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The Restoration of KAOS

Purchase and Delivery

Last March I was presented with an opportunity that I could not pass up. To make a long story short, I bought a Santa Cruz 27. This particular SC27 has been sitting on a trailer in Richmond, CA for the last 20 or so years, so it is a project boat. The boat's original name was MAI MAKAI, but we have decided to change it. Tentatively, her new name will be KAOS, as in the TV show "Get Smart" from the late 60's. I also got some inspiration from the sailing web site Sailing Anarchy, which I read most days. Here is her story so far ...

The story of the delivery is quite amusing. My friend and fleet captain here in the Pacific Northwest had received a note from the previous owner and was trying to convince me to buy her. Apparently after 20 years of faithfully sending his moorage check, the new owners of the yard decided to evict him, and he was desperate to find a buyer. After several weeks of indecision I finally decided to buy her, so on a Friday night and meet with the owner to sign papers. As it turns out the previous owner was good friends with Bill Lee, the designer of the boat. He had been Santa Cruz Yachts IT vendor back in the 70's/80's, and he had some great stories about sailing with Bill Lee on MERLIN and some of Bill's other famous designs.

I called my friend that night about 9:00 PM and told him the news. After a brief discussion, it was decided that the only time either of us could go to California to pick up the boat was that weekend. After a couple of minutes at home to pack some tools, we headed down south, for a fast 14 hour drive. We arrived in Richmond, CA about noon on Saturday and looked for the first time upon what I had just purchased sight unseen. A friend had gone to take a quick look, but an extensive survey was never done. I do not recommend this to anyone considering buying a boat, unless you know what you are doing and are fully capable of restoring a boat as a DIY.

We immediately got to work. The first job on the list was new tires. After twenty years in the sun, the sidewalls were completely rotted away and the trailer was sitting on the rims. My friend, who knew what he is doing, went to find tires. We had called on tire store on the way down, and was promised the tires were in stock and ready to go. However, at the store it was discovered, the tires discussed over the phone was not really the right tires, and the tires we needed were at the warehouse which closed in a couple of minutes. The salesman really came through for us, and made the warehouse stay open until a delivery could be made. We got the tires we needed, although it took most of the day.

While that adventure was going on, I stayed at the boat and set to work. First thing that needed to happen was to make sure the brakes and bearings were going to make the 1500 mile trip. When we pulled the bearing cups, a miracle happened. The bearing grease looked like it was just packed yesterday. Apparently the trailer had never been on the road, so the grease remained fresh for all those years. Then it was time to look at the brakes. For those unfamiliar, the SC27 factory trailer has hydraulic surge brakes. Now the hitch had been rusted together years ago, and the reservoir was beyond salvage. So we made the decision to go without brakes, and cut the the brake lines. Then the second miracle happened. When I rotated the wheels, there was no friction from the brakes. Apparently the drum brakes had been left in the released position, so we did not have to do a quick and dirty brake job after all.

We had gone to Harbor Freight Tools that morning and I picked up some new trailer lights. So for the lights we just cut away all the old stuff and replaced what we could. We were probably missing some sidelights to be totally legal, but we were lucky that weekend and never got pulled over.

The interior of the boat was a mess. If the government had been involved, they would have declared the boat a bio-hazard. The interior looked like the owner left the boat 20 years ago expecting to come back the next day to go sailing. I guess he had other things to do the next day, and the next and before he knew it twenty years had gone by without him coming back. Many years ago, the hatch board either got kicked in, or just rotted out. I have a feeling some homeless individual took up residence at one time. After they left, it looks like some seagulls decided to make a nest. A couple of trips to the dumpster, got rid of the worst of it. The rest would have to wait for Seattle.

The final effort was to get the boat tied down and ready for a road trip. This part was relatively straight forward to anyone who has ever towed a boat more than a couple of miles. Basically you need to make sure nothing will shake itself to death, while making sure nothing will flap in a 60 mph breeze and chafe the fiberglass through. It took some creativity to support the mast properly without a stern push-pit.

We had a good supper in Berkeley, then we dragged the boat to the Richmond Yacht Club for the night. A friend of ours had offered us his boat to crash on and this was a real life saver. We definitely indebted for his kindness and help. Unfortunately, there had been a number of thefts over the past couple of weeks, so security was tight. We never could figure out, why we got hassled for bringing a boat IN for the night. If we had been towing a boat out, we would of understood, but bringing a boat IN ... Anyway we got an escort from the security guards the next morning on the way out of town.

The trip to Seattle was uneventful and fast. We made it to Bremerton before midnight Sunday, and went to our real jobs the next morning.

Restoration Begins ... Phase 1

The first job to do was to completely empty the interior of the boat. When that was done, I washed the interior with a bleach and simply-green solution. My luck held out and she cleaned up wonderfully with no major hidden surprises. Next, I washed the exterior of the boat with a power washer. As can be seen in the pictures, there was quite a bit of mold and other residue on the hull and decks.

I then moved the boat to the side yard with the help of some friends on a rainy Saturday, and erected a tent over the deck to start work.

The deck layout was straight from the factory. Who ever mounted the hardware must of owned stock in a silicon factory, because that is all they used. Well I guess they are pretty close to Silicon Valley in Santa Cruz. Silicon might work for Southern California, but it pretty much a death sentence for a boat in the Pacific Northwest. So the first job was to strip all the deck fittings off the boat.

Now for those who don't know it, the SC27 was one of the first ULDB (Ultra Light Displacement Boat) and was built with a balsa cored hull. The best way to protect the core when bedding hardware is to drill an oversize hole. Then using a special custom made bit in a dremel tool, route out the core between the skins about an 1/8" to 1/4". I like to grind off a small hex key sharpened to a point for the job. The hole is then filled with an epoxy mixed with micro-fibers and allowed to cure. When the hole is re-drilled the core is protected by the bedding compound and an epoxy barrier. For the bedding compound I favor 3M's 5200, but it must be realized that this product is an adhesive so what ever you are mounting will be permanent. I will also try a recommended product by 3M 4000UV. The epoxy mix also helps prevent over-tightened bolts from crushing the core.

The boat is currently stripped of hardware except the toe-rails and chain plates, and all the holes are filled with epoxy awaiting paint. Paint is needed because epoxy will deteriorate rapidly from UV radiation. The plan is to remove the toe-rails and chain-plates and re-bed them with 3M-5200. I will use G-10 for backing plates on the chain-plates to repair the damage to the bulkheads from water and years of abuse.

The hardest job so far has been to strip all the old bottom paint from the hull. On my last boat I used the brute-force method of sanding using a orbital sander and some heavy grit paper. It works, but takes a lot of effort, and environmentally it is probably not the best. This time my first pass was with a chemical stripper advertised to be environmentally friendly. Now environmentally friendly is a relative term, as this stuff was still pretty nasty. But it worked to get the first several layers off relatively easily. After that it was back to brute-force sanding with 60 grit paper. Prior to launching I will paint the bottom with an epoxy barrier coat and some anti-fouling bottom paint. The plan so far is to wet sail here. There are just no good dry-sailing lots on the Kitsap Peninsula.

I have also waxed the topsides with a buffing-compound/wax mix by 3M. This did a good job of bring the hull back to a decent condition, but it is not as perfect as one would hope. I am thinking a second pass prior to launching will help in this department. The problem may be a learning curve issue on my part in using the product, or the hull maybe just too far gone for complete restoration. Painting will probably be in my future.

Restoration, Phase 2

I have currently entered Phase-2 of the restoration process. Phase-1 was to get to the basic boat, now I will be adding strengthening components to fix weaknesses in the boat. In Phase-3, I will be adding little add-ons that make a boat more user friendly.

The first job I am currently undertaking is to fill the holes in the cabin's aft bulkheads from the instrument cutouts. I have a pet peeve about this location for instrument readouts. It is the wrong position. A helmsmen has to adjust their focus and look down to read the instruments. Second, everything gets in the way of the instruments. All the halyards hang down into the sheet bags, plus the main trimmer's legs block the bulkhead. From my perspective, it is far better to mount the instruments in a pod over the companionway or on the mast. If the instruments are in a pod over the companionway, they are protected by the dodger, if one is on the boat. This is what I will be doing in the future for KAOS.

To fill the holes, and to strengthen the bulkhead, I am laminating some 3/8" Mahogany Plywood to the bulkhead. Many might argue that this will add too much weight. This is a very good argument, but I am pulling about that much weight in stainless steel bolts from the old deck layout, and besides the varnished wood will look really good in the cabin.

I am also adding some reinforcement under the traveller under the bridge deck, and adding some columns under the cockpit to help strengthen that area. Now with all this added support, I am taking many precautions to prevent adding hardspots to the hull. To do this I am making sure to spread the load to as wide an area as possible, and I am putting foam between the load and hull to act like a cushion.

I also decided to reinforce the mainsheet traveller by laminating a 1/2" by 1-1/2" solid fir strip underneath. (The short piece of fir visible in the photos is a temporary plug to fill the hole where the compass is mounted.)

The SC27 bow also has a wide expanse that could use a little support, so I have also decided to add a column at the forward end of the v-berth to help support the foredeck. If venturing offshore (say the Pacific Cup or TransPac), this is an excellent spot to add a collision bulkhead, and I may do that in the future.

This column will be a oak section 2"x2" section that I am laminating together from two 1"x2" pieces. I routed out a 1/2" x 1/2" channel from the center to save some weight, without losing any strength.

Another problem area with the boat is the chain-plates. In this particular boat, they were leaking rather badly, and damaging the plywood in the galley and nav-station.

As can be seen by the photos, I drilled out the holes, and epoxied in some G-10 tube (1/2" O.D., 1/4" I.D.). This is sanded flush with the plywood and a 1/4" thick G-10 backing plate epoxied to the forward side of the bulkhead. I epoxied the backing plates to the bulkhead, but in hind sight, this is not really necessary. However it also does no harm, so you can go either way. In the future I will not use epoxy on backing plates.

As can be seen in the photos, I also took the time to fill some mounting holes in the chart table and galley bulkhead using some mahogany plugs. When filling holes with plugs it is best to cut plugs from the same piece as the holes your filling to better match any color variations. I did not have that option on this job. Also when filling the holes make sure you match the grain direction.

The leaky chain plates did some major damage to the plywood furniture, rotting and delaminating several of the plys. To repair this, I used a straight edge and knife to cut out the bad plys, then used epoxy with wood filler to create a fillet to cover the bad sections.

As can be seen in some of the photos, the galley has a storage bin or galley sink. The old top rotted away several years ago, so I am making a replacement. I will use break-away hinges, so it will be removable to save weight during races.

The break away hinges were way to big, so I got a cheap piano hinge. Still need to glue on the teak stops.

Miscellaneous Projects

During the restoration, I have also been busy with some miscellaneous projects for the interior to help make the boat's cabin a little nicer.

The first project is the bucket head. This shall be removable so it can be replaced with a porta-potty as regulations require. However, using plastic bag liners in the bucket then disposing of the bags shoreside is a lot easier than carrying and pumping out a porti-potty at a pump-out station. The plastic bags will be stowed in a 5 gallon bucket with lid, until disposed of ashore.

The second the holder for flares and first-aid kit. This will be bolted to the cockpit's forward bulkhead using a special technique. On the outside, there will be sheetbags and two winch handle holders. I will use the four bolts attaching the winch handle holders to fasten all the other items. By using extra long bolts, I can use the extra length to bolt on items, similar to using a stud. This technique will minimize the number of holes in the boat, thus eliminate potential leak sources. I will use this technique when mounting electronics at the nav-station using 1/8" G-10 for the mounting plate, using the jib track and toe-rail bolts to mount the plate.

I was also told that under heavy sailing loads, the SC27 coaming under the #1 jib track will lift alarmingly. To solve this, I was thinking of laminating some plywood to the underside of the coaming box. This would match the plywood laminations on the aft bulkhead.

However in the end I have decided to stick with the KISS philosophy and to use a G-10 backing plate instead as an simplier and less permanent solution.

As most of you may have noticed, I have not been updated this page in awhile. Almost 2 years ago, I got a contract to work in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The contract was supposed to last 90 days, but I ended up staying for 14 months. I must say I enjoyed my stay down in the Gulf, and all the friends I made at the Mobile Yacht Club and Singing River YC. Great Sailing and Great People. I especially want to thank Tom Berry and his family for all the hospitality and great sailing aboard Man-O-War. For those who don't know Tom, he is the PHRF Chairman for the Gulf Yachting Asssociation. He works tirelessly for that organization so sailing on the Gulf can return after being devistated by hurrican Katrina. Anyway since I have been home, I have been catching up on my Honey-do's. I have been able to do a little work on the boat, particularly trying to get the boat painted before fall sets in.

This is the result of a couple of coats of Petite Easy-Poxy Semi-gloss White as applied with a mini-roller w/o tipping.

And this is the cockpit with a coat of non-skid applied. I am using Kiwi-Grip in the Gray color.

I also applied two coats of Captain's Varnish to the interior. I will do one or more coats again, once the new windows have been installed.

With some paint applied to the decks, I have been able to start dry-fitting some deck gear. I will describe this in greater detail in future posts.

As the work continues I will post updates and new photos.


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