#Mr. Dad’s Quest For Opening Day 2016

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Mahogany & Merlot 2014

Thanks to fellow Woody Boater Brian Flaherty for sending us in this fun story on Tupperware! Take it away Brian.

Many of you have seen our bright red 1969 Chris-Craft Cavalier 17 Ski Boat “Tupperware”. We bought the boat way back in 2009 from the second owners who had lovingly taken care of her at their waterfront home on Lake Tapps for over 32 years. Since buying her we have mostly focused our restoration efforts on keeping her safely usable with little to no real cosmetic maintenance, we did reupholster back in 2011… Well, we all know what that means for any boat, wood or fiberglass! While the boat has always photographed well, it was never that sparkling diamond one could be proud to show off, it has always been, and will always be, a user boat… With the Spring Quarterly meeting being hosted here in the PNW I took this as the push to finally get me to repaint the boat, or so I thought…

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At the docks in Stehekin (October 1, 2015)

After months of talking about doing it, I finally started stripping all the hardware off after the February board meeting (that put me just three months away from Opening Day!). After talking with the great, wise, Alan Thomle and Rob DaPron, I determined that my original plan of spraying the boat myself was not feasible with my limited workspace, timeline, and mostly skill levels. So I forged on with the direction of “roll & tip” method painting. Once the hardware was removed I determined that some structural repairs were needed to mend areas of “modification” over the years of faithful service. The previous owners had added a dash- mounted, handheld, spotlight, which required three mounting holes and a 3/8” diameter hole to be drilled in the dash for the wiring to pass thru, along with the addition of a push-pull switch aligned with the original switches. Alsoly, the previous owner’s grandson had, at some point in time, wrapped a ski rope around the factory horn and ripped it off the deck leaving a large hole and spider-cracks behind. All these holes needed to be gouged out, and then polyester resin was mixed and wetted into several layers of 1/8” structural fiberglass cloth. Once this was completed, it was sanded, then sanded some more, then primed with Interlux Prime-Kote primer/filler, then finally sanded a few more times. This process, which I had budgeted two weeks to complete, wound up eating thru all of February, and most of March, leaving me with only April to roll on at least four coats of Interlux Brightside single part polyurethane “Fire Red” paint!! Anyone who has ever painted, or varnished, a boat can testify about just how many man hours have to go into: prep – paint – sand – clean – repeat… When trying to get the best possible finish on fiberglass (just like with wood) the surface has to be nearly perfect or blemishes shine thru… The most critical step in any paint job is definitely the prepwork!

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The BIG repair patch (this is where the spotlight used to live). The bigger patch on deck is where the horn got forcefully removed!

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“I’m only going to paint over the repairs, it will look fine”… Every white patch is another repair!

This gets us to the title for this little story; I am a stay-at- home dad who takes care of our two boys (3.5 years and 17 months!). Now restorations are, almost, always done with budgets in mind, ours however had to be done with a budget equivalent to what a 14 year old paperboy brings home. Furthermore, I only have one day a week when the boys go to preschool and daycare, so I can run the air compressor, and produce excessive amounts of sanding dust in our attached garage… So this has led to several months of late night, after the boys go to bed at 9, boat work. The real trick to keeping your sanity is to try and do a little something every day! Even if it is just polishing chrome, or sanding a small section of the deck, at times the amount of work involved in a restoration can be overwhelming. By mentally dividing the tasks into smaller, manageable, sub-tasks you can keep the project moving forward.

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The new vinyl wrapped dash panel… Small achievements are key to staying positive!

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Structural repairs done… Time to start sanding for paint!

As anyone who has ever tried to do their own restoration, refinish, or repair work, can tell you; there are always little things that pop-up and bite you when you’re not expecting it. In my case it was a loose bow-eye that I noticed when removing the rub rail from the bow. The boat came to us with an original, single post, bow-eye that was in rough shape; so we immediately replaced it with a contemporary u-bolt style bow-eye that would better carry the stresses of being on a trailer, rather than the posh lifestyle on a boat lift… When I attempted to tighten up the mounting nuts inside the bow, I quickly realized there was a real problem! The structural reinforcing member Chris-Craft has glassed into the bow was soft, and the trailer forces had crushed the fiberglass around the bow-eye bolts. So, I cut away the fiberglass expecting to find a little rot, HA! I found a black, wet, sponge, which used to be a 16” long 4×4 block, sculpted into the bow! So after spending a day cleaning the old wood out, and devising a repair solution with papa Flaherty, I filled the entire void with several ½” thick layers of Marine-Tex structural putty (this stuff cures fast, and harder than any wood available, but will NEVER rot). Once the void was filled, a final skim layer of Marine-Tex was laid on and then a 4”x16”x3/16” aluminum plate was pressed on the top. Then more polyester resin and layers of structural fiberglass mat to seal it up. Now I have a bow-eye mounting surface that will probably outlast the rest of the boat! One day when I was crawling out from under the deck, contorting my way under the dash, I noticed I had knocked a wire off of the ignition switch. No big deal right, just crimp a new terminal end on and reattach – not in this case… What I discovered was almost all the dash wiring was old, brittle, with compromised insulation, and several switches had broken wiring terminals… So another week of late night “quiet” work, rewiring, and replacing all the switches (horn, ignition, instrument lights, navigation lights, anchor light, and bilge pump) now everything behind the dash is wired according to contemporary ABYC standards with proper gauge wires, fuses, and brand new Cole-Hearse switches… Wait, wasn’t I supposed to be repainting? Not rebuilding, and rewiring!

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Cleaned out the old black sponge!

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completely rebuilt bow-eye structure… Note the small space to be working with fiberglass materials…

Now, to recap, I was in the first week of April, just finally ready to roll on the first coat of red paint, and I only have four “work” days left until parade weekend!! Some people might just throw their hands up and say “forget it! We’ll just ride with someone else for the parade”, but I am not most people… Procrastination is my specialty; I do my best work when stacked against a deadline. So, I rolled on the first coat of red paint Tuesday April 5 th ! By the grace of god, it went on nearly perfect!! My only issue was the use of a cheap roller, purchased at the local hardware store rather than paying for the good stuff at the paint store, let me tell you when it comes to painting tools; you truly get what you pay for!! I spent the entire next week, working at night after the boys went to bed, hand sanding all the lint and imperfections out of the paint. The second coat of paint was applied on Tuesday April 12 th using the best roller I could get from Wesco Paint Supply, this time it is about 90% perfect! However, I have discovered that my choice to use the standard, white, primer was not a wise decision. The deep red color is going to take several coats to cover up the bright white patches over all my structural repairs…

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this was after coat #6 (April 22 nd )… If it weren’t for several runs/sags I would have stopped here…

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Final round of sanding before coat number 8…

There has been a great silver lining to this experience: as a stay-at- home parent, I was constantly trying to find ways to do even minor work while the boys were home and awake. In doing so I believe I have found the best chrome polish method ever, THE 3 YEAR OLD!!! He can’t apply enough pressure to scratch the chrome, but with a good polishing compound he makes quick, noticeable, progress (which in turn keeps him interested and excited). I have gotten every piece of hardware polished to near show quality (in a preserved class) and have, I believe, planted the great seed of classic boating in the soul of a wonderful little boy. I have also rediscovered one of the greatest aspects of classic boating: the classic boating community!
I was able to get some assistance from several friends who just wanted to help work on the old boat. So instead of only getting four coats of red, I was able to get eight! With my primary work day being Tuesdays, I was able to paint a coat, let it cure, sand, and prep for another coat to be painted on Friday nights…

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8 coats of polyurethane paint!!

This photo was taken the afternoon of April 29 th ! That was just 7 days away from Parade Day! This was after the final, eighth, coat of red paint had cured, and I was finally ready to start reinstalling everything… So I thought, I decided I wanted the bow deck to be as perfect as possible since that is the largest surface area people will see. So starting with 1200 grit, then 2000 grit, the deck was wet sanded. Then Meguiars 105 cutting compound was used, followed by their 205 Finishing compound. The end result of three nights of work; is a mirror reflection and a depth of color only seen on concourse level restorations! Now the rest of the boat just got 105 compounded, and 205 finished. So it looks great but not nearly as dramatic as the bow. Eventually the rest of the boat will get wet sanded, compounded, and polished, but knowing that I had only 8 days left I had to give in and start cutting corners…

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Dash panel complete with freshly polished – everything, and new black vinyl.

I started reassembly focusing on areas that had to be done before the boat could roll down the road without causing damage. So the bow-eye had to be reinstalled, the dash had to be reassembled and all wiring reconnected. Then it was off to races on the deck hardware, starting with the easy one-man items like deck vents, gas filler/cap, and stern pole. This left me on Friday afternoon of the 6 th with a trimless, windshieldless, chockless boat… Luckily the plan was to take the boat, the 3.5 year old, and myself the 75 miles south to grandpa’s house for Friday evening so that we could start Saturday with less than half the drive time required, this also meant that I could enlist grandma to watch the toddler and grandpa could help with the last items that required more than one person. These items included, drilling & fitting the aluminum trim on the inside, mounting the rope chocks on the bow, cutting – drilling – mounting the exterior aluminum trim, and finally mounting the brand new windshield! Grandpa and I worked until 3:30 am Saturday before we surrendered to the sleep monster… We got everything done correctly, except for the exterior aluminum trim. At 2:30 am grandpa made the executive decision that we were too tired to attempt to properly cut, drill, and fit the $400 worth of 1-1/4” aluminum trim that would require drilling and sealing over a hundred screws… So when I got up at 7:30 am Saturday morning we wrapped the deck/hull seam edge in aluminum foil tape and headed for the boat launch!

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this was my view upon waking up Saturday morning, just 2 hours before rendezvous time! Note: That is “TEAKWOOD” in the background, 1930 24’ Chris-Craft model 103 that my father maintains for Roger West (this boat is for sale listed with Antique Boat Center)

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“TUPPERWARE” in all her “restored” glory! Note: the blue tape on the bow roller was to prevent transfer from the paint I had to touch up after drilling and installing the bow-eye.

The end result: We made it to the Parade and everyone loved the boat! Even the 3.5 year old was awestruck and happy to be on the water again. Now I still have some final details to get done before summer is in full effect (like the exterior trim, horn, and installing new faux wood vinyl flooring) but I am pretty darn proud of what I just pulled off in three months!

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Declan getting ready to start the parade! Yes, that is masking tape holding in ear plugs (the parade gets nutty! Especially with a vintage police siren directly behind us…)

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Little Declan watching the BIG Seattle Fire boat, “Chief Seattle”, which marks the end of the parade every year.

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This was taken 4 days after parade weekend. Declan wanted to show off “his” bright new boat to his girlfriend (he’s 3.5 and she just turned 4) for her birthday!! Birthday girl Aurora is squeezed between Declan and her mom Amy. This turned out to be Aurora’s very first boat ride!

18 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Great story. Congrats on not only what you did, but how you did it. Your persistence, and planting the seed for classic boating in your young son as part of the process, should be commended. Thanks for sharing this journey with your great classic glass! Keep enjoying that boat.

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    That looks like a job well done! If it wasn’t for the caption, I would not have known there was a third person in the last pic. It said she just turned four and I was thinking “she sure looks a lot older than four!” until I read the next sentence.

  3. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:


    You make me feel like a woos for paying someone to paint Gottago and taking a few months to just spiff her up before we took her to Dora in March.

  4. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    Nice project Mr. Dad. My 3 year old helper is 37 now and still helps me work on my boat. Just a little less enthusiastically. Enjoy the ride. It goes by fast.

  5. Bill Hammond
    Bill Hammond says:

    Wow!! That is one terrific story!! It’s what boating is all about!! Loved the details – don’t own and have never worked on Fibreglas so I found it fascinating!! Oh, I love your budget parameters!!

  6. John Baas
    John Baas says:

    Well, there goes the old, “I-don’t-have-time-to-restore-a-boat” excuse! Great story, Brian, and a sweet looking ride! No matter what your classic boat is made of, this story underscores the fact that you never know what your are going to run into when you start digging in. Taking on the challenge of what you run into is the measure of one’s character. Good to see the little ones being exposed to both the classic boating lifestyle AND a dad who is driven to get things done. Brian, have you thought of running for President?

    • Ron in Seattle
      Ron in Seattle says:

      Brian is a member of the Pacific Northwest chapter of ACBS. We older members have watched Brian since he was a little boy ,and yes he would make a good president!

  7. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    I saw this little red gem in person while out in Seattle for the ACBS quarterly meeting and parade. I wish I would have known about all this last minute prep work that took place at that time. I would have like to met Brian and shook his hand to congratulate him on a remarkable job.
    They had the guys in the boat dressed as prisoners escaping while being chased by the “cops” who were towed on a TUBE !
    And yes, I was on one of the two “COP” boats that had sirens! What memories were made that trip.

    • Brian Flaherty
      Brian Flaherty says:

      Dennis, so far you are the only person who captures a photo of my boat actually in the water!! I was hoping to have an action shot to include with the story but not a single PNW chapter member took a picture of us?!? I guess maybe they secretly don’t like the tupper-boater hanging out with them ?

  8. Tuobanur
    Tuobanur says:

    Great story Brian, reminds me of my thrashing last year to get mind ready for a June 27th launch, this is what it looked like in April of that year.

  9. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    OK – now I understand why the Flaherty clan was a little more subdued than normal on Opening Day. Sleep deprivation will do that to you… 😉 The boat looks great! You should be proud of the end product and of the groundwork you are laying for future family adventures and projects. Well Done!

    • Brian Flaherty
      Brian Flaherty says:

      Mr. Dow it’s funny that you comment about the subduedness… Grandma is still disappointed in mine and grandpa’s choice to work all night. Apparently grandpa didn’t rebound very well and wasn’t the most pleasant to ride with all day ? Oops!

      Today I am installing the new vinyl flooring!

  10. jim g
    jim g says:

    Your story brought back childhood memories for me when you talked about your child polishing the chrome. Thats was the same idea my dad had with me. Except I was polishing the borrani wire wheels on his Ferrari. I learned many years later that there about 92 spokes per wheel. Enjoy the time you have with your kids. They will remember it longer then the expensive toys they get for Christmas.

  11. Chris B.
    Chris B. says:

    Fun story to see today. that red is a poppin. best of luck in your cruises. I agree the best part of the old boat crowd is the people

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