Home > Outside of the Office > Restoring Pip

Restoring a Santana 22

June 1st, 2009

I bought 'Pip', a sailboat, for $2000. It turns out that was $2000 too much, as I soon developed a long laundry list of things that needed to be fixed before I was going to be able to sail it where the wind blows hard and the waves are steep.

Pip is a Santana 22, affectionaly known as a 'Tuna.' It was designed in the 60's and built in 1973. It has several hundred tuna brothers and sisters, many of which are still sailing around the SF Bay Area.

At the beginning of April I took advantage of a break in my schedule to haul the boat, inspect the bottom, and replace the keelbolts. I anticipated a 1-2 week project, but in the end I was sucked into an 8 week major overhaul.. how did this happen?

The Haulout...

I hauled Pip at Berkeley Marine Center. It's a fairly exciting moment when the travelift slings are placed round your boat and starts lifting
Cree, who runs the boatyard remarked 'it's time' as the boat was pulled out of the water to reveal a sea of baby barnacles and slime.
"Paint Sick" was the expression used to describe 30 years of bottom paint that was peeling off in different layers. The bottom of the boat was covered in almost 3/8" of old paint.

Holding the sander above the head was exhausting work. Even on grind mode, it just seemed to be smudging it. It soon became apparent that I was going to go crazy getting the bottom paint off.
It took me into the second day just to get most of the paint off the keel. I ended up using a chisel and a hammer to break the bottom layer of epoxy. I experimented with paint stripper on the fiberglass parts of the hull, but this took only a handful of layers of paint off... I had 30 layers to go through. I resorted to removing the paint with a sharp chisel and a mallet.

Working under the boat is awful work. Paint flakes falling on you; holding your arms above your head all day.
The primary reason for the haulout was to replace the keelbolts. I was worried that the keel would fall off at any moment with this much rust.
I drilled out the old keelbolts with a hole saw and lots of cutting oil. This took a couple hours and wasn't too difficult, but it did make a mess.

If you are considering replacing your keelbolts, I recomend removing and replacing the keelbolts one at a time. You'll see why I removed them all in the next picture.
Cree came up with the bright idea of flipping the boat upside down to make removing the bottom paint easier. Genius. Don't try this at home.
Looking at the boat like this was trippy!
... but it sure made working on the bottom easier. It took me another 4 days to chip off all the paint and get it down to the gelcoat.
While at it, I pulled out and patched the forward through-hulls that had been used for a toilet. I also repaired a myriad of small blisters.
Once the holes were filled, I barrier-coated the hull with three coats of West-System Epoxy.... the shine was the first sign of success.
The keel wasn't in bad shape really. A lot of surface rust, but it wasn't too difficult to grind off with a wirebrush and a grinder.
New keelbolts & lifting eyes from Steve Seal. The bolts are 2" long, 3/4" diameter, countersunk, made of 316 stainless.
We flipped the boat back upright and reattached the keel. We bed the keel to the hull with 3M 4200 polysulfide. 4200 is as good a sealant as 5200 and will enable some poor fool to remove the keel again in 20 years time.
After a few more days of adding goop and fairing, the hull was beginning to look quite fast!
Not content with just taking care of the bottom of the boat I also took on some rot in the decks. I opened up the chainplates, and drilled a bunch of holes to let it all dry out. Several days later, I filled it all in with more epoxy and filler, smoothed it out.
My hull has a fiberglass liner and no floor timber to which I could install a compresion post to take the load of the mast while racing. Steve Seal had seen boats of this design break apart under load, and almost went as far as suggesting I should buy a different boat if I wanted to race it. I wasn't going to turn back now, and so pulled the partially rotten bulkheads out, and made room to build in a floor.
Another couple weeks went by... I dug myself in deeper and removed all the deck hardware and repainted the decks. A tough and annoying job, especially under the beating sun. But the results started to speak for themselves. Pip was turning into a yacht.
Then this chap 'Skitz' from Sacramento came down and wanted to grafitti a boat, and I thought, 'hell why not?'
So he painted a big octopus...
We had a competition to come up with a new name.... 'Octopussy', 'OMG...WTF is that', 'Squidly B', 'Tunapus' 'Calamari' were some of the more popular suggestions. But for now, I'm still calling it 'Pip'.
... and to make it fast, I let Berkeley Marine Center spray the bottom with super-fast bottom paint. (If you look carefully, you'll see the boat has been picked up by 'Cranky the Crane' using those lifting eyes I installed earlier.)
Voila... painting almost done, and it's time to reattach the hardware.
And here we after two months of toil and trouble... bobbing happily and looking pretty.

So, what did I learn from this experience

  1. Do not underestimate the effort, expense, mess and misery of bottom paint removal! - If you buy a boat that has been sitting in the water for 30 years, and has been cheaply repainted by a yard every couple years since then, you'll have a slog waiting for you if you want to make the bottom smooth and fast again.
  2. If you like to do things yourself, Berkeley Marine Center is THE place to work on your boat. I had more fun with my boat there than at any other time since I have owned it. Cree, Karl, and all the folks there are 'can-do' people. Flipping a boat upside down so you don't have to suffer while chiseling the bottom paint is just par for the course with them. They were always in a good mood, full of good advice, and make you feel welcome.... then again, maybe that's why my haulout took 8 weeks!
  3. Don't underestimate the materials and costs associated with fixing up a run-down boat. So far I have spent almost $10k and three months of labor on this boat since I bought it... this is something I had never planned. Sure, not all the work was necessary, but I would have done much better if I had just waited and bought a boat in better condition. There is NO SUCH THING AS A CHEAP or FREE BOAT. The cheapest boats are the ones that have been sailed often, looked after by competent and caring owners, and are on sale for more than you think they are worth.
  4. All the above being said... I wouldn't trade the experience and satisfaction I have gained from fixing up a cheap boat to get my money back. It was all worth it. And did I mention I like sticking needles into my eyes?
  5. In a world full of white boats, it's nice to have a little variety, and it's good to take a risk and let a budding artist have at your boat with bottle cans. If you'd like an octopus, whale, or whatever painted on your boat, drop me a line and I'll put you in touch with Skitz.
  6. Santana 22's are awesome. It seemed that everyday, someone would come up to me in the boatyard to tell me how great these little boats are. I think so too. If you live in SF and are new to sailing, this is the boat to start out on.
  7. Book Recommendations... there's a lot of good books out there to help you, but Don Casey's, This Old Boat was my bible for this project.