Sean Conroy Spends An Entire Year In One Day, Today.


The Muskoka river in fall of 2000 (the start of our journey)

A huge thanks to Loooooong time Fellow Woody Boater Sean Conroy for saving the day with a good long story. That took an entire year to prepare for, and so today we can all sit back as the weather gets a little crisp and read. Alot. A years worth.

My Greavette Sea-J is a Sunflash III that has been somewhat well known on these pages over the years. I think her WB debut may have been a “last gasp” story of 2012 . She’s also well known to the pages of Classic Boat, on the waters of the Muskoka Lakes and at the ACBS Toronto in water boat show at Gravenhurst.

the bare bottom after sandblasting

To make a long story somewhat shorter, Our Greavette has had “issues” since the day it left the shop from its hull restoration in 2011 to be rigged. I tried to look at all these issues as teething problems and addressed each one as I best could as it arose. For the most part this was a successful strategy and we have been able to enjoy our boat. Still, some things just haven’t sat right with me and when Issues arise for a second time, I really don’t like it.

Now into the fall of 2020 and the summer of Covid had kept us on the trailer. In October, we finally got wet and took a trip up the Muskoka River to see the fall colours. We stopped for lunch and to my dismay upon return, the bilge pump was running with a full stream for an extended period of time. Clearly, one of our issues was back and worse than ever. So, we pulled the Sunflash out of the water and proceeded to first winterize the systems then, in anticipation of a solution of more serious nature, I had he engine & drive pulled out of the boat and she sat that way for the winter.

Issues fixed properly

“While we’re at it” is a great phrase for a boat owner. And as the Greavette was going to be flipped, I decided I wanted to get rid of the nasty copper anti-foul bottom paint. I never liked it since the day it went on. Anti-foul never really looks nice as it goes dull very quickly. Further, painting new coats every two years was becoming a pain too. Our boat lives on a trailer and only ever sees fresh water so, who needs Anti-foul? Not me. See, you can’t just paint over anti-foul as no paint will stick. As my boat has a plywood hull and we were already going to flip her. I decided to sand blast to get it back to bare wood and save hours of sanding time. I pulled the boat out of hibernation in May 2021 for the blasting and after some lengthy scheduling issues we bared her bottom! Blasting worked perfectly. I then took Sea – J to the shop of Professional boat restorer James Osler in Muskoka. It was mid June. After waiting our turn to get in the shop, James surveyed the work to be done. We had a meeting where James showed me his findings and told me his plan. I agreed. Then I threw him a curve….while we’re at it.

The Sunflash is a nice riding boat but mine required quite a bit of trim to stop her from ploughing. Now, this could be because the 4.3 V6 engine is lighter than the original 250 cid I6 that came with her. Or, it could be the high lift 4 and 5 blade props I use with her. Either way, I wanted to reduce the wetted surface of the hull under power, minimize the ploughing and use less trim. So while we were in there, I decided to add lifting strakes to Sea-J’s deep V bottom. I don’t know if any wood boat builders used this feature on their hulls back in the day but, I do know that Walt Walters, famous for his early Formula and Donzi designs borrowed the concept from Dick Bertram and Sonny Levi when designing some of the best handling V bottom runabouts ever made. And that’s pretty good company. So, I asked James and his team to make me lifting strakes for the bottom of my Greavette. The design was really hi-tech as we used a sharpie on the upturned hull of my boat to get the concept across.

The strake design process. Yep, that looks good!

With repairs done and strakes installed, a protective layer of 6oz cloth was used with West System epoxy to cover from the waterline down. I chose Pettit Protect High Build Epoxy Primer as an interface between the West System epoxy bottom and the Pettit Old Salem 1959 Hard Racing Copper Bronze that was to replace the old copper anti foul. We had a bit of a scare with the curing of these products in the high heat/humidity of this summer. Fortunately, the wise advice of the Pettit hotline and some patience and all worked out. It was now the first week of August when we left the boat shop. I took two days to really clean the bilge and reintroduce the Sunflash to its custom fuel tank and other assorted parts Jeff would need to complete the re rigging of the engine and drive systems. Jeff Titshall is our guy for marine work and the best person to re rig the boat. Jeff is an amazing talent, and a dedication to thoroughness and attention to detail which is just what we required after such a big project. The project was in his very busy hands now.

The strake design process. Yep, that looks good!

September 8th was the day I got a phone call from Jeff telling me my boat was alive again and had been in the water for leak testing. Five days later, I picked up Sea-J and brought her home to re-install the interior. Floorboards, carpet, side coverings, seats and windscreen amongst other detail items. Between this boat work, bad weather and that pesky work-for-a-living schedule thing, the Admiral and I had to wait for September 28 to finally put our Sunflash Sea-J in the water for the 2021 season.

On our test day, the bilge was dry, the boat rode high and the lifting strakes transformed the handling of this already great riding boat. I needed almost no trim on plane, the spray line at speed has moved at least three feet towards the stern. Further, she did not plough and was much, much better at taking waves up to the size of whitecaps. I also gained 6 mph on GPS in this current configuration to top out at 49 mph (2 adults, full tank of gas in choppy water). The last quarter of the throttle seemed to be just a volume control so; I look forward to trying my other props and setting up this boat next year. There were no major issues all day, although my tachometer didn’t work and there’s something funny with the trim adjust at speed. We hauled out in the late afternoon and took the boat for winterizing. In our case, the summer of 2021 was just one day. But, for us it was the culmination of a lot of days. Really looking forward to spring!


OH, speaking of days…. Just 160 ish Days til lake Dora. WOOOHOOOOO!

14 replies
  1. Mike K
    Mike K says:

    i hope thats her bathing suit shes holding in the header picture!

    matt, where do you find this stuff.

    oh and the lifting strakes are ingenius!!

  2. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P) says:

    Great story Sean! Very nice boat. I know that it was a lot of work for one day, but we all klnow it was worth it. As the winter approaches, you know how well she handled. You also know what you need to do before spring. Thanks for shareing.

  3. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Great story!!

    Interesting: I always understood the Formula’s and Donzi’s to be designed by Jim Wynn, while the Bertrum’s I thought were a C. Ray Hunt design. I guess I will have to search a little deeper.

    • Kentucky Wonder
      Kentucky Wonder says:

      Greavette Boats Limited started in the 1930s, with the aim of producing boats on a production line, rather than custom, as every other boatmaker in Muskoka was doing. They were not plywood bottomed boats, and featured some of the most difficult carvel planking ever. Check out their famous Streamliner models, with radius sheers and very few straight lines anywhere. After Tom Greavette’s passing in the late 1950s, and with fiberglass boats becoming all the rage, Greavette Boats kept building wooden boats into the 1970s, and some later models did feature marine ply bottoms. The Sunflash models were built both ways if memory serves correctly.

    • Sean Conroy
      Sean Conroy says:

      The Greavette Sunflash model was first designed by Tom Faul in 1959 as a 1960 model. It was purposely designed with a plywood hull for many reasons. As Greavette would build whatever their customers wanted, they built several of this model over the years with planked hulls. Tom Faul was not in agreement and did not like the practice. By 1974 Greavette was having financial issues and lower sales. They marketed a fully planked version of the Sunflash Mk IV design and loaded it up with every possible accessory to be marketed sold as a personal luxury model alongside their Flagship Executive II model.

  4. John C
    John C says:

    Some mid-60’s Chris Craft had speed strakes from the factory, at least 20′ Holiday / Super Sport. They called them “speed stabilizers”.

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