Project Boat

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In early March 2007, I came across someone giving away a 1965 Larson with a 50-horsepower Evinrude motor and a trailer. I thought it might make a fun winter project for me and my son, Eric, and once we completed the project, he would have a boat of his own.

Expectations vs. reality

When I first saw the boat, I thought, “It doesn’t look so bad.” However, once I got it home, my opinion changed.

The boat had sat outside uncovered for years and was filled with leaves, plant debris, snow and ice. The lights, cleats and other attachments had been removed and placed in a 5-gallon bucket, which happened to be filled with frozen water. I didn’t know what I had until I thawed the ice cylinder and freed up the artifacts inside.

The seats lay upside down and sideways in the cockpit along with a bunch of miscellaneous parts and the remnants of an old, vinyl Bimini.

My optimism took a hit when I inspected the transom. In bad shape, it had rot and a big curve from the 50-hp outboard, which looked like it might just fall right off.

Coming up with a plan

After inspecting the rest of the boat, I prioritized my repair activities to minimize the cost and avoid wasted effort.

My preliminary plan was simple: Work on the boat first to see if I could fix it before attempting to get the engine running. If I couldn’t make the boat safe and usable, I’d have no use for the outboard.

o fix the boat, I needed to repair or replace the transom, rewire the navigation lights, repair or re-glass the side compartment shelves, paint or recondition the gel coat, install indoor-outdoor carpeting, and install the seats.

Everything seemed doable—except for the fact that I had never done any fiberglass repair work or repaired a boat transom. But, what the heck, that never stopped me before. Back then, YouTube wasn’t a big thing, so I had to research and figure everything out for myself. In the end, I did most of the work on my own in the evenings and on the weekends throughout the winter.

Restoring the transom

Using scrap lumber, I built a stand to hold the outboard and went to work on the transom.
Since the stern engine well made it difficult to make repairs from inside the boat, I removed the fiberglass skin at the transom and started from there.

Using a router, I carved a groove around the transom skin and removed that section in one piece. The transom was so rotted that the fiberglass wouldn’t adhere to the wood. I chiseled out a lot of rotted wood, along with a couple of carpenter ant colonies. I left a channel all the way around, into which I would slide the replacement transom boards.

I used plain old exterior plywood for the transom as I couldn’t find a local source for marine plywood. After making a pattern, I cut two half-inch plywood boards in the correct shape. Then, I coated both sides and edges with epoxy to seal the wood. Since the transom had a slight curve, I applied the epoxy and slid the boards into the channel before the epoxy could set up. The boards took the correct shape as the epoxy set.

Using epoxy, I re-glued the skin to the transom and filled the space from the router bit to seal the transom. Next, I clamped and screwed the skin back on. Later, I filled the screw holes with epoxy.
When the weather broke, I took the boat outside to clean and paint it. After removing the windshield and other attachments, I painted the boat, trying to match the colors to pictures of Larsons I found online.

I never could get the Evinrude to run without overheating, so I put on an old 65-horsepower Mercury instead. With the restoration complete, I took it out for a ride.
Fortunately, the boat ran great. Unfortunately, my son was more into video games than boating and hardly used it.

Although I sold the Larson a few years later, I learned a lot from this fun and educational winter project.

Gary Armstrong

Gary Armstrong is a member of Main Line Sail & Power Squadron/5 and has been a boater for over 50 years, having spent the last 25 on the Chesapeake Bay. He keeps his seventh boat, a 40-foot Mainship Trawler, at Sassafras Harbor Marina on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Gary has traveled the ICW, chartered in the BVIs and circumnavigated the Delmarva Peninsula.