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View Full Version : Advice needed on refinish and care for a 17' Whitehall



cstevens
08-24-2016, 09:41 AM
In between bouts of scraping paint on Petrel (http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.php?209491-Restoration-of-BC-Salmon-Troller-quot-Petrel-quot) I'm planning a few winter projects, one of which is to refinish "Shearwater", a 17' Whitehall that my mother and I bought last year.

https://fvpetrel.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/img_0428.jpg?w=600


The boat was built in the 90s by Land Washburn who was one of the founders of the Wooden Boat Shop, a sadly lost icon of the Seattle wooden boat renaissance and where I started my life with boats at age 11 as a stock boy/gopher/general dogsbody. Many stories there but for another time...

Anyway, back to Shearwater. At first we kept her in the water for several months protected by a full cover and she did fine. But not wanting her to sit in the weather all winter I put her on a trailer last fall and stored her in my shop, which is a very dry concrete garage. Time passed, life happened and Shearwater never went back in the water this summer.

Yesterday I went over there to assess her condition and plan for painting and any other work needed this winter. Mostly she just needs normal seasonal paint and varnish but a there are a few spots that have opened up, particularly at the forefoot gripe (that's a new boat construction word for me - one I just learned via Google. And here I thought I knew all the parts of a boat already), in the skeg, the sheer clamp and the breasthook.

https://fvpetrel.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/img_4058.jpg?w=600

https://fvpetrel.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/img_4066.jpg?w=600

https://fvpetrel.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/img_4060.jpg?w=600

https://fvpetrel.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/img_4057.jpg?w=600

So my questions are:

1. Would she be better off kept in the water year-round to avoid drying out? That's possible but I worry about the occasional winter storm. Ok to dry-store her as long as it's just the winter and not an extended period? Any advice for dry-storing? How do other people with traditional lapstrake boats store them?

2. Should I put her back in for a few days/weeks to let her swell up before doing any finish work?

3. I assume the below-water seams that have opened up will swell when she's back in but is there anything to be concerned about there? Should I reef out the seams and recaulk given that the old compound is separating? The plank seams are fine I think - it's just the stem and skeg that are shrinking.

4. What about the sheerclamp? Should I just refinish as-is? Or let the wood swell a bit to close the cracks first? Fill the cracks with something? (I assume not since that could cause problems when the wood does swell?). Help the swelling along with towels and hot water?

Any help greatly appreciated here - thanks!

Peerie Maa
08-24-2016, 10:15 AM
Put a load of natural fibre cloth, hessian sacks or whatever on the floor underneath the trailer and water it regularly. That will help her swell up.
The joints in the gripe should not have any filler or stopping in them at all. If re-humidifying the garage does not close them up, use a non setting filler like household soap or slick seam, something that will squeeze right out as the joints close up.
I'd not reef out the caulking in the garboard and hood end seams, reef out the stopping and repay them with something that will squeeze as she takes up.
As to the joints in the bright work, sand back, work varnish into the open joints and re-varnish is probably the best that you can do.

cstevens
08-24-2016, 10:53 AM
Thanks! Any advice on storage to avoid these problems going forward?

Peerie Maa
08-24-2016, 01:51 PM
Use the cover that you put on her afloat, but keep her on an earth/gravel/grass standing on the trailer.

cstevens
08-24-2016, 02:41 PM
Easy enough. Thanks - I have a plan now at least. Just need to get the work done.

Peerie Maa
08-24-2016, 03:10 PM
Easy enough. Thanks - I have a plan now at least. Just need to get the work done.

My only concern is do you have shelter from drying winds?

WoodyHuscarl
08-24-2016, 03:38 PM
My only concern is do you have shelter from drying winds?

Seattle is not known for its dry climate, but stranger things have happened.

cstevens
08-24-2016, 04:09 PM
Re: shelter. I think so. I have a gravel driveway between my house and the neighboring house which is quite sheltered. I had the boat there for part of the winter but it's partially under a tree and I wanted to avoid getting pine tar and needles on the boat cover so I moved it to the garage. But other than the tree - which is a solvable problem - it sounds exactly like the kind of spot that Nick has in mind. (And Woody you're right - Seattle is pretty soggy between November and June or so, but the summer's can be quite dry. I don't think we have had any precipitation at all since early July).

I do think I'm doing to launch the boat and let her soak up for a few days before I do anything else though. Once that's done I'll take stock again and see what's needed.

Peerie Maa
08-24-2016, 04:17 PM
Seattle is not known for its dry climate, but stranger things have happened.

Like I know that living as I do on the coast of an island to the north of Urrup.:D

pcford
08-25-2016, 01:08 PM
To the original poster: I am Pat Ford, antique boats restorer for 35 years or so. Land Washburn was a good friend of mine...you might know that he passed a few years ago. Land did not build your boat and it is not a Whitehall. These boats are often confused with Whitehalls because of the name. It is a Whitebear skill. The name comes from the place it was built. Whitehalls were a considerably more burdensome boat...the White Bear Skiffs are a livery boat; used for pleasure boating in the 19th century.
Contact me if I can be of further help.

From the Center for Wooden Boats collection
Whitebear skiff16 feet.The Amundson family of White Bear Lake, Minnesota,built these boats in 14 feet, 16 feet and 18 feet lengths(length of sheer strake) as a winter project in theirlakeside shop. The shop specialized in sailing scowswhich were the dominant recreational sailboat of the1880s to early 1900s. The skiffs were built for thenearby lake and river boat liveries. The original WhiteBear skiffs of 1870 were double enders, but theybecame transom-sterned in 1875 to accommodate thelady passengersí full skirts.The traditional planking is Minnesota white cedar, withwhite oak frames and copper fastenings. This 16 feetmodel is planked in Port Orford cedar. The builder isDean Haynes, a third-generation White Bear skiffcraftsman.
http://www.atlakeunionpark.org/sites/default/files/CWB%20Special%20Collection.pdf

cstevens
08-25-2016, 01:32 PM
Pat, thanks for posting and glad to meet a friend of Land. I did know that he passed away. I was sorry to hear it - I hadn't seen him since I moved away from Seattle in 1983 and would have liked to catch up.

Your post raises any number of questions on my boat though: I do know that they were building boats at the WBS at one time (at least one Poulsbo Boat replica came out of there while I was working at the shop) but I did wonder about the attribution to Land personally since he wasn't building when I knew him. Most of the small craft in the shop at that time came from Frank Prothero I think. However I do have the original sales receipt showing that it was sold by the WBS so that part appears to be correct at least.

Do you have any further information about this specific boat? The story I have is that she was built for a Dr. Irons, whose son rowed crew for the UW. It was given to the son as a graduation present but said son did not love it and it sat unused for many years before being rescued by a man in Astoria. He refinished it and then sold it to us.

And regarding the identification as a Whitebear Skiff... I will defer to your knowledge as certainly far greater than mine here but Googling photos of Whitebear skiffs I see many construction and design detail differences between those boats and Shearwater. The receipt we have from WBS lists it as a "Whitehall" but I don't know how much I would trust that piece of paper. I suspect any pulling boat with a plumb stem and a wineglass stern is called a Whitehall nowadays since they seem to be au courant.

In any case I would love to find out more about the history of Shearwater, where built, by whom and of what design. If you have any inclination to come have a look at her please do! She's sitting in Ballard now, about to move to a berth in Lower Queen Anne on the Ship Canal.

Cheers,

pcford
08-25-2016, 08:35 PM
Pat, thanks for posting and glad to meet a friend of Land. I did know that he passed away. I was sorry to hear it - I hadn't seen him since I moved away from Seattle in 1983 and would have liked to catch up.

Your post raises any number of questions on my boat though: I do know that they were building boats at the WBS at one time (at least one Poulsbo Boat replica came out of there while I was working at the shop) but I did wonder about the attribution to Land personally since he wasn't building when I knew him. Most of the small craft in the shop at that time came from Frank Prothero I think. However I do have the original sales receipt showing that it was sold by the WBS so that part appears to be correct at least.

Do you have any further information about this specific boat? The story I have is that she was built for a Dr. Irons, whose son rowed crew for the UW. It was given to the son as a graduation present but said son did not love it and it sat unused for many years before being rescued by a man in Astoria. He refinished it and then sold it to us.

And regarding the identification as a Whitebear Skiff... I will defer to your knowledge as certainly far greater than mine here but Googling photos of Whitebear skiffs I see many construction and design detail differences between those boats and Shearwater. The receipt we have from WBS lists it as a "Whitehall" but I don't know how much I would trust that piece of paper. I suspect any pulling boat with a plumb stem and a wineglass stern is called a Whitehall nowadays since they seem to be au courant.

In any case I would love to find out more about the history of Shearwater, where built, by whom and of what design. If you have any inclination to come have a look at her please do! She's sitting in Ballard now, about to move to a berth in Lower Queen Anne on the Ship Canal.

Cheers,

Chris, I might be mistaken about most any of this...Dick Wagner had a wooden boat livery at his houseboat on Lake Union. When this means of support failed because the property owner kicked out the livery, Dick sold his fleet to the nascent Center for Wooden Boats and went on to be an employee there. Dick sold White Bear Skiffs; he might be able to identify the boat positively. I vaguely remember boats being built at the Wooden Boat Shop, but I don't recall any boat like yours. I recall boats from the Lowell Dory Shop. I don't think Frank Prothero built any boats sold there.

To look its best your boat needs the brightwork stripped and brought up again. The advice here for a more congenial location for your boat was good...also you might consider finding someone who would let you hang it in a boathouse...This is the way speedboats were stored when not in use. A concrete floored garage is one of the worst places to store it.

Eric Hvalsoe
08-26-2016, 12:09 AM
To the original poster, I am Eric Hvalsoe a builder and restorer of lapstrake pulling boats and other black arts for about 35 years. . . . and your boat is not a Whitebear. That is apparent from the bow shot, as it would be from the stern, as it would be from the construction details. It is probably the 17' Bailey Whitehall model. I also knew Land. I don't know if he, or the WBS built a Bailey Whitehall but it is not implausible. There were several builders over the years that had their wares at the WBS.

Yes Dick brought a few Whitebears to Seattle. They were built on the original molds in Minnesota as far as I know, and nowhere else. I don't think the Whitebear story is related to this one, although Land did have some early involvement with CWB. Maybe a Whitebear or two passed through the WBS.

As a matter of fact Chris, I believe I chatted with your mother a couple years back at CWB with the boat. Lovely, the boat and your mother of course. For maintenance it would be helpful to modify the floorboards so they are easily removed panels. Someone was going to follow up with me on that.BY:D

Regarding storage, I keep my cedar lapstrake boat on a trailer outside over grass on the somewhat sheltered north side of the house, with a good boat cover. No problems in and out of the water. I had a client who kept his lapstrake boat in Portage Bay for several years, it was a cozy calm spot and he also had a good cover. The backbone of your boat may be oak, which can shrink considerably, but was common to use for these backbones. If the boat mostly lives on the trailer those backbone joints may never quite close up, at least in the summer. Some compound might be helpful, although Nick makes a good point about not obstructing swelling. Don't think I would reef out any seams.

Sure the brightwork looks due for a stripping and refinish (things don't appear badly stained or damaged yet). Not much you can do about those brightwork joints that have opened up. Fill them with jellied varnish. Not aware of a 'jellied varnish' product off the shelf. I keep an old can with the dregs around for that.
Eric

cstevens
08-26-2016, 08:49 AM
Pat, regarding Dick Wagner's Whitebears: I am certain that Shearwater was never a livery boat of any sort. The photos I posted don't do her justice since they highlight current problems but in person you could see that she is almost unused. Basically a new boat with the only wear coming from one season of rowing by my mother and me. In the absence of a more definitive identification I think I'll keep referring to her as a "Whitehall" - she's at least of a very similar design.

Memory is fallible and it's been 30+ years but I recall that Frank Prothero built a series of lapstrake tenders that were sold at WBS in the early 80s when I was there. Not sure how many but at least two and I think there were more than that. They were built right next to Glory of the Seas in his big shed on Lake Union. I'm not sure if Joe Bucek is still around but he might recall more if so. I was just a kid then but was completely obsessed with boats so the details stick with me. Visiting GotS under construction was a formative experience!

I also recall the Lowell boats. In fact my mother had a 12' Lowell Skiff for a while. She rowed it in the Round Shaw Row one year. My parents donated it to the CWB when we moved to Baltimore in '83. I've occasionally wondered where it ended up. Not in the collection now at any rate. I was born in Amesbury, where the Lowell shop is located, and visited it once during a family trip back there. Amazing place.

Eric, yes - you talked to my mother at the CWB show last year. She too enjoyed the conversation and she relayed your suggestions to me. I agree regarding the floorboards and that project might happen this winter as well. It's been on my list to follow up with you about it for a while now. But it's a very long list...! Thanks for the tip on jellied varnish. I'll try it and report back.

Regarding reefing the seams - I should clarify that I just meant cleaning out any existing compound from the joints in the stem/forefoot and the skeg. Not planking seams. The planking is great shape and I have no plans to do anything there. (Not sure if lapstrake seams can even be reefed? Do people do that? Doesn't seem like a good idea somehow. The garboards maybe I guess.)

This thread is bringing back a lot of memories of growing up with boats in Seattle in the early 80s. Might have to start a People and Places thread to revisit them all.

pcford
08-26-2016, 12:03 PM
Chris,
I did not mean to imply that your boat had been a livery boat...just that the design had been based on 19th century livery boats. I doubt if there are very many 19th c. livery boats around

As to whether or not it is a "Whitehall," I will defer to Eric in that regard since he has a much better grasp of small boat design than I do. However, I recall that Whitehalls in Chapelle's book had rather chunky lines. They were notoriously used for taking unconscious "Shanghai'd" new crew members out to anxious "tall ship" captains. Thus, the boat had to be able to carry a significant burden through not alway tranquil harbor waters. Livery boat were used to row a romantic couple through tranquil lake waters.

In any event, the "Great Northwest Wooden Boat Scare" is now about forty years back in our rear view mirror. I regard the days of the Wooden Boat Shop and Washburn with some affection. Unfortunately, recollections of the Center for Wooden Boats in those days are tainted with sad memories of cupidity. (Along with Washburn, I was one of the founders of the Center for Wooden Boats.)

Eric Hvalsoe
08-26-2016, 12:20 PM
Sorry to say I was poking a little bit of fun at Pat. Visiting Glory Of The Seas in the big shed also had a huge impact on me, just amazing, and Frank in that big overstuffed chair in the dark corner. Like visiting God or Oz himself.

I was referring to caulking along the garboard. There may or may not be compound or wicking in the laps of this boat. In the very early days I built mine dry. A couple times restoring tired hulls I have laid a small bead along the exterior corner of the lap. I assume the planking is CVG Red Cedar, it is very stable, you will probably have no issues along the laps. The only concern would be some weeping through the backbone, if those parts are not inclined to swell up, if there are stopwaters buried in there that don't quite do the job. If this is a user trailer boat I don't think you go to extraordinary measures to rehunmidy or swell it up. It is what it is. Some compound in the backbone joints might be justified. Park it on grass or gravel and avoid baking it in the sun for extended periods. Get on some fresh varnish.

Another character that had a dinghy or two at the WBS was Pete Hurd, Afraid he has passed away as well.

You're a great contributor here Chris, all your threads. Good Luck. Pretty boat.

pcford
08-26-2016, 12:37 PM
Sorry to say I was poking a little bit of fun at Pat. Visiting Glory Of The Seas in the big shed also had a huge impact on me, just amazing, and Frank in that big overstuffed chair in the dark corner. Like visiting God or Oz himself.

I asked Frank for a job once...he said no. I said don't you want to preserve all that you have learned? Frank said, "Ah, the hell with that." I remember seeing Frank at Doc's...Carhaart jack with gobs of sealant on the shoulders.

By the way, a lot of you darned kids don't know that the remains of the original Glory of the Seas can be seen in Seattle. http://www.criterionweb.com/glorypage.htm

Frank built his Glory of the Seas to expiate his sin of helping burn the original in the early 20s.

cstevens
08-26-2016, 01:14 PM
Thanks Eric and Pat for the great info and a chance to wax nostalgic for a bit. I was just a skinny kid running around back then and can't claim to have "known" anyone other than Land and Joe since I worked for them for a while. But I got a chance to hang out, listen to some interesting characters and look at some really great boats. It was a good way to grow up.

Eric Hvalsoe
08-26-2016, 02:06 PM
"Ah to hell with that" - I can hear it now.
Apparently Frank and Bob had some different ideas about that, for which many graduates of The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding may be thankful.

On shearwaters rails you might be able to release a fastening or two, clean out the scarf with a kerf cut or hacksaw blade and reglue. Still dicey with oak, hopeless without sound varnish or other coating.