1948 Century Seamaid Bottom Disaster Update

Oh my lord! Some weeks back I shared our first two-boat intake video – two iconic, super rare 1948 18’ Century Seamaids, Winnie and Songbird.

After receiving ten coats of Pettit Flagship Varnish and then being sanded absolutely flat using 500 grit, Winnie will go to Joanie Alden’s lettering shop, Vital Signs and Silk Painting, in Colchester, VT for her transom and registration lettering. 

All is good with Winnie, so much so that she might even be home for Thanksgiving.

Would that we can be equally excited for Songbird, who we flipped yesterday and began releasing bottom planks today.

Before us is a truly sad, sad antique runabout, one that is incredibly rare and truly iconic. I apologize for my rude language, but, as the clip chronicles, she has been raped in every way a wooden hull can be assaulted.

Folks! Automotive products have their place and can produce magical results …. On cars and trucks, NOT, NOT, NOT on boats of any sort, wooden, fiberglass, steel, aluminum or even Titanium.

And the worst of the worst other than cheap, Chinese engine parts – automotive fuel pumps, solenoids, oil filters and on and on – is BONDO!

Sure, some hack going the cheap route might get away with a little “repairing rot” using automotive Bondo for a little while. 

However, automotive Bondo absorbs and retains moisture. Use it in place of a marine filler or fairing compound like 3M Marine Premium Filler, and all you are “achieving” is sounding the death knell of your wooden boat.

OK, what do I know? I’m not sure, but I have eyes. You have eyes. Pay attention to the destruction that using cantaloupe-sized gobs of Bondo has visited on this poor hull. 

The Bondo plus gallons and gallons of leaking oil has created a perfect storm for destroying virtually every piece of structural wood from the waterline down to and including the keel.

The Bondo’s most aggressive destruction has occurred in the stem, gripe and keel where some complete buffoon thought she/he could glob in huge gobs of Bondo in place of wood.

Pay attention! In an earlier clip, I wondered at the line of about 7/16”-diameter circles along the stem that secured the screws driven through the cutwater. Hello?

After shooting the video, where we again wondered about these plugs again, Joe and I went at one of them with an awl. You got it …. Bondo! In fact, vast areas of the stem and what is left of the forward ends of the topside planks – particularly on starboard – are nothing but Bondo that is surrounded by rotting wood.

Can we save her? Yes. Just think of what we call our skeleton project, the 1950 18’ RIV that arrived in pieces, but now is sporting an almost-finished True 5200 bottom.

Yes, we can save her, but, other than the bilge stringers, virtually all the framing and planking below the waterline must be replaced. It looks to us now that the stem, gripe and keel must be replaced along with the transom framing at and below the waterline. 

However, working on the stem requires that all of the topside planks’ forward extremities, at least back to the third or fourth hullside frame must be released. Releasing them means stripping varnish to bare wood.

But we also face the reality that most of the hullside frames’ lower extremities are rotted and floating, which is in part the result of some fool “sistering” the knees with random chunks of hard and soft wood, all of which is now oil-sodden and no longer attached to anything.

My final lament. Folks!!!!!! DO NOT EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER use anything but silicon bronze, Forstner, flathead screws in a wooden hull! This bottom was “fastened” with a random mixture of sheet rock, stainless, common steel, and, yes, a few original brass screws here and there.Thank God Don Danenberg just published what I consider to be the seminal article on repairing below-waterline framing in the November/December issue of Classic Boating, which I have scanned and printed, and insisted that I, Joe and Rick digest completely. Several copies are in the shop, and I’ll like be reaching out to Don as we try to save Songbird.

1948 Century Seamaid Bleaching

1948 century seamaid bleaching

Winnie has been stripped and sanded fair, following Joe’s execution of a few Dutchman repairs and replacing a few loose bungs.

The hull is in excellent condition with nary any loose or broken screws.

Winnie is now enduring some aggressive bleaching using Daley’s A&B Bleach mixed at a ratio of 3B:1A. Joe began applying bleach early this morning and will continue reapplying it throughout the day, with a goal of keeping the wood soaking wet. After sitting overnight, her blonde inner self hull will begin emerging. She will be near snow white by the time her moisture content reaches about twelve percent.

Since now rinsing is required after applying Daly’s, we will next lightly scuff sand the hull using medium Scotch Brite pads. (Do not reach for sandpaper as sanding risks going through what is a very thin layer of bleached wood.)

Once she is scuffed and vacuumed, we will begin what will be a challenging staining process using Lake Oswego Boat Co. J’eld stain.

We will stain and seal (CPES) the blonde sections of the “torpedo” first to protect them from the dark stain we will use on the balance of the decks. The topsides and transom will be stained to match the decks.

1956 Century Cowhide Palomino On the Water Again!

1956 century black cowhide palomino water test

Finally, after way, way too long, this 1956 Century “Cowhide” Palomino is on the water again! Her original engine is fresh from a comprehensive rebuild, so we did not push it to run a full throttle.

Still, isn’t she just so inviting cutting through the water!

Everything about this boat is completely original, save for the burgee and the seat cushions, but even they are original in a sense. I sourced the fabric – all that this firm still had in its old inventory – from the same company that supplied this fabric to Century in 1956. Indeed, I purchased all of what was left over from that year. So, while the foam inside them is today, the fabric used is 1956.

(We have kept the original cushions, and will include them with the boat and Tee Nee trailer when her next owner takes her home)

The Tee Nee, which RJ disassembled completely and then preserved, is original to the boat, as are her engine, hardware, gauges, steering wheel, badging, and all of her wood.

Nary a sliver of wood has been replaced.

Next owner? Yes, she is now officially residing in the Snake Mountain Boatworks showroom, and will appear on the Century Club and other sites shortly. She can be yours! If she is, you will own one of a very, very small, fewer than 6 as far as we have been able to find out, population of Cowhide Palominos.

Give us a call and we can explore the possibilities!

1956 Century Cowhide Palomino Debut

1956 century black cowhide palomino debut

We bought her and her original Tee Nee trailer on November 25, 2013, from the eastern end of Long Island, NY, where she had been lying in a dry building for some time. Here is the video I shot that Sunday and Monday.

We had previously restored several bright-sided Palominos, but hull number P 5652, was the first “black” one to come into the shop. She was represented as a 1957, but, with super support from the Century Boat Club members, I learned that she is in fact a 1956, the only year Century offered this particular model.

She was and remains remarkably original. Save for her bow and stern flags, both of which we have saved for her next owner(s), and her seat cushions, nothing but cosmetics and Fran Secor’s (Otega, NY), rebuilding her original 30 HP Johnson Sea Horse engine, nothing has been changed. Even her original hull number remains deeply punched into her bottom transom plank.

We saved the original seat cushions, but, unlike the rest of the upholstery, which is virtually like new, these cushions were just too sunburnt and cracked to save. However, with the help of Dave at A&A Marine, we were led to the manufacturer that originally supplied the cowhide fabric to Century. One partial bolt of NOS, 1956 fabric remained in their inventory. We bought all of it.

Finally, today, we pulled everything together and test ran the engine, which passed with flying colors.

Her sea trial is next, but the weather gods are not smiling on us. Lake Champlain is being buffeted by strong winds today, and tomorrow’s forecast is not any better, so we will pivot to next week and share her return to the water with you.

1956 Century Cowhide Palomino Final Lap!

1956 century black cowhide palomino final lap

Our preservation of my 16’ 1956 Century Cowhide Palomino is approaching the finish line. Her original Tee Nee trailer is fully preserved and as of today is back under her.

Fran Secor of Otega, NY finished a complete restoration of her original, 1956, 30 HP Johnson Sea Horse and delivered it to the shop last week.

Only final wiring and the speedo, which Dale Kocian is restoring, stand in the way of her sea trials. Yes, we will record and share video of that event.


1956 Century Cowhide Palomino Hull Preserved!

1956 century black cowhide palomino hull preservation

She arrived from Long Island, NY last fall, incredibly original throughout, even if a bit tattered cosmetically. As I began deconstructing her, and found the cockpit and bilge fasteners virtually impossible to back out, it quickly became apparent that the seats, ceilings, gauges and floor panels were being removed for the first time since she left Century Boat Company’s factory in Manistee, MI in 1956.

We have saved her original cowhide upholstery, save for the seat cushions and ceilings, and the latter were fabricated using a bolt of NOS cowhide fabric sourced through A&A Marine. Her original 1956 30 HP Johnson Sea Horse was really stuck hard, but we freed it up and have learned from the fellow restoring it that the power head is in great shape. We will end up with a completely restored, numbers-matching engine.

Here Avodire decks, aft hatch and transom were stripped to bare wood, even though doing so was a difficult decision. This boat came to us still in her original varnish, but even applying every finish restoration technique I learned in my decades restoring antique American clocks could not overcome the fact that the finish was just too tired to save.

We sanded the topsides and covering boards flat, primed them with four coats of Jamestown Distributors’ new TotalBoat topside primer. Sanding between coats gave us a perfect foundation for the 9 coats of black TotalBoat Wet Edge Topside paint we rolled and tipped onto the hull. Jamestown has hit the ball out of the park with this new line of paints!

The Avodire decks and mahogany transom were bleached three times, stained and sealed with three coats of CPES before we began rolling and tipping 12 coats of Pettit Hi-Build varnish. Here she is, with hull # P5652 still punched into her glistening transom, and her deck seams painted with our topside paint, as Century had done some 58 years ago.

ll the hardware is back from New England Chrome Plating and American Metal Polishing.

We are chafing at the bit to begin putting her back together. Be sure that we will update you when we do.

1956 Century Cowhide Palomino – Staining Avodire Decks

1956 century palomino staining avodire decks

We were not pleased with the bleaching results, so we sanded this 1956 Century “Cowhide” Palomino’s Avodire decks and hatch cover with fantastic results. The tiger figuring leapt out at us, and the 80 grit we used delivered the teeth we need for successful staining.

And stain we did, using Sandusky Chris-Craft Corina Blonde Filler Stain.

Patience is the key. The temptation to brush it on and wipe it off is powerful, but giving into to it is completely wrong. It is a “filler” stain because, used properly, it will fill the valleys and scratches left by sanding. As such, staining properly is truly an early step towards your goal, a varnished surface that looks all the world like it is ten feet deep.

Letting the stain flash and turn from reflecting light to a dull, flat surface is critical. Then, even though doing so requires three or four X the work, it’s all about scrubbing the wood clean using cheese cloth and going across the grain. When are you finished? When the surface begins reflecting light again, which informs you that the stain has filled the valleys, and it is time for a final burnishing with clean cheese cloth and a gentle touch.

Once the stain has cured for 24 hours, the first of three coats of CPES can be applied. Now it is time for applying the varnish of your choice.

1956 Century Cowhide Palomino – Bleaching Avodire Decks

1956 century cowhide palomino bleaching avodire decks

It is time for an update on our preservation of the 1956 Century “Cowhide” Palomino, hull #P 5652. We completely stripped her bottom planking up to her waterline. Remember, Century Palomino’s are single planked with battens running through the bilge along every plank seam. Installing a true 5200 bottom therefore has little meaning.

Rather we applied three coats of Smith’s Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer (CPES) to all surfaces including the inevitable spaces between the bottom planks. We then filled those voids with Sikaflex 289, which is designed as a seam compound that cures, but remains highly pliable.

Why don’t we use 3M 5200 for this purpose? Unlike the Sikaflex product, 5200 becomes extremely hard once it is fully cured, so hard, in fact, that it will not compress in the face of even the slightest swelling of the planking risks crushing the wood.

Then, as is reinforced in his Classic Boating article, “What is a True 5200 Bottom?” (September/October 2014), we applied two coats of barrier coat beneath four coats of Hard Racing Bronze bottom paint.)

We cleaned out every countersink in the topsides, replaced most of the fasteners and tightened the few that were not replaced, faired the surface, applied three coats of Jamestown Total Boat topside primer beneath the first two of what will eventually be five coats of Total Boat black topside paint. We had hoped to save the original bright finish on the Avodire decks and aft hatch cover, but the splits we discovered in several planks forced us to strip these surfaces completely, carefully release, glue and refasten the offending planking.

Now it is time to bleach the Avodire – which is also known as African White Mahogany. After experimenting with many products, our go-to wood bleach is Kleen Strip (available from Amazon.com). In spite of the accepted “wisdom” that dictates applying a single coat, allowing the wood to dry, and then applying a second one, we get fantastic results by continually reapplying and keeping the wood wet for at least two hours.

Once the wood dries thoroughly, which takes 36 +/- hours, we will apply stain the surface and then apply three coats of CPES before engaging the final step, varnishing with Pettit Hi-Build. Our goal is to have her back together by the end of next week, which may be optimistic given the cure time implications of build a dozen coats of varnish and at least four more coats of Total Boat black on the covering boards and topsides.

Thanks for watching! Please weigh in with your comments.

1956 Century Cowhide Palomino Preservation Complete

1956 century black cowhide palomino preservation complete

Very few of Century Boat Company’s “Cowhide” Palominos with their distinctive Avodire decks and glossy black topsides and covering boards were built in 1956. Fewer still have survived. Hull No. P5652 is one that did, along with her original Tee Nee trailer and 30 HP Johnson Sea Horse outboard.

As we have observed during her preservation, she is the single most original Century we have seen to date at Snake Mountain Boatworks. Our work was purely a cosmetic preservation as nary a single piece of wood has been replaced. We saved, polished and re-used every hardware fastener. All of the hardware is original, having been prepped and plated by New England Chrome Plating, East Hartford, CT.

Fran Secor, noted Johnson rebuilder and restorer, has been able to save her original engine. As of today he’s completed all of the mechanical work and much of the final painting and assembly. Would a larger engine propel her more quickly? Yes, but it would not be original. Save for her seat cushions, all of the upholstery is original, and those cushions were fabricated by A&A Marine using material from a NOS bolt of period cowhide fabric, sourced from the firm that supplied Century during the mid-1950s.

While we have, and her new owner(s) will receive her original burgee and stern flags, neither of them could survive even one roar across the water. We found an identical stern flag from the same period, and had Dave at A&A Marine fabricate two burgees, the black-on-white one that you see in this clip, and the more traditional white-on-red background burgee resting on the helm cushions. Her Tee Nee trailer is about half-way through a complete restoration that began with it being completely disassembled, sandblasted and primed with metal etching primer, and is now being in brilliant Ford chrome yellow two-part epoxy.

We are racing to have her ready for her new owners before the ice leaves Lake Champlain. Meeting that goal is made easier by the fact that we still have over 2 feet of ice on the Lake.