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Seneca Lee and the WBFV Midwest Report

by Matt Cline

Editor's Note: Matt has been restoring this Halsey Herreshoff beauty since the beginning of the year. His work is a pleasure to watch as well and getting for him to be getting closer to that first sail with veterans at Indian Lake Yacht Club.

My apologies for being off the air for a while now. I have been rather

swamped with several activities, including working on Seneca Lee and

standing up all the logistics required to get this moving. I had hoped to be

further along but I have accomplish much in this time with more about to fall

into place very soon. I’m submitting a brief report but as thorough as

needed to get you up to speed with where we are here in the midwest.

Seneca Lee:

The boat, (while able to have been floated and sailed right off the bat) did

need some work to avoid more costly and time consuming repairs in the

future. There was also some maintenance work needed as the boat for the

last year was not in the previous owner’s care and are being attended to

presently. Here are some specifics.

The hull, deck, cabin, cockpit, etc.

While intact, most boats at this age have issues with the surface gelcoat

beginning to crack. This happens around tight radii areas of fiberglass,

areas that are under a lot of stress or areas that have been subject to

impacts and major UV exposure. While not critical to the structural integrity

of the boat, it can allow for water ingress into the interior structures. The

Herreshoff designs built by Norwak & Williams and Squadron Yachts have

hulls that are 100% solid fiberglass. But the decks and superstructures are

wooden cored. Water ingress into these cores will cause rot and damage.

Before the problem got more severe, I wanted to seal up all these cracks

as best I could and give her a new coat of paint. Again, while not necessary

at the moment, it is best to get on these kinds of problems as quickly as

possible. Plus, the boat was just cosmetically tired and just needed an

update to the paint job.

I sanded down the decks, combing and cabin top to remove all loose paint

and chips as well as route out deeper cracks and fill them with fairing

compound, fairing them back to the original profile as much as possible.

After that, a new TotalBoat epoxy barrier coat was applied for everything

but the hull. Additionally, the woodwork was sanded down to re-apply a new

coat of varnish for the bow sprit, rub rails, hand rails, cap rail and more. Not

all surfaces have been revarnished yet, but will be completed once the

paint has been completed. The deck, combing, cabin top and cockpit are

now sealed and repainted with a fresh coat of Kirby’s marine paint.

Secondary Propulsion

Seneca Lee is equipped with a Tohatsu 9.8 HP 4-stroke outboard gasoline

engine. It has an electric start and utilizes a standard 12 volt marine

battery, which is brand new and been trickle charging all winter. While the

engine itself was well maintained in the previous owner’s care, it sat

inactive for a season up on the hard at an intermediate owners home with

little or no maintenance. I’m not counting on the care it needs to have been

done, so I will be replacing all relevant seals, filters, etc for this season’s


While an outboard engine, the unit sits INSIDE the boat in an engine well at

the very stern of the boat under the seat. The engine is very large for this

boat but the power it offers as very welcome. As such, pulling it from the

engine well to do basic maintenance will be challenging but doable. I will

need to make a small gantry lift to help get it high enough to work on all the

necessary components. It also needs to be cosmetically cleaned but this

won’t be difficult. The engine is otherwise in extremely good shape and I

am confident it will fire right up once filters, seals, etc are replaced. These

engines are extremely reliable.

I should have the engine updated and cleaned by the end of this week.

Steering Mechanism

The steering mechanism is one of the three larger challenges to get this

boat back in the water and operational. Originally, the boat was rigged with

a cable / pulley system to direct the rudder by a wheel. Due to the previous

owner’s physical limitations, she felt it better to replace it with a rudimentary

tiller. This tiller system would not be conducive for any passengers to ride in

the cockpit with any comfort and even some safety issues. The wheel

system needs to be put back. Currently, the hardware for the wheel is all in

my possession but much if it has been altered from even it’s original

design. While I have the equipment necessary to replace it, it all sits

directly above the engine, described above. Once in place, the engine can

not be removed or accessed unless the metal (or dyneema) cables are

disconnected. Thus, the engine needs to be ready to go before I can

significantly work on the steering. It’s not a complicated situation, just time

consuming considering I am the only one working on it.

While originally using Edson cable pulleys, the large profile engine requires

a more flexible directional pulley. The originals were replaced with

carabiner rings. With corrosion visible, these will be replaced and metal

cable replaced with Dyneema.

The only thing missing is the wooden box that holds a thrust bearing of the

wheel shaft. I have the wood available in my stock to remake this, which is

straight forward and simple.

The mast

The second major issue I need to correct is the base of the mast. With

extended exposure to salt water in the bilge, the bottom of the aluminum

pipe mast as corroded. I want to replace it if possible. Utilizing a tabernacle

mast, the hinge point allows me to replace the bottom section of the pipe

that is about 4’ long. These masts were made from old New York City street

light poles. I have tried to find a suitable replacement in the area, but have

not had any luck. Anything that comes close is not remotely affordable for

me. As such, I have another section of the same mast that was damaged

from another Herreshoff Eagle. Regrettably, it is not long enough for a

straight replacement. So I am looking to cut a section off of the salvaged

pipe and have it welded into the existing mast pipe. While I can weld metal,

welding aluminum is a specialty operation that requires special equipment

and training. I’m working to find someplace to do that work for me asap. But

I am also looking into alternatives to perhaps add a sleeve to the mast pipe

to correct for the bottom corrosion.

The mast will primarily need compression strength at this point, not any

significant lateral loads, which will be handled by the deck collar and side


Possible fiberglass crack in the hull

While the previous two items are relevant issues, one has popped up that

is causing the larger delay. While sanding the hull to apply a new coat of

paint to just make the hull presentable, I found a long and possible deep

crack on the port quarter. This appears to be deeper than a typical aging

gelcoat crack. It’s possible the boat hit the bottom, was put into a trailer

hard once....many possibilities exist. However, I am going to grind down

the gelcoat and fiberglass to make sure this is not a major failure in the

fiberglass hull. I will add some more fiberglass and epoxy to strengthen it,

fair it our and get it primed to paint the entire hull. This was not an

anticipated issue and is keeping me from getting it back in the water as I

had hoped. I am working this week to grind the material back and hope to

have it removed by the beginning of next week. I have all the materials

needed to correct it.

Additional work on Seneca Lee

There are several minor things that Seneca Lee also needs before I am

good with launching her and bringing guests aboard.

After getting the boat, I realized that the battery on board powered nothing

else but the engine starter. There is no bilge pump, no running lights or any

other established electrical system. While I am going to forgo running lights

for the time being, I am making it a priority of installing a basic bilge pump,

which I have from another boat I am working on.

Eventually, I will get some running lights for this boat so it can be operated

in the evenings / nights.

Existing and future work

The above stated items are either completed, near completion or are on the

current maintenance schedule. I am working to get these repairs done as

soon as possible and hope to have it in the water by mid-June.

In the mean time, I will be using my personal craft, my Cape Cod Catboat,

Seahawk to take out any vets in the mean time until Seneca Lee is in the

water and ready to go.

Overall Situation

The overall situation with Seneca Lee is actually very good. Most of the

delays are due to my limited time and personal budget to work on it. As I

mentioned, I had hoped to have it in the water sooner, but I'd rather have it

ready to go then cut corners. That being said, please be aware that this is

not the level of restoration I want to do on this boat or that it's eventually

going to need. These are just basic operations to get it presentable, safe

and available for reliable operation for this and perhaps the next season.

Within the next couple of years, I will need to do more extensive repairs, all

of which I am prepared for. The good news is that I am receiving many of

the chemicals and materials necessary to work on this boat fromTotalBoat

as part of my Salvation Navy videos. Other things, I use from donations or

salvage materials. But some things I do need to purchase myself. To that

end, I am going to start to seek some donations of other materials and

equipment and possible funding over the next year for the impending refit

necessary. I hope to be able to perform all of these procedures, at the time

of refit with some additional labor help so that I can get her back in the

water in the following Spring after the fall haul out.

Operations to serve veterans

While Seneca Lee has been a primary source of attention, I have also been

working diligently to get ready to offer sailing excursions to our veterans.

Reaching out to many organizations I have found along with several Terry

was able to locate as well, I have several that I am in dialog with about

getting veterans out on the water.

One of the most promising is one Terry found near by is Operation

Veteran and Caregiver Support. The organizer of that non-profit VSO has

a childhood history at Indian Lake and didn’t even need to hear about our

mission specifics before she wanted to commit to it to get veterans out on

the water. She understands its healing abilities.

Tuesday the 6th, I am attending a mixer event where the main presentation

is on D-Day. being that it is the anniversary of that event. But she wanted to

get veterans informed of our service so much, she is squeezing me in for a

very brief introduction of what we are all about and play one of the short

promo videos. She has told me she already has six other veterans and

their spouses wanting to go along with herself and her vet husband. More

will come from this organization as well as others, presently. I am working

with other VSO’s to do presentations with them as well at events to get vets

signed up.

I am working to get an on-line form for them to fill out so I can begin

scheduling vets on excursions. I intend to start getting them out this month,

even before Seneca Lee is launched.

We are also setup formally (as formally under the circumstances) with the

Indian Lake Yacht Club. I have a dock assigned to me for Seneca Lee and

will be ready to take out vets once she is in the water. In the mean time, I

will be using my personal catboat to take veterans out until Seneca Lee is

commissioned. The cockpit is almost identical to the that of Seneca Lee,

differing only in that my boat uses a tiller instead of a wheel. But my tiller

configuration is much more conducive to guests.

I will keep you informed as to progress on the numbers of vets we get out

on the water and when, posting it also on social media as that begins to


The one area I am needing to do some more work is the recruitment of

skippers to captain Seneca Lee. I have had published an article to our club

news letter and mentioned it at the annual club board meeting. While I had

some verbal interest, I have yet to have anyone actually sign up. So I will

work to actively recruit a couple more skippers, resorting to a civilized

version of a press-gang if necessary.

Again, if anyone has any questions about anything in this report, please let

me know. I am happy to clarify, elucidate or detail any issues you wish to


I hope to be out on the water with veterans very soon. Thank you.


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