Monty Cheshire, Lake Sinclair, Ga. June, 2021
“Really? Let’s go look at it!” Isn’t that the typical beginning of most new projects sparked by a mental vision of a perfectly preserved old boat (or car)? In November 2019 I was topping up my boat with gas when Sonny called my name from his new purchase, a Thompson Sea Coaster looking gorgeous in the fall sunlight. While we drooled over his new toy Daryl the marina hand said “Al has one of those up there in the shop.” Al Haslem worked for a Macon boat dealer in 1960 just before moving to Lake Sinclair and establishing a full service marina where he still builds engines at 95 years young. So before he left Macon Al bought the 1960 Thompson Sea Lancer from inventory and rigged it with a Johnson 75 for himself. There it was in the storage/shop building under lots of dust and “stuff.” Al says it has never spent a night outside except on the many trips they spent on the Ocmulgee/Altamaha Rivers, St. John’s, Daytona, Tampa and many other boat club adventures. The hull became yellow and then blue, “The color mama liked best” said Al.
The window sticker said 1976 but surely that wasn’t the last outing here on the lake. Her trailer was set on blocks with the top and side curtains (!!) up and engine down. I said, “Al, what’s this rolled up in the floor?” He said “The camper cover for the back, we slept in the boat on river cruises.” We made a deal and it took till February 2020 to make a path to the light of day. My father and Al were Shriner’s together and I now live just downstream from Haslem’s Marina. Al seemed happy that I had matured in my boat hobby so as to be entrusted with the Thompson’s re-commissioning. With Daryl’s new wheel bearing grease we drove the few miles to her new home.
Second to the chase, this is the most fun, The Discovery Phase of what you have and its condition. The top and side curtains cleaned up and rolled up when dry. Nothing seems rotten or pulling off of snaps. After settling into the garage the boat started giving up its parts, the floor panels and front seat structures all came out without a single screw failure. (all slotted bronze screws) Well, actually Monty did bugger up a couple of holes while finding the heads hidden under putty but just more wood work. Wow, there’s hardly any trash in the bilge except Dirt Dobber nests. The hull has NO stains or water marks; it looks to me like a one year old boat! Next the aluminum windshield frame/glass and the wooden structure gave up without a hitch, just patient, slow pressure to start screws. I’m so blown away by the experience, a time capsule.
Oh, I didn’t mention the engine, the original V4 Johnson 75 V4S-12 #1999775. First thing at home was removing the hood and applying a screwdriver to the flywheel cog and ……..it turned so smoothly! The plugs looked perfectly gray and after spraying oil in the cylinders etc and spinning with the starter, I had to read compression – 99, 99, 98, 99. I think we have a winner!
How best to remove the old varnish? My buddy found two gallons of original Dad’s complete with methyl chloride, the strong stuff. So equipped with a respirator, face shield and rubber (neoprene?) gloves I dove in. Actually the 3M respirator cartridges are not rated for MC but I rolled the boat out of the garage taking advantage of the breeze off the lake to help me stay up-wind of my work. Insert hours of stripping here.
The next step for me was to remove the aluminum rub rail which is attached with bronze “nails” that have a course “thread” to them. Such a tribute to her owner’s attention is the total lack of dents in the rub rail. Oh, the pressure to do a good job!
Ok, so now the deck is stripped, the hull sanded and she is upside down on blocks having her keel joint scrapped for caulk and paint. Commercial plug here, I’m using a BAHCO carbide scrapper and it is wonderful! Everyone seems back-ordered on the Pettit paint but I’m not there quite yet. Hopefully the last part of the story next…..