$500 and some elbow grease does the job

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For Mark Sturtevant, restoring a down-at-the-heels Cape Dory Typhoon was the perfect pocket-sized project.

In the space of a year the Stafford, Conn., resident turned a neglected $500 boat into a family cruiser that today proudly sails the waters of Narragansett Bay, R.I.

About two thirds of the deck was bad on this 22-foot Cape Dory Typhoon, but the price was right.

"I've always liked the looks of the Typhoon," says Sturtevant, 45, an executive with L.L. Bean, who had restored four other small sailboats before taking on the 22-foot Cape Dory (a later model). "Back in 2008 I stumbled across one up in New Bedford, Mass., on Craigslist. I called about it and the owner said it was still available and was only $500."

Sturtevant went up to see it and found a trailer and a sailboat that had been sitting outside for 15 years. "The trailer had sunk into the ground almost a foot and the [Typhoon's] front deck was really, really soft," says Sturtevant. But he couldn't help seeing the half-empty glass as half full; the sails were in good shape, the hull was solid and the teak was salvageable. The price also included a 4-hp outboard. "I decided to buy it," he says.

Sturtevant had to restore the trailer first, which was a job in itself. "First I had to dig it out of the ground [far] enough to work on it," he says. "I then replaced the wheels, tires, bearings, lights and wiring. The trip home was somewhat scary. Even though I had gone through the trailer, it was still quite old and had sat for so long." Still, he made it back to his house with no problems.

Working evenings, weekends and any other spare moments, Sturtevant was soon immersed in restoration. "I set about taking off all the teak and hardware on the outside so I could begin work on the decks," he says. "This was mid-August of 2008 and I wanted to get the fiberglass work done before it got too cold to work, since the boat was being stored outside."

It took longer than expected. "I ended up finding quite a bit more rot than I had first figured," Sturtevant says. "Probably almost two-thirds of the deck was bad." Four gallons of resin later, it was all as good as new.

Still, the to-do list was long: add hinges and strengthen the lazarette hatch covers and companionway hatch; add a compression post; enlarge and rebuild the scupper drains; add bronze portlights; seal the old head input/discharge; replace most running rigging and hardware; scrape and barrier-coat the bottom; reinforce and refair the rudder; paint the interior ceiling and quarter berths.

Launch day at the Yankee Boat Yard & Marina in Portland, Conn., finally came in spring 2009. "It was five days before the one-year anniversary of when I had purchased the boat," says Sturtevant, who estimates he put 500 hours into the project.

After tending to a few last-minute details, the Typhoon was ready for its first adventure. "I headed out with my son [Jacob, 10] for a six-day trip down the Connecticut River and over to Narragansett Bay, where I have a mooring," says Sturtevant. "She handled the trip great. We spent the rest of the season exploring [the] bay. Hopefully next season will be a trip to Block Island or maybe Cuttyhunk."

Not a bad new life for a $500 boat.

See related story:

- Cape Dory Typhoon a blast from the past

These articles originally appeared in the New England Home Waters Section of the February 2010 issue.