A 30-year-old Ericson 34T gets a complete makeover
By Mark Corke
BoatWorks Bailout was conceived as a project that would generate a series of stories for BoatWorks. We would take a reader’s tired old boat and bring it up to modern standards using equipment donated by manufacturers—a “pimp your ride” for the marine industry. The fortunate owners would get a comprehensively refitted boat, and we would chronicle the project in the magazine.
The lucky boat was Castaway, a 1978 Ericson 34T, whose owners, John and Lee Ann Smith, entered the BoatWorks competition in 2005. Castaway had been owned for years by Lee Ann’s brother, Kerry. When Kerry passed away, John and Lee Ann, who had often sailed with him, took over the boat. “If we had not won the competition, we probably wouldn’t have been able to hold on to Castaway. She needed so much work that we thought we would have to donate her,” said John. They now have a boat that is virtually new. The work has been extensive and has involved almost every aspect of the boat. About the only things that haven’t been touched are the structure of the hull and the engine installation; virtually everything else has been remodeled, replaced, or upgraded.
Key sponsors generously supplied products and services for this project. The boat is looking like new, and we are looking forward to the day when she hits the water for the first time after the refit.
Our most recently completed Bailout project was the installation of a new Edson steering pedestal, which is described on pages 81–84. Go to sailmagazine.com to read about all the projects, step by step.
1. The project began in the winter of 2005, when surveyor Norm LeBlanc and I examined Castaway. The hull was in pretty good shape, but we were in no doubt about the enormity of the task we were about to undertake. We knew that the electrical and plumbing systems were either outdated or worn out and needed to be replaced. Norm’s moisture meter showed extensive areas of wet balsa core in the deck, and this would have to be repaired before we could replace the deck gear. The topsides and deck needed to be stripped, sanded, filled, and faired (repeat as necessary) and then painted.
The interior was well built, with plenty of solid-teak trim, but it was dingy and all the varnish needed to be stripped off. The sails were shot, the mast would need to be repainted, and the standing rigging would need to be replaced.
2. Castaway was moved to Waterline Systems in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, which was to be her home for nearly two years while the work took place. There is a saying that when rejuvenating an older boat, you should estimate how long it’s going to take and how much it’s going to cost, then double both estimates. There’s a lot of truth in that.
Castaway was at Waterline for a year longer than we’d planned, because the work list increased in length and complexity. The Waterline team had to fit us in around other projects.
3. One of the first jobs was to remove the antiquated deck gear and leaking wooden hatches. Deck hardware has come a long way in the last 30 years, and, with Lewmar’s assistance, we wanted to replace it with modern winches, rope clutches, and blocks. Having decided to relocate the sheet winches, we took the opportunity to also remove the extraneous winch pedestals and clean up the appearance of the cockpit. The crew at Waterline made up new surrounds for the hatches, which greatly improved Castaway’s appearance even before the deck was sanded and filled and sanded again to ready it for its new paint. Considerable work was required to smarten up the deck, which had taken some punishment over the years. Before the deck was painted, we installed a low-profile Lewmar electric windlass, which will make raising the new anchor less of a chore.
4. The original seacocks and through-hulls were showing their age and needed to be replaced. Forespar kindly donated all the plumbing equipment we required, and we spent a couple of days removing the old seacocks (always harder than it sounds) and installing new ones. The new through-hulls and seacocks were installed before the boat was painted, which allowed the flush-fitting heads on the outside of the hull to be faired into the hull. When the boat was painted, the through-hulls all but disappeared under the hull’s glossy bright-red finish.
5. Painting a boat is not a job to be undertaken lightly. John and Lee Ann selected red for the hull and oyster white for the deck, but before the Awlgrip could be sprayed on there was much work to do. Although the hull was in good shape and repairs were minimal, several high-build primer coats had to be applied, and each required hours of sanding to get the best possible finish. Here the hull is being held in slings from an overhead hoist to allow access to the bottom of the keel.
6. Resplendent in its new coat of paint, Castaway’s hull looks like it just came out of a mold. The color suited the boat well. Although the boat looked almost ready to drop back into the water, there was still much to do. Here’s an example: While we were painting the hull, we came across an unexpected problem. As we were dropping the rudder to make the painting easier, it stuck fast; there was an almost imperceptible bend in the rudderpost, and the only solution was to cut it free and make a new post, all adding to increased delays and unforeseen expense. Scenarios like this are not uncommon when you’re working on an older boat.
7. With the deck painted, we were able to place the new deck hardware from Lewmar in position. We were glad that we had taken photos and drawn a plan of the previous deck layout. Before drilling any holes, we spent a lot of time considering the best position for all the blocks, sheet leads, and cleats. The photos and drawing helped us avoid drilling holes through the deck in the wrong location. Mocking up the layout also ensured that we had not forgotten anything.
8. It was about this time that we encountered another problem. I had just removed the old mainsail track and ground off the protruding rivets when we noticed a kink in the mast about 6 feet above deck level. No one had spotted it when the mast was lying on its side on the trestles, but with the mast on edge it became glaringly apparent. Clearly something had to be done. We could have cut out the kink and sleeved in a new section, but the age of the spar meant that we would be unlikely to be able to get a sleeve of the correct dimensions. Welding would make the mast brittle. We reluctantly came to the conclusion that the mast would have to be replaced. Fortunately, the insurance company agreed that the mast could not be used and decided to replace the rig. It will be delivered in the spring.
9. Undaunted, we carried on with the numerous other tasks that needed to be done. We replaced the old Martec folding prop with a Flex-O-Fold of a size and pitch better better suited to the Yanmar diesel. The hardest part of any propeller replacement is getting the old one off, and this proved to be the case with Castaway.
10. When Castaway was built, electrics were rudimentary and power demands were small. Now, with an electric windlass and a power-hungry radar set to be installed, a thorough upgrade was in order. Jack Rabbit Marine rewired the AC and DC circuits to cope with the increased loads and to bring everything up to ABYC standards. Blue Sea Systems provided a new switch panel, and we installed a Balmar 90-amp alternator to keep the new battery bank in top condition. This was a four-day job—again, longer than we’d estimated.
11. Castaway’s original instruments had stopped working some time before, so we decided to install a top-of-the line Raymarine integrated system. This included chartplotter, radar, and wind, speed, and depth instruments. These offer features that were in the realm of fantasy 30 years ago, when the boat was built, and the NMEA interface means that the system can easily be expanded in the future.