Converted lifeboat Snuska waits for a new life.
Dave in the forehatch.
The cockpit needs some paint.
The pilothouse could use a new roof.
The cabin is smallish.
The bilges are scummy.
For several years, we have walked past this boat slowly moldering in a neighborhood driveway. We recently contacted the owner and asked if he would consider selling. After thinking it over, he decided he is ready to part with her.
The boat name, Snuska, means nothing to us, but we long admired another neighborhood runabout named "Bucket", so to us she is already "Bucket of Richmond Beach".
The boat is a plastic orange lifeboat, manufactured in Holland in maybe 1961 by Mulder Rijke, used aboard a freighter, then decommissioned and sold by Foss Tug in the early 1980s to a man who built the cabin top and pilothouse.
It is in pretty terrible shape, mushy places on the deck, no outboard though an outboard well, and hasn't been registered since the late 80s. The pilothouse roof is gone, open to the sky. The boat is so tiny that you can't sit in the forecabin berth upright. The rusted trailer lacks a current registration, also more than 30 years out of date.
So naturally, we are thrilled.
First hurdle is to make sure the seller has clear title. He's working on that. Fingers crossed, we are hoping this will work out!
Bucket is about 21 feet LOA including a rudder, beam about 6 2/3 feet, with a little cement in the bilge for stability. Our goal for Baraka was to make her seaworthy enough to cross oceans, and comfortable enough to be our home for more than 8 years. Our goal for Bucket is far more modest. We'd like to make Poulsbo in fair weather.
Dave is already creating a "Bucket List" - a spreadsheet identifying and prioritizing tasks. A bit daunting, but nothing compared to preparing a sailboat for voyaging. The big question is the integrity of the topsides/foredeck. Can we restore what is there? Or do we rip it off and start over? Our first task will be assessing the condition.
On Craigslist, there is a somewhat rusty carport frame.
It will make a perfect Bucket House.
We prep the yard to receive Bucket. We need a flat area to work on her over the winter months. Dave removed one of our 2 garden boxes. Underneath is cement, originally used under a motor home.
On Craigslist, Jan found a carport frame, no cover. The owner used it over a boat and it is now in pieces. Looks sturdy, just the right size. We wirebrushed the rusty parts and spray coated it. Perfect to house the carcass while we restore it to usability.
No instructions, but we figured out how it goes together and built the first section, now 1/3 of the total 20 foot length, 8 foot high at the arch. Neighbors are curious. Are we building an encampment for the homeless? We say it is "for a project" or "maybe a greenhouse". After all, there is still no boat...
The seller came by with requisite paperwork, so Dave and I headed to the licensing agent to register our ownership. Less than $300 later, we have a registation document, and title is underway! Bucket will have a new HIN (Hull ID Number) and Washington State registration number, but we already have new tabs.
Bucket arrives at Sur Le Mer.
The seller delivered Bucket this morning, expertly backing the trailer into the yard. Dave and I then spent the rest of the day incrementally jacking the boat high and blocking it to clear the trailer. We want to lower it to the ground to work on it. Plus we need to assess whether the trailer has integrity. The seller didn't think so.
We blocked Bucket up on 4 columns of cement blocks, took air out of tires to lower the trailer, and then started trying to roll it forward, with the hull lifted free. No joy, Dave used a car jack to lift bow, then stern, to add one more wooden spacer on the columns. Now we could shift the trailer. Each time the axle moved forward, we shifted the forward blocking columns, until they finally were aft the axle. Dave used a car jack on the trailer tongue, lifting the boat dozens of times as we carefully reblocked. Success! The trailer is out, and will live under the deck until we are ready to deal with it. We are exhausted, but jubillant.
Yesterday ended with Bucket in position, but high enough to clear the trailer. We visited Les Schwab to raid their junk trailer for six free truck tires. Plan is to gently jack Bucket down to rest on the ground, keel blocked and hull supported by the tires.
Neighbors stop by to admire Bucket. Though there are big repairs to make, she is already adorable. We will try to keep the superstructure, as much as possible.
Bucket has settled into her nest of truck tires.
Bucket is going to look a whole lot worse before she begins looking better
We are removing the teak caprail and side rail, both rotted. I pop the plug out of the brass slotted screws, and clear the slot. Then Dave tries to access the interior nut to unscrew the thing. Sometimes the nut is under a blob of fiberglass, more often it is high on the bulkhead, where Dave can touch it, but struggles to engage it with socket or wrench.
The bigger job today was trying to remove the pilothouse, so it can be restored in the garage. Dave sawed carefully around the fiberglass cowling while I worked to free the interior. We are trying hard to keep the structure intact to minimize rework. Progress today, but not success. There are hidden nails we somehow must sever. But we appreciate the quality and design of the original effort, and hope to replicate it.
Bucket has lost her cuteness - pilothouse gone.
The pilothouse, caprail and rubrail are off! We are getting an appreciation of how well built the boat is. It was a significant effort to extricate the pilothouse, keeping the fiberglass cowling intact. Dave decided where to cut, to minimize reinstall later. Now he can take his time this winter in the garage, replacing the missing pilothouse roof.
Meanwhile, I am collecting youtubes on how to make a homemade steaming system to bend a replacement teak caprail. We can do this!
Jan loosens bolts to remove caprails.
We get the Bucket House frame up.
We continue removing crumbling wood from the pilothouse and cockpit, but so far no surprises. Today we put together the rest of the Bucket House frame. We ordered a cover from Shelter Logic. It is made to order and should be here in a few weeks, in time for October weather.
Right now we are still going backward, though I have ordered the first sheet of marine plywood from Dunn Lumber, so soon we will start replacing the bits we are peeling away. Even though we are still in deconstruction, it feels like progress, very satisfying.
The Bucket House is wired.
After weeks of dry days rain is forecast, so Dave pulled a tarp over the frame and rigged lights, after running an extension in conduit out to the Bucket House. Rain will be welcome; work outdoors has been curtailed due to hazardous air quality warnings from wildfires up and down the west coast.
Dave put the pilothouse back on the boat to check tolerances. Meanwile I made progress starting to restore the forecabin.
The 12th was our 50th wedding anniversary, a time for reflection on our long partnership. We've had more than a few adventures, and it is good to have yet one more project to work on together.
Restoration of bow caprail.
We admire the workmanship in Bucket, especially the quality of wood and joinery. I relaced a panel of teak in the forecabin that was badly delaminating. Turns out it is a very nice piece of two-sided teak plywood, and a big enough section was solid enough for Dave to refashion the pilothouse side panels from it. The old panels were crumbling, sections missing, but enough still there to make pattern pieces.
I has assumed we'd have to replace the teak bow caprail, two four-foot pieces of 2-inch thick teak with compound curves that have grain deeply scored by weather. Dave suggested filling the grain, so I added teak sandings to an exterior white filler to match color. The result, before and after, are in the photo. Not perfect by a long way, but good enough for Bucket!
The Bucket House - Complete
After internet research we thought the Bucket House frame was made by Shelter Logic. Their current rounded model has the same dimensions, though the frame itself has a few differences, the main one being that a low adjustable horizontal bar on each side slides through a pocket in the cover to tension it. I called the company, who advised that their replacement cover might not fit, since they couldn't identify the frame as theirs, but we took a chance and ordered the PVC 9 oz. cover. I figured we could make it work.
It arrived a couple days ago, in the midst of an early frontal system. We waited for a lull, then got the end panels installed, after making small extra cuts to accomodate some extra supports, on our frame but not on the current model. The next day we attached 3 lines and pulled the main cover over the barrel, Dave standing on Bucket to assist. Because we can't tension the cover with the frame bars, since our bottom bar is fixed, I am adding grommets to the pocket so we can lace the cover to the frame to tension it. Works great, cover is a perfect fit, quality excellent - we are super pleased to now have a dry work area for our winter project.
Dave finished stabilizing the pilothouse, adding panels and shims, and it is now back in the garage, ready for patterning to replace missing and rotten bits.
Pilothouse in the Garage
Skeleton in Place
The pilothouse is missing its roof, and the overhang, what I call the "collar", is mostly rotted and fragile. I got some foamboard and started making patterns for the missing parts. The roof is slightly arched. After lot of measuring, I fabricated a replacement roof and collar from the foamboard - not perfect but close enough to see how to approach the replication.
Then Dave and I built some temporary plywood arches to bend the new roof over, and I could now make a pattern accurate enough to cut the expensive Okoume plywood for the first layer of the roof. Next step, Dave will remove the overhang section, which will eventually be replaced, also with layered Okoume. It is starting to be easier to visualize the replacement roof.
Dave has also removed the rotten sections of the back wall of the pilothouse, still on the boat, and is fabricating replacements out of 3/4 inch plywood.
We visited Martin Lumber in Everett to get some teak and Okoume plywood. Great place, they cut the teak into precisely the 2 inch strips needed for the rubrail, and cut the Okoume in half so we could wedge it into the car.
We have moved the pilothouse back and forth from boat to garage several times to help fill in the blanks. Dave has now fabricated the missing side panels and is working on the missing sections of ceiling supports. We have to interpolate where and how things came together.
Dave spent several days refabricating the crumbly pilothouse back wall, trying to preserve what he could. Lots of fitting and refitting the 3/4 inch plywood, but it is looking great.
I drove Caraka up to Everett to buy another sheet of expensive Okoume plywood, strapping it to the roof for the slow careful drive home. I then cut out two layers of the roof overhang, what I call the collar, and then trussed them in ropes to encourage them to start bending in the desired shape. They are in the foreground of the photo.
All this feels a bit like exploration, feeling our way. But we are pleased with progress so far.
Weather has turned, and we've had the first big blows of the season, but the Bucket House is holding fast.
Demolition of the afterdeck
Dad's cool little router box
Progress everyday, though we have to walk backward to get ahead. Yesterday and today Dave tackled the afterdeck - badly delaminated after 30 years exposed to weather. Big question is how far to go - can any part be preserved, or is it better to just saw it all off and rebuild. Dave works hard to keep all he can. But it is an unravelling string... So he sawed off the afterdeck, and today we ordered more Okoume plywood from Martin Lumber in Everett. There are other rotten deck areas but this is the big one. The cleat welded to the vertical bar was a lift point for the lifeboat, bolted into the keel.
I am working on the pilothouse "collar" - the overhang - struggling to make it a smooth fit. Finally decided to order thinner wood - more bendable, for this area. Can pick that up Wednesday.
I got Dad's router box out. Dave had to show me how to change bits and adjust height - very long time since I used a router. The box is a Dad Special - super simple with markings to show orientation, just barely big enough to hold the router solidly, extra external switch box to turn it on. I routed rounded edges on the 2 teak rub rails, then tackled the replacement door panel, which needed grooves routed in 3 sides for biscuiting and a panel. Came out great. I am getting close to regluing the door back together, having replaced the 2 most rotten parts, and will add filler to a couple more areas. I had already laminated teak veneer to the door panel.
I also started scrubbing the cockpit scum, lots of wire brushing. Dave and I do a dance - shifting to other projects to stay out of each other's way. We did finally take one day off from our Bucket labors, driving to Poulsbo to visit Longship Marine where Dave bought a round decklight to fit in the chimney hole. They had a great supply of teak lumber - will be worth a trip when we need more.
Door ready to be reglued
Dave is extracting more rotted wood from the aft cockpit. He is nearly down to the original lifeboat structure, still extracting shreads of old plywood sandwiched in tight places. Wish we had the original plans. Everything fit together so well. We will replicate what was there.
I reworked my pilothouse collar pattern for a better fit in anticipation of getting the thinner, more flexible okoume. While waiting, I did more routing on the rubrails to a more pronounced radius. I also dry fit the teak door back together, almost ready for regluing. I also made some brackets to clamp the rubrail to, when we are ready to steam the bend into it. These are little filler projects, while I wait for wood.
New pilothouse collar needs every clamp.
The rotted bits are finally out.
Midget warms our home.
I laminated 2 layers for the pilothouse roof, and 3 layers for the "collar". The roof is 2 6mm layers, while the collar is a 6mm layer sandwched between 2 3mm layers for a total roughly 1/2 inch thickness. Next will come a layer of fiberglass mat and resin to weather seal the roof. Meanwhile, in the garage, I can refinish the exterior windows.
Dave very carefully removed the back deck and the rotted 3/4 plywood structure beneath, no trivial job as it is glassed to the fragile hull. He then patterned replacement sections and cut them from 3/4 inch marine plywood. Looks great! This structure needs to be beefy enough to mount an outboard in the well, and needs to have a watertight well compartment.
I am refinishing the teak door. Also coming together, though I need to do some fiberglasswork to fill in some gaps where wood has rotted away. I replaced some sections, but will preserve as much as I can.
I found a scroll saw on craigslist and am thinking more about replacing the 2 front bowrail sections. Need to price out the $$$ teak and decide whether to try.
Bucket came with a tiny wood burning stove! The owner apparently used it aboard inside the pilothouse for cooking and heat. We don't plan to reinstall it, but brought it inside with flicker lights as holiday decor.
House converted to workshop.
Pilothouse roof getting painted.
Bucket, or at least pieces of her, has moved indoors. Dave has taken over the sunporch for fiberglassing and painting, while I own the laundryroom for woodworking projects. The steam-bending gear is in my den, while cushions and fabrics have invaded the living room. So far the bedroom is off-limits to bucket projects.
Dave is getting close now to rebuilding the stern end of the boat, area prepped and painted and wood inserts fitted. I am coating the pilothouse roof with thin coats of polyester paint, and hopefully have the teak trim pieces ready for install when the final coats are painted.
Bucket House has a sign.
Steam bending aparatus.
Dave pulling Excaliber from Bucket.
My Christmas present from Dave was a hunk of rotted transom with "The Bucket House" on it. Pretty apt illustration of just how bad the rot was.
Dave is nearly ready to put the stern back together after tons of prep work, building a shelf for the battery, rebuilding the airpine sheaves for the steering cables, fiberglassing the outboard well... There are a ton of dependencies, things much happen in sequence, partly because once closed back up there will be little access.
I got the teak trim steamed and bent to the pilothouse rim, and glued in place with 3M 5200. Next are coats of varnish on the trim, final coats of paint on the roof, and the pilothouse will be ready to migrate back to Bucket. Today, Dave helped me steam bend the starboard rubrail. I built brackets to act as a form, The little steamer bubbled away a couple hours, pumping steam into the black pipe, with a drip hole and rag in the far end to hold the steam in. Once we pull the wood out, we only have a few short minutes to get it into the form.
You may also notice we had to build a boardwalk along the starboard side of Bucket. We are getting record rainfalls, and the ground is mud.
Pilothouse, sporting a new roof, migrates back to Bucket.
We muscle it back into position. Whew, it fits!
A lot is happening - Dave has the stern coming together, adding fillets to any gaps, then glassing in 4 inch strips of cloth to tie the panels together. Looks great. He is also mounting the battery shelf, and running the steering cables that will hook to the rudder.
I tackled the ugly side deck project. First I had to beef up the forecabin deck underside, adding a couple layers of cloth and resin, then opened the side decks from the outside where there was rot. Wherever I tapped and heard hollow sound, I opened and scraped away rotted plywood, leaving the top deck layer of fiberglass mat and paint intact. I found a long-needled syringe on Amazon, and used that to squirt wood hardener into the exposed edges. Then I mixed resin and chopped up mat in a thick paste, and forced that into the gap. I sanded that smooth and added filler for any remaining voids. There are 2 remaining soft spots, not accessible from the edges. I plan to drill 1/4 inch holes and syringe in epoxy.
Dave has ordered a Garhauer lift for the outboard. It is a 4 to 1 pulley on a crane arm, all stainless, that will make it easy to put the outboard into the well, then can be removed and stowed when not needed. We had one on Baraka, used it constantly, and it made deploying our 15 hp outboard a breeze. He also ordered a high-thrust 10 hp Yamaha outboard. We need to get it now to make sure the outboard well is correctly sized, in case adjustments are needed before installing the back deck.
I finished the pilothouse, and it has migrated back from garage to the Bucket.
Snow drift on the Bucket House.
Rudder on the worktable.
Hidden rot on rudder shaft.
Rudder in pieces.
We have 8 inches of snow, so I brought the rudder in to clean it up, planning to strip and paint it. Like many Bucket projects, it was an unravelling ball of string. The side panels were clearly rotted, but the main vertical plank looked good until I peeled away the steering bracket. Underneath was extensive dry rot, halfwath through the plank where it takes the force when turning. So do I scarf out the rot and splice in a section of wood? Or replace the teak plank? Because it must withstand some force, I think replacement. Which just changed the scope of my little project. There are 2, maybe 3 pieces I can reuse.
This is not discouraging - discovery is expected, and part of the challenge of working on an old boat.
Tackling the deck rot.
Teak grates for the cockpit.
I had two areas on the foredeck that I couldn't access from the sides to fill. When I tapped the hull, they sounded hollow, and I could see movement when I pressed down. I decided to try a 2-part penetrating expoxy. First I drilled 1/4 inch holes in a pattern with about 2 inch spacing. After vacuuming out any loose bits, I mixed the 2-part epoxy, loaded a syringe, and filled the holes. Next day I did it again, as the epoxy penetrated into the wood. I'll top up tomorrow, then prep the deck for painting. No more hollow sound, and the deck feels solid. I am hopeful this will work.
A funner project was building a grid to hold the 2 cockpit hatchboards. They are teak, really indoor/outdoor shower mats, but exactly the right dimension width for our cockpit.
Dave is not slacking off - he is figuring out all the connections from controls to outboard - starter, choke, throttle, morris cables for shifting, plus charging interface to the battery.