mahogany stain to give the mahogany a richer color. The staining process went something like this.
Once I had everything stained, I had to wait the prescribed dry time before moving on to varnish. In this case, the prescribed time wasn’t long enough since it was an unseasonably cold day and extremely rainy (I know, who would have expected that in the Northwest). I had to wait about double the dry time until the stain was dry, which can be tested by wiping the surface with a clean cloth and getting little to no color transfer. Once that was done, I got to move on to varnishing.
Varnishing the seat tops and dash were a very slow process with all the rain and cold; as mentioned above, recommended dry times aren't so accurate when it's this cold and wet. I doubled them and still ran into soft varnish when I went to sand the first time. I used Minwax Helmsman Spar Varnish and the can recommends three coats with 4-hour dry time in between, but I went overboard and went with 5-6 coats total with a full 24-hours in between coats. My varnishing process went something like this:
I did manage to pick up a few cool tricks and tips along the way. Firstly, after mixing your varnish (never shake) it's a good idea to pass it through a filter to make sure there aren't any particulates in the mixture that will show up as flaws once you've laid down the coat; paint strainers are fairly cheap and readily available. Secondly, in order to prevent varnish from sitting in the rim of your can and sealing the lid on, you can punch a few holes in the bottom of the rim to allow the varnish to drain back into the bucket (I can't believe it took me this long in life to learn that). Third, as I mentioned above, it's better to apply your varnish with a foam roller in order to get a more even coat, which you can then tip with a good quality badger hair brush to get to lay down smooth. Forth, this is for all the skinflints out there like me, in order to reused your foam roller from coat to coat you can wrap it in a plastic bag getting all the air out you can and sealing it as well as possible.
Keeping your varnished bright work looking good is not a once and done kind of thing; you will have to maintain it every year, which is why I was slightly dubious about putting it on this otherwise low maintenance boat. At the beginning of every season, starting with this one, I will have to apply another coat of varnish. That will mean removing the wood, rubbing it down with a fine grit sandpaper, and rolling and tipping it. If you don’t keep on top of this and the finish starts to go, it’s already too late and the only solution is to strip it down to bare wood and start from scratch…we’ll see how long I can keep that up.
Once the varnishing was done, it was time to really start assembling the boat, which is where I really start to have fun as I see the finished project start to take shape. I made sure that all my hardware was stainless steel (except for the “decorative” brass screws I used to build the benchtops). The fold down seats were through bolted to the bench tops and then the bench tops were screwed down to mount on the bench supports.
The dashboard was mounted with four screws; two dedicated mounting screws on the outside and the two mounting screws for the name plate. Regrettably, the dash nameplate was sun bleached to bare aluminum when I got it, but a contact over at the Lone Star Yahoo Group was nice enough to provide me with an image of his dash plate that was in slightly better condition. I’m looking to get the lettering reproduced as a decal, but haven’t yet found someone that can do it. I installed the switches and a 12-V power outlet, but that will be covered in another post. I then moved on to the steering wheel.
I would have liked to have used the original steering wheel and planned to restore it, but it was too far gone. I purchased a new chrome steering wheel and mounted it to the old steering shaft for the pulley steering system. I also managed to salvage the Lone Star center cover and attach it to the new wheel. I replaced the cable and re-rove it to get my steering system set up. If you’re not familiar with a cable and pulley steering system, I think it’s best described in one of my famous paint diagrams.
Turning the wheel to the right will rotate the drum of cable, which releases cable on the starboard side and tightens the cable on the port side. That moves the front connection point of the engine to the left, thus pushing your stern to the left and turning you to the right. I just had to mount the engine and install the control box with new control cables to have a fully operational boat.
The chrome pieces were all in reasonably good condition and, aside from reworking some of the electronics, I just had to remember where they all went. My wife bought me a new old stock Taylormade acrylic windshield that fit just about perfectly. And with the addition of a few vinyl decals and the registration number, I had something that could pass for a boat.
I wouldn’t call this a true restoration, but it is fairly period correct and met my desires for a cool runabout that would turn a few heads for a very reasonable amount of money. While it’s close to "finished," I've learned that as long as I have a boat, I will always have a project or two that still needs doing.
Until next time, here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
I know a lot of you are probably reading the headline to this post and thinking…Watt? (Insert rim-shot here) I know, electricity puns aren’t very Current, but they really get me Amped up. Okay, I’ll stop, since my wife insists that my puns Hertz her.
If you haven’t guessed by now, this post is going to involve electricity and more specifically the rewiring of my Lone Star Malibu. As compared to a car’s electrical system, I find that wiring a boat is really quite simple…at least a small boat like this Lone Star, a houseboat is in a whole different category (see my previous Shocking Post). Though the same principles still apply, no matter how big the job.
Electrical wiring should be taken seriously, and in the world of boats, as with electrical wiring in your home, there are rules that should be followed. The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) writes the standards for the wiring in boats; manufacturers follow these guidelines rigorously, but owners can tend to flagrantly disregard them. I referenced the wire sizing guidelines in my previous post linked above, and the same still holds true for this post (make sure your wire is appropriately sized for the amperage draw and the length of the run). I won’t go into chapter and verse of the ABYC standards, but if you are tackling a wiring project, they are worth consulting to make sure you are using the correct materials and following convention.
I will mention that there is a wire color code that should be followed for vessel wiring set by the ABYC. However, not all boats will follow this wiring color scheme, some manufactures used different wiring schemes as late as the 1990s and you can never be sure what a previous owner might have done. If you are rewiring your boat, it would behoove you to bring it up to the current standard.
I used black for my ground and not yellow, which is quickly being phased in by manufacturers after the 1996 update by ABYC so that there was no confusion between the DC system ground and the AC system hot wires. I went with black since I had it on hand and don’t have to worry about an AC system on the Lone Star (the houseboat got the same treatment since that was the color scheme already in place).
The first thing I had to do was make sure I had all my components in working order. I rewired the bow light and converted it to an LED bulb. That was fairly easy, I just pulled it apart and replaced the bulb socket with a new one that I purchased on eBay and purchased the corresponding LED bulb. I likewise refurbished a vintage stern light that I purchased on eBay with an LED bulb and a new mounting base to fit the narrow mounting surface I was left with because of the fins at the stern.
I also had to rebuild the horn, which was a slightly more involved process. I first tried to get the old horn working, but to no avail. Powering it should turn on and off a magnet very quickly to vibrate a metal diaphragm to produce sound that was amplified by the horn body. No amount of cleaning would get the mechanism working again and I was forced to look at other options. I ended up buying one of the cheap horns from Harbor Freight and pulling out the innards (diaphragm, actuator, etc.) to use in the old horn body. It wasn’t a perfect fit, so I got a 1/8-in thick piece of PVC and cut out an adapter to mount the new diaphragm on and then mount that onto the old horn body. I was thrilled when I applied power and it sounded like a horn once more.
The only other components that I had were the new 12-V power outlet that I installed on the dash and the outboard motor, which came wired with its own harness. I’d just have to connect the outboards power cables to the battery and run the supplied wiring harness to the key and choke switch up front. Now on to wiring.
Normally, I’m an advocate for using a switch panel with integrated breakers, like the one pictured below. I prefer breakers to fuses, since you don’t have to worry about carrying replacement fuses, and the panel places the fuse conveniently by the switch. That can eliminate a lot of headaches with figuring out which fuse goes with which switch goes with which accessory.
In the case of the Lone Star I wanted to have an original look and couldn’t picture a modern switch plate anywhere on the boat. As a result, I had to opt for a fuse block to run all my electronics. I suppose if I had really wanted to keep the fuses or breakers with the switches, I could have drilled corresponding holes next to the switches and installed a fuse holder or standalone breaker. I wanted a cleaner look though, so this fuse block was the best solution.
As I said, the wiring for the Lone Star was pretty simple, with just 4 components to supply. You’ll notice that I got a 6-circuit fuse block even though I’m only using 3 of them; leaving room for future expansion is always a wise decision. I don’t think I will be adding anything to this boat, but you never know. I might decide I want a radio, a fish finder, a VHF, a chart plotter, etc. There's no end to the things you can spend money on adding to your boat (a hole in the water you throw cash into), so you'll never regret leaving room for later expansion.
Now, on to the wiring. I made up the below wiring diagram with the actual wire colors I used (black for ground, red for supply, gray for navigation lights, and orange for the horn and 12-V outlet), but I thought that color coding each component made it a little easier to read (bow light = purple, stern light = green, horn = blue, 12-V outlet = orange, 12-V positive supply line = red, and grounds = black ).
I bought myself an Optima BlueTop battery, which is an AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) battery that is designed as a starting and deep cycle battery. It is sealed and maintenance free; it’s rated for 750 cold cranking amps (number of amps the battery can deliver at 0°F for 30 seconds while maintaining a voltage of at least 7.2 volts) and had a capacity of 55-Ah (you can draw 1-amp for 55-hours, or 55-amps for 1-hour, or something in between).
I just had to give that battery a nice home. I got a battery box and mounted the strap down to a couple of ribs with the battery box sitting in between those ribs. I also mounted a battery trickle charger to that box, so that all I would have to do to give it a charge before heading out to the lake is plug it in. I also mounted a 30-amp breaker to the outside of the box and ran a 10-ga supply line through that and up to my fuse block along with a 10-ga negative line to the integral negative bus bar.
From the fuse block, I ran 12-ga wire for each of the components. The 12-V outlet was wired directly from the fuse block, fused at 20-amps. The horn was wired through a momentary push button and fused for 7.5-amps. The navigation lights were fused at 5-amps and run through a three position plunger style switch, which has one output terminal energized in the first on position and both output terminals energized in the second on position. That allows you to energize just the stern light to act as an anchor light, or energize both stern and bow lights for your standard running lights.
I should mention, if you’re wiring navigation lights with a rocker switch (like the switch panel I prefer above), you will need a double-pole double-throw (DPDT) switch. Run power to the input terminal of both poles, on one pole you can connect the two output terminal and run a supply line to the stern light, and on the other pole you connect only one of the output terminals to the bow lights. In my exceptional paint diagram below, terminals 3 and 4 are the input terminals, terminal 1 supplies power to the bow navigation light(s) in one of the switches on positions, and terminals 2 and 6 are jumpered and supply power to the stern light in both on positions.
That just left the engine system, which I didn’t really have to play with too much since the wiring is internal to the outboard and the starter switch and choke were already wired into the harness. I just had to run the wires from the starter switch and choke back to the engine and plug into the harness. If you do have to work on the wiring for your engine, a shop manual with a good wiring diagram is worth its weight in gold. As I noted above, an engine this old does not follow the ABYC wiring standards and having a playbook makes things a lot simpler than having to chase wires to figure out what they do.
I’m thinking I may do a separate post on the outboard and marine engines in general, but for our purposes here I will detail the starter switch and choke wiring (note this will be different for newer engines). As you can hopefully see in the photo below, my starter switch and choke switch are wired as per the diagram above. The green wire supplied voltage from the engine/battery (power in); the starter switch then has four other terminals. These should be marked M, S, A, and M. I know that’s two Ms, what the heck is going on here? The S is for the starter solenoid and is a white wire on our set-up; this is powered when the key is turned to the start position (to engage the starter). The A is for accessory and is powered when the key is in the on position; if we had accessories (like a radio) that we wanted to power when the engine was on they would be run on this terminal, but in this case we only jumper from this terminal to the choke switch (red wire) which then runs back to the engine to engage the choke (red wire with white stripe). The M terminals are your kill switch; when the key is in the off position, these two terminals should be connected, which will kill your engine (black ground wire and black wire with white stripe for the kill switch). With that all connected the only thing left to do was see if the engine would fire up…but that will have to wait for another blog post.
Until next time, here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
Lone Star - What's In a Name?
As I near the completion of my project on the 1962 Lone Star Malibu and this boating season looms on the horizon, I'm thinking it might be time to christen her with a name. I’ve never actually had the opportunity to name any of my previous boats, though there were a couple that came to me with names already.
My first boat, the 20-ft Yukon Delta houseboat that I converted into a deck boat, had the name Molly Brown (as in the unsinkable) when I bought her, which seemed apropos given her tan color and the amount of flotation foam I put into her hull. Of course I have the Serenity, which I did consider changing to “Serenity Now!” for a time, but ultimately thought better of, since my wife and I enjoy Firefly and the name seemed to fit the boat. I’m not superstitious (someone once told me it was unlucky to be superstitious), but it is supposed to be bad luck to rename a boat. There is a ritual that you can perform to the god Poseidon in order to strike the old name from his rolls and then re-christen the boat, but that sounded like too much work and I liked the names anyway.
My parents never named any of their boats either…at least not officially. There is the Pimp Boat, which was their 16-ft Baja. It was a very low slung, cool looking black boat with silver metallic flake. One day my uncle, who looks about like you would expect a 60-year old farmer/heavy equipment mechanic to look like, was standing on the dock waiting for my dad to walk back from parking the truck and trailer. There were a couple of guys in a fishing boat tied up on the other side of the dock and one of them derisively commented about the Baja, “Looks like something a pimp would drive.” So, that kind of became its unofficial name, though it was never lettered on the stern. They also owned a 1/6th hare of a Holiday Mansion that was named Magic Dragon, but didn’t have any input into that naming decision.
I think the Lone Star deserves a name and I have several top contenders, but have been having trouble deciding on the best one…so as with all important decisions, I figured I’d leave this up to the internet (what could possibly go wrong?).
So, here in a very specific, but undisclosed order, are the contenders (feel free to suggest your own in, but I’ll probably ignore them):
2. My son loves him some rubber duckies, so this one would float his boat, so to speak.
3. I like this one, but think it might be a little on the nose.
4. This one has a practical purpose and promotes safety.
5. Well it’s a tin boat with fins out of fifties car design, so this would be descriptive.
6. I’m going to be using it as kind of a tender for Serenity, so this word play on the popular social dating app (not sure that’s a good thing) might be fitting.
7. And of course, no online boat naming poll would be complete without this entry, which is also my wife’s personal favorite.
So there are your candidates, now go forth and cast an informed vote for your favorite. Voting will close at the end of this month (May-2017).
Until next time, here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
Lone Star - Paint by Numbers
In this post, I will be taking you through the odyssey that was painting the hull on the Lone Star. It was a long and sometimes arduous journey, but the end result turned out pretty well for a novice painter. In case that introduction didn’t make it obvious, I am not a professional painter and I don’t even play one on TV. This was my first foray into a project this size and I made a few tactical errors, but with some help from the internet and just following product guidelines, it was more than doable. Still I would say this isn’t really a “how to” as much as it is a “how I should have” guide.
As a friend of mine, who is a professional painter, is fond of saying, “Always be sure to read, understand, and follow the instructions with all the materials that you work with.” As long as you do that, you should have a pretty good luck.
I started off with a test project of sorts and repainted the cowling to the 1968 33-HP Evinrude Ski-twin that I bought off Craigslist. The engine ran well and everything seems to be in order, but a previous owner had decided to customize it by painting it out white and sticking some Boston Whaler stickers onto it. I was looking for something a little more stock and so I stripped it down to bare fiberglass with Citristrip, which surprisingly only took one application to strip off at least three layers of paint. I then primed it with one layer of self-etching primer, one coat of bonding primer, and then three coats of gloss white. After the paint fully cured, I was able to apply the replacement Evinrude stickers that I bought off eBay. I repainted the front cover plates that had flaked off with flat blue (after self-etching priming), and hand painted the blue and red "E" on the back of the engine with acrylic paint. It turned out well, so I felt confident enough to move on to the bigger project.
To begin with, I needed to remove the old paint from the hull. I mentioned in the trailer post about testing how solid your old painted surface was with a piece of duct tape, but in the case of the hull it was obvious that the paint had failed (it was sunbaked and peeling off all on its own) and the boat needed to be stripped down to bare metal. So I removed all the various chrome bits that were still attached to the boat and set to work.
There are a few options available to you to remove your old paint, but being that I was doing this on a tight budget, having it professionally done by either media blasting or dipping wasn't really an option. So that left me with two basic options; mechanical removal (sand paper and wire wheels) or better living through chemistry (chemical paint stripper). I had trouble deciding which would be more fun, so I did both.
Primarily, I planned to use aircraft stripper, which is truly nasty stuff. With its extremely caustic nature, I figured it would make quick work of the already peeling paint work. The claimed 10-minute strip time was a little optimistic, I found that it needed to set for at least 20-minutes before you could start peeling paint, but it worked fairly well at removing the two layers of paint that were on the boat. However, after doing most of the boat I decided to try another more environmentally friendly stripper called Citristrip and was very impressed with its performance. It seemed to be easily as effective at removing the paint from the boat and had far less odor.
As with any caustic chemicals it’s important to utilize proper PPE (personal protective equipment), so I geared up with a chemical respirator, elbow length rubber gloves, and eye protection…I still managed to get some stripper on my upper arm while leaning over the boat and had a mad dash to the sink to rinse it off. Luckily, I was working outside, so a well ventilated area wasn’t a problem; I just had to contend with the alternating 90-degree days and cold rainy standard Seattle weather.
It was a fairly straight forward process. Just pour on some of the stripper and spread it out evenly using a chip brush, then come back over it with a plastic scraper and stiff bristled brush to remove the toxic goo that resulted. Using a plastic scraper is advisable since aluminum is a very soft metal and going at it with too much vigor with a steel scraper can result in nasty gouges. Once I had made the pass with the stripper and my scraper I decided I needed to resort to brute force to finish the process.
There were lots of crevices and areas around rivets that I just couldn’t get at with the scraper and that didn’t come clean, so I attacked those with a wire wheel on my drill. Be sure to use a stainless steel wire wheel, otherwise you might find that bits of the ferrous wire get embedded in the aluminum and can cause rust in the future. After that I ended up going over the entire hull with a palm sander and heavy grit paper to get all the last remnants of paint off and get a good key on the surface.
After weeks of work, I finally got the boat stripped down to bare aluminum. I did this all in two stages, working first on the top cap/deck and then flipping the boat over onto sawhorses to do the lower hull. Luckily, these aluminum runabouts are incredibly light and I was able to get it off the trailer and on the sawhorses by myself. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the hull was very straight with only one or two minor dings
At some point, a previous owner decided to drill holes in the side of the boat and mount rusty steel eye bolts (to be fair they probably weren’t rusty when he installed them) to tie down a boat cover. I had removed the eye-bolts, but prior to beginning the painting process I needed to deal with those holes. I purchased some all-aluminum closed end pop rivets (don’t use the rivets with the steel shank, as the remaining portion of the shank will rust) and coated them liberally with 5200 marine sealant/adhesive before inserting them and popping them into place. I also patched up the redundant upper bow eye holes with an epoxy putty, that I treated much like bondo and formed and sanded to blend seamlessly into the hull.
With that I was ready to break out the spray cans and get to making it look pretty again. Now, here is where I would have diverged from my plan if I had to do it over again. Assuming that like me you were trying to save money and not going to pay a professional to paint the boat, you have essentially three options. You could buy a spray gun and get some paint mixed up, you could buy some paint and roll and tip it, or you could buy an indeterminate number of spray paint cans. Those are listed in order of preference, best to worst options…of course I picked the spray paint cans. Can’t change it now, so nothing but to move on.
Any method you choose will require some specialized preparation and treatment for aluminum. The first concern is making sure your primer and paint will stick to the surface; to do this, you must etch the surface. You can get self-etching primer and I used a specialized Aluminum Primer that did not require etching, but I decided to go the extra mile and etch the hull before applying it anyway (better safe than sorry). To do this, you simply mix up a 50/50 ratio of white vinegar (a mild acid) and water, apply it with a spray bottle and maintain a wet surface, spraying as needed, until the surface gets slightly darker and dull. Once that is done, wash it off with soapy water and dry thoroughly prior to applying your first coat of aluminum primer.
I did one good coat of Rust-Oleum Aluminum Primer and then followed that with two coats of Rust-Oleum bonding primer. Then did four coats of Rust-Oleum Gloss White Enamel. This is where reading and understanding the directions is very important; make sure you know the appropriate dry times and recoat times for the paint you are using, otherwise you’re going to run into problems. I want to be clear that I’m not shilling for Rust-Oleum (although I would if they wanted floated me an endorsement deal); however, it is a good idea to utilize one paint system from base coat to top coat, as it is less likely that you will run into issues with the paints interacting unfavorably.
In my case, the Rust-Oleum enamel was dry in 2-4 hours, but does not fully cure until 24-hours. However, don't confuse these with the recoat times, which state that you may apply an additional coat within 1-hour of the previous coat or must wait 48-hours to recoat. I opted to apply subsequent coats within 1-hour of finishing the previous coat. If you apply another coat in the window between 1-hour and 48-hours after you last coat, the paint is still off-gassing and it will result in an alligator-skin or wrinkling appearance. Your only choice then is to wait for it to dry, sand it down, and then wait the 48-hour dry time again before recoating. These times are different for different brands of paint, just be sure that you read the label and know when your recoating window is.
I worked in four phases; masking off the top deck to paint just the lower hull when it was upside down on the sawhorses, masking it off to paint just the top deck after flipping it back over onto the trailer, masking off and painting the graphics, and painting the interior. The hull and the top deck were both coated in gloss white. Once I finished the lower hull, I let it cure for a full week prior to flipping it back onto the trailer and working on the top cap. Then I moved on to the graphics.
I had taken detailed pictures prior to stripping the hull with measurements and reference points, so that I could recreate them. I decided to go with a teal instead of the original red (at least I keep calling it teal, but my wife insists on referring to it as “Tiffany Blue”…I think she might be hinting at something, I’m just not sure what?).
Here is where I ran into a few problems. Remember that wrinkled finish, well turns out that not only refers to additional coats of paint, but also masking over your yet un-cured paint. I’m impatient and I masked off the teal graphics before the 48-hours was up; I didn’t paint until after the required time had passed. Alas, the damage was done, with the paint under and around the tape wrinkling up. It was frustrating, but there was nothing for it except to sand it down, back mask the teak and repaint. There are still traces of the wrinkled paint and various other minor imperfections; hopefully I will be the only one that notices them though.
With the outside looking sharp, it was time to tackle the interior. I’m going to do a separate blog post on the total interior rebuild, but the painting went pretty much the same as the exterior. Strip, etch, aluminum primer, bonding primer, and top coat. I went with a light tan on the sides and a darker tan Rust-Oleum spray on bed-liner on the bottom. The Rust-Oleum bed-liner I used is best equated to just a thick paint and doesn’t have the texture that one would normally associate with a truck bed-liner. It did however, provide a nice grippy surface and will hopefully be a durable coating that holds up well under hard use. Prior to painting the interior, I did have to make sure that it was water tight.
I leak tested the boat before I started working on it. I simply put a plug in it and filled it well above the waterline. After a few hours no major leaks were evident, just a slight drip from the seam between the transom and the bottom of the boat. Never the less, I played it safe a sealed all the seams with Gluvit, which is a two part waterproofing epoxy. Application is simple, just add the catalyst to the tin of epoxy and then spread on with a chip brush. The consistency is about that of honey and it has a long work time so that it can flow into all the cracks, crevices, and pin-holes. It dries flexible and is supposed to move with the aluminum, which of course can flex. I applied it from the inside only on the transom seam with a good heavy coat, but did both the inside and outside of the side seams in lighter coats. As with most epoxies, it is not UV stable and must be over coated with something, like paint and bed-liner, necessitating mechanical abrasion to ensure adhesion of the over coat.
For a paint job that was done by a complete novice, outside under a pine tree that seemingly never stopped shedding needles, I think it turned out pretty well.
Until next time, here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
Well, I decided to start this refit out with a bang and tackle the most exciting part of any boat, the trailer…wait, crap, the trailer? Did I just type the trailer…yep, looks like it, and it’s too late to go back now. Just hit the delete key and go back, you say? No can do, in this blog we look forward, not to the past, we must press one…oops, I mean press on, no time to fix typos. So, the trailer…
While it may not be the most glamorous part of your boat, it is none the less extremely important and can often be overlooked. I would say that far more than half (68.25%) of the boating accidents I have been a party to have involved a trailer. From launching follies, to blown tires to, running into posts at a gas station, trailering mishaps are certain to liven up your boating experience. Luckily, I have not yet been the responsible party for any of these trailering fiascoes and I attribute that to my regular maintenance on my trailer and in setting it up correctly from the start…though I did have a little bit of an issue with tongue weight and getting whipped around while towing my Yukon Delta…er, I mean never mind, nothing to see here, I never make mistakes.
I think my favorite was on a trip back from Lake Powell when my uncle took a corner a little too tight and hit the curb with the right wheel of his 14-ft Elgin boat trailer. No sooner did it land on the other side of the curb, than the opposite wheel popped off and went rolling away into the intersection. As if to say, “not without me,” the right wheel quickly followed suit, rolling after its companion. My uncle was left to drag his trailer into the parking lot and replace the hubs the next day. As near as we can figure, the hubs got so hot that the quenching in the water during launching made them brittle and led to their fracturing. But I digress.
The Lone Star’s trailer was a later addition to the boat, as its title clearly indicates that it is a 1967 Montgomery-Ward Sea King. Lone Star offered their own line of trailers for use with their boats in 1960s, what I have decide to call the royalty line as each of their different sizes had a different royal title (Prince, Baron, Duke, King, and Queen). The engine I received with the boat was a 1968 Evinrude Fastwin. That, coupled with the pronounced waterline I discovered on the first layer of paint, leads me to believe that the boat was kept on the water for the first 6-years of its life and was repowered and put on a trailer sometime in 1968 to sell (just call me Nancy Drew…er, I mean Encyclopedia Brown). In any case, our trailer had seen some better days; sitting in a field for 30-years will do that. I was able to pump up the old tires and pull it from my aunt’s over to my parent’s house to do some initial work on it. It was easy to tell there was air in the tires, because I could see it (the air that is), and the lights definitely didn’t work, but taking back roads and at low speeds we made it just fine.
Prior to hauling the boat across country to the Pacific Northwest, I decided that I should probably take care of a few items. I first put the boat on a weight loss program and removed everything…even stuff that was nailed down. My dad and I also tackled everything we needed to make the trailer road worthy and not a road hazard. We replaced the wheel bearings and seals, got all new tires (including the spare), and replaced the mismatched taillights with a new set from Harbor Freight. We gave it a good once over and then, after getting some temporary license tags, I set off across the great divide. The trailer made the journey just fine…which is more than I can say for my Subaru, which threw a rod coming down Monarch pass, but that’s another story.
After stripping the paint of the top deck of the boat, I was able to remove it from the trailer and flip it upside down on some sawhorses, which gave me full access to the trailer and allowed me to go ahead and complete its refit. Before I did that though, I took note of the fact that while the trailer fit the boat pretty well, it was clear that the two were not designed for each other and some minor modifications needed to be made. The winch mount and bow stop were too high for the boat. To solve this issue, the previous owner had added a bow eye to the very top of the bow to get a better angle with the winch, but that just didn’t look right to me and I decided to take a cutting wheel to the mounting post and shorten it about 8-inches, which allowed me to line things up with the original bow eye. It took a little finagling to fit the spare tire, new jack, and winch post, but I was also able to move the boat forward almost a foot to improve the tongue weight. Once I had all that cut and mocked up, I disassembled the entire trailer and began restoration in earnest.
I didn’t completely dismantled the trailer, but took off pretty much everything with the exception of the axle and related components. I pulled the rat’s nest of wires (my grandfather had a more colorful term that I won’t repeat here) that had been cobbled together over the life of the trailer with plans to replace them all. Then it was on to the sanding.
I didn’t take the trailer down to bare metal, as what was on there seemed to be adhering pretty well. As a quick test of the stability of your painted surface, you can take a piece of duck-tape (it’s not duct tape, please stop correcting me) and press it firmly onto the painted surface. If it you can remove it without peeling any paint along with it, then the paint is probably stable enough to paint over without needing to be removed. There were a few areas where the paint was scratched or rust was just starting to show through and in those areas I tried to sand down to clean metal and remove as much of the minor surface rust as I could. No matter what, you’re likely not going to be able to get into every crevice and crack to remove the rust with sand paper, so it’s important to use a good quality paint that is compatible with stable rusted surfaces, but you can also attack the rust chemically. I treated the particularly bad patches of rust with Rust-mort before priming; it is phosphoric acid and reacts with iron oxide to form black ferric phosphate, which acts as a protective coating, and water.
Now that I had dealt with the rust I could start making the trailer pretty again. I wasn’t going to spend a great deal on the trailer, which despite its importance is kind of utilitarian. I put a couple coats of Rust-Oleum rusty metal primer onto all the parts of the trailer and then coated it twice with Rust-Oleum high gloss enamel, white for the frame and a teal for the fenders. I gave it a quick rub down with a scotch pad in between coats to ensure good adhesion. I also gave the axle and associated components a quick spray with undercoating to protect them before painting the trailer, not worrying too much about the overspray getting onto it. Once all the components were painted, the real hard part came in waiting for everything to cure before reassembling it.
In the meantime, I was able to keep myself occupied by working on the bunks and rollers. I decided to replace the bunks with pressure treated 2x4s, which I know is going to get some of you up in arms. Believe it or not, the use of pressure treated lumber with an aluminum boat is a very controversial topic on the internet, second only to ‘chunky versus smooth peanut butter’ (chunky peanut butter is the product of the lazy that can’t be bothered to finish what they started). I would never use pressure treated lumber on the boat itself or in direct contact with aluminum, but in this case I felt like they would be isolated well enough not to be an issue. I covered them with marine carpeting that had a rubberized backing and used good quality marine adhesive, both of which should form a suitable barrier; add that to the fact that the hull will be painted and not bare aluminum and I would be shocked to see corrosion issues. The rollers were, of course, all perished and needed to be replaced. The bow roller was the standard size and was an easy replacement to locate. The keel rollers were a different story. I was forced to look at replacing the entire assemblies as the roller sizes were smaller diameter than any of the replacement rollers I found on the market. Luckily, I was able to find an Atwood roller and bracket that came very close to fitting the existing mounting holes for the back two keel rollers; I just had to ream the mounting holes out slightly to get a perfect fit. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a bracket that would easily replace the forward most of the three keel rollers and I was forced to improvise. I took a replacement roller and shaved it down in order to fit the old bracket. I tightened down a sacrificial bolt through the mounting hole, put the end of the bolt in my drill, and spun it on some heavy grit sandpaper on a flat surface. I kept making black dust until the roller was small enough not to bind in the old bracket.
All that was left was to put all the pieces back together. I purchased all new galvanized hardware and went to work; in the span of an hour I had everything back together, which included a new coupler, new winch, and new trailer jack. I installed a new bow safety chain, which can be the difference between your boat ending up on the ramp when your winch fails or staying on your trailer for the trip to the top of the ramp. I then turned my attention to the electrical system.
I purchased a new wiring harness from Harbor Freight and rewired the entire trailer. The wires were easy to pull, just run through the tongue and then run along the frame back to the LED lights that I had previously purchased. After battling incandescent bulbs on trailers for years, LEDs are a welcome relief; with incandescent bulbs, you must unplug the lights prior to launching or retrieving to prevent them from bursting on contact with the water, but even if you did that, I found that often times they would still be hot enough to die upon contacting the cold water. Never mind the fact that I would often forget to plug them back in before heading down the road. My father’s old Dilly trailer had the lights mounted high on trailer loading guides, which was a great solution, but with LEDs you simply don’t have to worry about it and will likely never have to change a trailer light-bulb again. In short, they are definitely worth the minor extra investment up front. Also, while a majority of trailers use the frame to ground the lights, I’ve always found that the ground is the Achilles heel of most wiring setups; inevitably you’ll get a bad ground connection and your lights will start acting funny or not working at all. Instead I ran a dedicated ground wire from the plug all the way back to the lights themselves, which should reduce the possibility of any ground issues rearing their head in the future.
The final project for me to complete was to add Bearing Buddies, or a generic imitation of that name brand. It’s a very simple installation, just pop the existing dust covers off your hubs and tap the Bearing Buddy into place. For such a simple installation and a simple product, it adds a great amount of peace of mind. It is simply a spring-loaded plate with a grease-zerk that allows you to keep the grease in your hubs slightly pressurized and prevent water intrusion. When you back your trailer into the water for launching, the hubs are often hot after travel; the sudden cooling of the hubs can contract the air inside and create a vacuum that draws water into the hub. With the spring-loaded Bearing Buddies a positive pressure is maintained and keeps water from intruding.
Another great feature that I like to include on my trailers are loading guide posts. I got used to them on my dad’s old Dilly trailer, which had four (2 at the stern and 2 just ahead of the axel), and discovered with my first boat that did not have them on the trailer that I wasn’t nearly as good at putting a boat on a trailer as I thought. They make loading and unloading your boat much faster and easier; I don’t know why everyone wouldn’t put some on their trailer for the $50 or less a set costs. I have purchases a set of guide posts, but I don’t plan to install them until the boat is back on the trailer and I have completed most of the work, since they would definitely be in the way. Again, these are a simple installation that takes less than half an hour and aren’t a complicated piece of equipment. They provide you a reference for where the trailer is when you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see it under the water. To get your boat on the trailer, you just get it between the guide posts and then drive it up onto the trailer. They really make putting the boat on the trailer a breeze.
Until next time, here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
I came into possession of what I’ve deduced is a 1962 Lone Star Malibu about a year ago. The serial number is 23410061, which the internet tells me (Would the internet lie to me?) indicates the following. The leading digit is supposedly the last digit of the year, hence a 2 indicates 1962 since the Malibu was only in production from 1958 to 1963. The 341 is common to Malibues (How exactly does one write the plural of Malibu?), but there is no documentation on exactly what those numbers represented. The remaining five digits are the production number for the boat, hence 0061 means my Malibu is the 61st Malibu built in 1962. Another tipoff, I can also barely make out the name Malibu on the name plate on the dash and looking at paint schemes in old brochures seems to point to 1962. The trailer title said 1967 and the 18HP Evinrude Fastwin outboard is a 1968. Unfortunately, Colorado doesn’t title boats, so I don’t have any documentation on the boat itself. My guess would be that someone repowered it in 1968 and got it fixed up, either to sell or after buying it. Whatever it's history, I now find myself in possession of yet another project boat.
Lone Star Boat Manufacturing had humble beginnings; founded in Grand Prairie, Texas in 1945 immediately following WWII and initially producing aluminum boats in the 12-14 foot range. The company grew quickly and expanded into fiberglass manufacturing in the early 50s, running fiberglass and aluminum boat lines in parallel. In 1965, the company was acquired by Chrysler and became the Chrysler Boat Corporation, which continued production until 1979 when they closed the doors on their marine division. The original Lone Stars remain popular with collectors and enthusiasts today; with a large and active online community on Yahoo Groups (which, to my surprise, apparently still exist). They were a treasure trove of information and can be found here.
The Malibu was at the heart of the Lone Star line in the late 50s and early 60s, when the 14-16 foot runabouts were the hottest market. These small runabouts provided a lot of fun on the water for a family of 4 at a very reasonable price ($525 in 1958, which is just over $4000 in today’s dollars). The Malibu stood apart from other aluminum boats of the time with its stylish design that was more akin to its fiberglass rivals, even including small tail fins. In the 60s, the public began to demand larger vessels and the Malibu was dropped from the production line in 1963.
I purchased this classic boat from my aunt a while ago, without any knowledge of its history; just knowing it as the cool aluminum boat with fins that was sitting by her house. They had bought it in 1985, but only used it a couple times that year. Unfortunately, that winter a nasty windstorm ripped the cover off the boat and, in the process, shattered the acrylic windshield. That is where it sat for the next 30-years, which helped give it its current “patina.” I traded her a few hundred dollars’ worth of window air conditioners for the boat, since I thought I could use another project (in related news I’m looking for someone that could add some holes to my skull).
Prior to hauling it out here from Colorado, I did complete a few minor items on the trailer (like installing new lights, replacing the 30-year old tires, and replacing the wheel bearings) to make it road worthy. I also removed some excess weight in the form of the rotten seats, various rat’s nests, a few hornet nests, and the 18-HP Evinrude Fastwin; I knew I was going to be repowering the boat to get a little more speed and didn’t see much use to hauling the Fastwin across the country.
My plan is to do a full restoration and repower it with a little larger engine…on a budget. I don’t want to sink much more than $1-2,000 into it when all is said and done…and if I do my wife might make me live in the boat. Once I get it done, it will likely find its way down to Lake Powell to act as a tender to the Serenity.
Look forward to more updates as things progress. Until then, here’s wishing you fair winds and following seas.
Brent Pounds has over a decade of experience in the maritime industry and has been involved in recreations boating since he was a child. See the About section for more detailed information.