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Old 21-07-2015, 14:54   #1
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Boat: 1973 Gulfstar 41'
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"Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

On May 30th, 2015 I bought my first real sailboat. I had been casually looking around for a super cheap boat to use for weekend day sailing and occasional overnight trips with friends. I planned to sail Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi gulf coast, maybe going to Florida eventually.

I was hoping to find something in the 30' range, but what I ended up with is much better! The boat started it's life in 1973 as a Gulfstar 41', although you couldn't tell that now. As you can see from the pictures what I ended up with is a heavily modified Gulfstar that looks more like a hippy pirate ship. For the price, $3,600, I think it was a steal! It's been a fun project so far and I've been learning a ton, and only scratched the surface! I'll give a brief history of the vessel as told by the previous owner, then get into the work I've done over the past few months.

The story is that the boat was sunk in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina. The hull had an approximately 8' gash below the waterline on the port side beginning around the front of the cockpit and extending toward the stern. I don't know how long the boat sat on the bottom before the previous owner acquired it and put it on the hard, but the boat spent several years in the yard being repaired and becoming what you see here.

The interior was completely removed and stripped out including the bulkheads and the floor. The hull damage was repaired, floor replaced, and some bulkheads replaced, or re-fitted. The interior is still completely unfinished, and will be a slow work in progress. The mast was tossed and replaced with a roller furling rig believed to be off a Beneteau. The massive cypress bow sprit was added along with the huge tuna tower/bimini on the stern, which also serves as dinghy davits. The bimini over the cockpit had solar panels installed. The electrical system was completely re-done from scratch, and is still a bit of a mystery to me at this point. It's got two house batteries and one starter. The engine (perkins 4-108) was rebuilt, not sure how extensively, but it's running strong at the moment. The bottom was done before being put in the water in 2012. From what I can tell based on visual inspection, and pictures taken by the previous owner, he did a good job with the repairs that were completed, although much is left to be done.

A short time before I bought the boat it was run aground and drifted up against a seawall. This caused some serious but fixable damage, hence the low price. The port side of the hull was bouncing against a concrete seawall for several days which caused some de-lamination where the hull was previously repaired. The hull and deck joint also separated for about 10' along the port side. Luckily the chainplate took most of the impact which ultimately saved the boat. The bow also fell victim to the seawall and had a good size hole chewed completely through into the anchor locker.

As for the recent repairs, the previous owner actually ground away the damaged bow and re-glassed most of it before I bought the boat. I have since added a few more layers of cloth and mat to get the thickness correct. All the bow needs now is some filler and paint to finish it off. The de-lamination and separation on the port side of the boat were a bit more of a hassle to deal with. Cracks along the toe rail were allowing rain water to run inside the hull, so first order of business was to grind out the cracks and re-glass the toe rail. Next I removed the screws holding the hull/deck together, cleaned both surfaces, and glued them back together using 5200. I then drilled new pilot holes and screwed the deck/hull back together. I ground out the de-laminated glass on the inside of the hull and glassed the hull/deck joint from the inside. For the most part, this took care of the repairing the damage from the seawall incident.

I decided too install new or add on to 4 bulkheads to more securely attach the hull & deck. I made cardboard templates, then cut the bulkheads out of ply. I glued the edges to the hull & deck with 5200, epoxied them to the existing bulkheads, and tabbed them in with glass. This is about how far I've gotten with the rebuild as of now. I took the boat out for a maiden voyage in about 8-10 knots to check my work and all seemed well. The hull was stiff and I got no slack in the leeward stays. I was half expecting the rig to come down on port tack as that side of the hull has some serious damage.

Next steps are to deal with the electrical system, and work on making the interior presentable, but it's too hot in Louisiana right now to be down below for more than a few minutes at a time. The engine also has NO gauges installed! I need to get my hands on a panel and figure out how to wire it up before any extended motoring.

I'm sure I've overlooked a ton, what am I missing?
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Old 21-07-2015, 15:14   #2
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Re: "Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

Congrats! looks like you've done a lot of work. One question, just wondering what would happen if you dug that solid bowsprit into a wave.
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Old 21-07-2015, 15:20   #3
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Re: "Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

Sounds like a boat that doesn't want to die, though one might want to keep an eye on its amphibian/submarine antics. Since it's a construction project below, how about making those subdivisions watertight? Not suggesting preparing to Hunt for Red October, just some tall sills and doors. What are the deck core, hull/deck join, chainplates, rigging and keel like?
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Old 21-07-2015, 15:44   #4
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Re: "Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

Frankenstein was the creator, the monster is called "Frankenstein's monster"

Yours pedantically
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Old 21-07-2015, 15:47   #5
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Re: "Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vasco View Post
Congrats! looks like you've done a lot of work. One question, just wondering what would happen if you dug that solid bowsprit into a wave.
That's a good question! I imagine it would be pretty difficult to do in the areas I plan to sail. My bigger concern is how the boat will handle when heeled over with all the windage from the tuna tower/bimini? I'm expecting some serious weather helm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by micah719 View Post
Sounds like a boat that doesn't want to die, though one might want to keep an eye on its amphibian/submarine antics. Since it's a construction project below, how about making those subdivisions watertight? Not suggesting preparing to Hunt for Red October, just some tall sills and doors. What are the deck core, hull/deck join, chainplates, rigging and keel like?
I really like how open the boat is below, so making water tight compartments is not in the plans as of now. Surprisingly I didn't find a single soft spot in the deck, which has a balsa core. The hull/deck joint appears to be solid where it has been repaired; the jib trims to the toe rail right above the repair and it showed no signs of stretching/cracking/de-lamination under load, albeit minimal as the winds were light. I had to take off the port chainplate, it was bent from the seawall incident. To straighten it out I propped it up on 2x4's and ran it over with a truck! Re-installed with through bolts and aluminum backing plates inside the hull. The standing rigging was replaced along with the mast back in 2010/2011 or thereabout. All fittings are Norseman Swageless terminals! In my opinion the rigging is the nicest thing on the boat! The keel is missing some bottom paint from the grounding incident, but other than that I can't tell you anything about it. Is there anyting I can check while the boat is in the water?
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Old 22-07-2015, 06:25   #6
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Re: "Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

I would not have used 5200 on the bulkheads. I also have to be honest with you--I think that monstrosity on the stern makes the boat ugly as can be. But it's not my boat, it's yours, and if you like it then why should you care what I think? Do what you want and enjoy it.

Good luck.
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Old 22-07-2015, 08:17   #7
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Re: "Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

Looks like your having a blast! Love it


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Old 22-07-2015, 08:59   #8
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Re: "Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

As for the instrument panel, there is nothing sacred about them. I used some existing instruments that came with my engine, added some more (because I like more than idiot lights), drew up a few layouts until it looked right, and fabricated one out of plywood and epoxy. I was able to adds some cool things you don't find in regular panels. These included LED lights (and electronic buzzers, in different tones) using the idiot light senders to be mounted directly above their relevant gauge. This way, I could be off watch and asleep, with an inexperienced crew on watch, when an alarm goes off. The crew could then say "We are overheating" because the light and sound drew his eye to the gauge. Of course, because each sound is particular, I would already know that by the time my feet hit the sole. I was also able to install a Racor vacuum gauge (along with a vacuum switch for the idiot light and alarm) to let me know that the fuel filter was approaching its capacity and I needed to switch over to the fresh filter. It's fun to design your own stuff to meet your own needs.
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Old 22-07-2015, 09:34   #9
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Re: "Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

That chainplate should be replaced, the metal is certainly fatigued and compromised. In the pic from the bow it looks like whoever raised the foresail didn't quite get it up all the way (just an FYI if you don't have much experience sailing).

Have you ever been dismasted? I have, it was only a 20' boat, but it was not fun, and conditions were light (mast step failed, it was a rental). Do you think you will have time between the chainplate failing and the mast coming down? You might, but typically it's bang (chainplate fails) and then bang (mast breaks) and then crash (on the deck) and splash (in the water), and now you've got a big sea anchor and a piece of mast that starts banging into the side of your boat trying to stove a hole.

Hopefully you have at least one quality pair of wire cutters big enough to cut away your rig. Maybe some long crowbars and a few hack saws in case that aft superstructure gets wrapped around the cockpit or mast.

If you're just looking for a cheap boat that you can live on, consider losing the rig and just motor it. It would give you more space to bolt stuff on, you could put an EZ-Up right where the mast was, add a porch on the sides, etc.
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Old 22-07-2015, 11:27   #10
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Re: "Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

A look at the keel bolts wouldn't be a waste of time, if the boat has them and has gounded. If it was mine, I'd look at the hull around where the keel meets it as well, and also if the grounding scars on the keel go into fibreglass. With the centre cockpit version I bet you could get some useful watertight subdivision without much trouble at all, and still have open space in the living areas. The fore and aft engine bulkheads could be made tight.

Perhaps the owner's club might be of help:
http://www.gulfstarownersclub.com/library/

For just over three and a half boatbux it looks like you're having a lot of bargain fun, but please be careful and don't become that guy...
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Old 22-07-2015, 14:01   #11
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Re: "Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
I would not have used 5200 on the bulkheads. I also have to be honest with you--I think that monstrosity on the stern makes the boat ugly as can be. But it's not my boat, it's yours, and if you like it then why should you care what I think? Do what you want and enjoy it.

Good luck.
Any reasoning behind not using 5200 on bulkheads? I actually used 4000 for bulkheads now that I think about it. The idea was to have a little more elasticity.

She is certainly not a show boat, and I probably wouldn't have chosen to put such a gigantic rig on the stern, but I'm certainly not wasting any time and effort to take it off. I don't think the bowsprit looks great either, but hey the price was right, and it's unique!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Roy M View Post
As for the instrument panel, there is nothing sacred about them. I used some existing instruments that came with my engine, added some more (because I like more than idiot lights), drew up a few layouts until it looked right, and fabricated one out of plywood and epoxy. I was able to adds some cool things you don't find in regular panels. These included LED lights (and electronic buzzers, in different tones) using the idiot light senders to be mounted directly above their relevant gauge. This way, I could be off watch and asleep, with an inexperienced crew on watch, when an alarm goes off. The crew could then say "We are overheating" because the light and sound drew his eye to the gauge. Of course, because each sound is particular, I would already know that by the time my feet hit the sole. I was also able to install a Racor vacuum gauge (along with a vacuum switch for the idiot light and alarm) to let me know that the fuel filter was approaching its capacity and I needed to switch over to the fresh filter. It's fun to design your own stuff to meet your own needs.
Nice looking panel. I like the idea of having alarms and gauges as an extra precaution, but that might be overkill for what I plan on using this boat for. What would you say are the minimum essential gauges to have? Alarms? I'm at a loss on how to approach the panel at the moment since the boat came with no gauges or panel at all. I need to poke around the engine and find out where the sensors are, test them, and figure out what kind of instruments are compatible. Can anyone point me in the right direction for where to find Perkins 4-108 gauges? Maybe I'll post in the engine or electrical forum?


Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnbreeze27 View Post
That chainplate should be replaced, the metal is certainly fatigued and compromised. In the pic from the bow it looks like whoever raised the foresail didn't quite get it up all the way (just an FYI if you don't have much experience sailing).
Never been dismasted, and I hope not to. I'm quite confident in the chainplate that I re-installed. It was a custom job by the PO and it's ridiculously thick stainless. The seawall put some scratches and a very slight bend into it, not a sharp one. If the mast is going to come down, I'm convinced that the hull will be the point of failure, not that chainplate. Knock on wood.

As far as the jib goes, that's an issue with the sail, not the halyard tension. I'm not sure how this is possible but the bolt rope/luff wire in the sail is too short and the cloth is bunched up around it near the foot of the sail. Very strange.


Quote:
Originally Posted by micah719 View Post
A look at the keel bolts wouldn't be a waste of time, if the boat has them and has gounded. If it was mine, I'd look at the hull around where the keel meets it as well, and also if the grounding scars on the keel go into fibreglass. With the centre cockpit version I bet you could get some useful watertight subdivision without much trouble at all, and still have open space in the living areas. The fore and aft engine bulkheads could be made tight.

Perhaps the owner's club might be of help:
http://www.gulfstarownersclub.com/library/

For just over three and a half boatbux it looks like you're having a lot of bargain fun, but please be careful and don't become that guy...
Will definitely check keel bolts and look for cracks around the hull/keel joint. There are a few cracks on the hull where the rudder blade hit when bouncing around on the ground. I'm a little worried that I'll find the same thing on the keel now. Fingers crossed!
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Old 23-07-2015, 08:05   #12
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Re: "Frankenstein" Gulfstar Project

If your needs (and budget) are minimal, here are my suggestions. First, there are two kinds of instruments: senders and sensors. I always get them confused. One is merely an on-off switch and actuates an idiot light and/or alarm buzzer. The other actually sends a signal to a gauge. The idiot lights are a minimum, and can be duplicated later with adding the appropriate sender (I think) to your panel.

Second, you need a warning that something terrible is about to happen and you need to shut down the engine immediately. That means oil pressure. Low or no oil can cause the engine to seize, a very expensive proposition. After that, in priority (meaning how fast the damage can escalate) would be a coolant temperature alarm (and gauge, if possible) to let you know that you have very little time remaining to keep the engine going until you start ruining head gaskets and other stuff. Third, an idiot light, at minimum, to tell you that the alternator is not working (or working at a minimal level).

On my own engine, because I have experienced problems on boat deliveries, I tend to go way overboard. I have gauges for the tachometer, oil pressure (with idiot lights and buzzer), a water temperature gauge with two idiot lights and different sounding buzzers (one is a flow switch to tell me the impeller just failed or I sucked in a plastic bag, meaning I need to immediately shut down the engine, AND a conventional overheating switch to let me know I've reached a dangerous temperature and have only a little time to correct it). I also have a voltmeter (not an ammeter) to tell me more stuff about the alternator (also with light and buzzer). Lastly, I have a Racor vacuum gauge to tell me that the fuel filter is beginning to foul and I may need to switch to the alternative fuel filter (with a simple lever twist). Above the vacuum gauge are two idiot lights/buzzers that tell me that there is water in the fuel or that the vacuum has reached a serious level indicating it is getting plugged up with gunk. I also have buzzers (with mute switches) and idiot lights for each of the several bilge pumps on the boat. And, of course, a fire alarm. I hate surprises, hence the overkill.
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