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!

 

28 Responses to “StarCraft Skylark Rebuild”

  • Clark Myers says:

    Hi Brian,

    My Dad purchased a Skylark in the mid 1960’s as well and have sail it up to a few years ago. Other projects at our summer home in Maine took higher priority than the sailboat. Also, there was a persistent slow leak in the hull and was unable to detect the source of this leak. I did an inspection of the hull last summer and found chips of paint and some flaking around the hull where the lee boards come out of their storage area.

    Many years ago, a fiberglass repair was completed when after the sailboat’s mast cut thru the plastic cap at the bottom of the mast and then the hull as well. The sailboat sailed wonderfully for many years, up to a few years ago when I discovered this leak into the hull. The extra ballast (from the water inside the hull) made sailing sluggish. I then beached the sailboat, opened the drain plugs, and water poorer out of the hull.

    So, because of a previous fiberglass repair, and ware and tear around where the boards come down, I realized just a patch up would not solve my problem. So in reading your post of just a few days ago I believe splitting the hull from the deck and resealing the hull from the inside would be the best solution. However, there is a metal strip around the sailboat like yours, but sealed with metal fasteners. So, I am not sure how to take off and well as replace this metal strip. therefore, I am seeking some advice and guidance from you.

    I can send a few pictures I took last year of the skylark, when I suspended the sailboat from the rafters and removed the trailer. Any input from you would be greatly appreciated. I have no experience in sailboat and/or fiberglass repair.

    By the way, this type of sailboat has a nasty habit of submarining under certain sailing conditions. I have noticed over the years when the Skylark was moored on the lake it appeared to be bow heavy. I am thinking of adding some sort of weights at the stern of the sailboat to rebalance the sailboat. Any ideas on that subject???

    Sincerely,

    Clark Myers

    • Clark,

      The rubrail comes off just with a little pulling and prying. It’s just pressed on the gunwale over the staples. As for reinstalling it I will have to get back to you since I ran out of time before I was able to get to that last summer, it’s on the to-do list this summer.

      As for removing the staples, refer to the picture with the hammer/hatchet above. Get a thin blade into the seam and just hammer it through around the hull. It took me about 90 minutes to do the whole hull.

      Check and study the videos from West Systems and Jamestown Distributors, they cover pretty much everything you will ever need to know about fiberglass repair.

      All scow’s are susceptible to “submarining” as a result of the large flat bow. The best way to counter that is to keep your weight aft in the boat when sailing. Keeping the water OUT of the hull should help with that too 😉

  • Matthew says:

    Thanks for your article. I happen to purchase a Skylark Sailboat from an auction for $60.00 + fees totaling around $130.00 with the trailer. Ihe trailer is in great shape and everything was there except the splash guard was missing. I am interested in knowing if you know a source to get one. Additionally the only three other issues I see are the mount for the tiller (rudder gudgeon) is loose. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of splitting open the hull so I was thinking of using a strong butter fly mount to re attach this. What is your opinion? Second there is a two inch crack in the front hull that needs repair. Is this something I can do from the outside? Last, there were no plugs in the drainage holes in the back. both sides of the hull and the center for the cockpit. Can you tell me what I should be using to replace these? Thank you again for your article and you time. -Matthew

    • Matt, sorry, no idea where to get a splash guard. I imagine you can find one for another boat, perhaps a Sunfish, that may fit since they are pretty similar in size.

      The crack *should* be repaired from both sides. Any repair that is from the outside only will be hard to do well since you cannot clean and prep the surface from both sides to get a good strong secondary bond. Splitting the hull and gluing back together with 5200 was honestly the easiest part of the job, I wouldn’t be too afraid of doing that if I were you. If you want to repair the gudgeon and transom drain holes properly you will need to do that because the wood is most likely rotted around there anyway. If you want to try without though, git-rot in the holes may help solidify the wood enough to enact a repair from the outside. Additionally you probably have enough damaged stringers that it’s worth the repair anyway. Stiffening up the boat will make it sail better.

      Something else to think about, In hindsight I would have added an access hold to the aft deck while I had it apart (though it could be still added now, it would have been better to do while the deck was off).

      • Matthew says:

        Thank you for taking the time to respond and for your advise. I think I will take this up as a project and split the hull as you suggested.

  • Chuck says:

    Brian, did you find a source for parts? I am missing a rudder.

  • Chuck says:

    Brian, what would you charge me to take some pictures of the rudder/tiller and make a paper pattern of the rudder? Thanks.

    • Chuck, I apologize, your comment was marked as spam and I never saw it before just now. I wouldn’t charge you anything at all to do that, happy to help, if we ever meet just buy me a drink and we’ll be even. However I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do it as the boat is currently in Indiana, and I now live in Connecticut, so I won’t be able to do that until the next time I go back out there to visit, which will be sometime this summer.

      -Brian

    • Matthew says:

      Are you looking for a rudder? I’m thinking of piecing out the the skylark i have.

      • Carolyn says:

        Did you sell your rudder. I am in need of one.

      • Mary says:

        Hello! I am looking to purchase a left and also a right piece of splash guard for my Skylark. These are helpful posts. Thank you.
        Mary

  • Isabel says:

    Dear Brian,
    I am so excited to have found your how-to WITH photos no less.
    I have been looking for this information for years for my Skylark I bought in Indiana (where I’m from) in 1970 and learned to sail on it.
    It is leaking and wallowing to the point of being un’lake’worthy now and has been on the shore on its trailer for 4 years now. I live on a lake in Connecticut (what a coincidence asper your entry of May 8, 2015)) and my husband and I are anxious to bring ‘little blue’ back. I have spent many many hours of speedy fun on that boat and do not want to say good’bye. Thank you so much for your help.

  • Christian says:

    A number of years ago my brother and I lost the rudder off our 14′ Starcraft Skylark and consequently our old sailboat has sat unused. I am looking to manufacture my own rudder but need some help. I would love a physical etching of the rudder in order to re-create one and it would be much appreciated if you could manage this for me. Feel free to reach out.

    Cheers,

    Christian

    christian.cravens@gmail.com

  • Will Wood says:

    Brian
    What a GREAT write-up! I started a rebuild about 5 years ago….it was completed a few years ago and dry as a bone inside now. I acquired the boat with my wife Barbara….and a proline and kayak….she loves boats, too. I got as far as breaking the hull deck, much like you did….and then used the services of Oasis Marina and Boat Yard, John Spires, Saint Augustine, Florida to do backing repairs on the thru hulls, (all tap and die’d aluminum backings) etc. I finished the rub rail myself using an old brass” spanner” (open end wrench) which I attached to a vise and ran the rub rail strips down the spanner handle to size it just right as well as clean out the old sealant that had been used previously. The space was just enough to fit over the hull-deck joint (which had been sealed with, I believe 5200, as well as small SS bolts and SS nuts…every 3-4 inches) and closed the rub rail with rubber coated jaws on vise grip pliers.
    What a fun little boat….perfect for the “young-uns to learn on!
    Note to Starcraft Skylark enthusiast: continue to search the net frequently as parts are advertised…I purchased a bow handle from a person that decommissioned his boat.
    Will

  • Rick Gasser says:

    Brian,
    Thanks for the great writeup on DYI repair of your skylark. I purchased on in January in Portland, Oregon, where it had resided since it was purchased in 1964. It is in pretty good shape but the starboard dagger board mounting plate has a few screws that have pull

  • Rick Gasser says:

    Sorry about the last post my phone may not have been the best choice. The text went under the submit button. Anyway to continue. I suspect the wood is rotted away which is why the screws pulled out. I have a complete boat so if anyone needs pictures, drawings or anything else let me know and I can get them for you. My mast step screws are missing as well as whatever it used to screw into, but I think splitting the hull is going to be the right thing to do here as well. I can’t wait to sail her. I am crew on a Wavelength 24 keal boat which we have been racing for 17 years here in Eugene, Oregon, and other ports on the west coast thank you again for your posts.
    Rick. .

  • john madill says:

    I enjoyed reading about your rebuild of the Skylark.

    My first sailboat was a used Skylark I bought in 1991. My brother-in-law taught me to sail and the Skylark turned out to be faster than his Scorpion.

    I badly bent one of the boards (not sure if it should be called a leeboard).

    I went into a local boat shop, Wolf’s Marine in Benton Harbor, MI, and asked if they had one in the shop. They carried lots of used parts for all kinds of boats.

    The man shook his head and said it would be nearly impossible to find one from a boat that old.

    I looked up toward the rafters and said “There’s one!”

    Yep, he had one and didn’t even know it.

    thanks again.

  • Roger says:

    Thanks for your post. I now have my mini fleet of 3 skylarks sitting by the barn. I was dreading removing the decks. Years ago, my father-in-law took our original boat back to the starcraft factory for repair. They put the boat back in the original mold before removing the deck so that it would not warp. I am glad to hear that you were able to get the deck and hull to match up when re-attaching them to each other.

    • Douglas says:

      I am trying to help a friend locate a new sail for his Skylark. Do you happen to know of any source other that having once custom built at a loft?

      Thanks!

      Doug

  • Don says:

    I have one for sale complete, still sails in pretty good shape. Is missing only the splash guard. Sailed it last weekend. https://www.facebook.com/michigancrosscountry/posts/10154217515272976

  • Drake Johnson says:

    I have salvaged parts from my old Starcraft Skylark. I have rings, sideboards, rudder, tiller, other? If interested, send me an email.

    Drake Johnson

    • Mike says:

      Drake,
      I’m interested in your parts if you still have them. I realize this is a long shot as I’m a year late, but if available please email me at

      mt ZZZ nova ZZZ k1 @yahoo.com (Remove Z’s and spaces)

      Thanks,
      Mike

  • Walter Silverbear says:

    A few days ago I purchased a sailboat for $50.00 that in all ways looks the same as the Skylark discussed here. The design is the same, but the length of mine is 12′ 2″. It has a beam of 55″ and the mast is 19’6″. Sail is about 18′ x 17′ x 9′. The rigging is the same. Same rudder and tiller, tiller extension. Sail color is white with red band… the same as the one in the video here of the Skylark. Hull colors are the same. What is different is that mine has an identification plate (same location( which says that it is a Shell Lake sailboat and the model is a Scamp made by the Shell Lake Boat Company at Shell Lake, Wisconsin. Serial number 2149. It is hard to read anything else on the plate. If there is a year, I can’t read it. I can send photos of the boat if you want to see it. I’ve not yet put it in the water as I just hauled it home yesterday. Very heavy, but solid. Gel coat is oxidized, but the fiberglass does not appear to be damaged. It should clean up well I am hopeful that it is lake worthy as it is, but it has not been sailed in sixteen years I have two sail canoes, but this little guy looks like it would be a lot of fun. Thanks for the fine restoration thread, by the way. I hope I don’t need to study it too closely for serious restoration guidance.
    Silverbear

  • Gerald Erjavec says:

    Hi Brian-

    I learned to sail several summer ago and purchased a used Skylark, which I sailed for about 2 summers. We found that the boat took on a lot of water, so, ever since it’s been in my yard awaiting my ambition to fix it. I found your article this spring and have since undertaken the challenge. I’ve gotten the rail off (I’m hoping I can reshape it as it now curves the wrong way) and the staples popped and ran into the same thing you did, the mast tube is stuck to the hull, which also has a similar poor patch job beneath it. If you had it to do over again, would you still cut the tube and then later cut the tube off of the deck, or would you simply cut the tube at the deck to separate deck from hull? Also, did you have any trouble reattaching the mast tube to the deck when you reassembled the boat? I also don’t know much about fiber-glassing, so, I’m taking this as a learning experience and any guidance would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Gerald Erjavec says:

    Got the boat opened up by cutting around the mast tube on the deck. It almost looks like it had been opened previously. The supports on the deck look pretty good, but, if there ever was cardboard on the hull shell, it looks like a lot of it rotted away, leaving hollow, frequently-broken shells of resin. As I don’t have a ready cardboard supplier, any thoughts on replacing the cardboard with 1/2 inch PVC pipe? Also found 4 large blocks of foam that was apparently used for flotation. Are these needed if the hull can be made water tight?

  • Mark sanders says:

    I would leave the foam in there just in case it springs a leak! I just picked up a skylark trying to sort out a missing rudder and boom right now does anyone have pictures of theres?

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