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Terrific Boat Transformations


Four BoatUS Members share the spectacular results of their boat makeovers.

Knot Free | Duffy Electric 18

A friend of mine owned a vintage 1983 Classic Duffy electric boat. Unfortunately, due to an accident, a hole got knocked in the bow and it sunk in 10 feet of water where it stayed for about a year. The next spring, I asked him what he was going to do with it, and he said, “cut it up in pieces and get it out of here.” I offered to buy it from him, but he said that if I could remove it from his dock the boat was mine for the taking.

Knot Free before renovation.

A marine mechanic friend raised it, took it to his shop, and began repairs. After a year on the bottom the boat was in rather a sorry state. But little by little the boat came back from the dead. The hole in the bow was repaired, followed by all new wiring, a new electric golf cart motor, six new 6-volt batteries, new charger, new stereo, new navigation lights, bilge pump and an air horn that sounds like an 18-wheeler. New upholstery was made and installed along with a new Surrey top.

With the interior, electrical work, and other mechanical parts completed, my wife Sue and I made a start on the exterior. Although the boat is quite small we spent over a month on the refinishing. It took two weeks of sanding, filling, and fairing before she was ready for paint. We finished the boat in a red, white, and blue color scheme using a two-part polyurethane paint.

Knot Free after renovation.

The boat has been a hit with the grandkids and older family members and friends. We often enjoy afternoon and evening cruises on the lake near our home. Even though the boat was originally given to us, everything was repaired correctly, not cheaply, so we christened her as Knot Free.

— Craig & Sue Perry, Alabama

ZaGaSaRha 11 | Sea Ray Sundancer 380

After 10 years with our small bowrider, it was time for something bigger. The old boat had served us well, but we wanted to venture farther and spend nights aboard in comfort. After some searching, we settled on a 2002 Sea Ray. The boat was in good shape, but the electronics were original. Half of them didn’t work at all, and the other half only worked intermittently, were unreliable, and needed replacement.

Not wanting to make a costly mistake, I visited various boat shows and spoke to many company representatives. I eventually decided on Raymarine products, but before installation could begin, I had to remove the old instruments.

ZaGaSaRha 11 before renovation.

With my son’s help, we marked up cables as we disconnected them from various switches and equipment to make reconnection less confusing later. We also pulled in some new cables including a NMEA2000 backbone to which all the new equipment would be connected. Wiring proved to be the most difficult part of the job, taking us more than 24 hours to complete. New equipment would not fit in the original openings, so we fabricated replacement dash panels for a professional finish.

Finally, we were ready to fit the new equipment: three Axiom MFDs followed by a new radar, depth transducer and Fusion stereo, topped off with a new VHF and AIS system.

ZaGaSaRha 11 after renovation.

After what seemed like many weeks of work, ZaGaSaRha 11 was ready. We nervously launched the boat hoping we’d not made some fatal error. Pushing off from the dock, we took the boat for a spin and confirmed that all the new equipment worked as designed — just what we’d hoped.

Although it was a significant investment in time and money, we feel that the upgrades were worth it. We feel safer on the water as we look forward to future trips on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and to Canadian ports.

— Syed Ahmed Mustafa, New York

Elf | 1888 Lawley & Sons 30-foot class cutter

I was just 19 when I bought Elf, a near derelict. Over the past 48 years, I’ve slowly brought her back close to her original condition in 1888, the year of her launching. As you might expect of a boat that is 130 years old, she’s required lots of work. Thankfully, due to her high initial build quality and some very talented individuals who’ve helped me with her care, she’s managed to survive and is still racing to this day.

Elf before renovation.

Built in Boston by the renowned yard of Lawley & Sons, makers of some of the fastest racing yachts of the day, Elf cost $3,500 to construct, a small fortune at the time for a reasonably modest yacht (about $92,000 in today’s dollars). Some of the work since I’ve owned the boat has included replacing many frames, replanking the hull with longleaf yellow pine, replacing the Douglas fir decking, and completely refitting the interior.

Elf after renovation.

Although less than 30 feet on the waterline, she appears far bigger, largely in part to the tall mast, long boom, bowsprit, and impressive spread of canvas when sailing. Elf is now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and this will help ensure that she’s protected and maintained after I’m gone. But I’m not hanging up my sailing gloves just yet. There are still lots of places that Elf and I want to see together.

— Rick Carrion, Maryland

It Is | 1976 Marinette 28

Although I’ve owned boats for the majority of my life, they’ve tended to be on the small side, a requirement predicated by the small bodies of water that our boating was restricted to. It was only when a new job and move took us to the banks of 17,200-acre Lake Charlevoix, Michigan, that I realized the small runabouts I’d owned in the past weren’t going to cut it on the big water. I scoured the used-boat market for something with all the features we wanted, and had almost given up when I came across a 28-foot Marinette, an aluminum boat made in the 1970s. Although she was in our price range, she was outdated and needed lots of love.

It Is before renovation.

The first year I did the most basic of cleanups and got her on the water. The next I added a swim platform and stern thruster adapted from an electric trolling motor. Although the boat was better than when we first got her, my wife missed being able to sit in the bow as she had on the deck boat that we had previously.

It Is after renovation.

Always up for a challenge, I cut open the Marinette’s deck, welded in some additional reinforcement, and reconfigured the sole so any water entering the open bow would be directed aft to the bilge pump. With the structural work complete, the boat was repainted before adding new upholstery plus lots of other smaller projects. Over the course of nine months, our boat morphed into the only bow-riding Marinette on the lake. Now we have a boat that both my wife and I love.

— Ron Turner, Michigan

Visit ­­Makeovers-And-Refitting to read more great renovation success stories.

Mark Corke

Contributing Editor, BoatUS Magazine