Growing up I learned to sail on a 14′ StarCraft Skylark at our families lake house in Indiana. I loved that boat, it has a very unique tunnel hull design that makes it extremely stable, and allows it to carry a large amount of sail, so it goes fast. It will partially plane, at the same time as it lifts half the hull out of the water and “fly’s a hull” like a catamaran would, except it is a mono hull scow. Unfortunately the boat was ageing and no longer seaworthy as a result of too many leaks in the deck to hull joint, and many soft spots developing around the boat. I went home for a week to visit family and rebuild that boat last summer, and while I didn’t yet get to sail the boat I was able to get it to within an afternoon of work shy of being ready to sail again. She will sail again this summer, and hopefully better than ever since she should be much stiffer and stronger than before.
Cosmetically the boat is pretty rough, and it needed a lot of work, so it would have been easy to say it wasn’t worth it, but since this was the boat that I learned to sail on I wanted to rebuild and repair the boat, and maybe one day I’ll teach my own kids how to sail on this boat. From what is left of the old name plate (66 C 429)I suspect it was build in 1966, and is hull 429.
Before I could begin I had to get the boat up where I could work on it, which meant towing it to the boat ramp and bringing it on the trailer to under the car-port.
The project consisted of first splitting the deck and hull apart. They were secured together with staples, many of which had rusted out over the years, and foam tape between the joint to keep water out, which had long since rotted away in most places. I tried many different tools, but found that a fine bladed hatchet with a large flat back, and a heavy hammer (actually a pick in this case) worked best to chew through the staples very quickly.
Before we could get the hulls apart we had to undo a very poor patch job someone had done 20 years prior that resulted in the mast step getting epoxied in place. The old fiberglass patch over the holes that had been cut peeled off easily with a scraper (and was surely another source of leaks)
That got me access to the underside of the mast step, where I was able to break through the epoxy and unbolt the mast step flange, but that still wasn’t enough, since the mast step had actually been epoxy bedded in the compression post under it. Unsure how else to proceed, I cut the mast step tube and separated the deck and hull.
As you can see the strength of the hull was achieved by lots of tubular fiberglass stringers, which were all formed by laying glass mat / weave over 3/4″ cardboard paper tubes. Most of these stringers were now rotted or brittle and cracked, providing little strength to the hull. A friend of the family who stopped by to see how things were going, works at a paper plant a few miles away and had access to tons of different size cardboard tubes, and volunteered to go pick up a few tubes of the same size from the scrap bins so I could use them to rebuild the stringers.
With the deck off you can see the underside of the mast step tube and the bolt holes from the mast step flange collar.
The first part of the repair was to re-assemble the mast step tube, which meant removing the top half from the deck where it was still attached to. With everything open and visible I realized I could actually cut the tube from the deck inside the bolt holes for the mast step flange collar and not actually weaken anything since the flange actually takes all the load there, not the tube to deck joint, so I cut out the top of the tube from the deck.
In order to make a smooth and straight fill to the mast tube I went and picked up some party balloons and (after grinding the surfaces and cleaning everything with acetone) inflated one inside the tube (with I might add, no small degree of acrobatics required to get myself positioned properly to do so), used a putty knife (knife from a plastic silverware set) to fill the joint with Marine Tex, and the balloon keeping the Marine Tex from squeezing any excess into the tube where it would have prevented the mast from sliding into, and requiring cleanup work.
After letting the Marine Tex set overnight I mixed up some polyester resin and started wrapping layers of cloth and resin around the mast tube.
I built up about 9 layers of glass around the mast tube to ensure it was strong enough. I also repaired the holes in the hull and added new stringers to that area of the hull to help better stiffen and the hull distribute the load of the mast to the hull.
I also started repairing all the broken stringers. I ground as many surfaces as possible with a angle grinder and a sanding wheel, cleaned all the surfaces with acetone and applied patches of new glass mat with polyester resin over all the areas of weak, cracked, or rotten stringers.
Under the deck I had the most work to do, and had to glass in new plywood cure around the mast as most of the old core was rotten. I also added extended the stringers a little to help stiffen and strengthen the area. With the cardboard tube I was using to form the core of the stringers, I was careful to fully wet out the cardboard as well as the glass I was laying over top of it. The resin soaked cardboard alone should be every bit as strong, or even stronger, than the original stringers, and that is before I added any fiberglass.
The bow cleat backing plate needed re-cored as well.
As did the transoms for the stern cleats, and the rudder gudgeon.
As a result of the soft sagging deck, the stringers under the cockpit has actually slowly rubbed against the inside of the hull, and actually over time completely rubbed 2 small pinholes through the glass all the way through the gelcoat. This required laying up a whole new thickness of glass over an area of the hull.
The whole job resulted in 75% of the stringers being patched or at least partially if not fully rebuilt, and those that didn’t get patched still got acetone washed and a coat or two of fresh resin brushed in on the thin spots that were likely to crack in the future.
I also had replace the wood around the twin side daggerboards that the frame screws into.
I cut out the hole for the mast tube, and installed stainless tee nuts for reinstalling the hardware, and secured them from coming loose with a little bit of resin (and sealed the edge of the wood as well).
Once all the repairs were done all that was left was to install the drain plugs and the new cockpit drain and re-join the deck and hull together.
The deck I reattached with 5200, which should prevent leaks much better than the old staples and foam tape did. It won’t be easy to ever get apart if it needs done again, but it if made it over 40 years with the original job, maybe it will last another 40 years this time.
While I was in there rebuilding everything I added some hardware for a boom vang, since the boat never had one, and suffered greatly off the wind as a result. It’s just a simple 2:1 setup, but I think it should work well for when she finally gets back out on the water.
I ran out of time while there, so there are a few pieces of the project left to finish, which I will do when I go visit this summer. I will re-install the splash guard on the deck, attach the rubrail, finish the exterior side of the patch on the hull, and attach the pad eye to the boom for the vang. If I feel extra ambitious I may even bring the buffer and try to restore some shine to the hull!