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Shed Finds Still Happen…

I mentioned a couple of months ago I am probably a boataholic and while basically true,  I always have had  a soft spot for a lovely old lady in trouble.

About 4 months ago a chap got in touch asking if I knew anyone interested in a 1960’s era 19ft Mason Clipper that needed a new home. It looked a lovely craft with great provenance but at the price I didn’t need yet another boat. A bit like a vintage car owner who has a rusted chassis of a 100 year old tiller steer horseless carriage… but it’s worth millions they insist!  Nah mate…it’s the restoration that’s worth millions!

It turned out that the last time it had been in the water was 1974 and still sported the last number plate and warrant dated 1974!  Anyway, the long & short of it was I purchased her.

The power plant is a really tidy looking Mk 2 Zephyr 6 cyl and was reading only 314 hours on the hour meter. A mechanical fwd & Rev gearbox, hydraulic trim tabs, a pristine Marlin Junior 2 way transmitter, similar to an early beautifully wood-grained stereogram was affixed in the cabin, a full set of 1960 era lifejackets, plus a set of water skis that were about 200mm wide!

I spent about a week carefully removing all fittings, chrome work, brass beadings and assessing the restoration plan.

The vessel is perfectly sound but the hull topside shows the diagonal strip plank laminations through the original paintwork. This will be the first task and after stripping back to bare timber, will fibreglass the hull above the water line spray chine batten.  Underwater it is already glassed so it’s an easy and straightforward job to strip back the topside. The rest of the cabin is original varnish and requires refinishing but fairly simple.

The whole project shouldn’t interrupt this summer’s boating schedule at all…  Yeah Right!

The engine, I have squirted WD40 in each cylinder, turned it over by hand, then applied 100 ml of oil into each piston to slowly seep down past the rings. The existing engine oil is clean and at some stage I will fit a new battery, new fuel, plugs, leads, points, connect up to water supply then attempt to start the Zephyr.  I hope to keep it as original as possible to maintain it’s provenance bearing in mind I am only the second owner after about 58 years!

The most laborious task was the hull topsides which were only painted and over the years the double diagonal planking was showing numerous joints. With minimal room in the workshop I could only work on one side at a time so after placing the boat on a lower mobile cradle, I elected to complete the port side first. This required a total strip back to bare timber firstly with a heat gun and a 75mm wide putty knife/scraper to lift the 6 – 8 coats of paint.

This took about 6 hours then another 3 hours sanding the red lead priming back to raw kauri. The primer had to go as I intended to fully fiberglass the hull and modern epoxy will not stick to red lead. The diagonal strips totalled half inch thick so was ok to strip back.

The port side was glassed during a cold spell and it required heat lamps to go off which caused me some considerable angst. As a result I decided to spend a month or two sanding the mahogany cabin sides as they were in a sad state with water damage and movement at the timber joints. Very judicious removal of some covering strips and boards, cleaning and sanding the previously glued faces then replacing with epoxy glue rectified the timberwork and then about 8 – 10 coats of spar varnish returned it to almost original condition.

The cabin rooftops were originally glassed but looked look sad so only needed a modest fine sanding then enamel painted.

Considerably wiser from the port side stripping, I converted my 125mm right angle sander into a 200mm heavy duty sander and this ripped the paintwork off the hull topside in very short order.. ie. about 3 hours and made a bugger of a job into a fast and easy, albeit dusty, task. Fairing was simple compared to the port side so a winner all round.

By the time all that was done the weather was considerably warmer so I began the glassing over Labour weekend. It is a two man job, one to support and reel off the roll of glass cloth while the other rolls on the resin. By applying a coat to the bare timber then dry rolling the cloth on top of the wet resin assisted the cloth to stick onto vertical surfaces until we could roll on the second coat.  However this was in 27 degree Nor West conditions and required some fast work to apply the resin before it began gelling up.

As usual, the cloth and dry timber quickly soaked up the resin leaving a weave pattern to the hull and on the Port side, it took about 6 undercoats and heavy sanding to cover the weave.

Determined not to have to apply so many undercoats, today I gave the glassed starboard topside a brief sand to remove the sandflies etc and mixed up some epoxy resin into a thick glue. Then with a cheap glass cleaning style squeegee I applied the glue and spread it with the squeegee to the entire surface but firmly squeezed it off again, leaving just the weave filled.

I have just been downstairs to inspect the finish and it has worked a treat,  it is lovely & smooth all ready for the undercoats… hopefully only two.   To degrease the glycol generated by the epoxy setting, I will give it a light sand then wipe with an epoxy solvent before painting.

I have finally finished all the painting and varnish work and she is looking really smart now for an elderly lady. She visited the glass factory for new windows to be fitted because the old ones were so crazed it was impossible to see through them.

Then today she came home from the upholsterers with new cabin cushions and spanking new clears and covers for the cockpit.

I am now beginning the engine process and this is a little sad.

Several valves were stuck closed and in the turning over process, it has bent several valve push rods. After much contemplation, I have removed the Zephyr and stripped it down to a basic block and taken it to my friendly engine mechanic. His eyes gleamed and he fairly gushed over the original vintage Mk2 and after some serious inspection he concluded it is a totally standard engine and merely needs a little bit of minor TLC to get going again.

So… some new (2nd hand) valves and pushrods, new rings, a slight hone of the bore, new gasket set, check crankshaft, oil pump, clean carby, points, new plugs & oil, and for all practical porpoises she is a new engine!

When I was expecting a total disaster and a throw away job, to a qualified mechanic is just a simple check-over task.   Wonderful!

I don’t think it will be ready for the water before the Picton Maritime Festival, but she will be certainly on show in the static display as the stately lady she always was.  But shortly, after 44 years Ahurei will once again grace the waters of The Marlborough Sounds.

It goes to show there are still some very precious and original old girls out there if one keeps one's eyes & ears open.