Restoring Aquarius



In July of 2002 we were ready to start work on Aquarius. We had originaly hoped to limp her north under sail to work on her at a boat yard closer to our home, but decided she needed some basic work before we tried to take her anywhere. We chose Summerfield Boat Works in Ft Lauderdale for the job.

With a recommendation from the yard we contacted Captain Curt Gahagan to tow us up the New River to the boat yard. He quoted us a very reasonable price for the tow, $300. It turned out that Captain Gahagan knew the boat, as he had towed her down the New River from River Bend Marina two years before for the previous owner, Dale VanZant. He showed up early on the morning of July 15th along with his two tugs and a crew.

The tow up the river was a new experience for us. The boys had never been under opening draw bridges before and none of us imagined the extent of the boating community on the New River, which runs through downtown Ft Lauderdale.

We finaly arrived at Summerfield and prepared for our haul out. The yard wanted to inspect the boat before they tried to lift her, given that she was ferro cement and they'd had problems with other cement boats. We had them lift the mizzen mast off the deck and take it down to the mast yard for refinishing and rigging. We had arranged to be the last haul out of the day and leave the boat hanging in the straps over night, so that we could take the time to scrape the bottom without having to pay for extra time on the lift.


We looked on with interest as they prepared to lift Aquarius out with the 75 ton travel lift. The oysters and barnacles had accumulated to degree that amazed us, though they shouldn't have been that much of a surprise. We knew we had a lot of scraping to do that day. We had to get all of the 'biologicals' off before they'd put the boat on blocks in a space, otherwise they'd start to rot and smell awfull. We scraped and scraped and swept and shoveled oysters and barnacles. Then we scraped some more. I had thought tearing an old roof off of a house was the hardest dirtiest work that existed, but it just doesn't compare with scraping a boat bottom. We had blisters all over our hands and were exhausted.

The day ended on positive notes though, as we were treated with a beautifull prism effect from a cloud, showers at the yard, a dinner at Dough Boys Pizza, and a hotel room for the night.



The next week brought us more grueling work. There was still a crust of oyster and barnacle shells to grind off the bottom of aquarius. We had to tent the entirer boat with tarps to control the toxic dust and wear bunny suits when we were grinding. I bought a new 15 amp Makita grinder and alot of 36 grit sanding disks. The heat was devastating under the tarps and in the dust suit, and the it seemed to take forever to grind it all. Some of the work had to be done by hand with care, sleaning off the tail log and scraping the grooves in the keel cooler. The hull cleaning took a week.

We dealt with a lot of other stuff during this time as well, such as having the bilges pressure washed and repairs on rigging on the main mast. We removed the old rotted rub rail and sanded above the water line, having decided to seal the whole hull with epoxy at one time.

It wasn't all work, we took some time to play. We had BBQ with George from the yard in his cabana, rode the Lady Linda up and down the river, found a rope swing out into the river to play on, and went to visit my dad and his pool.



We used Americoat 235 two part epoxy to re-seal the hull, with two coats below the water line and one coat above it. A matching ablative bottom paint was used over the epoxy, painted on 'hot' while the epoxy was still tacky to bond with it. Aquarius was looking like a whole new boat to us !

We found other work we had to take care of. The gudgeon on the rudder was very deteriorated and there were several hull fittings in need of replacement.

We had to return to NJ to put Mikhail on an airplane to go visit his grandmother though, so we decided to launch Aquarius and haul her again in August, rather than leave her in up on stands in the yard ...


Eugene and I returned to the boat yard in August after a week at home. We had two primary jobs to work on, the mizzen mast and the lower gudgeon on the rudder.

We had to wait a few days for a haul out to do the rudder work, so we set to wiring, mechanical, and refinishing the mizzen mast.

The mizzen mast had been sanded clean after it fell down several years before, but had then been left on deck without a new finish to protect it from the elements. We had the mast surveyed by Gene from Summerfield's, and he determined there wasn't any rot and it was probably restorable, and gave us his recommendation for proceeding. We went through the cracks and checking with a the blade of a coping saw, to clean and open up the cracks before injecting them with epoxy. We then sanded the mast again, and painted it with several coats of a marine enamel.


The strap holding the gudgeon (and rudder) on had suffered from a lot of corrosion, more so than anywhere else on the boat. The shoe itself was in good shape, but the strap was almost gone. We decided to have the yard manufacture an over shoe and strap, which we would bolt on through the hull. I didn't want ot chance cracking the concrete at all, so we called in a concrete coring company to core drill the holes through the hull for us using their water cooled drill.

We had to paint the hull above the water line still, to protect the epoxy paint from UV, as well as get our choice of color. We decided on a bright industrial safety yellow for the boat. Safety was the primary concern we had here. Why do so many boaters seem to prefer white and blue ? I hope we never make a mayday call from Aquarius, but if we ever have to I'd like to be in a very visible colored boat, not one painted the colors as the ocean and waves around us!



With the rudder, paint, and hull fittings done it was time to launch Aquarius again. We decided that as much work as we had done to her over the previous two months, she deserved a re-christening. As the travel lift waited to lower her back into the water, Capt. Karen Hill said a few good words for Aquarius, and I broke the champagne bottle on her bow.

There was still a lot of work to do, stepping the mizzen, mounting the bow sprit, finishing the rigging, and wiring lights. We had to go home to take care of domestic matters over September though...



We returned to the yard on October first, anxious to finish our work and sail Aquarius north before the winter came on.

The mizzen mast was first up on our to-do list, making a set of spreaders first. We found the spreader roots in the mass of parts below deck, and mounted our new spreaders. Fortunately we found most of the standing rigging for the mizzen as well. The yard stepped the mast, using the crane.

The head rigger at Summerfield's inspected the rest of our rig while he was stepping the mizzen, and informed us that we'd need to replace the upper and lower spreaders on the main mast as well. He loaned us a four part halyard and a bosun's chair, so we could install the new spreaders ourselves. We took a couple of trips up and down the mast, as we had to mount a new running light and radio antanae as well as the spreaders on the main mast.

The last major part of the boat to deal with was the bow sprit. We had a 6" diameter 11 foot laminated round beam to use for it, but had to shave it down to size to match the fittings on the bow for it. The old mounting hardware was rusted together so we had the yard weld up a new cap, and we bought new hardware as needed for it, including a new bow chain and turnbuckle.



The new bow sprit took a couple of test fittings before we had it shaved down just right to fit in to place. We tied a halyard to the middle of it, then Eugene would swing it overboard forward while I worked it into place standing on our dinghy off the bow.

We were almost done. We still had to mount the old manual windlass, and lay out our running rigging. We had purchased a main and stay sail back in January of 2002 when we bought the boat. We had a collection of other sail from our 40' wooden ketch, but it turned out that they were all various fore sails ! We had no mizzen sail, and no good jib. We went back to Atlantic Sail Traders and bought a wonderfull yankee cut jib, and Capt. Hill loaned us her mizzen sail.

One of our last problems to solve were winches. We couldn't afford to go out and buy a new set for sheets on the jib. By chance we were introduced to 'Jacabo', who just happened to have a set of Barbarosa two speed winches he was trying to sell on consignment for someone else, who realy just wanted a nice set of router bits. We gladly went out a bought the nicest set of router bits we could find, and traded them for the winches.


Aquarius was finaly ready to sail once again!


(c)Copyright 2002 by Eugene Kashpureff