Introduction: Restoring a Classic Boston Whaler/Learning Adventure

About: four tires and wheel? you've got yourself a deal

This instructable will hopefully serve as a guide for someone wanting to restore either a Boston Whaler or some kind of the many other similar boats. The process, for someone who has never done a full restoration before, is a lot of fun and a ton of learning. Boston Whalers are the "Unsinkable Legend" and this will be the story of my second one.

It begins when I was given this boat for free! A 1969 Whaler 13 sport, a very common candidate for restorations. Mine was in very rough shape; it had been through several sub-par paint jobs in its life, rough crabbing use, and just a cut-corner ownership. It had flaking and peeling paint, inconsistent paint levels, dents, scratches, cracks, rotten wood, and a broken motor. But these are what you should expect with a free boat

Now lets get started with bringing this heap of a legend back to its former glory!

Step 1: Think

Now, Boston Whalers come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and of course, conditions. Before we start ripping out old stuff, take a look at your boat. What does it need? Is the paint flaking, are there cracks? Does it look faded? What are you restoring it for? Reselling? If your are able to get your whaler for less than $750, you are lucky. Your observations will decide how thorough your restoration will be, mine needed all new paint, wood, and a new motor.

If the interior and exterior paint is good enough for your standards, skip to step 5

If you decide to do a new paint job, continue after this step

Step 2: Paint Prep Part 1 Sanding

Before starting anything having to do with paint, remove everything from the boat that should not be painted such as running lights, cleats, engine, controls, benches, etc. Of course a paint job is only as good at the prep job, the prep is what creates a level, easy to adhere to surface for the paint, no matter what kind of paint is used. I was doing this project on the cheap side, but not bare bones, so I decided to go with polyurethane brush/roll on paints. To begin, decide whether you are going to repaint the interior and the exterior or just one or the other.

I started with the exterior paint and bottom paint, then did the interior.

Begin by flipping the boat off the trailer and pressure washing it, this will remove deep dirt and stains, and hopefully some paint. When I washed mine, most of the bottom paint came off since it was ablative. Once the boat is very dry, have some strong friends lift it into a workspace like a garage. Once the boat is set on towels or blocks, the sanding process begins. If you have access to a sandblasting machine, good for you. I sanded mine by hand and it took several hours, the most menial part of the restoration. Wear a mask, the dust is nasty.

Start with a heavy grit like 100 and use a decent sander, I do not recommend a $20 Palm Sander. You do not have to sand down to fiberglass, just remove as much of the old coats that you can. Once you have made it all the way around the boat and you have ripped up several sheet of sand paper, its time for the next step which is to grind out all the cracks and dents that will need filler. Grinding will make the imperfections better accept the filler. To grind out the cracks, I used a dremel with a rounded-tip grinding bit.

Step 3: Paint Prep Part 2 Filling

After the dust has settled from the sanding, vacuum it all up from the floor and the boat. Now its time to build a level surface for the new paint to adhere to. Clean the entire boat with acetone, pour a little bit into a rag and just wipe the whole boat, before continuing, be sure the acetone has evaporated (boat won't shine anymore once evaporated)

This is when I ordered all my paint, primer, and filler. I got mine from Jamestown Distributors

I ordered two quarts of primer, one quart of white topside, one quart of blue interior (they actually have a color called "Boston Whaler Blue), one quart of blue bottom paint, and a thing of two part epoxy filler called fairing compound

After the boat is clean, its pretty likely that there will be spots that need filling, cracks and dents, if painted over without filler, will ruin a good paint job.

If you decide not to order from Jamestown Distributors (they include them), make sure to order some gloves, mixing containers, and spreaders.

Follow the instructions on the filler container and mix up a batch, not too much because you will need this stuff for the interior, too. Carefully go around the whole boat, bottom and topside, spreading the filler inside and over the imperfections, this will take a while.

After the first round of filling has dried (most turn a different color) lightly sand over anywhere there is filler, it is easy to sand too hard here and destroy your filling efforts. Once you have sanded all the filled areas, go over the boat with another round of filler for the areas you missed and sand again after.

The last step of paint prep is optional but it yields incredible results: glazing putty. Even if you think your filled and refilled surface is smooth and level, glazing putty will ensure it. It is available at auto parts stores. Just follow the directions on the container.

I think we're ready for paint now

Step 4: Primer and Paint

There is light at the end of this tunnel, its time to prime the boat. After you have sanded your filler and putty carefully, clean the boat with acetone again and read the instructions on the primer can. I used a one part primer, but I would recommend using a two part because they dry faster. I don't think the primer had to be thinned. I rolled it on simply because it was quicker.

There are lots of places on the internet to tell you how to do a nice paint job, but this is what I did.

After the primer coat is on, lightly sand it with 220 grit to create a slightly rough surface for our final coats to rest on. I did three coats of the white topside and two coats of bottom paint starting with the topside. I had someone help me because we needed one person rolling and one person "tipping"

After all the topside and bottom paint is dry (which can take days if you use one part paints) It is time to flip it back over and put it on the trailer (we did both of these at the same time) and if you wish, paint the inside. Basically, I repeated steps 2, 3, and 4 with the interior except I used the color Boston Whaler blue. Here is a great video on painting and prepping the interior.

The act of painting the boat takes a fraction of the time it takes to prep

Step 5: Rub Rail

The rub rail on my Whaler was pretty dilapidated so I decided to replace it entirely. Since I had already removed it and filled the old holes during paint prep, it was ready. I ordered this three part rub rail from ebay which was pretty identical to the original. Couldn't be happier with the product and they even included Whaler decals! To attach the new rub rail, start with the biggest piece which is also the stiffest, begin at one corner on the boat and work your way around screwing in the rail.

You will need two helpers for this unless you create an elaborate clamp setup. One person hold the stiff rail in place (hardest job), another ensures the top angle part (not stiff) is inserted correctly, and the last person screws in the rail. Make sure you do not angle the screws upward when drilling.

After you have screwed in the rail and the top angle part is in place and you have cut the excess with a hacksaw, press the black insert into the channel all the way around the boat and trim that excess. Be sure your original running light wires are routed in between the insert and the rail.

Step 6: Benches and Console

Classic Boston Whalers have mahogany benches and console pieces which give them their iconic look. The wood on my Whaler was is very rough shape and somewhat rotten. After removing all the wood from it, I brought it to a woodworker I know and he cut new benches and restored the original console pieces and stained them.

It was my job to apply the sealer. I used a one part polyurethane sealer from Interlux called Compass Clear which turned out great. Follow the instructions on the can and thin accordingly. I did 5 coats on the first side and 5 on the underside. Before you begin, create a nice open space to work in and set each piece on a 2x4 or something with a paper towel over it. This process took a while even though the coats could be applied in rapid succession (4 hours)

Once the wood is finished, count all the screws you will need to put it all back together on the boat. I bought all new stainless steel hardware and finishing washers. When screwing into the hull, first put a little dab of caulk in the hole so water cannot seep in.

Step 7: Engine and Controls

The engine that came with my Whaler was an old 35hp Johnson two stroke which I was told ran with low compression. I sold it on craigslist because I wanted a Yamaha outboard. I removed the engine and disconnected the controls. After that, I searched craigslist for a long time until I found just the right size motor I wanted, a 25hp Yamaha four stroke. I bought mine fully serviced and with a brand new battery.

This motor attaches differently to the transom than the Johnson since it is so heavy. Four bolts go directly through the transom to secure the motor. The first thing I did when putting the new motor on was have some friends hold it in place on the boat so I could mark where the holes needed to be drilled. Mine were 1/2" holes. After drilling, measure the length of the bolts you need and get nice stainless steel ones with washers and locknuts, and some rubber washers. Since I was putting a long shaft motor on a short shaft transom, I had to drill below the waterline, meaning that special precautions have to be made so water cannot seep in.

To protect my transom, I cut a steel plate the shape of the motor and drilled holes for the bolts to go through

With your friends help, hold the motor in place on the transom and hammer the top two bolts through and tighten them down. Next put some caulk in the holes for the bottom two bolts then hammer them through and tighten. Don't forget to put the rubber washers in between the plate and the transom.

With your motor on, connect all the controls including steering, throttle, electric, starting, gas, and gear. I attached the throttle on the sideboard, but you can experiment with different locations depending on your comfort.

We are just about done!

Step 8: The End

The last few things to complete a restoration are the easiest. I applied the Boston Whaler decals. First, make sure the area where you apply it is clean, then peel the backing off and stick it on, take care that it is parallel to the rub rail. To ensure that it is parallel, I measured and used masking tape. Then using a spreader, press the decal on hard, then pull the paper off.

I then put new ID numbers on the boat and new trailer wheels and tires.

Now we are ready to launch!

Thanks for reading