Early last November I again began removing anything easily removable from my small sailboat to my home workshop for my annual refinishing ritual. But as the cabin emptied, the open spaces revealed a desperate need for the first interior painting in 20 years. Thankfully, it will be the last interior painting with me on the end of a roller and brush.
I got an early start on winter boatwork. By January, it was moving along so well that I began prepping for an annual winter escape to a warmer climate. I headed off for two weeks in Pine Island and the Florida Keys, where I did a little boating in mostly cold and windy conditions.
Returning home in mid-February, I eagerly dashed down to my boat, Erewhon, docked in Annapolis, before I even unpacked. I plugged in an electric heater and brought the ambient cabin temperature all the way up to 40 F. Too cold for paint, but not too cold to begin attacking mildew with cleaners to prep for paint. Cleaning is not enjoyable work for me, but painting and varnishing is — boats only, however.
One paint product I have been using continually since I bought my 1962 Sailmaster 22 in the early 1980s is Pettit Brightwork Brown, a kind of knockoff of two old traditional nautical colors, Dado Red and Dado Brown, which are no longer commercially available, as far as I know. This Pettit product has served me so well over the years that this time around I decided to embark on an (almost) all-Pettit treatment.
I admit to being obsessive and compulsive when it comes to this boat, but Erewhon always rewards my TLC by tenderly taking care of me and providing many happy summers on Chesapeake Bay. If any boating old-timers out there are bored in retirement, I have some advice: Find a free boat to rehab.
Last winter I heard from a fellow compadre in Maine who found a free Sailmaster 22D at a farm and went off the deep end restoring the derelict. Greg Koski, a doctor from Newcastle, began researching the 1964, Holland-built, Sparkman & Stephens design, which eventually led to us exchanging correspondence. I had to point out, however, that my 1962 Sailmaster 22C (cruising model) is a much heavier built version than the much lighter daysailer or weekender versions.
“My wife, Linda, found the boat next to a barn, and the purchase price [free] was right,” says Koski, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a cardiac anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We just fell in love with its classic, traditional S&S lines.”
These Sailmaster daysailer versions are everywhere, but many are abandoned and dying long, slow deaths. Don’t let the size fool you; rejuvenating any derelict can be a costly, time-consuming undertaking.
There are too many words and digital images on this $15,000-plus project to include in this
column. The total restoration was undertaken by the Gamage Boatyard in South Bristol, Maine. New sails were made by Doug Pope Sailmakers in Rockland, and the jib furling system is a Schaefer Snap-Furl. The boat was scheduled to be launched in May.
Back to me and my boat. For an older fellow with long legs and aching bones and muscles, painting the interior of Erewhon in cramped conditions is fraught with challenges. I looked all around before assuming a new position and turned around in slow motion to settle on a new angle and avoid knocking over a paint tray or container. Rigging an extension pole to a brush or a roller helped enormously as I proceeded from the overhead and worked downward. A tarp moved under me and captured drips I had missed. Even so, I managed to knock over a container of Pettit Captain’s varnish and one of Egg Shell White, which covers the interior.
I must also mention I painted all the under-bunk storage lockers and the bilge gloss white, after many long hours of cleaning, wiping, scraping and vacuuming. One amusing incident trapped me for a few minutes in a large locker, which I forgot was open as I slid about a moving board to sit on. There was nothing to reach to help pull myself out, but somehow I made it and am here to tell thee the tale.
Sanding residue made for continual cleanup, and my mini Shop-Vac was always at hand, except I had to unplug the heater to operate it. I covered the exhaust vent with a towel to prevent the exiting air from depositing dust particles to a new location and stirring up more airborne problems.
Whenever I developed a leg cramp, I went into a new series of movements that had nothing to do with painting. Occasionally, I had to exit the closed, heated cabin for some fresh air. Only an obsession with boatwork can present such extenuating circumstances.
After finishing the overhead, I lowered my scope to paint the hull ceilings, which are broken up by shelving, varnished fiddles, and small compartments and bulkheads with more shelving. There is a lot of detail work involved here, isolating the egg shell color from Brightwork Brown trim and gloss white.
The showpiece of the cabin is a lovely, nickel-plated, gimbaled brass oil lamp from Italy living on a slat of varnished teak. It is secured to the steel mast compression post that is through-bolted to the iron keel (with 10 large bolts securing it).
During fresh-air breaks, I cut and laid down all-weather Dri-Dek hard rubber tiles by Kendall Products on the cockpit sole. This allows water to drain. Over that, to tone down the somewhat industrial look of the forest green tiles, I laid a teak-colored, plain-patterned Treadmaster strip from Lewmar Products, replacing an old diamond-patterned Treadmaster that was hard on my delicate toes in barefoot-sailing mode. A final touch was installing a pair of drink holders opposite one another on the aft walls of the cockpit. They flip up to store flat and out of the way.
In early April, after painting all 12 removable locker covers, I began moving my bunk cushions from their outside porch storage when, hello, I discovered that a mouse had chewed through the material and bedded into the foam. It must have made a cozy pad for Mickey and Minnie last winter.
Most important of all, I was awaiting delivery of my costliest expense for the ’09 season: a new mainsail by UK-Allan Sailmakers of Annapolis, my next-door-business neighbor. I can’t wait to try it out.
Jack Sherwood is writer at large for Soundings.
This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue.
Jack has been cruising Chesapeake Bay and writing about the region for more than 25 years. His critically acclaimed book, "Maryland's Vanishing Lives," was published by Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University Press and is now in its second printing. Before joining Soundings, Jack was a feature writer at the Washington (D.C.) Star for nearly 20 years and a senior editor at Chesapeake Bay magazine from 1995 to 1998. His monthly Bay Tripper column focuses on the Chesapeake.