Photos by Alison Langley.
Gordon Reed envisioned an elegant center console in a Glastron Crestflite that had been neglected for years
A Rybovich and a Glastron have little in common, right? One is a diesel-powered battlewagon of a sportfishing boat. The other is a light and speedy outboard runabout used to zip around the bay or lake.
This particular Glastron, however, resembles a Rybovich if you look at its helm. She’s tied to the docks of Robinhood Marine Center in Georgetown, Maine, and a “Palm Beach pod” is the centerpiece of the 17-footer. The varnished teak pod is mounted on the center console, with a nearly horizontal 16-inch stainless-steel steering wheel on top and engine control levers on the sides.
Gordon Reed designed and built the fiberglass-encapsulated wood console and pod as part of the complete refit of his 1965 Glastron V-171 Crestflite. “I first saw one of these pods 30 years ago and thought it was a really neat way to mount the wheel, which is only slightly aft of the console, so you have room to stand there,” says Reed, yacht service manager at Robinhood. “From a visual and practicality standpoint, it was just a great design. I always wanted to build one, so a lot of the boat evolved around the Palm Beach pod, actually.”
In the 1970s, Reed crewed on power and sailing yachts, including a 65-foot Sparkman & Stephens/Derecktor aluminum ketch and an 80-foot Trumpy, but he never got a chance to work on a Rybovich. And he has no plans to buy one. “So this is the next best thing,” he says.
But there’s more to this story than the helm pod. Years of outdoor storage had taken its toll on the Glastron. “When he first bought the boat, I said, ‘You’re out of your mind. It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen,’ “ recalls his wife, Wendy, 55, who also works at Robinhood. “But look at it now.”
Reed’s boat looks nothing like a Glastron V-171, which had back-to-back seats, a transom bench, a split windshield and a closed bow. The Glastron is now a Spartan center console with a clean, elegant helm station, a custom windshield and a teak-topped forward console seat that houses the fuel tank. She’s Awlgripped in Fighting Lady Yellow, and her outboard cowling is the same color.
“These boats were only built for a couple of years by Glastron, and then they changed the design,” says Reed, who has owned, built or rehabilitated more than 40 boats, all but one smaller than 30 feet. “This one is more of a simple Ray Hunt shape. It was sort of attractive to me. I was going to restore it to its original condition, but the deck had so much cracking I said the heck with it and turned her into a custom center console. By the time I got done ripping and staving, there wasn’t much left but the skin of the hull.”
The endeavor took two-and-a-half years and about 1,000 hours. Reed, who lives in Bath, Maine, bought the boat about 10 years ago from a friend who had kept it on a trailer in his yard. “I used to drive by and say I like the looks of that Glastron,” Reed says. “I have to call [the owner] one of these days and ask him if he’s going to do anything with it.”
This went on for 10 or 15 years until Wendy took charge. “I finally said, ‘Go and buy the stupid boat,’ “ she says. “I was tired of hearing about it. He wore me down.”
So after years of looking at and talking about the Glastron, Reed called his friend, who is also named Gordon. “I said, ‘Gordon, what are you going to do with the boat in the front yard? Your wife must be on your case by now,’ ” Reed remembers. “I bought it from him for the price of the brand-new galvanized trailer that was underneath it.”
Reed stuck it in his backyard, where it waited for six or seven years for its turn in the shop. “It had an old motor, the decks were all rotted, and the transom was rotted. It was obviously a classic basket case,” he says.
A ‘peanut shell’
The deck, stringers and transom core were removed. “There was just an empty peanut shell left,” he says.
Reed executed the design and rough construction, and Robinhood did the heavy fiberglass work and the Awlgrip. “I had an agreement with the owner of the yard that we’d treat the boat as a filler project, so if we had some downtime we would put that time into the boat,” Reed says. The boat was kept at Robinhood to serve as an example of its work.
Longitudinal fir stringers were glassed in with epoxy resin. “I used epoxy because of my concerns over secondary bonding on a boat this old,” Reed says.
The Glastron also got a plywood deck, a plywood-and-spruce coaming top and a plywood transom with corner knees for support. The deck, coaming and transom were fabricated with epoxy, but polyester was used for the final laminations, Reed says. Biaxial fabrics were used throughout.
Robinhood’s Mark Morgan did the glass work, and the yard’s lead finisher, Eric Ellsmore, Awlgripped the hull and console. Sallie was born. “Sallie was my older sister, who lost her battle to cancer about 10 years ago,” Reed says. “It’s painted Fighting Lady Yellow because she fought the cancer for many years before it ended her life.”
Reed originally had planned to do some service work and towing with Sallie at Robinhood. “I got my hands on a nice towing bit, but the boat looked so good without it I said the heck with it. I am not putting that towing bit on there,” he says.
Indeed, the boat is too pretty to work. She comes at you with a moderately flared bow, reverse chines and two running strakes, and the sheer line has no swoops or dips. With her low freeboard, the console rises above the hull sides by about a foot or so, showing off the helm pod.
Reed was flexible with his ideas and designs. He rebuilt the pod and windshield last winter. In the summer of 2010, the pod consisted of plywood sides, but Reed grew to dislike the look. “The corners were vertical grain corner posts, and I prefer the half-lapped box effect with no corner posts,” he says. “This way, all the grain runs in the same direction. I rarely do anything according to a plan. Once it was built, I realized I could have done something different, so I did.”
He cut off the top and fabricated new sides. Then he varnished the entire assembly “with about 7,000 coats.” Actually, Reed never counts. “When it’s right, it’s done,” he says.
It was a busy offseason for Reed. He also installed a 12-gallon polyethylene fuel tank in the console. It has a stainless-steel fill, a shutoff valve, and a custom-shaped and matching Awlgripped vent. He added an Edson stainless-steel drink holder on the port side of the console top. “It’s really neat,” he says. “It’s a beautifully styled part, with no visible fastenings, and it’s a perfect size for a bottle of water or my handheld GPS.”
The most time-consuming work last winter was the windshield. “I really wanted an old sports car look, so I used laminated mahogany for the brackets, which we then coated with silver Awlgrip,” he says. “The glass is half-inch tempered plate with radiused and polished edges.”
On deck and performance
The Edson wheel sits low to the pod because of a stainless-steel ring Reed substituted for a plastic bezel. The steering setup is a Teleflex no-feedback system. Reed disassembled the Morse engine controls so the levers live in the pod rather than the original control housing. “This took me longer to figure out than building the rest of the boat,” he says.
Reed varied only slightly from the Palm Beach pod design by mounting the control levers forward on the box sides instead of aft. “It just worked ergonomically better for me,” he says.
And unlike other pods, Reed’s design shows no gauges. He flush-mounted the tachometer, trim switch and ignition inside a glove box-style compartment that tips out to open. The door is coated with the yellow Awlgrip and trimmed with teak, so it integrates well with the rest of the console.
The console’s forward seat opens, providing access to the fuel tank and a place to stow life jackets, foul-weather gear, flares and other gear. Sunbrella material hides the cover’s stainless-steel piano hinge and helps shed water.
A foam-filled foredeck step was fabricated. In fact, foam fills all voids below the deck. A rolled turquoise non-skid was applied to the coaming tops. Reed mounted all of the deck cleats under the coamings, with hawse pipes leading to them. He capped it all off with a teak bow pulpit and anchor holder.
With her 1999 70-hp Johnson 2-stroke, which replaced a late ’70s 50-hp Johnson, Sallie reaches 30 knots and cruises at 25 knots. “She does pick her nose up when you first come out of the hole, like most vee-bottom boats, but flattens quickly,” Reed says. “It corners like a race car. I can’t believe how well this thing corners. You can be going 25 knots and crank the wheel, and she’ll just come right around.”
Reed would rank this restoration as one of his favorites, along with the refit of one of two mid-1950s 24-foot Norman Hodgdon launches. “Those are really sweet boats,” Reed says. “I did one for myself and one for Norman Hodgdon’s daughter. It was nice because … she would not have bought the boat unless I agreed to do the restoration. Sallie brought gratification, plus the emotional reality of building something in honor of my sister.”
Other projects include an 18-foot sailing skiff — the model that Concordia built for its owner, Waldo Howland — and a Yankee One Design, a 30-foot Herreshoff, Reed says.
What’s next? Early in the spring, Reed picked up a 1972 Stamas, a 24-foot Clearwater with a cuddy. “The Stamas family is one of the oldest family-run boatbuilding companies in the country,” Reed says.
He and Wendy have a son and daughter — Nicholas, 31, and Molly, 29 — and Sallie has already played a major role in the Reed family’s life. In summer 2010, Reed used Sallie to escort his daughter to her wedding, which was held on the waterfront at Linekin Bay Resort in Boothbay Harbor.
“It was a hell of a party,” Reed says. “I could have bought a nice boat for what it cost. Thank God I have only one daughter.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue.