Songbird is a 1948 18-foot Century Sea Made who arrived in October 21. Now, some ten months later, and following a total, bow-to-stern, gunwale-to-keel preservation. This clip’s thumbnail photo offers a hint of the challenges she was hiding beneath her “skirts.” Over three inches of hated automobile Bondo graced her bow and foredeck. More of this stuff elsewhere, combined with disastrous “restoration” work elsewhere translated in a virtual wholesale replacement of her bottom framing, rerouting her deck seams, refastening most of her planking and on and on.
We persevered, and today we are celebrating as Songbird burst out of the shop riding her custom-built trailer, ready and oh so anxious to be homebound.
Her True 5200 bottom will keep everything dry, and her now show-ready finishes will turn heads among wooden boaters everywhere.
Just to provide a sense of her journey, here is a chronology of her preservation:
Songbird is progressing, despite curing still being severely hampered throughout the shop by chronic humidity levels of 80%-90%+ daily until yesterday. That we are “fully enjoying” monsoon rains and even higher humidity today is not helping.
However, Joe took advantage of yesterday’s low humidity, which allowed varnish applied last Sunday to finally cure fully, to pay mahogany Sikaflex 291 LOT into Songbird’s deck seams.
Now we are waiting again.
If the rest of this week’s low humidity levels holds, we should be able to apply another coat of Pettit Flagship Varnish on Friday, and finally the last of the amber varnish next Monday.
Painting the seams with high-gloss white Interlux Premium Yacht Enamel will follow. As soon as it cures, we will be able to do a final block sanding of the entire hull using 600 grit before applying the final two-three coats of Pettit Captains Ultra Clear Varnish.
Finally, it will be final buffing/waxing and reassembly time, after which Songbird will be homeward bound. We cannot wait, which pales by comparison to how anxious her owner-stewards are to have her on the water again!
No, the varnished surface on the decks is not flat …. Yet. Once we have applied her initial five build coats, we will sand the entire hull using 320 grit on one of our Hutchins manual longboards now, and progress towards 600 grit later in the process.
You may notice that we have corrected the seam lines on her decks, and that where Century wanted her blonde or dark and bereft of seam lines, she now is.
We will continue varnishing and be back to you about ten more down the road.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.