Making The Old New Again: Boat Restoration

Practical: Boat Restoration

Some fishos get very attached to their boats and prefer to go down the resto route than buy new when their craft get long in the tooth. MARK WILLIAMS reports.

Long time Fisho readers may recall seeing my boat – a 4 metre Savage Kestrel V-hull tinny – in some articles in the late ’90s. It’s a truly versatile hull that I took everywhere from freshwater impoundments such as Burrinjuck Dam in southern NSW through to Glen Lyon Dam in Queensland. In between, it survived beach launches at Seal Rocks and plenty of other inshore and estuarine adventures.

In recent years I’ve had the boat in storage while I built a new house adjacent to the shores of Lake Macquarie. Basically, being a single income earner meant all my funds were being poured into the house and the boat had to wait till I had the house sorted out.

Anyway, good things come to those who wait and in hindsight it worked out well as it gave me an opportunity to think about what I really needed in a boat. In the end the decision came down to a number of factors, firstly, the fishing I intended doing in the future. Living 200m from one of the better, more centrally located boat ramps on the lake meant the boat’s purpose was primarily as an estuary lure and fly fishing platform. So the brief was to convert the hull into a modern inshore fishing vessel. I must admit to seriously considering selling it and getting either a 4m Polycraft or a 4.3m Quintrex Hornet, but at the end of the day I knew that I had a good hull and if I set it up right it would provide similar performance to these more modern hulls. I’m a fitter and turner by trade so I had the skills to do the upgrade, it was just a matter of putting the time into the project.

The resto begins
First step was to take the angle grinder to the boat and cut the front thwart seat and covered bow section out of the hull. The plan was to put in a flat carpeted deck and front and rear casting platforms, so I purchased some lengths of aluminium square section and tubing for bow and grab rails from Aluminium Specialities in Newcastle and set to work. The front casting deck was designed to provide plenty of storage underneath and be capable of taking a mounting base-plate for a casting seat. The rear casting deck basically covered the rear thwart seat and extended back to the transom where hatches were installed for accessing the fuel tank and batteries.

I initially fabricated an aluminium anchor well to go in the bow section, but after using one of the new Jarvis Walker Watersnake 55lb remote control bow mount electric motors  while fishing with my good mate Darren Mahon in his 4.3m Hornet, I had to have one. The concept of having dual control of the bow mount with the angler on the front casting deck using the foot control and the other guy on the rear deck using the remote control seemed brilliant to me. Gone were the days of one guy positioning the boat to suit himself! To my way of thinking the remote control system is a much more desirable feature than an autopilot function as it’s used constantly.  It wasn’t a great hassle to alter the boat to suit this new modification. Basically it just meant another trip to the aluminium welder to have the anchor well plated in and a mounting block for the bow mount installed. I also had to shorten the bow rails at the front to accommodate the Watersnake. Plating in the anchor well provided the added bonus of another storage space, which I accessed by installing a round plastic inspection port. I store my anchor rope and bow ropes in there out of the way and tangle free.

The boat had seen a fair bit of wear and tear over the years so the decision was made to sandblast it. My good mate Bob Williams of West Gosford Bait & Tackle kindly resprayed it for me in hard wearing two-pack epoxy paint.

I cut all of the timber decks out of structural ply as it was considerably cheaper than the marine stuff and sealed them with an industrial waterproofing agent. The marine carpet was then glued to them with contact cement. Having removed the foam filled front thwart seat I decided to fill the underfloor space with two-pack industrial foam. It was a bit of a pain to get this done, but I feel better knowing that there’s more flotation in the hull now than when it was originally constructed.

Repowering the old girl
Next came the decision of which outboard to power the reborn vessel? Originally it had a 25hp Johnson outboard and it never missed a beat. However, it was never a smooth running motor and didn’t like slow trolling as the spark plugs continually oiled up. So this time around I wanted to go for the smoothest running outboard I could find that also had features such as electric start and power trim and tilt. Not really being up to speed with the current outboard market I sourced a range of opinions from as many people as possible. The outboard that was constantly recommended was the Evinrude E-TEC and when the guys told me that the first service wasn’t for 300 hours I knew it was the way to go. I ended up going for the 30hp model as the boat has considerably more weight in it now with the additional timber decking. The performance of the E-TEC so far has been mind-blowing. I can’t believe how quiet and smooth running it is, not to mention the outstanding fuel economy. The first morning I put it on Lake Macquarie. I went up the far end of the lake and fished my way back home till after lunch. When I checked the fuel level after cleaning the boat up I was honestly stunned to see how little it had dropped. After seeing the outstanding performance delivered by the E-TEC, combined with the minimal servicing required, I’m rapt with the decision I made.

As for electrics, I wanted to keep things as minimalist as possible. I bought a new 115ah deep cycle battery to power the Watersnake bow mount and installed navigation lights and a bilge pump. A small waterproof switchbox for these is located undercover adjacent to the deep cycle battery, behind the driver’s seat. All the wiring is run either under the gunwales or casting decks so the boat can be hosed down after fishing. At the moment I’ve got a Humminbird Wide View sounder installed on a swivel mount so it can be viewed from the driver’s position or the front casting deck. So far the concept is working really well and I honestly don’t see the need for another sounder up front. I may upgrade the Humminbird in the future to one of the new generation compact sounder/GPS units.

As far as storage goes there’s plenty available under the front casting deck and I have put a big ice box in there that’s split into two separate storages, one for food and drinks, the other for keeping fish on ice. Rod storage can be a dilemma in such a small boat, so I installed a three rod vertical rack adjacent to the driver’s seat for storage when travelling. I’ve also worked out a way to store rods horizontally under the gunwales when fishing by employing a combination of clips and Velcro. So far it seems to be working out ok, but I’m certainly open to ideas that may work better. The boat doesn’t have a live bait well and I don’t really require one. It’s mainly a lure and fly fishing platform and my competitive juices have long since dried up, so I have no intention of fishing tournaments.  Personally I’d rather install an under deck icebox for food and drinks than a live well and may do that in the future.

Worth the effort?
So far the performance of my reborn boat has exceeded expectations. I’m really happy I didn’t sell it. Being a V-hull it’s ideally suited to the rough water conditions that can be experienced on large bodies of water such as Lake Macquarie, while its excellent stability at rest makes it an ideal lure and fly fishing platform. It performs superbly with either one or two anglers onboard, but three really is rather cramped. Summing up, it suits my needs perfectly, is a pleasure to fish from and is small enough to be easily launched by one person. There’s a lot of personal satisfaction to be gained from rebuilding a boat from a bare hull to suit your own fishing needs. I must admit there were times when I questioned whether I was doing the right thing, but now admit to being rapt with the result.

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