My 22’ 1953 Shepherd Model 110-S Runabout’s preservation is so, so close to the finish line!

But, with winter setting in, her sea trial must wait for spring 2017, which means May or later. I just cannot drop her into the water at the Sunnyland (Tavares, FL) ACBS show unless and until the sea trial, and all the final tweaks and adjustments that will almost certainly follow. (The show runs March 24-26, 2017, at which time Lake Champlain’s waters are still frozen hard.)

I have decided, therefore, to enter Flyin’ By, my 1938 19’ Chris-Craft double cockpit forward special runabout in her place.

Over the winter we will have Mickey Dupuis – D&S Custom Metal Restoration in Holyoke, MA – restore and plate all of her hardware anew.

While the hardware is at chrome, we will strip the bottom to bare wood, and refinish it as a traditional bottom. All surfaces will receive three coats of CPES, followed by the first of five coats of Interlux 2000E two-part barrier coat. The seams will then be filled with Interlux below-waterline seam compound before the subsequent four coats of 2000E are applied.

Next comes two coats of Pettit Tie Coat Primer, which will be followed by at least four coats of brilliant red Epifanes Monourethane.

The transom, topsides and decks will be carefully hand-sanded, starting out with 400 grit, before we apply 6 – 8 coats of Pettit Hi-Build varnish.

Once the varnish has cured for 30 days, we will buff it as we did Voodoo Child.

My betting is that we have some very late nights in our future!

Happy Hanukah and Merry Christmas!

It was not without a bit of tension in the room as we raised the Hemi above Voodoo Child. That nobody was about armed with a blood pressure cuff was probably a good thing.

The lift rings do not fit beneath the carbs on the dual quad set-up. As we tossed alternate hook-up strategies back and forth, RJ asked, “Why don’t we just release the entire intake manifold and carbs?”

We did, and acquired a great deal of much needed flexibility in the process. Because of the V-drive, the engine cannot be dropped through the engine bay hatch. Rather it must be set on the engine logs ahead of the engine bay bridge and then teased aft, passing under the bridge.

Doing so requires that the lifting rings, which are initially fastened to two diagonally opposite corners of the intake manifold bolt holes, be repositioned several times.

Keeping the engine bay bridge protected, we lifted the engine and nudged the boat forward until the lift chain was almost touching the bridge, set the engine down and released the lifting chain.

With both rings attached at the aft corners of the intake bolt holes, we moved the boat further forward until the chain fall was above the hatch opening.

It took several reiterations of repositioning the rings, chain and chain fall, but finally, the engine sat in place on its mounts.

Next comes the tedious task of fine tuning the positioning so that the couplers on the transmission and prop shaft align perfectly.

Wow! Voodoo Child’s Dual Quad Four 331 Hemi V8 has a bark for sure… and torque.

She went through a comprehensive rebuild under the watchful eye of Robert Henkel, Peter Henkel Inc., Marine City, MI.

Robert now does all of our engines. I will not send them anywhere else. You can find him on the Web at, or email him at

We will now winterize and fog the beast before we begin what will be a near Herculean task of installing the Hemi in Voodoo Child’s engine compartment.

Why Herculean? The engine and V-drive transmission will not fit through the engine hatch and must be dropped into the bilge ahead of the engine bay bridge, and then, using two chain falls, slowly teased under the bridge and onto the engine mounts.

The install can begin as soon as we’ve completed the engine’s winterization, as we have finished polishing her hull, which means all is go for reassembling her.

Arguments about how “best” to varnish a boat can become heated, and I am not taking sides here. We have experimented with buffing (polishing) varnish, most recently on the 1952 18’ Chris-Craft Riviera we preserved. Ridding the surface of haze was our nemesis with each effort.

Then I happened upon an intriguing article on “the practice of polishing varnish” that appeared in a recent copy of the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club’s “The Brass Bell,” Here is a link to a scanned copy of the article in PDF format

Voodoo Child served as our lab rat for an experiment following the process described therein, one that began with allowing the varnish to cure for 30 days after the final coat was applied.

We were concerned about just how much varnish is polished away through this process, as sanding through would be a disaster, so we applied a full 20 coats of Pettit Easypoxy Hi-build varnish, let Voodoo Child sit for 30 days, and initiated the process November 2. We finished on November 7, having logged 42 hours from beginning to end.
Wet sanding begins with 1000 grit and sanding blocks, and proceeds through 1200 and 1500, all by hand. At that point we switched to a dual-action orbital sander, and proceeded wet sanding through progressively finer grits until we made one last pass with 5000 grit.

Even at this point it was clear that we are onto something special, as the surface was literally glowing.
Keeping the surface free of sanding residue is critical, lest that residue be ground back into the surface, creating scratches along the way.

Per the article’s guidance, we then switched to mechanical buffing, never exceeding 1,500 RPM. Several passes using Mequiar’s Mirror Glaze M101 Foam-cut Compound removed 1200 and finer scratches. We finished with Mequiar’s M205 Ultra Finishing Polish. The result is a deep and glossy, almost mirror-like surface.

Let’s get that engine in the bilge so we can begin the fun part, installing hardware, ceilings, seating, and the rest!

Honest, the Shepherd has not been neglected. There is just so many time a video of her as the coats of Pettit Hi-Build varnish are applied.

However, with the 16th coat cured, we will sand her flat, apply three more coats, sand her again and then apply the 20th and final coat.

Finally she will have enough varnish on her that we can do a final sanding/buffing process, after which we can begin installing her components.

She WILL be in the water before snow flies! (I do not believe we had any snow until after the Holidays last year.)

No, we have not banished my 1953 22’ Shepherd Model 110-S to storage. As reported in a related clip, her 331 cubic inch V-drive Hemi is in storage awaiting its installation.

As of yesterday afternoon, John and RJ have rolled and tipped the first 6 foundational coats to her hull, seating and related components. Unfortunately, the humidity climbing and predicted to reach near 80% today and tomorrow, so all varnishing must cease for the time being.

We sanded the entire hull and all of the components flat using 100 and 220 before applying the 6th coat, something we will do again once 3 additional coats have been rolled and tipped.

As is evident in the clip, that Pettit Hi-Build varnish is almost completely clear, it does not change the color of the yellow Sikaflex.

We are not quite to 1/3 of our eventual goal, which is 20 coats, with sanding at ever finer grits between each set of 3 coats.

It is Monday, so must be seam-semi-filling day. John, RJ and I have been wrestling with how best to execute this task. The bottom of each seam must be filled completely – no voids allowed. Yet the mahogany Sikaflex 191 LOT must not intrude upon each seam’s top edges. They must remain crisp and uniformly sharp.

Our regular seaming technique, filling each seam to be even with the deck’s surface, and then removing the smallest bit to leave a uniformly curved concave surface using one of our shop-made spoons of the appropriate radius.

We tried using a reefing hook backwards, but it is quite heavy and cleaned too much Sikaflex out of the seam.
Then Vermont ingenuity kicked in, when John grabbed a paint stick and tested it in a seam. Perfect. We had our leveling-cleaning tool. But how best might we pay the material into the seam? The standard tip that comes with the 10 oz. tube is just too large, even at the very end. Enter a pair of plyers.

John squeezed the tip, which now fit down into the groove and tested an engine hatch seam. He typically needs two passes to ensure there are no voids or bubbles, but what we did not see was material pushing up and out of the seam.

Several passes with the stirring stick, making sure he was applying the lightest possible pleasure, followed by a wipe down with a cotton shop cloth and, voila, the seam is filled perfectly.

Added bonus: John did the entire engine hatch using less than an inch of the material in the 10 oz. Sikaflex 291 LOT tube!

Sure, we found a super low-rent solution to a vexing challenge, but it is quick, certain and delivers exactly the outcome we were seeking.

Bleaching is in our wake. Now the real fun begins. Bleaching is easy. Apply it over and over, keeping the surface wet. Let it dry. Lightly sand it with 320 grit. Call it good.

Staining? Get ready for exhausted shoulders, arms and especially hands and fingers! We used Interlux Interstain Wood Filler Stain, 2 parts of Chris Craft Red Mahogany (0573) to 1 part of Brown Mahogany (042), thinned to the consistency of thick house paint using Interlux Brushing Liquid 333

The 22-foot Shepherd’s seemingly endless expanses of mahogany presents two challenges when staining. The thinner tends to gas off, causing the working stain to become ever more viscous. We found ourselves thinning the “soup” anew multiple times as we applied stain.

The real challenge, however, is controlling the degree to which the stain is flashing in front of us as we worked, always cross-grain, rubbing the stain into the valleys while removing it. (We use cheese cloth here.) Getting anxious and scrubbing away too soon produces a very weak, almost totally transparent outcome.

Waiting too long and the stain flashes to being nearly dry to the touch, which renders that stain virtually impossible to scrub into the grain and off the surface.

Even though we had masked off all but three boards along ta seam on the topsides, we found ourselves racing against flashing …. and losing. (It was uncomfortably hot in the shop and we had a fan running, which only compounded the rate at which we were losing the race against excessive flashing,

No amount of swearing, scrubbing or sweating made any difference. What to do? In desperation I wet a new shop towel with 333 and went at if. Voila! The stain liquefied just enough so I could scrub it into and off the surface. (My shop towel was wetted to the point of being damp, not dripping with the 333. While I have not experimented doing so yet, my gut tells me that applying too much 333 risks washing the stain away prematurely and excessively.)

In any case, after a long, long day that ran well into the evening, she is stained.

What a great way to celebrate my birthday!

We bleach using Daly’s A & B Bleach, which is available via their Web site.

The task before us, wetting down and then keeping the wood wet for at least 16 hours is daunting to be sure. Where 3” chip brushes usually suffice, we needed heavier artillery for this job, so I turned to a 12” 2/3” nap paint roller.

Even then, and especially on the topsides and transom, I found myself circling back continuously as the mahogany soaked up the bleach and seemed to be drying. Once John and RJ were able to join the fun, we became somewhat like a train with me using my roller, which applied copious amounts of bleach to the wood, and the guys following up with their trusty chip brushes.

We always take great care to begin bleaching at the waterline and working to the gunwales, followed by the covering boards and finally the decks.

Why? Soaking the wood is the goal, and beginning at the gunwales and working down all but guarantees rivulets of bleach flowing down the side of the hull and leaving vertical whitish stripes that are hellish difficult, if not impossible to disappear.

We are experimenting with Danenberg’s sanding progression, rather than employing the 80-grit rough surface approach to prepping the bull for bleaching and staining. That progression from 60 through 80, 100, 120, 150, 180 and finally 220 grits leaves the surface silky smooth.

That we have made so many additional passes with our 18” pneumatic flatboard sanders delivered an additional benefit. The surfaces is absolutely flat and should provide an excellent foundation for the varnishing to come, which is Danenberg’s core contention.

We kept her wet for 16 hours, and then let her dry down until the moisture meter read 12%. Time to stain, yes?
Not quite. The bleach wreaks havoc on the formerly silky smooth surface. The grain is raised and sometimes bleach residue presents in unpleasant, blotchy hues. The remedy? Don Latex or Nitrile gloves and grab a role of 320-grit, sticky-backed longboard sandpaper, and, yes, sand the entire hull, but this time by hand.

Key here is using the lightest touch possible and knowing when it is time to move on. Let your fingers be your guide Even through the glove fabric you can feel when the surface is silky once again. Move on right then, or risk sanding through the approximately 1/32 – 1/16 inch of bleached wood.

We follow sanding with vacuuming and then tacking the entire surface.

Now… let’s go staining!

Finally! The True 5200 project was completed with the application of one final coat, of five, of Interlux 2000E Two-Part Epoxy Barrier Coat and three coats of Pettit Hard Racing Bronze bottom paint.

Communication with, actually a trip to the woodshed with Don Danenberg convinced me that our 80-grit, coarse-surface strategy leaves too many cross-grain scratches, which either remain visible beneath the varnish or require many more coats to fill and produce a truly flat surface.

Starting with the Shepherd, we will follow the Danenberg model: cross sanding with 40 and 60, followed by sanding with the grain through 80, 100, 120, 150 and 180 grits, and finishing off with 220 grit. (I now understand why he budgets 600 hours just for sanding the hull of a typical 18’ wood boat!)

Yes, the Shepherd’s topsides and transom a very, very, very flat, but will the wood take filler stain? Yes. Remember that thorough bleaching is next. We will keep her exterior wet for 12 hours through repeated applications of bleach, and I mean really wet.

Bleaching raises grain, so once the feathers resulting therefrom have been knocked off with a quick 220 grit hand sanding, the grain will be open and stain will penetrate.

But there is a milestone, well two milestones standing in the way of bleaching. The decks, covering boards and various trim elements must be stripped to bare wood, including removing all residual stain.

Lucky me… The Circa 1850 awaits…

The July 9 ACBS show in Gravenhurst, Ontario is racing at us. We are committed to bring Orca, my 1953 22’ Shepherd Model 110-S Sportsman. As this video portends, many a late night are in our future!

But her 331 cubic inch, dual-quad-four, V-drive Hemi is on track. Robert Henkel, Robert Henkel Inc. ( has engaged a comprehensive tear-down and re-build that will include porting, polishing and balancing among a long list of particulars. The purple monster is on schedule and will be back and install-ready by the first week of May.

And the hull? Well Mickey Dupuis, Custom Restoration, Holyoke, MA, has finished working his magic on the hardware.

Shauna, Kocian Instruments, Forest Lake, MN (, reports that the instrument cluster’s restoration will also be back by early May.

Her original wheel needed a complete restoration. Once again the pros at PearlCraft, Rowville, Victoria, AU ( transformed a totally shabby wheel into jewelry.

The Marmoleum is in hand, and the upholstery is in process.

ALL that is left is finishing the hull… all..

By the end of the week we will have applied all five coats of Interlux Interprotect 2000E two-part epoxy barrier coat will have been applied. Installing the True 5200 bottom will be complete. Three coats of hard racing bronze bottom paint will follow.

Then off comes the paper and out come the longboard sanders for the final topside and transom planking, followed by staining and sealing.

After flipping her over, I “get” to strip the decks and covering boards…

Seems so straightforward… guess we will just let her romp on Lake Champlain in June… yes?