Upgrades

Cockpit Makeover

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When my oldest son, David, told me about the J/24 he had just bought I had a pretty good idea what was coming next. “Dad, I’ve bought a J/24. It needs a lot of work, but the price was right.”

“What are you going to do with it?” I asked.

“Race it, eventually. Here’s what needs to be done,” he said and pulled out a two-page list of repairs and upgrades he wanted to make on the boat. Fortunately, the purchase price was low enough to justify the cost of all the work he had planned.

There was a reason for the long list. Built in 1978, the boat had been raced aggressively for 30 years and had then been allowed to sit idle for a year. Much of the wood on board was rotting; when I stood on the floors down below, some of them collapsed. The bilge was full of soggy vermiculite, a material that is commonly used in potting soil to absorb water.

Topsides, most of the deck gear looked to be as old as the hull, and much of it was original. Although the cockpit layout had worked well when the boat was built, it was clearly outdated by today’s standards. The one thing that convinced me David’s project boat would be alright in the end was the fact that its balsa-cored deck was not waterlogged. I agreed to help him with the restoration and we decided it would take one year to complete the project. By the time we finished it was pretty close to 18 months.

We began by removing all the existing equipment: stanchion bases, pulpits, hatches and even the boom-box speakers. Next we replaced the two hatches and followed that up with a lot of sanding—a lot more sanding than either of us had bargained for. After we had sanded and prepped the hull and deck, we painted them using Interlux Perfection on the topsides and Interdeck non-skid on the deck.

The final stage of the restoration involved upgrading the cockpit layout. Because we had fitted new forward and main hatches, the old layout was no longer useable because the new main hatch had a sea hood at the forward end and the sail control leads now were mounted on it. Much of the existing gear was badly worn, some of it broken. We decided to replace it all.

Several years ago we restored a 1983 J/22 and we equipped it with all Harken gear. Everything worked perfectly and we were delighted with the result. But since then we’ve had our eye on Ronstan’s OrbitBlock line, and we decided we would try them for the sail-control gear on the J/24.

David’s brother Mike put a lot of thought into the details of the new cockpit layout. Because he usually steers, he wanted the mainsheet to function from any angle with the crew up on the rail. He also wanted to be sure that the helmsman would be able to use the system easily in all conditions.

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