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.