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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.