Category Archives: Boats

What I Did This Summer, Part 2

In my last post, I told the story of our new place at Lake George and of our major remodeling project. And while the construction did rule our lives to a degree, we did manage to find time to take advantage of the other pleasures that the Adirondacks have to offer.

To start with, one of the advantages of living in a construction work site this summer was that it forced us to wake up early and get started with our day. There is nothing like knowing that the painters will be knocking on the door at 6:30 to get you out of bed and into the shower! Thanks to this incentive, we saw many Lake George sunrises – and that, in my opinion, is the most beautiful time of the day around here. Take a look at these pictures, and see if you agree…


Red sky at morning…


Sun just about to peek


Sun rising as storm clouds dissipate


Our sideways oak, and its reflection


Boathouse at dawn

One interesting thing about Hague is that there is only one supermarket within 15 miles… and that is a Walmart. Long before we left for New York, we vowed NEVER to buy food from Walmart (due to previous bad experience and general principle!), a pledge we lived up to. Instead, we would escape the dust and mayhem of 51 Pine Cove by hopping in the truck and hitting fruit stands, farms, and small markets all over the Adirondacks and Vermont. A day’s circuit could include a stop at the little farm next to Tractor Supply in Ticonderoga, followed by raspberries and a cider donut at Gunnison’s Orchard in Crown Point, then up the Champlain Valley to the Essex Farm  to get a chicken. We’d have lunch in Essex along the lake while waiting for the ferry to Vermont, then after a pleasant half hour on the ferry we would meander through the Vermont countryside to Green Pasture Meats and to Champlain Orchards for produce and hard cider. Then, across Lake Champlain again on the charming Ticonderoga Ferry, and finally back home, with a quick stop at the Hague Market for a freshly baked cookie. Not the most efficient way to shop, of course, but mighty pleasant, with some lovely sights along the way!


How could we NOT stop?


Storm brewing, as seen from the Essex ferry


Champlain Orchards, where we became regular shoppers


Covered bridge on Swamp Road in Vermont


Essex Farm CSA


Lake Champlain shoreline

Our constant companion through the summer was Roscoe, our thirteen-year-old Australian Shepherd. Definitely well into his advanced years at this point, we were hopeful but not sure that he would survive long enough to see the Adirondacks. However, he revived remarkably once we arrived – Lake Therapy, we called it. As long as he was hiking, wading, kayaking, digging on the beach, or sleeping, he was a happy dog!

Roscoe is not the only one who enjoys paddling – Karen and I like it too! We had some lovely times on the water, both with and without Roscoe. We paddled mostly on Lake George, but also took a few expeditions here and there. Looking forward to more exploring next year, when we are not under construction…


Evening paddle on Lake George


Storm’s brewing


Picnic in the canoe, on Cedar River Flow


Resting on a small island


Ford-tough canoe transport


Chasing loons on Jabe Pond


Loon-chase successful!

Our original plan for this summer had been to limit our boating to paddle-driven vessels, but we quickly discovered a flaw with this strategy – the flaw being that it was not something easily done with friends and visitors. So, it did not take us long to rationalize the idea of purchasing a boat. And, for me, that meant a wooden boat. It’s in my blood, I guess! Anyhow, we did some looking around, and came across an under-loved Chris Craft in very nice shape. And, the rest is history!


1947 Chris Craft Sportsman Utility 22, perfect for relaxing evenings on Lake George

In addition being famous for boating, the Adirondacks are renowned for hiking. We took advantage of this as much as we could, taking very short, flat hikes with Roscoe (whose hindquarters are very weak), and longer, more strenuous hikes without him. Saw some beautiful places, and got a little sorely-needed exercise in the process.

All these activities were really fun just by themselves, but were made all the more rewarding by the constant presence of family and friends. We enjoyed frequent visits from some great people who we rarely get to see much of! Some pictures of this fine cast of characters is shown below, roughly in order of appearance…


My aunt and uncle, Julie and Ken, who were kind enough to provide us with refuge when the cacophony of power tools became overwhelming


Hiking with my cousin Ginger, who lives here year-round, and provided all sorts of great guidance for us


Ginger’s grandson Josh, fisherman par excellence


Jed and Jane Duncan, longtime friends and our brave, first visitors


My sister Lisa and her husband Tim, who were kind enough to arrive with soft shell crabs from their dock on the Chesapeake


My son Tyler and his old man


Hiking in the High Peaks with the Rueppel clan


Karen with Bricker, Julie and Ken’s grandson, and the world’s happiest and most gregarious nine-month-old


My Aunt Vee, who at age 85 felt that living on an active construction site was “a great adventure”


Julie, Vee, and my cousin Oey from New Hampshire


Patrick, friend of mine from college, learning how to drive


Brian with a soft shell crab and leftover ribs for lunch


Kelsey, Brian’s girlfriend, who spent every possible moment in the water


Judy, Karen’s mom, from all the way out in California

Like all good things, summer must come to an end. And indeed, as I write this, it has. Days are getting shorter, nights are getting cooler, and it is time to start thinking about our trek back home to California. We are taking the “long” way, however, and will be making lots of visits along the way, so I’m not complaining!

Just a Few Things Left to Do

I’ve been pretty lazy about working on the boat this summer. Fact is, it has been really hot outside, and I have had other things to do! But, I am making slow progress…

After I finished painting the topside, I took a look at the bottom and realized it needed a bit of work. Fairing the decks had been pretty hard on the hull, so much of it needed to be smoothed out, resealed, and re-primed. So, while I was at it, I figured I would put a couple more coats of white paint on the bottom.


Cleanup required!

Next big step was to hunt for a motor. I needed something as light as possible – ideal would be an older 2-stroke outboard, short shaft, 20 or 25 horsepower, weighing less than a hundred pounds.

After a few weeks of lurking around on Craigslist, I found what I was looking for — a 1986 Mercury, 2-stroke, 25 horse, manual everything, short shaft. It was about an hour away, at a used boat/motor store/junkyard in Stockton. Drove out there, chatted with the guy a bit, and came home with it.

I put the motor on the boat this morning, looks pretty awesome, don’t you think?!?

View from the front

View from the front

View from the rear

View from the rear

View from upstairs

View from upstairs

So now, just a few things left to do, at least one of which I dread. My punchlist is as follows:

  • Set up a steering wheel and rig for the motor,
  • Obtain and hook up a deadman throttle system,
  • Buy or build a trailer, and
  • Take the whole kit and kaboodle to the DMV and attempt to get it registered.

Can you guess which bit it is that I am dreading?

Fun with Paint and Varnish

When Brian got back from college in early May, we moved the boat outside for painting, as the fumes are simply too unpleasant to allow painting indoors. I was determined to get the painting done in an expedient manner, but I did not have any illusions that it would be a quick process!

The painting and varnishing process is pretty simple – apply a coat of nasty smelling and messy stuff, let it dry overnight, sand it, clean it, then apply another coat. Keep repeating until you are satisfied with how it looks. If it is windy, or damp, or too hot, or too cool, or you have something else you need to do, then skip a day. Pretty straightforward!

The first step was to apply a clear sealer to the entire hull. The sealer basically protects against moisture, which is a good idea for a boat! I sealed the whole thing, and then sanded to a smooth finish with 80 and 120 grit sandpaper.

I decided as a next step to varnish the interior of the boat. Most of the small hydroplanes I have seen are varnished inside, and the clear varnish would allow me to view my workmanship over the passage of time and see if I improve with future efforts. I applied four coats of varnish, sanding thoroughly between coats with 220 grit sandpaper, and with 400 grit prior to the final coat.

Once I was finished, I really liked the way it looked, in spite of the clearly visible filler, screwheads, nails, etc. So, I decided to spend a bit of extra sanding and clean-up time on the exterior of the cockpit cowl, and stain that as well. I thought the contrast of stain with adjacent paint would look pretty cool – you can be the judge later on as to whether this was a good move! I did consult Karen on this though, as her taste is far better than mine, and she concurred. Who knows, it might have even been her idea…

Next step was to mask off the varnished and previously painted areas, and apply the primer. This marine primer is the nastiest of the paints; white, thick, gummy, and toxic-smelling. It is the only stuff for which I wore a respirator while applying, even in the breezy outdoors. The primer helps improve paint adhesion, and also helps level out the wood grain and other imperfections so the final paint job looks nice and smooth.

Once the primer was applied, it was time to paint the decks. What color? Red. Bright red. Everyone knows that red vehicles are faster than vehicles of other colors.

Painting with bright red paint makes it very visibly obvious that paint gets everywhere, even when you are trying to be neat. I am now the proud possessor of red gloves, red doorknobs, red sinks, shoes with red specs, and red sanding dust everywhere. It’s worth it, though.

Applying the paint is fun, but a little challenging. You pick a couple square feet of the surface to be painted, roll on the paint in two directions (i.e. horizontally then vertically), then lightly drag a nearly dry brush over the area you rolled to smooth out the roller stipple. Move to an adjacent area and repeat, until you are done. Look at the surface from multiple angles to make sure you did not miss anything, then come through with needle nose pliers and gingerly remove the inevitable bug or two that landed on the wet paint.

I applied four coats, sanding with 220-grit after the first two, then just spot-sanding out the bugs and dog hairs that got stuck in the paint overnight before the final coat. Pretty happy with the result; far from perfect, but looks pretty good from an adequate distance! Now it is time to turn her over, repair the considerable damage I did to the paint on the upper hull while fairing the decks, and apply trim. Then we just need a motor, and we are good to go!

View from the rear. Transom will be white, with blue trim, and the motorboard will remain stained

View from the rear. Transom will be white, with blue trim, and the motorboard will remain stained

Side view. She'll get some blue trim between hull and deck

Side view. She’ll get some blue trim between hull and deck

Red paint with varnish; I like the look!

Red paint with varnish; I like the look!

Ready for Paint!

OK, I confess… I took an extended hiatus from boatbuilding during the winter. The reason (excuse?) for this is that I was fairly near to the point where I would be painting again, which needs to be done outside. And, since it was theoretically going to rain during the winter, I decided to wait until Spring. So, now Spring is here, and I am back at it.

At this point, there are really only a few assembly steps left. Add some pre-paint trim, some post-pain trim, and a floor. Then, once I find a motor, add the appropriate throttle and steering. The pre-paint trim is easy, just some moulding around the cockpit. I was able to knock this out in an afternoon.

The next step was not so easy. The decks are attached with boat nails, probably a couple hundred of them. Each one needs to be countersunk into the deck, which is only 1/8 inch thick. This looked like it was going to be extremely tedious, so I build myself a little fixture to ease the process. It was STILL tedious, though, and if I was a patient man I could have done a better job. I think the job I did was adequate, though, and I managed to preserve my sanity.

Once the nails were countersunk, hull assembly was essentially complete. Now comes the final fairing prior to painting. This means sanding, filling all the countersunk holes, sanding again, repairing defects, and sanding again.

Sanding tools, complete with high-tech shop-vac dust collection

Sanding tools, complete with high-tech shop-vac dust collection

Having already faired the bottom of the hull, I had a much better idea about how to tackle the topside. Lots of stuff to work on, though. Good think I have plenty of fairing compound!

Gaps between panels...

Gaps between panels…

Deck cut a little too small...

Deck cut a little too small…

Messy transom...

Messy transom…

I felt like I did an OK job with the fairing, but certainly not perfect. We will call it workmanship rather than craftsmanship, and hope that the paint obscures the flaws, rather than accentuating them! So, at this point, she is all faired and ready for paint, Which, weather willing, I will probably start applying next week.

Top view

Top view

Transom, all cleaned up and faired

Transom, all cleaned up and faired

Cockpit close-up

Cockpit close-up

She’s Coming Along…

My swimming pool tests showed me a couple important items to take care of. First, the easy one… there were some areas along the transom that were not completely watertight, so a bit of water was seeping in. I did some caulking, and I suspect the issue is taken care of.

More importantly, I think if I want her to perform like a boat and not like a barge, the driver is going to have to drop a few pounds. Not as easy as caulking! But we will see if we can get it done…

The next steps in assembly are to install the cowl and the decks. This is a little tricky, as these parts are not cut to a pattern, but rather are cut to fit the individual boat. Not too difficult, really, just cut everything a little too big then do lots of trimming and sanding. Here are some shots of the cowl being installed, using a combination of clamps (where possible) and my trusty dumbbells (where clamps will not reach).

Now it’s time to do the decks. This was a little more challenging, for a couple reasons. First, the decks are large pieces, and a screw-up requires a trip to the lumber store, and re-scarffing some ten foot pieces. So I was a little nervous. Second, there is really no place to clamp the assembly while gluing. After lots of trimming and sanding, I was able to attach the decks to the hull with a handful of screws. I then removed the screws, took off the decks,  applied epoxy  to the frames and battens, put the decks back on, put the screws back in, then drove in nails every few inches. All the while, hustling to get done before the epoxy cured!

After all that, it actually came out pretty well, as you can see from the pics…

Front view, with decks

Front view, with decks

Side view, with decks

Side view, with deck

Now, if you look closely, you can see that the decks are overhanging a bit. My thinking was, better too big than too little! The price to pay for this conservative approach was a few hours of planing and sanding, to bring everything into alignment with the tunnel side panels. Got that out of the way, now she is looking almost complete! A little trim, a little paint, and a motor, and she will be ready to launch if there is any water in the lakes this spring!