Two boat owners turn to Metan Marine Restoration to bring new life to their ’70s-era SeaCrafts
Sometimes an old boat simply needs a face-lift to bring it back to shipshape. No such luck for Steve Clancy and Dave Solway, owners of vintage but well-worn 23-foot SeaCraft center consoles from the 1970s.
“I was bouncing on the decks,” Solway says of his 1976 model. “They were spongy. I realized the boat had structural problems.”
With rotted transoms, wet deck coring, faded gelcoat and tattered upholstery, both boats were suffering from wear and tear and structural integrity problems. And the early ’90s carbureted 2-stroke outboards on the SeaCrafts were nearing the end of their service lives. It was decision time. Solway and Clancy had to decide whether to part with their boats or spend some major dinero on them.
The decision was a no-brainer for both men. It would be hard to find similar boats that deliver a softer ride than their deep-vee SeaCrafts. Solway liked the fishing-friendly layout and the ample freeboard, in particular. “My boat had certain qualities that the newer boats could not give me,” says Solway, 50, a homebuilder specializing in historic restorations who lives in Easton, Conn. “I like a heavier boat.”
Solway and Clancy also wanted to pass their boats down to their children. “It had been a family boat and had some sentimental value,” says Clancy, 54, of Newton, Mass., general manager of a telecommunications company he used to own. “My kids had been lobstering and fishing on that boat. The family loved that boat.” (SeaCraft’s owner, Tracker Marine, quit building the brand three years ago but hasn’t abandoned it altogether.)
Clancy and Solway turned to Mike Borrelli’s Metan Marine Restoration in Halifax, Mass., for stem-to-stern, keel-to-T-top overhauls. The company has made a name for itself restoring classic fiberglass boats up to about 35 feet, specializing in SeaCraft and Boston Whaler.
“I found out Borrelli had a love for SeaCrafts,” says Clancy, who keeps his 1973 model dockside at his summer home in Hull, Mass. “Mike told me a lot about the history of the boat and how he does the restoration.”
A complete restoration of a SeaCraft 23 includes the replacement of the transom, stringers, fuel tank, decks, deck lid and all hatches, as well as new gelcoat, Borrelli says. The console and leaning post are rebuilt or replaced, and Metan installs a custom fiberglass hardtop. An Awlgrip paint job and a 250-hp 4-stroke finish the job, he says. Cost: about $100,000.
With all of the bells and whistles — electronics (including radar), a sanitation system, a teak package, fresh- and raw-water systems, and outriggers and other fishing equipment — the price reaches $125,000, Borrelli says.
A complete refit of a Boston Whaler 16 Sakonnet (built from the 1960s to mid-’70s), with a full mahogany package and a 90-hp Mercury 4-stroke or Evinrude E-TEC DFI 2-stroke, is $45,000. A vintage 13-foot Whaler, with a full mahogany package and a 40-hp Mercury
4-stroke or Evinrude E-TEC, is about $25,000. Metan removes and replaces all of the foam and installs a new transom, hardware and deck. The deck laminate is epoxy-resin-infused to the foam, which is sculpted into the shape of the deck beforehand.
“For the same money or a little bit more, our remanufactured boats will go back to their owners and be around for another 30 to 40 years,” says Borrelli, who started refitting old boats 14 years ago in a backyard hut made of shrink-wrapped plastic and a wood frame. “If they buy a new boat, the second they pull away from the dealership that boat depreciates. Ours don’t depreciate but go up in value.”
From 2004-2007, the majority of the company’s restorations were SeaCrafts, but for the last three years there have been more Whalers, says Borrelli, 46, whose wife, Pamela, is the advertising director. “There are just so many more Boston Whalers out there,” Borrelli says. “So many of the boats we’ve done have great stories behind them — families who have had their Boston Whaler for 30 years and plan to keep the boat in the family for another 30 years.”
It takes about 250 hours to restore a 13-foot Whaler and about 400 hours for a full refit of a 16-foot Sakonnet, he says. Metan will spend 750 to 1,000 hours on a SeaCraft 23 restoration, he says. The company has 11 full-time and three part-time employees who work in a 7,500-square-foot building. The Borrellis’ son, Joey, 18, and daughter, Julie-Anne, 21, are two of the part-timers.
“When we give the boats back to the customers they’re brand-new — put the key in, turn it and go,” says Borrelli. “All of the options are picked well in advance with the customer. It’s like a custom-built boat, and throughout the whole build we’re in contact with the customer.”
Metan uses high-end materials and methods for the restorations. The SeaCraft 23 composite cores are epoxy-resin-infused. Mechanical fasteners and methacrylate adhesive hold the stringers and deck together. The bulkheads, hatches and hardtop are also built utilizing resin infusion and vacuum bagging.
On SeaCrafts, Borrelli performs an optional procedure for additional reinforcement to the deck and superstructure. A half-inch-thick aluminum grid system is mechanically fastened and bonded to the stringers. Then the console, leaning post and T-top are fastened and bonded to the newly formed deck-grid-stringer component. The cost is $2,000 for materials and installation.
“It adds rigidity and structural integrity to the hull,” says Solway, who sometimes runs his SeaCraft from western Long Island Sound to Cape Cod, Mass., for tuna. “I took the option because it would be more rigid in offshore conditions.”
A ‘cool’ head
Solway’s restoration was completed in late 2005; Clancy’s wrapped up in 2006. Both repowered with Suzuki DF250 4-strokes. It took Metan about a year to complete each refit. “I could pick out certain elements in a boat to my own specifications. That was certainly a big plus,” says Solway, who uses his SeaCraft with his wife, Killeen; son, Jack, 10; and two daughters, Kate, 8, and Megan, 6. “I didn’t go to a dealer and pick one off the lot.”
Killeen wanted a head, and Metan provided one in an unconventional but sensible location. An electric head is installed under the raised foredeck hatch; the 9-gallon holding tank is installed in the forward bilge. “It’s pretty cool,” Solway says. “That was one of my deals with my wife — if I put in a head, I could go ahead with the project.”
Clancy’s refit followed Solway’s. He learned about how the head was installed and wanted one on his SeaCraft, too. “The details really enhance the boat, like the woodwork, the head, the hardware and the deck,” says Clancy, who has four children, ages 13 to 22, with his wife, Bonnie. The deck’s composite coating (with non-skid) mimics the pinstripe pattern of the original SeaCrafts.
Both Clancy and Solway opted for Metan’s teak package, which includes a solid teak forward bulkhead and anchor locker door. A teak panel on the face of the helm console receives the flush-mounted electronics, and both boats have stainless steering wheels with teak bevels.
Solway opted for a wheel on centerline and a storage compartment with a teak lid to port. Clancy went with a port-side wheel, a raised engine control mount and two cup holders to starboard.
Both have the custom hardtop. Kent Fabrications in Pembroke, Mass., fabricated the pipe framework (www.kentfabrications.com).
Clancy’s leaning post has a two-person aft-facing seat on its back side that also serves as dry storage or a fishbox. Solway’s leaning post is smaller and simpler, with four rod holders and a hand hold, but no aft-facing seat.
The owners welcome the compliments they receive from fellow boaters. “There were certain bragging rights to owning one of these boats and restoring it,” Solway says. “I think everyone that owns a restored SeaCraft has a little bit of an ego.”
Sure, the vessels look great, but the ride of the SeaCraft 23, which has 24 degrees of transom deadrise, cannot be overlooked. “I had heard stories that this particular hull had a history of fishing Cape Cod, and I do a lot of tuna fishing with friends,” Solway says. “I didn’t feel comfortable in the 22-foot boat I had at the time and I had this opportunity to purchase a SeaCraft from a friend.” He purchased the boat in 2000 for $19,000.
The SeaCraft’s seakeeping abilities instill confidence, says Clancy, who bought his SeaCraft from his father-in-law for $5,000. “The deep-vee boat can do things that other boats can’t,” he says. “Most people wouldn’t go out into the ocean in a 23-foot boat, but you can take this thing out tuna fishing. If it’s rough, you drop the trim tabs and you know it’s going to handle it with that deep-vee.”
Both say one of the few downsides to a comprehensive refit such as these is that it takes a great deal of time. “You’re essentially building a boat from scratch,” Solway says. “I lost two seasons with the boat while the construction was going on. That was definitely a con.”
Patience is a must, says Clancy. “It’s not something [Borrelli] is going to pump out in a month or two,” he says. And the owner needs to participate throughout the restoration. “You have to put the time in to get what you want. You can’t just drop off the boat and say, ‘Call me when it’s finished.’ Sometimes a few changes along the way are needed, so you have to be involved.” (Clancy also hired Metan to restore a 23-foot 1963 Ensign sailboat.)
The restorations require patience as well as a sizable financial investment. Solway’s and Clancy’s restorations were in the $95,000 to $105,000 range, Borrelli says. “The price, compared to a new boat, was essentially the same,” Solway says.
Both owners believe their restored boats are better in all areas — construction, fit and finish, layout and overall appearance. And they say the boats will outlast the newer models.
“By doing the refit, I extended the life until the next refit,” Clancy says. “I won’t have to do a significant refit to that boat for decades, as opposed to a production boat, which I believe would require one a lot sooner than mine.”
Contact: (781) 293-2755 www.metanmarine.com
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This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue.