Thankfully being Green is something Spark will not have to deal with anymore. Today I finished up almost all the rough sanding on her hull. Save for a few nooks and crannies I could not get into, you would never know my geep had been green. All goes well, I start refastening her this weekend.
Interesting enough, I knew my GP had some damage at one time. I found a repair panel on the inside of the hull, but could find no trace on the outside. I found it under three layers of paint. As Spark only had four layers, she must have sustained that injury early in her racing career. It looks professionally patched, so I am not going to touch it beyond fairing it back into the hull.
I need a new hobby that involves less sanding. Today I finished up stripping Spark of all her hardware. When I was done she was a bare hull that I then rolled over on the trailer and got to work on sanding.
A pair of 2x4s screwed into the bunks provided plenty of support on my GP's mostly flat decks. Then it was time to break out the orbital sander and discs. A face mask was a necessity was the dust was thick as I went through dark green, light green, blue, and finally white primer to get to the mahogany ply beneath.
The wood was in surprisingly good shape beneath all that nasty groddy paint. I found no dark patches denoting rot, nothing was soft, and it was not even badly scratched or gouged. I will have to remove and replace all of the screws though. In the few I removed from the cockpit area, they had turned red from leaching all their zinc over the years. Once that happens they go from being a tough bronze to a brittle version of brass. Last thing I want to go is hit something or take a wave wrong and break a few screws that hold the bottom on.
With foul weather approaching it was back into storage until next time. I am a quarter done, so hopefully the stripping of paint will not take too long.
With the sailing season done for the year and Spark's successful debut at the Small Craft Festival in St. Michael's MD over, it's time to get down to brass tacks and admit the truth.. I have a lot of work ahead of me. My "GeeP" needs to be stripped down to a bare hull, the paint sanded off, the decks lifted, and plenty of paint and varnish applied.
While she has good bones, the paint on my boat is not good. Years of racing has left deep gouges and scraps and indifferent storage for the past 3 decades left what was left oxidized, faded, and in just poor general shape. I am also not a fan of "grass green"
The decks on my GP are also in poor shape. A lack of varnish has allowed them to dry rot while she was stored in that barn. You can hear the very fibres creak when any weight is put upon her decks. Just slapping varnish on them would be akin to lipstick on a pig..
First step is a complete strip down of everything off of the hull. This took the better part of a full day as all the hardware came off, her floorboards and seating came out, and I pried the half round rub rails off of her gunwales. Surprisingly, she does not look any worse for wear in this configuration. It's no wonder nobody took any pictures of Spark at St. Michaels.
With everything off and out, there is a surprisingly large amount of space in such a small fourteen foot boat.
In stripping Spark, I discovered something interesting. The early GPs had a bronze "horse" across the stern. This was a tubular affair that went up and over the tiller for controlling the sheets that tie the boom to the boat and allow for letting the sails out or pulling them back in. My boat had the later style wooden horse that went all the way across the stern with an adjustable traveler. In pulling this assembly off, I discovered that my GeeP originally came with the older (and prettier) bronze version, but was later converted to the latter system for more control when racing.
Of course I am going to fit the older system back into place. I already have enquires out to either get a used one or to produce one anew. It was the holes in the deck beneath the wooden horse that gave it away.
Here is how it looks now with the full width horse and how it should look with the bronze affair.
While I have long been interested in cars, usually little sports cars from Europe and Mountain Biking, my first joy was boats and sailing. Due to these widely ranging interests, I can thankfully think a little out of the box to solve some issues on Spark.
As an ex-racer, my boat has little no storage, not that any GP ever did -they are only 14 feet long. As a General Purpose boat though, the ability to go most anywhere is a given. To follow that directive, I needed to think outside of the (boat shaped) box to my other hobbies.
Anybody who was ever remotely serious about bicycling will tell you that staying hydrated is very important. The only way to store liquids on a bike are frame mounted bottles. To make it easier to keep from getting thirsty while sailing, I decided to steal that concept and purchased some frame mounted bottle holders from the local bicycle shop.
Being made of black plastic and adjustable to fit any size water bottle, these should keep me well hydrated when I cannot reach for the cooler. I screwed them into the supports for the benches closest to the stern. One bottle on each side should do nicely.
On the inside of the support you can see a similar mount. I am using this to keep my air horn close at hand if it is needed. The horn itself is interesting. it is refillable from a standard bicycle air pump. One of my pet peeves are "one time use" items where you use them and throw them away. The CO2 canisters used by most hand held air horns bug the hell out of me.
Next on the list is storage netting. While things will still need to be bungied together, keeping items up in the bow or under the stern is always a big deal on a small boat. Borrowing once more from my sports car hobby, I trekked over to the nearest automotive store and bought two trunk nets. These woven nets made of a bungee like rope allow me to stuff all manner of things under the decks without them working their way out in rough water or in the event of a knock down.
After many long days of work, stripping the spars of their hardware, sanding them down to bare wood, repairing splits and holes, ordering new hardware, and varnishing, I have finally completed the Mast and Boom. It was not an easy task and my hands are bruised from putting many screws into the wood.
One of the things that I noticed, that I thought I would hate, is the contrast between Spark's original stamped aluminum hardware and the new bronze screws and items. Bronze against polished aluminum looks wonderful and I am going to have to rethink about going all bronze in the future.
One thing that did save my behind on several occasions was my habit of ordering more than I needed. a year ago I bought a lot of One Hundred #8 bronze screws and decorative washers. I think I bought them for Flirt, my SeaSprite 12, but I could be wrong. In this regard, I used quite a few in putting all the hardware back on. These screws also use a specialized and very out of fashion screwdriver, the Frearson. While it looks a lot like a Phillips head, but it is much shallower with angled blades for a better "bite" on the screw when driving. I understand why Popeye has such oversized forearms now, he evidently was a boatbuilder before he became a sailor.
If you read the post on the sheaves, you can see here how they look against the lighter wood of the mast..
One of the issues with dealing with an older boat is that the plastics do not hold up well to age. Unlike many boats with wooden masts, Spark has internal halyards. For the non-nautical readers, Halyards are the lines that raise and lower the sails. Most wooden masted sailboats and many with aluminum spars have external Halyards. Where this is important is that the sheaves, the pulleys that the lines run on, are made of a material called "Tuffnol". This English plastic is a form of laminate and is generally resistant to decay in a marine environment. Spark's, however, were old and worn out.
The problem is getting new sheaves made of tufnol. The GP class went to an all aluminum rig decades ago and parts for the Series 1 boats have gotten thin on the ground. The fact that very few GP14s made it to the US makes getting parts harder. This means I had to build my own.
The pulleys are by Harken, a well respected name in sailing. The Sheaves I build of an African hardwood called "Burbinga". This is a very pretty and very hard wood. I burned out several blades on the scroll saw shaping this wood. They should last a good long time and the darker wood contrasts nicely with the blonde spruce of the mast.
Due to the fact I had to make them myself, they are slightly larger than the originals, this required me cutting the holes in the mast to fit. I am not totally happy with my handiwork in that regard, but it can be fixed later. That is for a later post.
Most of Spark's time on the water was spent as a race boat. Stone Harbor and Ocean City NJ both kept good sized fleets of GP14s just for racing. GP, of course, stands for "General Purpose" and as such, Spark and her sisters were designed for more than just setting records over a course. Many in the UK and Down in Australia and New Zealand have been used for cruising and "beach camping" along those far off shores.
As Spark was a race boat, she us sorely lacking in the essentials to become a competent Beach Camper. For one, she has almost no way to tie her up or anchor her off. The one and only cleat she had was comically undersized as to be almost toy-like. I needed to make some changes.
Starting with the cleats: The bow cleat needed to go and be replaced with something more robust for both tying off to a dock and mooring out on an anchor. As you can tell, the original would never do.
To give you a hint how small and dainty this bit of aluminum is, here it sits next to it's bronze replacement.
It's more robust and stylish to boot. I believe it came off of a Chris Craft of some sort. It definitely fits in with the era that Spark came from. Here it is finally attached to the foredeck like it should be, with 4 bronze machine screws and nuts to keep it well secured to the beams below.
Moving aft, Spark had no cleats at all on her stern. The only choice would be to tie off using the horse that holds the traveler over the rudder/tiller. I really did not want to rip that off with a good wave or wind while out and about.. so I set about adding more cleats.
With only a thin, 6mm, mahogany plywood deck, I had to add a block of mahogany to the underside to keep it from being pulled right off the first time it was used. I also needed to keep it clear of the control lines from the traveler and free of the Tiller's movements across the lazerette deck. Once all was put into place. I epoxied the blocks right and left and bolted through them to snug everything up tight and secure. If these cleats come loose, I am losing a sizable chunk of deck too.
Now, While the General Purpose in GP14 denotes being able to do everything, I needed a way to get moving when the wind was nigh or coming from the wrong direction. I was not about to hang even an electric trolling motor on Spark, so I set about putting some oars into place. Thankfully Bell Woodworking thoughtfully built a matched pair of Mahogany blocks beneath Spark's deck right where the oarlocks would mount. You might think they had thought of this exact scenario.
With the blocks already in place, all I needed to do was drill some holes and bolt the mounts into place. Chesapeake Light Craft was kind enough to sell me these mounts and locks, the polished bronze looks lovely and shipshape.
It goes without saying that oarlocks are useless without oars. Shaw and Tenney supplied these custom length oars just for me. Straight Bladed and beautifully varnished, they look better than almost all the wood currently on Spark.
They also store nicely out of the way, blades towards the bow, behind the seating surfaces of the side benches.
Tomorrow, if all goes well, I will give her the Float test at Lake Lenape in Mays Landing. After being out of the water for close to 40 years, I want to make sure she has no leaks to keep me up at night.
1981 was the last year that Spark was legally allowed to sail, according to the Pa DCNR (Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) sticker on the side of her hull that was needed to sail on any of Pennsylvania's numerous lakes. It seemed at that time, she was put back on her trailer and put away quite wet to judge by the dried out slime that was still tenuously stuck to her bottom.
In those 37 years her paint has suffered. Not only from the occasional scratch, but from blistering and pealing. I am willing to bet the green was original to spark when she was built in the early 60s. Finally getting her home I was faced with this mess:
Of course soon after I sanded off the worst of the loose stuff, it rained for two days.
Thanks to George Kirby ( https://kirbypaint.com/ ) I was able to get some nice oil based paint that was similar in hue for a quick and dirty repaint of Spark's bottom and a touch up on her sides. I will be the first to admit that it is not pretty, but right now it is all about protecting the wood. I can make it pretty later.
In car terms -Spark is no a "ten footer" as in she looks ok from ten feet away. Anybody standing on shore will see a pretty little sailboat, that is all that matters right now. Proper paint and varnish can some this spring
After finally getting the parts of my trailer back from the welder (three months!) I have Spark home and sitting on the grass as I take care of some flaky paint and a few other issues before I can drop her in the drink.
Tomorrow she gets some paint slapped over that bare spots. Nothing pretty this year, I want to bring her down to St, Michaels in a week "as is"
After looking hard at the first coat of varnish I put on the still split mast, I decided I hated it. Too mottled with small dark areas from the hand sanding not removing all the old varnish and stains. Once I glued the mast back together, I also needed to get my fingerprints off of the wood before revarnishing.
So, out came the "mouse" and away went all the dark spots and bit of epoxy that escaped the clamped wood. Nice and clean and ready for a new coating of clean shiny varnish.
Unfortunately I needed to buy a new can of the stuff. The old can had turned into a jello like consistency.
To hold the mast up off of the table for varnishing, I stuck several pieces of 4mm scrap okoume ply into the sail bolt slot and used a pair of clamps to act as feet. this puts the mast up off of the table and sits it high enough that I can see beneath it to add varnish to the "bottom". A week's worth of varnishing is infront of me, but it should be worth the effort!