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Sea Pearl Upgrades and Improvements

1. Sloppy Rudder

The first thing I did to my my SP was to make new leeboard pendants. Next I took up the play in the rudder pivot by cutting a few "Washers" out of a top of a plastic bin (see picture). I put these along side the rudder and slid it back into the rudder housing and the play was gone. Nice!

2. Rotating Mast binding

When I did a test run on furling, I noticed the mast didn't turn very easy. The boat had spent a lot of time in the Sunshine State (a.k.a. the boat torture state....UV, salt water and sand) and the mast tubes had a little sand in the bottom. I removed the sand from the mast seats and sprayed a little McLube in them for easier rotation.

3. Honda outboard

WildCat came with a Suzuki 2hp motor that ran like a watch. And though it sucked gas like a Hummer, I almost kept it. But waiting in line at a ramp and having the boat either doing 3 knots at idle or the motor shut off was no fun. Especially with all those Bass fisherman telling me I was number one!

I bought A Honda 2hp over the winter of 07/08. I got a great deal from my dealer when it was 10 degrees outside. Who else was buying in December in upstate New York? With the Honda, I don’t have any issues holding position. It's got a centrifugal clutch that gives you neutral and swivels for reverse. The Honda has the easiest reverse dance of any non-shifting motor I have ever used. I have long arms which helps, but I find the engine very easy to swivel into reverse. Since the tiller handle is pointing at you, a few blips of the throttle and you can hold position pretty well.

* A note about steering with a rudder mounted engine. On other sailboats, my motor was stationary and I steered with the rudder. I’d usually find a sweet spot where the motor angle was just right to find a happy medium where the tiller was neutral. I haven’t found that spot with the SP and was seriously thinking about removing the motor from the rudder assembly, when it occurred to me I had a kick up rudder. Duh! Just lift the rudder and the tiller is neutral. So I put a clamcleat instead of the cleat for the rudder pennant and marked the pennant at three places red (down), blue (half way for shallow water) and green (down).

Someone (a luddite) mentioned, and this is true, that you can just tie a loop in your pennant and hook it over the front of the cleat, but I think you totally miss the opportunity to over think and over engineer something, and there aren’t that many chances for that on a Sea Pearl.  I also marked my leeboards as well. It’s nice to tell a newbie instead of “put the leeboard half way down” say “put it down to blue”.

4. Refinish the Oars

I refinished mine and it took far less time than I though. A little citrus stripper (sold at any big box hardware) and a cabinet scraper (Woodcraft is a good source if you have one around). The citrus makes the current varnish soft, and the cabinet scraper makes quick work of removing the varnish. A cabinet scraper is just a piece of hardened steel with a burred edge that is about as handy a tool you can have in a woodshop.

I then used a random orbit sander from 60, 120, 220 to remove all the grayness out of the nicks in the wood, and then I hand sanded it to about 400. I used Spar varnish and I put about 4 coats on, and left the grips un-sanded. I did seal the grips with tongue oil, It was a project that took less time than I thought, which almost never happens. While I was at it I refinished a bunch of canoe paddles that were looking a little grim.

5. Oar Storage

Rowing a Sea Pearl is great fun. The only problem is with the oars...stowing them that is. I searched the archives and didn't turn up much, so I fabricated this solution, which I couldn't be happier with. It keeps the oars out of the way, and when the oars are removed won't snag anything. Took me about two hours to make and cost about 22 bucks. I bought two 36" x 1/8" x 3/4"
pieces of aluminum, and a can of spray rubber coating. A hacksaw, a giant crescent wrench and a vice and I twisted the aluminum into this (right).

The black stuff is a spray on rubber coating I bought at Lowes. It's with the spray paint, and used to be sold under the name Plastisol. You use it to dip tools in and give the handles a nice coating. There is a dip type and a spray type. If I had to do this project
again I'd buy some twine and wrap it around the aluminum and then varnish it....that would probably last longer and look more nautical.

 

 

Here is the installed hook at the aft deck support (above). and here is the other piece at the forward deck support (right).

I might of made this piece a little shorter, but I wasn't sure how wide the blade would be on future oars, and I wanted a little springiness to get them seated. It turns out this isn't a problem.

One piece of dumb luck is that with the blades forward like this, the "leathers" hit the middle deck support and  protect the oar from abrasion. You can see this in the first above picture.

In use the whole setup is great. Even my 6 year old can store the oars, and when in position, not much of the storage is compromised.
 

6. Buff the hull

I like shiny stuff. My 1988 looks like new with a really shiny gel coat on the top and hull. When I got it, it was a sad, dull looking hull, with pathetic chalked topsides. I tried all kinds of buffing compounds on a weak automobile buffer, and I couldn’t get through the haze. It was discouraging, and I almost resigned myself to painting her. After many experiments with different media, here is what worked best for getting WildCat shiny.

Get yourself a buffer like this:

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=90820

It needs to be this kind, as the typical waxing buffer won’t do the job. Wait for a sale and you can get this one for $17 bucks. They sell better ones at sears and other places.

Next get yourself some 3M Super duty rubbing compound and some 7” bonnets. They sell all kinds of compound, but this is the stuff. It’s a really aggressive compound, which will eat through the haze, but won’t easily go through your gel coat.

Put a nice clean bonnet on your buffer, and have a spray bottle of water handy. The heat of the motion dries out the compound, and it loses its effectiveness. Keep it damp, but not soaked. A slower speed with a bit of compound will quickly eat through the haze, and in a short time, you’ll be amazed at the shine. It does take a while, but the whole boat won’t take as much time as it takes to prep and paint it, and as long as your gel coat isn’t too nicked up, the results are unbelievable. I painted an O’day daysailer years ago, and while it looked great, it eventually go nicked up an looked bad. I wish I knew this technique back then, as I think it would have buffed out nicely.

I did both the topsides and hull, and it looks fantastic. What you are doing is essentially shaving a bit of the old gel coat off and exposing un-faded new gel coat. When you get done, you want to give it a good wax. I like Collinite 885 paste wax. It’s hard and lasts a long time.

7. Remove the Bottom Paint

WildCat was a north-south boat in her previous life, spending winters moored in Florida, and summers moored in Canada. She's a barn dweller now, and she doesn't need bottom paint. The ablative that had been caked on the bottom needed to be gone. I did a pretty good inspection of the boat before I bought it, and though there were no blisters, I knew I'd face a challenge getting all that ablative off the bottom.

The good news is that a little experimentation brought me to the conclusion that the citrus stripper they sell at hardware stores is just the ticket. It doesn't seem to effect epoxy or fiberglass, but seems to soften the ablative nice. It take a good 30 minutes to really soak in and work though, and it was easy to get impatient. Once it softened the paint, a cabinet scraper (a rectangular piece of 1/16 hardened steel about 2 1/2 X 4 1/2 available at any woodworking shop, see  above) and about 2 hours and most of your paint will be gone. the first go got most off, with a second pass and more care got all but what resided in a few dimples off. I sanded with 150 after that, and the rest was soon gone. 

The reason I took this paint off is twofold. Because of the rough surface, I'm sure I was loosing boat speed. Probably not much, but the other reason was that I had to float my boat off the trailer. Those of you who claimed to just back the boat up the waters edge and slide it off the trailer must have a shiny hull.

8. Rotating Goosenecks

When I called to order the parts to update WildCat to rotating goosenecks, Jim Leet, the builder of these fine boats, said it was a different boat with the rotating goosenecks.  I wish I would have chronicled the conversion, but it was easy, and quite a bit has been written about it on the Sea Pearl Mailing List. Having started out "old school", you really appreciate how nice a setup this is.

9. Continuous Bow and Stern Line

Not really an upgrade to WildCat, but a tip that is just really nice. A guy on the SPML named Carl (the lurker....here's his message) mentioned he made a continuous dock line, so Saturday morning I made a line with a loop in one end just right for a stern cleat, and a loop on the other end just right for the bigger bow cleat. I whipped the splice and colored the white whipping line red to mark the bow. Wow does that work great. The line is probably about 45 feet long, but it sure beat handing two lines on both launching and retrieval. Thanks Carl.

10. GPS Holder

One of the shortcomings of a Sea Pearl is that there just isn't much space to keep items at hand. My GPS is something I use often, and it was taking a beating sliding around the seats, and I just couldn't find a good location to mount it. One day I temporarily hung it by its lanyard from the boom vang shackle, and I quickly decided this would be a nice place for a permanent mount. This upgrade was a major success, and I think any boat that has a mast close at hand would benefit from this modification.

The actual mount is made from some scrap maple (any reasonable medium to hard wood would do) and painted black. I used a drum sander attachment in my drill press to mimic the shape of the mast. I owned a mount from Garmin made for my GPS that I cannibalized, but it would have been easy to make without this. It quickly clips to the mast with a bungee cord, so I can remove it for travel in about 2 seconds.  The other benefit is that it swivels left and right and is held in position by friction. It can even be rotated forward for when I'm rowing so I can see how slow I'm going.

Here is a video of how this rig works. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53SCYMte_A4

11. Tiller holder

Sailing by myself requires me to make adjustments to the sails. To hold the tiller, I rigged up this arrangement. I'd like to take credit, but I saw it on a British sailing website, which I can't seem to find anymore. 

The video above that features the GPS holder also shows this holder in action at the end of it.

 

 

 

 

 

12. Rebuild the Harken Cam Cleats

This was a silly project. Just Call jim Leet at Marine Concepts and buy new cam cleats. But if you are nuts like I am, and you got some time on your hands, you can rebuild your cam cleats with parts from Harken. Its fussy work , but it's cheap to do. The link for Harken is for the whole parts kit. I bought just the balls and plastic pices and for the three cleats it cost about 20 bucks including shipping. I repeat...only do this if you are bored.

13. Weld-less Baker bracket

The stock SP motor mount has the convenience of mounting the motor on the rudder itself. This has some nice benefits. One is the motor actually turns with the tiller, making a long boat like the Sea Pearl very maneuverable. A second benefit is that you can't run the rudder into the propeller like you can on other boats.

The downside is you don't get much feedback form your tiller, because the weight of the motor (my Honda weighs 29 pounds) is hanging off it. I think feedback from the tiller is important to sailing and getting the maximum out of your boat.

Now many Sea Pearl owners love their rudder mounted engines, so I'd only make this modification after experiencing the stock set-up for awhile. But if you are unsatisfied, read on.

Richard Baker has designed a motor bracket that converts the rudder mounted mount to a fixed mount and gets the weight of the engine off the rudder. His plans are published on the Yahoo Sea Pearl Group. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who welds aluminum, and anyway, I have a bad case of "aluminumweldaphopia"  and I am sure my outboard would end up at the bottom of the sea after the bracket failed.

I've been thinking about a way to make the bracket without welding, and I finally hatched a plan that really worked well. The trick was to buy a piece of 8" Aluminum channel. It's officially called "6061-T6 STRUCTURAL (AL ASSOC) ALUMINUM CHANNEL 8" x 3.75" x 0.25" 6061-T6 Extruded Aluminum Association Aluminum Channel" and you need a piece 14" long.

The drawings are here! Print from PDF in fit page mode.

Lining up the holes for drillingCutting the stock on the tablesawI'll have plans here shortly, but you can use this piece of aluminum to make yourself the bracket. Aluminum machines pretty nicely on standard wood working equipment. Be careful! But here is a picture of cutting the rough shape. You can see I started by cutting one leg of the channel off, which gave me a nice big piece of angle stock. I then cut the shape out with my table saw, and then finished it with a hand coping saw. I filed the radiuses by hand. In all it was a three hour job.

I used the rudder gudgeon to transfer the holes onto the bracket, and then I bolted the whole mess to WildCat, and then checked to make sure the motor mount height was right. It was, so I drilled to bolt the old motor mount to the Baker bracket, and then it was on toe the paint shop. And there it is in the picture.

How did it work? The day after I made it I took WildCat and my daughter to Conesus Lake to try it out. What a difference. The tiller is light again. I gave up a bit of maneuverability at the dock, but I'm turning into a reborn oarsman these days, so that's not an issue. The downside is that the boat becomes about 10 inches longer permanently. It moves your motor closer to the boat (good), adds the weight of the bracket (bad), and moves the motor to port about 5" (bad, but not horrible).

I ran the motor in all modes from idle to wide open and it worked great. The rudder can't contact the propeller when it's all the way down or all the way up (it can half way up!). With the motor going, you can still steer the boat with the rudder with a nice light tiller. Richards design makes it possible to remove, but I don't ever see myself going back to the stock set-up. It was really nice to feel the response of the boat.

14. Motor Safety Tether / Latch Pull

A small improvement that makes life easier is this motor safety latch and tilt lever lanyard. I had an old snap shackle in my kit box. It clips nicely to the mizzen line bail. Attached to it are a heavy safety line that goes to the motor (inset in picture). The orange, easy to see and find line goes to the tilt lever. I could never find that lever reaching back and feeling for it. Now it's simple.
 

 

This site was last updated 09/29/09