It has begun... Bras de Fer makeover

Discussion in 'Watercraft' started by Jim Speaker, Jun 17, 2013.

  1. Well, I've had this awesome boat for something like five years now since I bought it from Bob (speyspaz) and shortly after I got it I put a bunch of work into it.

    She's a 12' 1967 Hewescraft Fisher. She doesn't leak a drop, and can handle a reasonable amount of chop. With her low transom, however, I don't take her on the main channel of the Puget Sound out of concern with catching a tug wake from behind when I'm not looking.

    She started out like this:

    And then became this, as I put a pile of work into her over 3 days time:

    Recently, I was prepping for a trip to Lake Crescent and knew I'd likely be joined by Jim Wallace, so I finally did a quick and dirty job that I'd been wanting to do for some time. In all but the very calmest of water standing on the deck is not an option. So I wanted to remove it and put in a floor in front and move the battery box under the middle seat. I did just that, and quick and dirty worked out, my buddy enjoyed the front of the boat. But I kept noticing the the sharp corners and lack of finish were causing stripped line to get caught... bad deal, especially when sight fishing and every cast counts.

    So, I'm just starting this little thread as I begin to simplify, and modify, the Bras de Fer until it has no sharp corners and is a cedar stained interior with slat flooring.

    Here is where I've begun, with the front flooring and bow seat. Note the flooring that has been stained is drying, so you see the bottom side, as the top dried overnight. The stamp on the wood will not be visible when installed. But this shot gives you an idea of the shape.

    Before I install this floor, I will be putting in cedar stained 1/4" plywood in the bow, where you see the dirty white plywood covering the foam. The piece I put in there will have the corners routed and sanded and will be a curve cut to fit the boat as closely as I can manage. I am aiming to eliminate all sharp corners and places line can hang up. And, under the flooring slats I'll be cleaning up the construction so it's flat and clean, adding more foam underneath, and painting the underlay smoke gray so that there's no "weirdness" under the flooring.

    This is a shot with the bow seat sitting on the mounts with the bottom side up, as it is also drying. The top is stained more perfectly. I just wanted the bottom water sealed, so it's a little uneven.

    And here's a closeup of the last four floor slats after dremel tooling the edges round and sanding with 100 and 220, followed by staining with cedar tone deck stain.

    So, next up is:
    • the plywood finish in the bow, and finish work under the flooring.
    • pulling the center seat console, stripping and sanding it, staining it cedar, bagging up the foam so particles don't get all over in the boat, and replacing the patchwork piece in front with one solid board.
    • building a slat wood floor just like this bow floor for the main compartment in the boat.
    • pulling the rear seat console, stripping and sanding it, staining it cedar, bagging up the foam.
    • reinstalling the seat consoles.
    • installing a secured battery box under the bow seat (I want that weight all the way up front to help me get on a plane).
    • installing the bow seat.
    • installing the new flooring.
    • designing and installing collapsible stripping baskets that fold out from any of the four casting positions.
    • designing and installing a water tight connection box for the minnkota connections (no zap zap in the rain, I say!)
    I must say, I love working with wood. Really enjoying this.
  2. Looking good! Spiffing up the yacht can be fun. That was a fairly comfortable ride for being in the bow of a 12'er, with two places to sit and a stable casting floor.
    My aluminum john boat could use a little creative spiffing. At the minimum, another horizontal foam rod holder and a paint job!

    Most of my line hang-ups in the front of your boat were on my own fishing pack, rod case, and other stuff. My beach stripping basket did come in handy, and worked well in the boat when I was standing and casting.
  3. Main floorboards are in the works...



    I just stained all 16 on the top side today. And, while those were set aside to dry applied a coat of varnish to the front floorboards and bow seat.

    Next steps are removing the mid and aft seats, stripping them, and re-staining. The mid-seat is piece-meal on the bow side of it because it used to be under a deck and not visible, so that will be replaced with a single solid board.
    Josh Smestad and plaegreid like this.
  4. Here are some photos of the tear down, stripping of aluminum, and the layout pre-install.

    I'm going to give the aluminum interior one more coat of clear enamel on top of the first coat that I gave it, and one more coat of varnish to all the wood work. Then it's install time. It should be done this weekend - shooting for Saturday. I'd really like to get her on the water on Sunday.





  5. Nice updates, looks like stripping the interior with a little wire wheel was quite a chore.

  6. Between that, paint stripper that I resorted to for a couple really bad spots, and a palm sander, yes, quite a chore!
  7. Looking good, Jim! Nice workmanship. From your pic, my only concern is that a flyline, with its uncanny snag-homing instinct, will seek out the ends of your floorboards, and loop itself around the ends. Perhaps a trim strip running across the ends of the boards would prevent this. Also, those cleats on either side of the rear seat might need smooth covers placed over them for when you are casting, as they also look like flyline magnets.

    Sort of inspirational, but so far, I haven't made a whole lot of progress spiffing up my john boat. I have gotten as far as cleaning out all the non-fishing junk and kayak angling stuff that I had stored in it. Also, I wiped it down with a rag, to get the dust off.
    It already sports a nice mixed patina of oxidized paint and tarnished aluminum, but I might hit it with a couple of rattle cans,if I get inspired some more.
    Its more or less good to go, but I could install one more horizontal rod holder.
    For floor boards, I just cut a full sheet of 3/4 plywood down the middle (to accommodate the vee in the hull), and hacked notches in the outer edges so it would fit snug around the ribs going up the sides. It was a perfect fit. NO finish. Rough cut is good enough for this ugly old tin can that has suffered a tree falling on it, and also a week of getting beat up on the rocks by waves, after it had been stolen and abandoned. The owner got it back and continued to use it to harvest oysters and crab for a few more years before he got too old to do it any more. He unloaded it on me.
    It gets muddy, and I just hose it down. There is no way to further defile this thing. :confused: It has lived a full life, and has many battle scars and dings. It resembles a metallic zombie. Looking at it, one must conclude that it has finally achieved its own nirvana!

    Now I just need to tie up some leaders and be ready to brine some herring for those relatively benign days coming up in the Bay, starting the middle of next month. Until then, I'm fly fishing. This boat can do the estuary trip with the right tide and wind conditions.
  8. I like the idea of trim strips and cleat covers... think I will have to work that in!

    Sounds like your boat has some serious, serious mojo. I know mine does, and, while sanding was thinking, "am I removing mojo? nah... it's in her bones - not the paint and grime..." :D
    Gary Knowels likes this.
  9. Good looking re-do on the boat. I wish I had your inspiration.
  10. This idea might be so elemental that no one else has mentioned it, but here goes: an acquaintance of mine once told me that MEK (methyl ethyl ketone), when used very carefully - lots of ventilation, and, probably, a respirator - makes aluminum look like new. I've never been around it, so I'm just passing it on. Others, with experience, might want to weigh in......

  11. Without chemicals I've gotten the aluminum cleaned and sanded really well, and applied a couple coats of clear enamel ... good enough that I'm concerned glacier glasses might be needed on bright, sunny days!
  12. Cool! - good for you.
  13. The glare on polished aluminum can get bad. A gal I know rattle canned the interior of her tinny a nice light blue color that killed the glare. Mine is not polished, so the glare isn't all that bad. I plan to put a non-skid surface on the front casting deck, which is the largest expanse of bare aluminum on the interior.

    I plan to use white vinegar to clean the surface before any painting, and I'll be wearing my respirator for the painting. I try to stay away from using most VOCs these days.

    Cheap spray paint in a rattle can does a surprisingly nice finish for an old aluminum skiff, and its easy. No need to over do the prep work, since its "work." Just wipe the dirt off, and maybe swab the surface with an acetone soaked rag, or white vinegar, before painting. Grab some fern fronds to use for stencils, and fire away!
  14. Finished her up! Here's a sequence of photos...

    Installed all the woodwork and wiring. The aft seat has a watertight minn kota plug now. The mid seat has a 12-volt accessory plug with a 15-amp fuse a few inches from the battery connection. The fish/depth finder is wired up as well. All the wiring is running through conduit under the floor boards.

    I really dig the set up on the mid seat. I have a power inverter that I'll keep in my pelican case. So, in addition to being able to plug in 12-volt accessories like a dual-USB power plug to charge iphone or GPS, I can plug in whatever the heck else I want - like the charger for my marine radio. Of course, at a max output of 400W I'd drain my beefy marine battery pretty fast, so I need to be mindful and not go nuts, but, heck, it is tempting to get one of those little car-camping coolers that runs off a 12V adapter and see if my battery will handle keeping the beer cold all day while I fish. Would beat the heck out of an ice chest. Ahem... how many 12-footers have you seen with these accouterments? :D

    Took her for a test run at Lake Stevens before giving her a paint job. Wanted to see how much performance improvement I achieved by dropping a lot of weight and balancing the weight better by moving the battery box all the way up under the bow seat. It used to be that with my 8 HP 4-Stroke Merc, she would only plane on relatively flat water with no head wind and would top out on flat water at 16 sometimes 17 mph. Now, with the adjustments, she was jumping up on a plane immediately despite heavy chop and boat wakes. And, despite the heavy chop and wakes I was fighting through, she clocked at top speed of 19 mph and would consistently run at 18 mph in those waves. After a while of running up and down the lake I realized I had a big grin on my face the whole time... it was a huge difference. She'd go from dead stop to top speed of 18-19 mph in 9 seconds. I can't wait to see what she does on flat water... I'm guessing that I'll see speeds over 21 mph. And, man, even 19 mph in that little boat felt really fast. I need to get down to a lake that allows IC motors at dawn on a calm day and avoid all the boat traffic so I can see how well she flies on glassy surfaces.

    I gave her two coats of dark hunter green enamel - she had quite a few dings in the paint.

    Today I followed that up with smoke gray enamel on the trim, and two coats of clear gloss enamel over the top of all of that. She had never been registered, and, given that I'll be chasing Pinks and Coho soon I got her licensed and applied the reg numbers and license. I used to run her in the South Sound - way down there - and never had a problem with coasties. But, I knew I was pushing my luck and lucky I never got a ticket. No more of that. It's only gonna run me about $25/year to keep her licensed.

    And, phew, thank God! My garage is now back to normal and I am DONE with everything except some improvements I'm going to make to that flat bed trailer so that she'll launch and retrieve more easily.

    Started the project on June 17th. I enjoyed it, but man it was a ton of work, and I'm really happy to be all done!
  15. Awesome makeover, Jim! She looks really sweet! 19 mph!!! Not bad at all.

    One little thing you didn't mention had me worrying. Didja get that slow leak in one of your trailer tires fixed yet?;)
  16. That looks great Jim. Hard to tell it's the same boat.
  17. Your boat looks great! But if you get checked by the Coasties or WDFW you might want to change your registration numbers.

    Registration numbers and letters must:
    • Have a hyphen or equivalent space between the three segments of the number

    I know that is nit picky, but I had to change the numbers on one of my old boats after getting checked.

    Have fun!
  18. Super job on the rehab. Looks great Jim. The green color is perfect for your classic boat.
  19. Aw crap. I'm only gonna change it if they tell me to... hopefully the just continue to ignore my tiny boat. I have all the required safety requirements on board.
  20. Go for it, Jim. You'll just get a warning the first time they notice you. I actually had the local game warden tell me to replace my painted-on numbers with store-bought reflective ones when he was pointing out that I had my decal on the wrong end of the numbers on one side of my boat. What a nit picker! He wasn't the CG, though. And he was wrong about replacing the painted #s with reflective stick-on ones. As long as the numbers are the required size, and the paint one uses for them contrasts with the color of the hull, so that the #s are visible at a distance, one is good to go!

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