A huge thanks to fellow Woody Boater Bob Rosenquist for sending in a fun story that started with a Last gasp ride in 2016! Bobs 1963 Cruiser Inc. preservation story started last year with a “last gasp” ride with Mom in November 2016.
Towards the end of the ride, I noticed some water in the bilge. This was of some concern because through all the years the Cruiser Inc. had always been a splash- and-go boat. The dimensional stable Douglas fir plywood sealed with an early version of 5200 sealant had insured a dry bilge. My parents bought the boat new and have always carefully stored it indoors.
Fast forward to late summer 2017. I decided to fill the boat with water and try and figure out where the water was coming from. The picture shows water leaking all along the external keel. I started researching and found a possible explanation.
Andreas Jordahl Rhude had written an article in 2006 on Thompson and Cruiser Inc. external keels and was also kind enough to visit with me by phone,also giving me permission to reprint a portion of that article in this story.
“The following sketch shows the basic details of a 1950s and 1960s Thompson: One of the most susceptible places for these boats to leak is at the outer keel and outer stem. These are separate pieces of wood from the keelson (inner keel) and inner stem. These exterior pieces are screw-fastened from the bottom of the boat in to the hull planking and inner keelson/inner stem.”
“The sheets of plywood on the boat’s bottom either side of the centerline are called the garboard planks. They come together at the centerline and are nailed and screwed into the keelson and ribs.
“Often times, there is a small gap where the two garboards join side to side. At the factory, a flexible marine caulk was run into this gap. This, in turn, was covered by the outer keel and stem. None of the wood was pre-primed or sealed prior to assembly. Over time, this caulk under the outer keel and stem gets dry and brittle and it loses its ability to seal out water. The inevitable swelling and shrinking of the wood through changes in moisture content also contributes to the failure of the caulk.”
Because the overall condition of the boat was so good, I hoped that it was a bedding issue and not some other more serious problem. Dad and I decided to bring the boat to Tom Sweeney, owner of Boat Art, in Afton, Minnesota. Tom has worked on all kinds of boats including the famous Edmund Fitzgerald. One of the first wood boats he worked on was as a member of the Coast Guard in 1965 – a 1939 36’ Motor Lifeboat (MLB).
Tom agreed with our assessment, and Dad, Mom, Tom and I quickly removed the windshield and motor so Tom and his crew could flip the boat Monday morning and pull the external keel.
To our great relief Tom found no rot – just a very dried out bedding compound that he replaced along with a coat of a CPES.
Thanks to Tom and his crew for a great job! A week later we picked up the boat and took it for a 20 mile test run on Lake Pepin. The problem was fixed and the soft ride in following chop reminded me again how special these old wooden boats are. Hopefully we’re set for the next 50 years of fun on the water.
One final thought: When I unscrewed the deck to inspect the bilge and keel, I found large mouse nests that were not visible from the easily removed inspection hatches. It illustrated for me how important it is to keep a clean bilge that does not accumulate leaves and other debris that can molder and destroy a wood hull.
Here is the original story from a year ago.Story Here