A Down East refit

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Welcome to The Swamp Yankee Chronicles, a new blog that will follow the restoration of a 1991 former commercial boat into something that will work for a family that has grown to include two grandchildren, my fast-sprouting 13- and 14-year-olds, an 80-pound black lab — you get the picture.

This promises to be a pretty cool project, given that we’re stripping the 22-footer down to its bare bones. The decks will come off and every fastener, every nut and bolt and piece of hardware will be removed.

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This former workboat is a 1991 Sisu, a Down Easter with a solid reputation as an efficient, seakindly hull, one that is easily driven and one that will get you home when it breezes up and the seas get a bit boisterous. The same basic hull is still being built new or being refit by several builders, each of whom you will meet in subsequent blogs.

When this project started, the open boat was dirty and mildewed, her outboard was gone, her console was a mess and there were holes in her decks and small holes in the hull sides where two strings of fenders were attached. But the hull was solid, with no signs of delamination between the fiberglass skins and core. The Sisu was well-built and bone-dry.

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She’ll be rebuilt with new systems and equipment, including a new outboard, console, leaning post, paint, wiring, electronics, steering, mahogany coaming, removable sleeping platform, canvas and so on.

Sometime this summer, Swamp Yankee will be relaunched as a new seabird, but that’s still a ways off and I don’t want to jinx things by jumping the gun.

Along the way, you’ll meet a number of colorful characters, including boatwright Charlie Koller, a talented woodworker and craftsman who has been rebuilding and repairing boats for more than 30 years. Charlie happens to be my brother-in-law, a circumstance that I don’t hold against him. He’s the talent behind this refit. I sort of sit back and soak up what I can and marvel at his versatility, ingenuity and speed.

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I’m the editor of Soundings, the Essex, Conn.-based boating magazine that recently turned 50 years old. Yes, time does go by like “hurricanes and faster things,” to quote the Greg Allman ballad.

So please join us on this project and watch the transformation of Swamp Yankee from a tired workboat to something that will be a nice mix of modern technology and traditional design.