View Full Version : Beetle cat restoration help

12-23-2013, 03:51 PM
Hi guys/gals. There is a Beetle that was bought new by my in-laws in the 1960's. It's been sitting in a dry garage the past 10 years and was put back in the water this past summer. Unfortunately, it was taking in tons of water even after swelling. Beetle, Inc diagnosed the following issues after it was brought there for inspection:

-Majority of leaking detected where the stem is moving and there is a split in the forward garboard plank where it is fastened to the stem
-Also leaking along garboard seams by the centerboard box
-Iron fastenings continue to corrode the frames and backbone (stem, keel, centerboard box, etc…) causing worsening leaks, especially once rigged and sailed
-The stem we showed you while you were here is indicative of what is going on with your boat,and once you open up one area (say the stem area), there is no stopping point as there is no "clean" good wood to reattach to

The cost to do the repairs at Beetle, Inc is too expensive (possibly over 10k). I'm considering rebuilding it myself, but I have NO experience (I had to google garboard planks) and just took up sailing a year ago. I've found a couple local guys who offered to help guide me, but I have some general questions.

1) What is the best how-to book, video, or resource for getting some direction?
2) What is a ballpark cost to restore this if I need a new stem, all new fasteners, all new ribs, and some new planks? I would likely be buying everything direct from Beetle rather than bending/shaping wood myself.
3) How many hands do I need helping? Do I need to get someone else involved for all the work?

Here is a shot of the boat from this summer


Ian McColgin
12-23-2013, 04:10 PM
There are some good books on restoration with others will mention - my brain is slipping. It need not be as hard as you might think, depending on how many fastenings you want to do at one go and whether any of the frames are bad. While you're waiting for book info, remove the ceiling and floorboards so you can get a good look inside and out. From the pic, she looks quite nice, all things considered.


12-23-2013, 09:10 PM
This is a relatively small boat, so other than your time, the overall cost of restoring it should not be too bad. If you use bronze fasteners, be prepared to pay about $40/100, depending on the size. There was an article in WoodenBoat a few year s back on Beetle Cats, and that would probably be a good thing to find. I believe they are glassed, but I may be wrong about that.

Sounds like you need to set up for a turn-over and start some careful de-construction. In doing so, you will need to try very hard to remove things like the stem without disrupting other parts of the boat, and in such a way that you can replicate it. If that is the major structural part that is bad, then once you replace that, then doing the garboard should be relatively easy.

All of this is academic if you have no experience at all. If that's the case, then you might want to got a kit boat and build it up in order to gain experience. And/or, go take a class. Might be money well spent. The Beetle Cat is a pretty nice boat, so you probably don't want to start out learning on that job...

12-23-2013, 10:29 PM
do you actually plan to sail the boat?
What are your woodworking capabilities?

getting it stripped of paint and varnish is low tech, nasty work, but very very necessary.

Steam bending wood is not difficult and actually fun.

Consider cold molding the hull. (I'll be skewered for saying that!) it will be water tight and still keep the interior looking like original.
here is a blog from a very nice restore. http://cweaver49.wordpress.com/page/3/

Ian McColgin
12-24-2013, 07:18 AM
I reread the OP - never hurts to figure out what's actually being asked - and see that the trouble is right where life is most interesting. Even if this boat is destined to be skinned-splined-and sheathed, that will not even remotely address the stem issues, which are most critical because the bow structure must deal with the enormous mast stresses. You still want to get the ceiling and floor boards out but . . .

So start by going to the WoodenBoat Store and ordering the "Frame, Stem & Keel Repair" book that's really a compilation of WoodenBoat Magazine articles. Read slowly with a calming adult beverage in hand as the first reaction might be depression. It looks worse than it is.

Do you have shop space to work on her inside? Can you roll her in that space or will you need to get her upside down before shoving her in?

Besides the stem work - most likely you'll make a new one and some new keel sections - that garboard can be a challenge. I am not dead sure of the garboard itself but there are a couple of planks at about the waterline that meet the stem with a reversing bend, plenty of twist, and a sweep up. Even the pros break planks on this job. My point in mentioning this is not to discourage but quite the opposite. As a corollary to the saying "Real engineers break stuff" might be "Real catboat builders break bow planks." Don't worry. Each broken plank is great scrap for other projects and good kindling to get the stove going and keep you warm while you sit in the moaning chair with that adult calming beverage.


12-24-2013, 09:34 AM
The book Ian suggested is a good place to start. Don't glass or cold mold this boat. You've already stated that you'll buy the wood parts from Beetle which takes care of most of the skilled woodworking. Think through any plan given by outsiders or that you think up on your own. I've redone several Beetle cats over the years and none were anywhere near as complete and unmolested as yours. The galvanized fasteners generally make a mess of surrounding wood so epoxy will be your friend in many places. Remember this is a 50 year old boat. You can make a very nice job of it but it will never be a new boat without extensive/ complete replacement of wood and fasteners. Go slowly and try your best not to damage/ destroy surrounding wood. When removing frames it's usually best to saw through the frames at each seam and split them away from the old screws. then carefully remove the screws from the planking. When reframing I generally replace every 3rd frame in order not to lose the shape of the hull. Frames, planks, stem from Beetle will be ready to install, not requiring beveling/fitting which make life much easier. The centerboard trunk leaks may be stopped by simply adding new fasteners between the old ones. You'll most likely use stainless steel on this boat unless you plan to remove and replace all the fasteners.

12-24-2013, 09:44 AM
Talk to the people at Beelte, they will be very willing to provide advise and can supply parts like the stem if you want to that route: http://www.beetlecat.com I spoke with them when I was considering a beetle restoration project and they were very helpful.

That being said, there are some very knowledgeable boat builders/restorers who will provide good advice available on the forum. Some will know these boats well and other skilled people will not. You will also need to filter out advice from others like me who have less experience.

Jay Greer
12-24-2013, 02:16 PM
Since most of the expense of a project, such as yours, is in the labor you are wise to take on the work yourself. If you are handy with tools, it should not be too difficult to set your Beetle Cat right. Those of us who have done restoration before are happy to be of assistance to you restore your fine little ship. The best advice, at present, is from Steamboat who has suggested you contact the folks who build the boats. Then, digest the info and map out a plan as a result there of. Do some photo documentation of the problem areas. This will assist you and us in making the project less complicated than it needs to be. One caveat, if the boat is galvanized fastened then use like fasteners again. This will avoid the problems associated with using mixed metals.
Welcome Aboard and good luck,

12-24-2013, 03:04 PM
Take a trip to Newport and visit the IYRS, basically all they do is restore Beetle Cats, take your camera with you. You'll see every task you have to do. They are very nice people.

Please ignore the advice about cold moulding it.

While you are at IYRS pop across Thames street and have a meal at Gary's Handy Lunch

12-24-2013, 04:41 PM
1) What is the best how-to book, video, or resource for getting some direction?
2) What is a ballpark cost to restore this if I need a new stem, all new fasteners, all new ribs, and some new planks? I would likely be buying everything direct from Beetle rather than bending/shaping wood myself.
3) How many hands do I need helping? Do I need to get someone else involved for all the work?

Here is a shot of the boat from this summer

1.) Well, you found us and thats a great start! The WoodenBoat Forum is an amazing resource!

2.) Don't limit yourself needlessly. Its one thing to leave some things to the pro's, but a person can accomplish a lot with some patience, learning, and some fairly simple tools.

3.) Its possible to do this kind of project alone, but it can be fun/helpful to have a buddy around to hold something for you and drink your beer.

Best of luck.

12-24-2013, 05:13 PM
Gentlemen, the OP made one post... Me thinks he will be overwhelmed when he comes back to read all this.

PLEASE consider what final result you will want. Apparently you have something of historical value.

My source when I suggested cold molding if it's badly decomposed;

1.13 The Officers of the New England Beetle Cat Boat Association have the authority to approve on a case-by-case basis, upon written request, the use of alternative repair methods and materials such as fiber glassing the hull, cold molding, and the like if a majority of the Officers find that the use of such methods and materials was (a) for the purpose of restoring or preserving the hull and (b) did not materially alter the sailing characteristics, weight, or appearance of the hull.

(NOTE: I TRY to NOT tell people what to do) I offer, suggest, show, give reference.

12-26-2013, 12:37 AM
...way da go Denise....Y>....nice comeback!!!
...as Oprah would say.....'you go get em girl......'

<<<<can't comment or suggest anything here, 'cause I lack experience in dealing with this issue specifically, but I'd certainly trust your personal judgement.......in this case, your research judgement.
.....your staunch supporter...lol