Monday, September 7, 2015

Yachting News

About twenty five years ago, my dad said one of the funniest things I'd ever heard, and I didn't realize the humor until much later.
He's gone on to be with the Lord now, so I have to wait to ask if he was serious.

We were at a family function and he took me aside.
We talked about my voluntary layoff for that summer and what I planned to do with my kids, now that I had custody and time to spend with them.

He then said, "You know, Jeannie (his wife) is too afraid to go out on my boat again, and I don't like to go out without her, so the boat sits in my yard and hasn't sold.
I've talked to your brothers and they have no interest in this so I'm asking you, would you like the boat?"

We had spent a lot of time on his boat, something he bought after mom left him. I had always hoped to buy it from him, but couldn't afford it.

I answered that I'd love to have his boat.

That's when he said it, With a straight face.
"You have to promise me you won't spend any money on it."

Darn, I'm laughing again.

The first year I had it, I spent the summer on Ford Lake with my kids and their friends.
Gas was cheap.
We went out on the Detroit River with it.
Skiing. Tubing. Fishing.

Then I burned up a piston as I was taking friends and their kids out on Labor Day.
We limped home.

I rebuilt the engine in my garage over the winter, which I had some trepidation over.
No Youtube in those days, and it was a monster six cylinder outboard.

I met Scherie that winter and we married in February.

One day when the weather warmed up, I took a day off work and we went out on the lake.
We tooled around for about forty five minutes at which point I said, "Well, let's open her up!"
Everyone held on and I shoved the throttle forward.
The boat leapt forward and I was thrilled that I had gotten it right.
For about five minutes.
Boats don't have brakes, but it felt like I had put them on as we all slammed forward.
I couldn't imagine what had stopped us.
I turned around to see if everyone was OK, and my oldest, Josh, was just staring at me with his mouth open.
I kept scanning the back of the boat and then wondered where my motor went.
It was so obvious in its absence.
I had forgotten to attach the safety bolts, which at one time I had tried to do, could not find, and thought I'd do it when they showed up in the bottom of the bolt bucket, which they didn't.

A friend owned a boat shop and sold me a nice Johnson four cylinder for $750, which while not as impressive as the towering Kiekhaefer Mercury Inline Six, actually had more nominal horsepower, which I couldn't detect.

The next year, I started to sand and strip the paint which my dad had applied with a brush and which I wanted to rectify, being an automotive body repairman at one time.

It took so long that Scherie contacted our boat shop owner friend who recommended a marine painter in Monroe who would do the job for $1500, which she paid for my birthday.

The job was supposed to take two weeks.
It took two months. The guy was obviously upset with himself, not realizing how difficult the job was.
When it was done, we brought it home and arranged an inaugural outing with our closest friends and proceeded to take our beautiful boat out on the water.
It got (and has gotten) so many compliments that I was in seventh heaven.
It was like owning a pristine '57 Chevy.
People pulled up at red lights when we towed it and told us how great it looked.

We went around  Belleville Lake for about forty five minutes and then went to speed across the lake.
What I didn't know at the time was that all that time in the hot summer weather in a metal boat paint shed had caused the two cycle gas/oil mix to gum up one of the carburetor jets.

Two cycle engines lubricate themselves with the oil mixed with the gas.
Two of our four cylinders were not getting gas or oil while puttering around the lake and we didn't notice the lack of power because we weren't asking for that power.
When we did, that's when the motor seized up for lack of lubrication.

So, now we had a beautiful boat and no motor.

A few weeks of looking around as the summer was dying yielded nothing.
Then, one day we drove by a boat for sale with a 115 HP Mercury Inline Six.
For $1500.

We talked to the owner and he agreed to tow it to our house since I couldn't.
It was a fiberglass boat of the same shape as mine, but much heavier than my aluminum hull.
When we got to our house, he asked how I intended to use the boat if I couldn't tow it, and what was wrong with mine?
I told him that I only wanted the motor and my biggest concern was what to do with the boat when I took the motor off.
He actually agreed to take it away and gave me $200 for it (!) and left me the battery and the marine radio (which I've never used).

So now I had a motor and a boat for Labor Day weekend!

That was a long time ago, and some wear and tear has occurred on the boat and paint.
A few years ago, I was taking an older friend out after church and we were headed for the River when, as I was parked at a stoplight, I was rear ended by a car that had been hit by a car behind it, and shoved into the back of my boat.

My boat is aluminum and the transom (the back of the boat that the motor attached to) was pushed in.
I had to fabricate some plate and bracing to make it seaworthy.
The trailer was broken and had to be welded.
New propeller.
These repairs took me a while and some money. There was no insurance.

Two years ago I paid $300 to have the carbs rebuilt because of ethanol/water in the gas.

Some damage has occurred to the paint on the roof of the boat from the weather.
There's a lot of chipping of paint.

I wanted to strip the whole thing down and spray it from bare aluminum.
I bought stripper to do this and started last winter, but even with heat in the garage, I couldn't keep pulling the boat in and out to work on it because of snow that would collect on it.

So this spring I got hired a guy to come and sand blast the boat in my driveway which was more economical and beneficial that taking it to a commercial blaster who wanted $1500!
This mobile guy did it for $300!

We also pulled the windshield (that's Scherie helping) with the hope of replacing it. The material, if I successfully form it (which I haven't attempted yet) is about $100. To have a new one made, about $600.

This has been slow going all summer with many interruptions and much foot dragging on my part as I tried to figure out how to do stuff like filling holes in the aluminum skin without a TIG welder or warping the skin.

Last weekend, after spending most of the day finessing the sanding and dimpling the holes (to fill with bondo) with a device I made, I pulled out the paint materials (about $100) and started mixing paint. Once mixed, the paint must be used.

Late in the afternoon, I rolled the boat out into the driveway, pulled a ladder up next to it, turned on the compressor and started spraying the roof with white epoxy primer.
I had started with a half cup to make sure everything worked.
With the roof three quarters sprayed, I ran out of paint.
No problem.
I went back in the garage and started to mix a full cup which would finish the job.
As I was mixing it, I heard the rain start.

I ran outside and pushed the boat back in the garage.
Got some towels and a heat gun and dried it off.
Thank God the paint had dried enough by then.
It stopped a few minutes after I was done and I rolled it out again.
I finished spraying the roof and the deck, seeming to run out of paint just as I was done.
When I took the gun apart to clean it, I saw a lot of paint left.
I had to throw it away as it would harden soon.
When I went to spray thinner through the gun to clean it, I saw that I had low air pressure.

The air compressor had seized up.
For the last week I've been investigating options to repair/replace the pump.
I guy I've known for years who has worked on air compressors for me at various jobs told me it wasn't worth repairing. Replacement pumps were in the range of $450 unless I went Harbor Freight for $130 and a lot of reworking the pulleys, piping, belt, mounting etc.

I finally broke down Thursday and dismantled the seized pump.
I scraped the journals of the offending connecting rod and spend hours finding the last of the needle bearings that had fallen out of the housing on to the floor and under my workbench among many other things.
Saturday night I had it running again with no investment but labor.
I will later order a $12 head gasket, but for now it is only a minor leak.
I might even order a $32 connecting rod and $10 needle bearing kits, just in case.

I have spent way too much time writing all this up on Labor Day, but it seemed easier than going out there and spraying the finish coat which I have much trepidation (have I used that word already?) of doing for fear of screwing it up.

See ya.

"You have to promise me you won't spend any money on it."
Darn, I'm laughing again.


  1. ya, looks like you spent a LOT more than your dad wanted you to!
    I hope the fun's been well worth the time and money...sounds like it has....great memories.

    1. My boat has limitations due to it's design and age.
      My brother has a more modern boat that can take rougher water.
      He says (jokingly) Dad "cursed" me with the boat.
      I can't let it go and I can't afford a second one.

  2. Yowza! So when you finally get the chance to ask your dad if he was serious (not for a loooong while yet) will he just give you a deadpan blank look for a few seconds then bust out laughing at you? Great story.

  3. I've had two boats, and rebuilt them both, one of them a couple of times. Spent 6-figures on repairing, storing, mooring, winterizing, and then repairing the same stuff that I had repaired. Then spent some more money.

    Boating is not for the broke.

  4. I could barely afford up keep on a row boat... It is a beautiful boat...I'm sure you spent a lot of time thinking while you worked on it.

    1. Perhaps Scherie and I could take you out on it.

  5. I'll bet your Dad is laughing in Heaven. What a story! My Dad had a fiberglass boat and I knew not to buy one. What pain that thing was. It needed way too much maintenance for my tiny budget. In the 1980's we graduated from a flat bottom canoe to a metal boat. It was a 17 foot Tournament TX Bass Tracker. Thankfully, it was very little trouble. Our only 'misfortune' was the 50 hp Mercury 2 stroke heat sensor alarm kept going off, but it was fixed under warranty. Other than that, it was a charm to own. We caught may a Bass with that thing. Sold it after moving to Georgia (from Florida). I do miss it sometimes. ~:)

    1. It's nice to serenely float on the water in any boat, eh?

  6. Man, what a great story. Any of us DIYers can identify with each and every one of your setbacks.

    A cliche comes to mind - "The only day happier then when you buy your boat will be the day you sell it".

    1. I will never see that day.
      I'm wondering which of my sons will take it.

  7. awesome memories!.Bless you and yours this Sept 11th my friend..God keep us all safe..:)

  8. Persistent... That's what you are! :-) You'll get it finished eventually!

  9. I have just installed iStripper, so I can have the hottest virtual strippers on my desktop.