Still Stripping Paint

(Really) Quick update – it’s been a busy spring and early summer with some travel and hectic work-life. I’m greater than 50% done stripping the paint above the water-line. Going to get all of the white off, then make another pass at the green afterwards because there’s a few more layers there.

My process is improving and I’m finally getting ambidextrous with the heat-gun and scrapper.


I also got the paneling off the gunwales – no surprises thankfully.





Needless to say I am long overdue for an update. It has been close to five months. I certainly picked an awful winter to start a project like this. Buy a snowblower and you get no snow – start restoring a wood boat and you break a snow record. We did get a few things done during the deep freeze but not nearly as much as I wanted to. The propane heater did a fine job of heating the air, when the temps were above 20. The concrete slab was just too cold to stand on for a long duration – I meant to buy some rigid foam insulation to stand on but never got around to it, plus a heat gun and hot paint scrapings landing on the foam would be an added fire risk and chemical exposure.

What did we do? The deck is mostly stripped of the vinyl cover. It is wasn’t the original covering. That went fairly quick aside from pulling several hundred staples. The deck is in generally good shape. A few soft patches: very tip of the bow, at the seam on each gunwale and the port and starboard edges of the stern deck and at the stern deck vents. That piece I am going to replace entirely. Glen managed to get it off cleanly to use as a pattern. As you can see from the picture below someone previously tried some sort of an epoxy patch at the seam edges.

Rot on starboard side of stern deck.

Rot on starboard side of stern deck.

As for the remaining deck – I might replace all of it or just patch in fixes.  I haven’t decided how I am going to finish the deck yet.  Seem to have about three options: covered deck similar to the original, painted deck, or varnished.  Each have their pros and cons.  As much as I want to be original – I dislike the idea of doing the vinyl covered deck because of how much you have to take apart to redo it (if I ever were to).

After removing rear deck plywood.

After removing rear deck plywood.

Removing the piece of rear deck allowed for closer inspection of the transom area.  Other reasons for removing that portion of the deck: easier access to paint everything and if I choose to add a swim platform it will make reinforcing the transom easier to not have that in the way.  Overall it appears to be very solid.  There is a hairline split in the transom below the water-line that you will be able to see in photos.  We also have not decided how to address that. Last year after we first got the boat and wanted to try and use it some we filled the joint with 5200 – and no leaks (there at least). Not sure if I want that to be the long-term solution.  I want to do everything “the right way” – but my money tree doesn’t have enough branches to do it all.  If it were above the water line I wouldn’t debate it.

The same time we stripped the decks, Glen did a little scraping on the rub rail.  This gave us some historical insight on the painting history of the boat.  Green is definitely the original color (matching the hull card), at one point the stripe was blue and then changed back to green.  So there are at least three coats of paint on the stripe.  The current green does not appear to match the original – at least in the state that they are both in.  Who knows how much fading and weathering has altered those colors?  Either way, green will be going back on the stripe – likely as close to the original as I can get to.

Paint history on the rub rail

Paint history on the rub rail


Aside from that, I have done some cleaning in the bilge and the inside – scraping dirt and loose paint off and shop vacuuming.  That’s the extent of the winter work.  About two weeks ago I got back into things since the weather broke.  First thing I did was some organization in the shop and I built a bigger work-bench.  About eight years ago I bought a solid maple bench top from a facility Visteon (auto part maker) was closing for about $20 – it’s been taking up space in the basement all this time.  The original intent of it was to make a bar out of it – that’ll have to keep waiting.

I have about 5 or 6 hours in to the striping effort now.  I am using a heat gun.  This is my first use of a heat gun.  I have used chemical methods in the past on furniture, metal register vents, and even watched my neighbor use it on a 1966 Stingray.  Nasty stuff.  I started at the centerline of the transom and decided I’ll go clock-wise around the boat above the water-line.  We are going to flip the boat, I’ll strip below the water-line then.   The varnish on the transom goes really fast compared to the paint.  After fiddling with the technique for a bit I discovered getting a stiffer 1″ scraper and putting a slight rounded edge on the corners sped up the process and reduced the risk of gouging the wood.  I am wearing proper PPE (personal protection equipment) – respirator, gloves, glasses, etc., and am cleaning up periodically and after every session.


photo 3

Note the hairline split in the transom going all the way across below the water-line.  The water-line is fairly easy to track on the transom since it has clearly been sanded and refinished above the water-line at least once – there is a slight lip in the wood.

Glen helped for a couple hours while I was on “clean the basement duty” with Lindsey two weeks ago.  The original green paint does not come off well – I may have to use chemical stripper for that.  As it is I will make one pass getting the newer green and blue off and all of the white off and then try again on the original green.  So far no unwanted “discoveries” – of course I am above the water-line.  I however do know where there are some issues on the bottom.

Here’s another shot.  I’ve made more progress since this photo, I am almost forward of the windshield now.  We’re home this weekend and have no major plans so I hope to get the port side close to done in the next few days (we’ll see).


Port side progress

Port side progress

In The Shop!

Today we made a big leap forward. The boat is in my garage/shop. I’m going to make this a quick post, but will update in more detail and images soon.

Glen and Lindsey’s Uncle Paul (we call him U-P) came over to assist. Initial plan was to just get the motor out and that went very smoothly and quick in fact.

After that we had time and since my cart was basically ready to use and the gantry was up we decided to just finish the job and get the boat off of the trailer and onto the cart.


This is UP with the motor hoisted. We’re about to pull the boat away and bring in the motor cart. I broke my iPhone screen just prior to taking this shot – $75 casualty.


And the boat is in the garage. It fits very well actually – I have some organization to do yet but it should work well. We also have some more work to do to the cart.

More to come. I definitely glossed over this – I’ll add explanation and detail.

engine pull 12-01-13 (6)    engine pull 12-01-13 (8)

engine pull 12-01-13 (15)engine pull 12-01-13 (18)

engine pull 12-01-13 (12)

Into The Shop – Prep Part 1

The approach of winter weather in Michigan has forced me to get my act together with getting the boat torn down and into the shop (my garage) –

I’ve made a stand for the motor to go onto.  I found an example online that I mostly copied, I still need to add a few blocks for the motor to sit onto.  I set it up so the motor will sit as it is in the boat — we’re very tempted to run the motor on this at some point…. for tuning, and because it’ll make for a fun video.

Motor Stand

Motor Stand

A few weeks back we winterized the motor.  I removed the (2) raw water intake hoses from the water pump and in their place I attached (2) 6′ lengths of heater hose fed to a 5 gallon bucket.  This 283 can pump water really quickly – 5 gallons was gone in no time.  We ran the motor on water for a couple minutes to warm it up a bit, then pumped in RV/Marine anti-freeze – eco-friendly stuff, fogged the motor and that was it.

Water/anit-freeze setup

Water/anit-freeze setup


Later that week I removed the decking and seats.  It all generally came out pretty easily, there were a few screws with stripped heads to drill out but it went well.   With the seats and decking removed I have a little better idea of what I’m up against for wood repair/restoration.  There are at least 6 ribs that need to be replaced — they’re rotted at bilge. It starts under the helm seats and goes forward, everything behind that point seems solid so far.

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Last Saturday Glen came over and we tackled a few more things.  We cataloged and tagged all of the various trim pieces and hardware and removed everything.  The rub rails are in very good condition, the previous owner said he replaced them a few years ago.

We also removed the windshield.  Which was surprisingly easy – I had envisioned an all-day effort to get that off for some reason.  The front part we got off in one piece and the port and starboard sides came out in (3) – the top rail, the glass, and then the bottom rail.  None of the glass seems to be original.  And it was replaced with plate glass.  I can tell it is not original because it wasn’t cut particularly well.  I will likely replace the glass with laminated glass at least, or tempered if the price is right.  I worked for a glass company several years ago for a few summers — getting a piece of laminated glass and cutting it somewhat excites me to relive my late teen summers at EDCO Glass.

Windshield Removed

Windshield Removed

We also cataloged the wiring harness on the motor, tagged all the wires and disconnecting everything.  Also, unattached the shaft-coupling, and removed the exhaust hoses and elbows (elbows had to come off to pull the motor mount bolts).  The only thing left attached to the motor is a the fuel supply.  I have about 12 gallons of gas in the tank to siphon out and dispose.  The dump will take the gas, I just have to get it there — anybody have a couple of 5-gallon gas cans you want to lend me for a few hours?  I really don’t want to put the gas in Lindsey’s car (my Jeep is a diesel).

New aerodynamic look!

New aerodynamic look! The bow light has since been removed as well

This weekend I will be building the gantry that I will hoist the motor out with.  This is the part where I use my structural engineering background.   More to come.


Last Run

Funny in a way that my last post was called “first run” and this one is “last run” – it is a busy life this being a parent of a 9 month-old is!

We put in over Labor Day weekend to make a quick run.  I have some leaks/rot forward of the helm that have prevented extended use of the boat this season.  Plan is to take care of all that this winter (details and posts to come).  I just wanted to post some pictures Glen took of us on our last run before going into the shop –


View from “Rocket” – Glen’s 1953 CC Rocket Runabout


Checking the engine temp

P8310367 P8310368 P8310371 P8310372 P8310375 P8310376

This post is just as much for me as it is anyone else — something for me to come back and re-motivate myself with when I’m freezing my rear end off in the garage this winter.

The boat is currently back at our house, on the trailer on the driveway.  I’m in the midst of devising my plan to pull the motor, get the boat off of the trailer and flip her over.  Part 1 was to build a shed in the backyard to get my junk from the garage into.  This will be one of the rare times I can put my career as a professional structural engineer to personal use (one word: gantry).


Slab I made for the shed


New shed

First Run

This is a long overdue update. Needless to say, we’ve been busy – but life is good.

On Saturday, July 6 we were able to take the first run with the boat. It ran great with a few relatively minor issues discovered to address. But here’s how we got there –

Where I last left off I was ready to do a few tune up items. One of which was to replace the spark plug wires. Easy enough, right? The starboard side went quickly, but I made a discovery on the port side. The plug wire for the #5 cylinder was actually clamped down under the fuel pump plate. Someone carelessly installed the fuel pump at some point.  I will discover that this is not hard to do.


Plug wire that was under fuel-pump plate

I finished installing the plug wires, a nice 7 mm set that I was able to custom cut, and then bought new gaskets for the fuel pump because I’d have to take that off and re-install it.  I also replaced the alternator belt and the pair of water-pump belts.

Prior to this I never had experience with a mechanical fuel pump.  As usual I did some internet research to learn about what I needed to do and how they work. I even found a few videos to watch.   Everything I read and saw described keeping the push-rod that drives the fuel pump in place during installation is the most challenging part.  Most suggest adding a little grease to the rod and that will help keep it from sliding down.  I did this, and it worked perfectly.  The hard part I found was actually getting the pump back on – aligning the lever onto the rod was very difficult.

I managed to do it, or thought I did.  Long and embarrassing story short – I damaged the fuel pump and also the push-rod.  The trick, obvious after the fact but not mentioned in anything I found, is you need to crank the motor a few times and check the positioning of the rod.  Since the rod is driven off the cam there’s a point where it is fully out or fully in — find that fully-in position and installing the pump is simple.  So I bought a new pump, Holley makes a marine application pump that works, and a new rod.   All said, about $150.  The rod and the gaskets you can get at pretty much any decent auto parts store, again it is great to have a GM 283.

An added benefit to the new pump is that it has the port to run a vent line to the carb in case of a pump diaphragm failure.  Instead of pumping fuel into the bilge, it would run into the hose and flood out the carb and stop the engine. You’ll see in the video below where we ran that.  It would have looked better to run it to the aft end of the carb but functionally, I felt it would work better on the fore end – in case it is ever needed the fuel would dump into the carb with assist from the angle of the boat being on-plane.

Part of this project I installed the new fuel line and in-line filter I had planned to do –


New in-line fuel filter

I used USCG approved fuel hose, stainless clamps (2 at ea fitting), I have a shut-off valve on the demand-side of the filter, and a anti-siphon valve at the tank.  I bypassed (and removed but will someday reinstall) the Chris Craft fuel filter.

Now the fun part – on July 6, we launched at the Lexington MI state ramp.  Here’s a video of the motor running (yes, we need to learn how to use an iPhone to take videos) –

And here’s a video of us running her past the Lexington harbor (again, sorry for the video orientation) – Lindsey is behind the camera, Glen is on the back seat with Lindsey’s cousin.

Overall it was a great first run.  I honestly did not expect us to be able to run the boat at all this first summer so any time we get is a bonus.  We noticed a few issues: the water temp gauge doesn’t work and a few of the hoses were leaky.  Also the bottom leaks – more than I’d like to spend a day on the water with.  We ran the boat for about 15-20 minutes and pulled her out.

I wanted to run the engine before changing the oil (previously we checked the oil and it looked OK) and do it with the engine warm.  We brought the boat back to the cottage and I extracted the oil with the pump I have.  I got around 5 quarts out through the dipstick tube and figured I’d get close to half a quart or more out with the oil filter.  I prepped for removing the oil filter and then… ugh.  It was stuck, really stuck.  I got it off, but I’ll go into that in the next post..

She Floats

Three and a half weeks after getting the boat I am finally getting around to writing an update.  This is going to be a rather long post.

First off, we’re naming her Remember When.  Fitting for a classic boat and just happens to be the title of the first song Lindsey and I danced to.  A country song by Alan Jackson who coincidentally is a bit of a boat collector himself.  Lindsey came up with the name, in about 30 seconds of thought.   I tried to come up with one but could not get my mind off of things like fixing broken seat supports and wiring.  That makes two names we’ve pulled from country songs we love – our daughter, Carlene, got her name from Phil Vassar‘s song of the same name.

Let’s go in order of what’s happened since getting the boat –

The day after, May 11, I went to the Secretary of State to pay my fines, I mean taxes, and to register the boat and trailer.  Michigan has permanent trailer plates, and the fee is based on the empty trailer weight.  In a previous post I discussed this.  Turns out the state has tables of trailer weights by manufacturer and they will apply a weight to your trailer (on the high end) if you do not know it, or do not want to go through the hassle of weighing it.  Good enough for me.  All set.  I also got the registration number, in Michigan they’re “MC” numbers – why not “MI”?  Who knows.

After doing that I got the stickers to put on the hull for MC numbers – knowing that I plan to strip and repaint the hull I decided to just get hardware store grade basic stickers for now.  That still didn’t stop me from laying out lines and taking over an hour to put the numbers on straight.

Sunday was Mother’s Day – no boat work on Mother’s Day.  It’s a law somewhere.

Monday I started removing the decking so I could clean out the bilge.  Complicated by the fact that someone in the past striped out many of the screw heads.  Most of the screws on these old boats have what look like phillips heads – but they’re not.  They’re frearson and a phillips screwdriver or driver bit will strip them very quickly, especially the soft bronze screws.   The worst of it was the trim board holding the deck down at the bottom of the gunwales – I had to drill most of those screws out, I did manage to keep the boards in good shape.

Starboard side decking removed. Note - flame arrestor installed 90 degrees off

Starboard side decking removed. Note – flame arrestor installed 90 degrees off and my beer can prize on the bench

Thankfully, the only real surprise on the starboard side bilge was a beer can, a very old beer can.  All of the frames are solid, just dirty and needing of a few coats of bilge paint.

Before removing the decking I had noticed that turning the wheel would at the same time cause the shifter to move – meaning the linkages were likely binding up somewhere.  Removing the decking revealed the problem.

Guide block for steering and shift linkage pipes.

Guide block for steering and shift linkage pipes.

The removable side to the guide block for the linkages was unattached and laying in the bilge (loosely replaced in the photo).  The nut and washer were no where to be found — I bought new stainless hardware to replace it.  Other items in the photo: the red cable is the throttle cable, the rusty cable is the tachometer drive cable — future items to replace.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings I redid the indicator lighting and mounted the license plate on the trailer.   I fished the majority of the wiring through the trailer’s steel tube framing – I think this is the first time I’ve successfully used an electrician’s fish-tape.   I’m happy with how it turned out, but it did nothing for hiding the rusty steel (not sure if I’ll keep this trailer long enough to justify completely repainting it).  Somewhere in that time I also replaced the spark plugs so I felt like I did something to the boat.

Rear trailer lights and license plate.

Rear trailer lights and license plate.

Friday, May 17 – I towed the boat out to a trailer repair shop in St Clair Shores to have the brakes worked on.  I was hoping to get out of there with little damage – what I got was a new coupler, hydraulic lines, bearings, pads… basically new brakes. Not ideal for the budget but worth it.  Towing with properly working brakes is much easier and certainly safer.  My 2nd backing the boat up the driveway experience was successful on the first attempt, my trailer reversing skills are returning to my late teens and early 20’s construction work glory days.

Saturday, Glen came over to help out.  Much appreciated.  We tackled a few things.  Before he arrived I got the port side decking out and shop vacuumed out the bilge.  The surprise on the port side was a Frisbee – not a new one but what is likely a 30 or 40 year old one.  Fixing that surprise takes 2 seconds – I wonder if I can sell it on Ebay?

We also adjusted the steering and transmission linkages – they were binding up on each other, and we put gear oil in the steering gearbox  – something that may not have been done since 1962.  Last job of the day we took apart and reassembled the shifter bracket at the helm – it was loose and not very sturdy.

The following week I did not really get much done – aside from spending (more) money.  Having had the time to inspect the boat and get acquainted with what I have the to-do list has grown, not surprisingly.  I could write a mile-long to-do list – but at this stage I need to put the list into “must do” and “like to do” categories.  The goal for this season is to get some use out of the boat – whether that’s 3 days on the water or 10.   I’m not going to rush-job repairs just to get them done – do it right the first time even if that means spending some extra cash and time.   Long-run vision is better in the end (I also invest in index funds..).

Overall this boat is surprisingly original.  The alternator belt has a Chris Craft part number on it.  The plug wires are original.  The distributor and carb are original. As great as that is – we intend to use the boat, and on Lake Huron.  I don’t want a day ruined by a 50 year old part failing.   That said, we’re going to be replacing some worn, old parts.  Wherever possible and feasible for my wallet they will be replaced with the correct parts, otherwise I’ll replace with what’s available.

Items done or in progress – Group 1

  • new battery cables – originals were shot, the negative looks like it had a losing battle with the flywheel – evidenced by a 6″ electrical tape wrap
  • new plug wires – I could buy new original style wires and for not much of a premium, but I’m going with 8 mm low resistance marine wires – worthy upgrade
  • new distributor cap (more on that later)
  • new fuel line (more on that later)
  • new belts – (1) alternator belt and (2) water pump belts
  • new stuffing box packing and packing hose (more on that later)

Group 2 – (when I get more $) –

  • new hoses (motor and bilge pump) – most of them should be straight forward, at least 3 of them will be tough due to their bends
  • new ignition coil
  • 100% new wiring

I’ve purchased everything I need for the first list – aside from the last item, I need to get into the boat and take some measurements on the prop shaft and packing nuts.

Memorial Weekend would have been a great get-work-done weekend, but we were up north at a wedding for one of Lindsey’s best friends.  We had a great time and it was much needed time away from home.  We were in Good Hart – north of Petoskey on Lake Michigan.

Lake MI

Lake MI

The battery cables are done –

New batter wires (and battery).  I will do a proper battery box soon.

New batter wires (and battery). I will do a proper battery box soon.

The plug wires are on back-order. Frustrating because it’s one of the easiest things to replace and I’ve now been waiting close to three weeks for them to arrive.

The fuel line I am replacing because I want to put in a good in-line fuel filter water separator.  Someone previously put a cheap in-line filter but made a serious mistake in the process.  The OEM fuel line is copper all the way from the tank to the motor.  Durable, but also doubles as a ground for the tank.  Static discharge when filling a gas tank is a serious concern, without a ground that’s very dangerous.  Whoever spliced in the existing fuel filter cut the copper line and used rubber hose to splice in the filter – eliminating the ground.   To fix the grounding issue, we’ve run a 10 gage wire (marine wire) from the tank fill tube to the common ground on the engine block.  I will replace the fuel line after we’ve had the boat running and burn through the old gas.

The distributor cap has been a bit of a pain.  I first found one on Amazon, for something like $25 – good deal.  It arrived and it was brown.  I found another that is the original black color, from RockAuto. So I sent the Amazon one back and ordered another and installed it. Done.

This past Sunday, June 2, was first launch day.  Glen and I took care of the fuel tank ground, and also repaired the supports for the port side front seat and the support on the starboard side of the rear bench.  In fact, we completely disassembled the front seat, cut a new piece of mahogany for the support and reassembled it.  All of the seating will need to be rebuilt at some point but for now it is all solid.  Previous attempts to fix the supports appeared to be more of the “just put more screws in it” type of effort.

After doing that, I put about 10 gallons of gas in the tank, to dilute the 10 I already had (I made a measuring stick — I’ll do a post on that soon) and we went to the Grosse Pointe Woods park boat launch. Well, she floats…

First Launch

First Launch

..mostly.  The stuffing box and shaft log are leaking, and more than is acceptable.  Those unfamiliar with these terms –  the shaft log is a bronze fixture that the propeller shaft runs through and it is screwed and sealed to the boat.  The stuffing box is what seals the shaft – it contains a rope impregnated with flax or teflon to make the seal.  There are drip seals and drip-less seals. The drip seals are the older style – the idea is to allow some water (3-4 drips per minute) through to cool and lubricate the shaft, drip-less are newer and based on what I’ve read it seems like your opportunity to install them incorrectly and cause damage to your shaft is greater.  Any way, we’re going to have to reseal the stuffing box, and reseal the shaft log.  We’ll have to pull the shaft to do all this – at the same time I’ll examine the cutlass bearing.  Look for this in a future post.

I did not notice any other major leaks. Thankfully.  However, we were unable to start the boat.  We narrowed it down to not getting any spark – recall that I replaced the distributor cap.  Our initial thought was the cap wasn’t correct.  I towed the boat home, put the old cap back on and it fired right up (I am trying to avoid starting and running the motor dry as much as possible – which is why I didn’t try to start the motor after putting the new cap on it).  So inspecting the new cap I discovered the pin/prong or whatever you want to call it at the center at the ignition coil connection was non-existent –

Defective cap/launch ruiner

Defective cap/launch ruiner

Lesson learned: inspect your new parts before installing.  I got a refund on the part and I’ve ordered a new one.

I am waiting for the new belts to arrive, I’ll go into those on the next post.  I have a busy couple of weeks so it probably will not be until the weekend of June 22 that we try to run the boat again – this time possibly in Lexington.