© 2015 Soma Sailing Bermuda

I’ll be updating this page regularly as I move through the restoration.  If you have any questions or comments email me.

This is her the day we took her home.  After being abandoned for five years she had trees growing in the cockpit, was half sunk with fresh water, and was home to thousands of roaches.

Thetis  as she sat the day I bought her.

Alex Brooks is always up for a “mission” involving boats so we gathered the necessary tools and headed out.  The boat was resting in the basin at the old US Navy base a few miles away from Mill Creek.

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The boat was a mess.

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The previous owners had lived on board hence the space heater and cooler.  They weren’t exactly boat people by the looks of things.

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We hooked up the tow rope and started moving.  We forgot to bring bolt cutters so we couldn’t use the main hatch so I climbed in through a hatch and started bailing while he drove the tow boat.  The secret to towing a large, heavy boat with a small one is to tow it backward.  Once we were out in the open harbour we turned it around and set up a bridle and towed it forward.

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Finally at the dock after a good hour of towing we celebrated.

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The day after she arrived at home it was time to survey the state of affairs.

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From then on out it was cleaning time.  The diesel engine block had corroded through completely and the seals on the gearbox had failed leaking oil into the interior of the boat.  Over the years the oil had emulsified and coated everything up to about knee hight.  We cleaned everything with large quantities of degreaser and soap and power washed extensively.  Here’s my dad looking at the engine and Cheryl helping to clean the interior.

Dad surveying the engine. Cheryl cleans away in the forward cabin.

This is what most of the interior wood looked like and there was generally a coating of oil like this on everything.

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We used some old primer left over from our shutters to begin to cover the cleaned woodwork.  In retrospect I should have just replaced a lot of it but at the time my carpentry skills weren’t up to par.

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The best way to disinfect and kill mould is to give cushions a soak in the pool.  In retrospect this was a waste of time.  After a year, plenty of washing, soaking, cleaning, drying, etc. they still smell too bad to use inside.

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After cleaning the interior we did have one minor scare.  I came home and noticed that the boat was sitting a little low in the water.  The ends of the hoses I had rigged up to pump water out of the boat had fallen in the water started siphoning water back in the boat.  It almost sank before I noticed.

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So much garbage inside to empty.

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Thanks to Roger Beach I procured a new engine (3 of them, actually).

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My dad and I took out the old engine.  First disconnecting everything, which included squeezing in under the cockpit to cut the engine bolts.  I’m smiling but this was a pretty awful job.  Ended up using an angle grinder in this very cramped space and despite long clothes and eye protection it was impossible to not get covered in sparks.

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Then we used the boom and a block and tackle to lift the old engine out.  A piece of old shelf protected the deck from damage.

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The engine room looked a little rough.  Like everything else there was oil coating everything.  It took a lot of degreaser and power washing to make it look decent.

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Even in her sorry state she’s still a pretty boat.

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I started to deal with the paint.  I decided to try a fibreglass safe paint remover to see what was under the old paint.  The grey deck is paint and the brown colour is the original decking as it looked out of the factory.  In retrospect I should have just used a heavy sander to remove all the old paint mechanically instead of chemically.

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The brown is the original decking coming out.  The paint remover damaged the gel coat, burned like hell if it touched your skin, and took ages.  In retrospect it was a bad choice.

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The original sails also came off.  They had been home to a number of wasp nests over the years and the ones that had been inside the boat were… rough…

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The original name “Thetis” also came off around this point.

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On the top sides we began sanding the old grey teak and the brown came out.

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A good way to see what something will look like varnished is to put some mineral spirits (paint thinner) on it.  When I did it to this section of teak after sanding the black really came up so I ended up power washing the teak.  It was just too aged to be able to sand properly.

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After power washing (thanks to Ian Smith for the use of his power washer) we applied a teak specific semi-gloss coating and the results were fantastic.  My brother helped a great deal with this part of the project.

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Once this was done we removed most of the deck hardware.

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We also removed the hatches and I painted the inside (before/after).  Because this is just an interior door I used regular spray paint and primer.

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I also started filling and fairing the holes and cracks with epoxy filler.

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Once the deck hardware was gone and some of the cracks and dings were filled we taped off everything we didn’t remove in advance of spraying on primer then sanded the whole thing.

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Next we sprayed on a few coats of grey two part primer.  In retrospect this was a big mistake.

1. I should have spent a lot more time filling in small cracks and holes.  The gelcoat was 40+ years old and full of cracks.  Because I sprayed on the primer it conformed to the cracks leaving them in place.  If I had rolled on a few coats of primer and sanded/filled between coats then I’d have ended up with the finish I wanted.

2. I used grey primer because I didn’t know better and it’s what the paint shop gave me.  This was much harder to cover with the white finish paint so I ended up with runs and orange peel because I sprayed on the white too thick.

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After spraying we sanded the whole thing with 220 grit and then painted on non-skid.  We used a two part white paint from dupont with a non-skid additive.

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Next I sprayed on the finish coat of white paint.

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…and removed all the tape.

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I was thrilled with how it looked.  However if you look at the reflection of the sun in the picture below you can see texture.  This is “orange peel” and is very bad.  In the end I re-did a lot of the finish paint to get the mirror look I wanted.   All the lessons learned on the top-side ended up being very useful when I painted the hull.

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While it was off the boat for painting I took the time to spruce up the deck hardware.  Before:

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Secret cleaning solution:

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After cleaning and coating:

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Pearson 35 hull #215 of over 500.

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This is my pet duck Dusty.  He has nothing to do with the boat he’s just cute.  Like the boat, he was a rescue.

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…and so begins her intrepid voyage down Bermuda’s North shore to the boat yard that would be her home for the next few months.  It was a family affair with the three Jones boys on board.

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Coming out of Mill Creek we used the normal backward tow technique before switching to a bridle when precision driving wasn’t as important.

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The last time we know she sailed was at least 7 years before but we tried hoisting the sails to see if we could get her moving under sail.  The conditions were perfect for a tow: flat calm so she didn’t really move under sail.  In advance of the tow I had scraped off the reef growing on the bottom of the hull but it seems it may have been a wasted effort.

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My brother, always the fisherman, put out a line and caught a little barracuda.

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Bermuda is just breathtaking.

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Finally, safely at the dock in St. David’s.

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Then hauled into the yard and power washed.  I also scraped any remaining barnacles… and so began a whole lot of scraping.

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First I scraped off the old lines.

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For a clean, bare look above the water line.

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My original plan was just to paint over the old bottom paint but it was flaking pretty badly in spots and had some blistering in the fibreglass.  I got a quote for sand blasting and it was just a little bit too high and I decided I could just do it myself… so I started scraping…

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… and scraping… (those little spots on the bow are filler.  I started to deal with small dents and dings).

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This is what 42 years of bottom paint weighting several hundred pounds looks like.

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Then I used a random orbital sander with 120 and 80 to sand the whole bottom and sides.

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We also had two back to back hurricanes.  The boat was fine but the hangar wasn’t happy and lost part of a wall.  On the up side the lighting was really great until the wall was fixed.

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During this phase I also filled and faired a lot of the damage to the hull.

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I also cut out and filled the large blisters under the hull.

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After a final sand and wash I rolled on two coats of primer.  White this time, learning my lesson from the top sides.

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Then more sanding.  This day the paint hadn’t set up completely so it was gumming up the sanding pads.  I did a few minutes work then gave up and came back once it had more time to cure.


And more filling of every tiny little blemish.  I learned on the top sides the hard way that every little blemish shows up in the finish paint.  The primer filled a lot of the cracks but little blisters like these required some filler and sanding.

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Then more sanding and finally a good wash to make sure all the dust was gone.  Finally a wipe down with thinner and a tack cloth and she was ready for the final paint.

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I had David Barnes (pictured right with Dan the mechanic on the left) spray on a final coat of primer to make sure it would evenly cover all the filling work as well as any remaining cracks.

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After that the boat was starting to look decent.  One more final sand and quite a bit of detail filling before finish paint.  To make sure everything was perfect I went over every inch of the hull with a flashlight to make sure there weren’t any scratches or dings I’d missed.  Finally gave it a wash – one good way to make sure the paint will stick is to make sure that water sheets evenly off it when wet.  The gloss is the water from doing this check.

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…and then the big day.  David came back and I mixed up the Sea Goddess Yellow two-part paint and got spraying.

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And there she was, a yellow boat (with the obligatory shiny selfie).

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Next up was grey barrier coat to properly waterproof the underside of the hull.  It takes a few coats of this.  I also used this phase to fix some other minor problems below the water line.

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Once she was barrier coated I put on a few coats of black bottom paint.  If it was going to be a real racing boat I’d have sanded the barrier coat as well to make sure it was smooth… but that was just a step too far.  I never wanted to see another piece of sandpaper in my life.  Unfortunately the cure to all boat cosmetic problems is sanding so there’s plenty more in my future.

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Peeling the masking tape off was the single most satisfying moment so far.  As soon as this tape was removed she was ready to go back in the water.  It will be a few months yet because I’m going to leave her in the shop until the engine is in and running.


And there she is in her final colours… the camera doesn’t like to capture the actual yellow so it appears lighter in most photos.

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I was never really happy with the top side finish.  In these closeups you can see the rough spots in the shine and all the little cracks that the sprayed-on primer didn’t fill.

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So I started sanding and filling once again applying the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

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It’s ugly but there’s no cosmetic problem on a boat that can’t be fixed with a lot of filler, sanding, and paint.  With this paint you can often just sand with fine (1500+) grit sandpaper and then polish it back up but they grey primer often came through in thin spots.  So I went for the full-monte and sanded it right back.

This is just a random Bermuda sunset.  Unretouched photos straight out of my iPhone.

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I also started on the interior wood because I needed a bit of a break.  It was all very nice wood that had been stained to a dark brown and then neglected.


The wood trim was often in pretty good shape but needed help.  This is a section of the trim wood from the bathroom.  First I removed it, then sanded, then varnished a few coats sanding in-between.


Removed and sanded.




Then interior stairs were in rough shape.  They hadn’t soaked up much engine oil despite being submerged for quite some time.

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Took them apart and gave them a good sand.


Then coats of varnish, sanding between coats.


For a final effect:


The wood that was underwater inside has all been stained by being soaked in oil.  Rather than replace it or try to remove it I ended up just accepting it how it is and varnishing right over the oil (after sanding and cleaning it).  It adds to the story of the boat and is a nice reminder of where she has come from.  In the photo below you can see the old water level.


I’ve been working a bit more on the inside digesting all that needs to be done.  It’s a real mess down there.

Here’s the progress on the hand holds.  Sanded back to remove the original dark coatings then sanding sealer and finally a polyurethane gloss.  It’ll take a few more coats to build it up properly but the difference is already striking.

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When we first got the boat we spent a lot of time just cleaning the ceiling with bleach and other chemicals to kill the mould and get it clean.  That kind of worked but mould has quickly returned.


There are also lots of cracks in the gel coat and poor filling from previous repair jobs.  The black spots below are screw holes that were covered up with a cheap two part epoxy stick.  It’s fairly porous so it has become a breeding ground for mould.  Before painting I’ll have to sand them flush.  The primer will also deal with the cracks like the ones you see.  I’ll probably just use a single part paint because it’s interior and shouldn’t face too much wear and tear.


I’m probably just going to paint the whole thing.  Not sure of the colour, possibly a slightly off white that won’t show dirt as much as a pure white.  This also means that the never-ending cycle of sanding and prep work just got that much longer.  For the actual painting I think I’m going to hire someone.  With my skills there’d be a lot of masking tape needed whereas a real professional should be able to do a lot of the detail work by hand.

I took off the backing plate to this window and the whole thing came off.  No sealer at all.  This has been leaking inside the hull for who knows how long.  Glad to find out about it this way rather than the hard way.

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More varnish as well.  When sanding you can see the dots of shiny left – those are defects from previous coats.  So I sanded down more and then re-coated.  As you can see from the reflections they’re starting to get that proper mirror gloss but it has been an adventure to get there.  I would have done better to sand more before I started to get the surface smoother.

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Took out the old toilet.  Put a bucket underneath the outflow and pumped the whole system as dry as it would go.  We didn’t bother to clean the toilet much once it was clear that it was beyond help.  Top right photo shows it still coated with oil from when the boat was full of water.


Using a scraper to get rid of all the old caulk.  I’m going to put a thin veneer of pine over the old formica and then varnish that to a high gloss.   I’ll re-calk when the veneer is in place.  Also need to get all this off before painting the interior ceiling.



After removing caulk I filled some holes.  No idea how this monster got there but she faired over fairly well.  I varnished the wood half-way so if I get paint on it I can sand/scrape it off without affecting the finish and also so it won’t soak into the wood.


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Then I got my tools, laid down some plastic, turned on the ventilation and got to work.   The old colour was an off-white/beige.  I chose a paint that was “Hatteras White” that I thought would be slightly lighter.  It turned out to be a lot whiter but once the warm white lights are installed it should be a nice effect.  First I sanded, then wiped it down with a solvent.  Then rolled on the paint with a foam roller and tipped and did the detail work with a brush.


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The bathroom was more of the same.  Remove the old shower rail, fill the holes, sand, then paint.


Shower rail gone.


Holes filled and sanded.


1st coat of paint.

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Interior painting continued!  On to the main room.  The ceiling was supposed to be smooth but a combination of age, lots of humidity, and bad repairs left it looking rough.

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Any boat cosmetic problem can be handled with plenty of sanding, filling, priming, and painting.  I found that drywall sanding sponges were great but didn’t have the longevity or bite to be able to sand the surface.  I improvised by wrapping 220 grit paper around a standing sponge and got to work.


Took off the last of the old light fixtures.  You can see how black and disgusting the gelcoat under the light is.  I’ll replace with 3 watt LED fixtures.


Rigged up my simple but effective ventilation system.  Combined with a decent cross wind through the hangar I had no problem with fumes.


I am intentionally part way through the varnishing job on the trim work and the hand rails.  I wanted to put down enough varnish so that the paint wouldn’t soak into the wood but also not cry if I had to sand something back to remove paint and then re-varnish it.  Also there was just too much dust around to get a really good finish.  I’ll do the finish varnish when the new wood veneer is in place on all the formica faux-wood and I’ve made it a dust-free environment.

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Quite a lot of cutting.  I used a roller with a small brush for tipping and detail work.

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… and the finished look.  It doesn’t look that different from the “before” photo mostly because the iPhone camera seems to have issues with white balance.


My next stop will be to soundproof under the floor of the cockpit and around the sides of the engine room somewhat using this stuff.  It may not be perfect because the engine room is so open to the storage lockers and the rest of the hull but there’s nothing I like more than a quiet boat.


Dan the mechanic has the engine up on the work bench.


Finished up the varnish on the steps.  Working in the boat yard was just too dusty for a finish coat.  Each coat ended up with blemishes in the finish just from airborne dust so I decided to take the parts to my parents’ house and do it in their garage.  I struck up each part using a screw and some string so I could varnish all the way around in one sitting.


Putting the parts back together took some effort.  I should have sanded the joints individually to get them snug.  Instead I made the mistake of using brute force.  I put a piece of junk plywood to protect the surface then banged them together with a heavy hatchet.

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Every part of this project is a learning opportunity.  I haven’t done anything perfectly the first time and this varnish was no different.  In retrospect I should have sanded down a lot more before I began varnishing.   I should have worked in a dust-free environment.  I should have applied some thicker coats to fill in any remaining holes and then sanded smooth.  All in all, I’m happy.   The steps themselves will need some non-skid but I’m going to practice on some junk plywood to figure out how to make that look good.

The finished product looked good, but not perfect.  There are one or two places where I went back to touch up runs and I didn’t do it quickly enough so the coating dried with a matte texture.   I may try a polishing compound on those little areas to get them fixed





On another note, this is “Striker” (temporarily renamed “Goody Gumdrops” by a previous owner).  My dad bought her two years ago for $2 and she was going to be a project for us but he ended up buying a 31 foot Bertram Express in much better condition and I got Soma so Striker is sitting up on the hard.  She’s a 1974 Striker Canyon Runner 34 and is in herself a very special boat for her all-aluminium construction.  Maybe one day she will run again, but for now she’s sitting in the yard awaiting a $60,000+ refit.


With filling, sanding, and painting this gnarly hole went from this to this.  After the last coats of varnish are put down (after I clean and remove all the dust from the environment) I will put a final bead of calk between the painted gelcoat and the wood to complete the finish.


Although I had cleaned and sanded some of the interior ceiling paint didn’t stick properly or didn’t cover properly.  Here there are some spots and streaks where the paint didn’t want to cooperate.  The spots in the left photo are where the paint was repelled by something on the surface.  The streaks on the right are where the paint wouldn’t stick because it hadn’t been sanded enough so each brush stroke just dragged it along the surface.


Rather than try to fight it at the time I let it dry, sanded it back, and had another try on the second coat.  This got me the finish I was looking for.


The plastic port hole covers were also looking rough so I sanded them to remove the outer layer and then painted them as well the same colour as the ceiling.  It will be a two coat job and this is coat #1.


The original interior construction is rough plywood with formica coverings.  In quite a few places the formica is broken (brown spot on the white) or peeling off.  In some places I can just put a new veneer over the formica but in others I’m going to have to remove the old stuff and replace it entirely.  Paint doesn’t stick to formica so that’s not really a viable option.

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So with a hammer and a scraper I started removing… need to get a heat gun to deal with some of the trickier parts.


Here’s the exterior as she sits.



Using the heat gun to soften the formica and glue… then the scraper and hammer to work behind it and peel it off.  Used a sharp scraper and a tap of the hammer to deal with old dowels.



Sanded the old formica bulkhead.  I already cleared out all the old gross caulking before I painted.  It had turned black from mould growth.  Not much will stick to formica so I sanded it with my trusty Porter Cable random orbital sander with a 120 grit pad.


Bought some LED strip lights and was excited to start hooking them up inside but the battery wasn’t putting out power.



Side project – 2000 Bayliner Capri 19.5

I bought this a little over a year ago as transport for my girlfriend.  She didn’t need it so I sold it and now it has come back into my life… so once again I’m fixing it up for sale.  It has been neglected for 9 months and needed some longer-term work done anyway so I took some time off Soma and got to this.

Towing it home was a father-son event.

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She was a little rough.  The battery hadn’t been charged so she had filled with rainwater at some point.  First step was soft-scrub with bleach and a deck brush.

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Removed all the seats and upholstery with rotting backing and rolled on a two coats of paint and new non-skid.

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Put new backing on the cushions.  First by removing the old wood, picking the staples with piers and a knife.  used a scraper to remove the cushions from the old backing.  Then sized and cut out new plywood backing, then sealed and painted the plywood.

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Used some little pliers to pull out all the old staples.  At some point someone had used regular office staples leading to lots of rust.


Trusty staple gun and stainless steel staples and I put in the new wood and fixed it to the cushions and cover.


Then reinstalled the old cushions.  With a little clean with bleach and some phosphoric acid (for the rust stains) they’ll be all pretty.


The side cushions were a bit more involved.  They had rotted out completely and regular steel instead of stainless steel screws had been used to attach them.  I removed them with simple brute force.  The bolts were too corroded to unscrew and the wood was totally rotted.  Same procedure to separate the wood from the cushion.


Then used the cushion as a template for new backing and cut it out and rounded the edges.

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Checked that it fit and installed new stainless steel bolts.


I didn’t take a photo but I used a healthy coat of contact cement to attach the cushion to the backing.  Without that the cushion tends to sag over time on these vertical attachments.  Used my trusty angle grinder to cut out the old ones.  There wasn’t much left.

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Glued on the cushion, fitted it in the fabric.


Marked and drilled new holes and put the nuts on the bolts.


…and voila!


…more to come…