1978 Starcraft SUS 16ft - Rebuild and Fix'er up


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Jan 3, 2021
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I got this beauty from my uncle about 2-3 years ago. Didn't even get it out on the water until last year, and had to do a bit of work to it then to outfit for Kokanee fishing/trolling. The boat sat outside for about 5 years before I got it, and the weather/pine needles certainly didn't do it any favors. I'm setting it up for lake trolling (mostly figured that out last year) and bass fishing on the local lake/reservoir. May use it on the river at some point, but I'm not experienced enough to be playing on rivers yet.

Here's the best picture I have at the moment, and can't really get a good one until I put it back together and move it.

It has a 1993 Johnson 48 SPL (2 stroke) that runs real nice at mid-WOT, doesn't idle very good. Will have to look into that. Also has a 1998 Honda 4 stroke 8hp, runs like a champ that I got from my friend on trade. Then this last year I installed a Minn Kota Maxxum 80lb electric trolling motor on the bow. I only got to use the TM once before we put the boat away last year, so that gave me an idea on some more mods for that lol.

Here's the shortlist of mods to be done:
  • Rebuild Transom - In progress as of 4/11/21
  • Rewire almost everything, adding electrical accessories - Have most of the parts in hand, or shipping to me
  • Addon to the center console
  • Repaint the deck
  • Rebuild the bow deck
  • Add fishing rod storage
Seems so simple in the shortlist format! Maybe we should break that out a little bit.

I have pretty much everything to redo this and have just glued the first pieces together today. Need a few rollers for the epoxy and maybe mixing sticks. Will go into more detail in next posts.

Here's where it gets fun. I love low voltage electrical, did tons of mods to my truck and the boat is getting the same treatment.
  • Will be running a lot of new wiring and replacing some
  • New bow navigation lights on either side of the boat, since the trolling motor is in the center and in the way of traditional combo nav light.
  • New fishfinder on the console, already purchased a Garmin 93sv, need to mockup the mount
  • Old smaller fishfinder on the bow casting deck (already installed, but could move)
  • Under gunnel LED lighting for night fishing
  • 2 new batteries for the Maxxum TM at some point, installed under front deck.
  • Already have the onboard battery charger for the 2 TM batteries, Pro Charging Systems Dual Pro Recreation series (2 battery)
  • Pro Charging Systems B.O.S. Battery Optimization System to be connected to the TM batteries to keep them real healthy
  • New switch panels installed to console
  • Kill switch installed to console (possibly/probably?)
  • Tachometer
  • Deep cycle 35AH "accessory" battery installed for all lights/fishfinder/etc
  • Blue Sea Systems Add-A-Battery switch and ACR for the cranking battery to accessory battery
  • Bilge pump
  • Blue Sea Systems Dimmer switch for onboard lighting
  • Battery meter gauge for the 2 TM batteries
  • Probably something else... I'm forgetting

Center Console
  • I need to build a better lid for the top of console. Was considering some fiberglass lid with a spot for the tachometer to fit into, similar to what all the new boats consoles look like, rounded toward the driver (aerodynamic).
  • Windshield was an idea, but may or may not happen
  • Installing various electrical switch panels/etc
  • May replace some of the wood and/or repaint what's there. Not in that great of shape
  • Mount 9" fishfinder screen somewhere

Rebuilding the Front Deck
  • Needs wood replaced, rotting out in parts.
  • Install a recessed TM foot pedal tray
  • Install a removable seat base
  • Reconfigure the layout below this, to fit batteries, recharging electronics, foot tray, and try to keep some storage available
Fishing rod storage
Not sure how to go about this yet. There is dead space on the sides of boat that might work, will make a post about this later.

Should be able to do all this in a couple weekends right? lol :LOL2:

I'm not sure what this boat is worth, or could be worth in nice shape. I expect it's basically the same as a vehicle where you will almost never realize an increase in worth for mods done. I do know that boats are a hole in the water you throw money into, and in some respects I don't mind, but I also do not intend to spend LOTS of money on some repairs to the boat. The exterior/waterside for example, I have no intentions of repainting or spiffing it up. The boat doesn't have to look amazing, it just needs to float, fish real nice and get me back from wherever I take it. Anyway, if I can get everything accomplished here, this is going to be a sweet fishing machine that I hope to be taking out a lot. This is my first boat, and only had it out a handful of times, so plenty to learn on my part. Anyway, follow along if you are interested. I typically post a lot of pictures so it should be nice to look at occasionally. Will probably have plenty of questions as well. :lol:
* Please excuse the green tint to the pictures. The boat is under an awning with transparent green roof, so it adds that tint. I try to remove some of it, which can mess up other colors.

Big thanks to DaleH on this forum for his how-to on basically the exact same transom and boat. I am pretty much copying that build. Link to that thread here, New Transom – 1976 Starcraft Holiday 15 Model

Here is the back of the boat disassembled. Plenty of holes.. some not necessary anymore. Will see how I want to go about fixing that.

Here is original? transom removed. You can see how good of shape it was in.

Bent like a banana

Here is what a $70 sheet of 1/2" AC plywood looks like, getting cut up.

I never really got a convincing answer either way about more plys in a transom being better on my other thread. Plywood prices are ridiculous, actually pretty much all wood is high right now. 1/2" is slightly cheaper so I went that way. Now the original transom the little wings were separate, but I am building them into my new transom as one piece. They probably aren't critical to the structure, only 1 bolt goes through that part of the transom wood, just a 1/4" bolt on the side. I'm sure from factory they did it that way to get more transoms out of a single sheet of plywood. It's only 12" tall without those wings.

I left some room on the sides to screw the pieces together for gluing. Used Titebond III and put the first pieces together today.

Will let this dry for a while then cut it out precisely and test fit. If everything is looking good I will attach the 3rd piece and sandwich the center/small wings into the middle.

After it's all together, put it back into the boat and drill smaller holes, same size as a holesaw arbor bit for the larger holes, then remove it and oversize the holes to fill with epoxy, when I epoxy the entire thing. Hopefully if I get the smaller holes drilled exactly straight then the holesaw arbor will follow that and drill straight through. I guess it doesn't need to be to precise since it is being filled with epoxy and redrilled again now that I think about it.
I really love these hulls for no reason other than how they look. If it's in good shape it's worth fixing up. No it'll never be worth a pile of money no matter how much you spend but who cares. As long as you intend to keep it and it suits your requirement for fishing. Good luck with your project!

Sent from my CLT-L04 using Tapatalk

Thanks Weldor. It does seem to be a nice platform to build on, and quite capable.

First thing to get some comments about on electrical is for the starting/accessory battery arrangement. I have a typical starting battery and then a smaller 35AH deep cycle battery which will be combined with the starting battery during charging via an Automatic Charging Relay. At first I was planning to have both batteries next to each other at the back of boat, easy to combine them with short wires if needed, and then I would need to run 2 sets of 10AWG duplex up to the console for my switches.

Then I got to thinking that small battery may not even really be useful to help the starting battery if by some chance it went dead or got weak and needed help, so instead I could move the small battery up near the console, and only run a single 10 AWG back as a charge/combine wire to the starting battery/ACR. 10AWG will carry 30 amps and neither of my outboards charge that high so it should be fine. That would let me have 2 small runs of duplex to my switches at console, and only a single run to the back.

I'm not really worried so much about using wire, but if in reality the small deep cycle won't be able to do much for the back battery then it doesn't need to be back there really. Also it may work out better for space constraints to move the Acc. battery forward, I haven't got that far in the build yet to see if it would be better at console or in back anyway.

Some more details about the parts.
Accessory battery: https://www.mightymaxbattery.com/shop/12v-sla-batteries/ml35-12-12-volt-35-ah-sla-battery/
ACR+On/Off/Both Switch: https://www.bluesea.com/products/7649/Mini_Add-A-Battery_Kit_-_65A

Any thoughts?
A good budget wire I have used for similar purposes is booster cables. Harbor freight in the States or princess auto in Canada are good sources for these on sale. I run tiller boats but like to have the battery/batteries up front for weight distribution. I run the booster cables (clamps removed) from the batteries back to a distribution point where I tie in the motor, fish finder, bilge etc... Maybe not exactly what your needs are but it may get your creative juices flowing.

Sent from my CLT-L04 using Tapatalk

I had also considered bringing my lithium powered jumper pack. Those things are great. Can jumpstart a diesel truck 10 times from about a 3lb battery pack. They aren't even that expensive.
Made some progress, but weather is not cooperating for any epoxy/painting.....

Here is the final glue, 3rd piece attached and weighted down

Turned out real nice. Here's the profile after sanding. Came out at 1 7/16" Good thing it wasn't 1 1/2", it barely squeezes in at this thickness. 15 plys of wood here using 1/2" AC plywood

Stars of the "Sanding Show". I started with an orbital sander, which was quite slow to take off the glue, then switched to air sander to really knock the glue off the wood and just used the orbital for some finish sanding.

Here it is after mockup in the boat and marking holes. Drilled them out oversized. Most were about an 1/8" over actual size. The scupper/drain tube holes are 1" but I only had 1 1/2" hole saw so they got a bit bigger. That's fine by me though, that will be one of the main spots water collects to drain and that will be some extra safety to keep the wood away from water.

Here's a really useful tool. Big Gator Tools V-Drillguide. You drill through it on your workpiece to make sure you drill exactly straight. The underside has a V notch so you can place it onto round objects (pipe) and drill straight through those as well. Hopefully the corresponding holes in the boat are actually straight and line up....

For the 2 sizes of holes I needed a hole saw blade, I pre-drilled with 1/4" which is same size as the pilot bit in the hole saw chuck, to try and keep those holes straighter with a place for the pilot bit to follow. That was the idea anyway, seemed to work.

Finished holes

Dang, 10 picture limit per post is lame
Epoxy testing with RAKA Inc. epoxy. Found it cheapest on ebay, but only had one choice, the UV type with slow hardener. I really need fast hardener right now as it's to cold... Anyway I made a test batch as I have never used this before and slapped it on a few pieces of wood and tested another "trick" I found on this forum too.

I have several holes in the aluminum transom skin that aren't needed anymore, and came across an interesting way to patch them on this forum. Take an aluminum can, clean it, cut out some disks slightly larger than your hole and epoxy them on. One other note was to use a ball peen hammer to dimple the hole so the disk will sit lower and you should be able to epoxy/sand pretty flat to the surrounding material. Link to that post is here Getting rid of holes - neatly

2 holes to test patching

Small disks I patched in. This didn't work to well, as the epoxy took about an hour to even start to setup, so the disks didn't really want to stay in place that well. I will let it cure till next weekend or whenever and see if it was a useful patch or not, shouldn't be hard to remove it if it didn't work.

Made some other repairs to the back of boat. I removed some patched in rivets from previous repair and put in proper solid aluminum universal head rivets. Another bit of information I found on this site, to buy these rivets from Aircraft Tool Supply https://www.aircraft-tool.com/ They did seem to be the cheapest option. I bought 3 sizes of rivets, the heavy duty rivet cutting tool, check gauge, and air hammer compatible rivet sets. Now I have a lot of rivets... but I can use these in other projects as they are pretty tough. Anyway, here are the first few rivets replaced in the back. They are the shiny headed ones in a line.

The back of the transom is bowed out pretty bad from the transom wood giving way, so that popped out all of the original rivets in this area. The knee brace is also partially cracked and my dad also noticed some of the rivets for the bottom of the knee brace have been replaced and aren't in that great of shape either so we are probably removing that and rebuilding/reinforcing it.

So the transom wood is ready go be epoxied, but have to wait for a nice weekend. I have to fix the rest of the holes in the transom skin and finish paint prep and start that too, but paint is also weather dependent...

Now that I received like 90% of my Anchor Express order, with the Ancor wire, I can start doing electrical which isn't weather dependent.
I think I may have an addiction to Blue Sea Systems..... lol :lol:
(this isn't even everything)

Did some mockup and installed a test piece of plywood for the center console to mount the fuse blocks/etc

I also replaced the original switch panel with a Blue Sea systems panel. This was super easy because it had the exact same bolt hole pattern as the original, same size bezel and the hole cut out didn't need to be modified. Basically just screwed it in and done. The original Seadog panel was flimsy junk and used the old school glass fuses. I'm all about ATC fuses.. and breakers.

Started by prewiring the 2nd switch panel in the house today. I have terminated all the switch outputs into a 6 way Deutsch connector. It is really easy to pin Deutsch terminals, so I will just pin each accessory wire as I run it into the mating connector end. Easy to service and add to by disconnecting the plug.

This particular Blue Sea Systems switch model 4306 is from the WeatherDeck series. It has fuses built into it, as well as some nice LED lighting. Red LED's are lit when accessory is off, Green LED when Accessory switch is on. It also has a feature that combines 1 switch to power both navigation lights at once. So with a single switch you can turn on front nav lights (red/green) and the white anchor light, or with a second switch you can turn on only the anchor light. In the 2nd picture I am pointing to the jumper wire you have to add from the NAV Diode terminal on the board, to the 3rd switch output to enable this feature. Blue Sea publishes good documentation on there website about this here, Weatherdeck 6 position switch

That's about all I've got to so far. I need to cut out the hole for the 2nd switch panel and install it, then I can also do some wiring inside the console between the switch panels and fuse block.

Here are 2 of my documents I am using for notes on the wiring if anyone interested on what accessories/ideas are going on.
boat electrical layout v2.jpg

boat wiring diagram 12v.jpg
Better shape than mine when started...


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I know those sucker trees grow fast, but that one is pretty big that has grown up between the boat and trailer frame! :shock:
Great build! Thanks for posting your wiring diagrams. For some reason my brain has always struggled grasping electrical-related information, so seeing different setups is a big help. I'll be following closely!
5/19/2021 Update

Making progress over the weekends :D Onto the pictures!

The transom board is 95% complete. I have one small void in the plywood to add epoxy to, then it's done/ready to install. I was hoping to get it installed this coming weekend, but will see how the weather pans out. This transom board is holding back some progress. The splash well can't be put back in until the board is in. I can't rebuild some of the structure around the splash well until it's back in... can't put the motors back on, can't install the bilge pump, and need to do more wiring at the back. Oh I will also paint the exposed part of the transom board after it is installed. I used UV resistant epoxy but read that it doesn't hold up so well, so I will just paint it. I do want to keep it natural colored below the spash well, it does look pretty... as you will see.

I took the board down to my neighbors shop to epoxy it since it was to cold out, and I could work on it in the evenings this way.

Setup and ready to go.

Some of the tools I brought/used.

I tried the special epoxy roller once or twice and didn't really see much benefit in using it over the cheapo brush. For a large surface sure, but not this small of a project. Heat gun was to use for popping bubbles, was only somewhat effective.

Soaked the epoxy bottles in warm water to get them to cure faster. I have the slow hardener and the shop wasn't super warm, so I tried this. Still took 30-45 minutes for it to start hardening.

First side done/coated and holes filled. Edges were done once or twice on this first application

I used blue painters masking tape on the back side to seal the holes. This worked pretty good. Some of the holes had chipped out large strands of the plywood and the small voids weren't sealed well with the tape, so those holes leaked out epoxy... It was taken care of on later applications.

This looks like finished product on the other side.

I used the cheapo brushes and they worked real nice for applying the epoxy. After lathering it on there good, I went back and did the light brushing across the whole piece (tipping). There were still a few bubbles across it but this isn't a show piece and it wasn't super important to be perfect. The brush worked real nice. I only bought 2 of those, and ran out of them quick (1 time use). I also bought 2 of the cheap foam brushes and decided to try those. I think those may have worked even better than the brush. I used the foam brushes on the last coats and they worked real nice. Also this RAKA epoxy has almost no smell. You could probably do this in your house pretty easily, with very minimal ventilation. I won't recommend that... but I don't think it would be an issue. Final product weighs 26 pounds in case anyone was wondering haha.
5/19/2021 Update Continued

OK on to the boat itself (still transom related).
I had several holes from old transducer installs that are no longer needed. I showed my first repair attempt above with the small aluminum can disc cut outs. I "upgraded" my tools for hole repairs.... (dad suggested another tool I didn't know he had, which he has almost everything it seems!) He had a punch set, typically used for putting holes in cloth/vinyl I think, upholstery related anyhow, but worked perfect for making small perfect discs.

So I tried a new method for some of the largest holes. I taped the discs to the back of the metal, and epoxied from the inside. I made little pockets with the blue tape and filled them up with epoxy. This took a while to dry but I just sanded off the bulges flat, and the aluminum discs were glued to the other side almost flush, so it worked out real nice.

The other small holes I can't get to the backside, so I had to epoxy on the same side as the discs, as previous. I peeled off my first attempt discs because they didn't adhere quite flush, but these came out better, waiting for the epoxy to setup much gooeyer so they stuck in place and didn't wander off...

Then I decided to paint the inside of the aluminum skin of the transom. Rustoleum Self etching primer went down, then some Rustoleum Professional Primer, then Rustoleum Semi Gloss White. Hard to see the colors, the canopy the boat is under is translucent green roof so it casts a green shadow on everything... I did this to seal the aluminum and epoxy patches. There was some corrosion from the old transom board that had rotted into the aluminum a bit, so I wanted to prevent that ever happening again... not that I hope to ever replace this transom board again either.
5/26/2021 Update - Back to the fun stuff

Ooooh more electrical progress

Have a few things to cross off the list
New bow navigation lights on either side of the boat, with new wiring to them
New switch panels installed to console
Deep cycle AGM 35AH "accessory" battery installed for all lights/fishfinder/etc
Blue Sea Systems Dimmer switch for onboard lighting

Some of the tools used

I finished pre wiring the 2nd switch panel. I ran a separate red wire for the Dimmable + that connects to the Blue Sea Dimmer switch, and 10AWG leads for the main positive/negative to the switch panel itself. The Dimmer wire is fully sealed with heatshrink spade connectors, and I filled the connectors with dielectric grease, so they are pretty impervious to the elements. Funnily enough this is one of 2 things that didn't work when I tested electrical... have to investigate still.

I cut the hole for the 2nd switch panel that goes into the console and installed it.

Here's the 2nd switch panel installed, with the current circuits setup. Bilge pump wire is ran but not installed. Nav lights were all tested working, didn't get a picture of those for some reason, will get that later.

Here's the main electrical center under the console with quite a bit of work done. I think my mockup board seems to be good enough so I need to rebuild it out of HDPE or thicker painted wood and mount it permanent. Also I have the Blue Sea Systems 12A Deckhand Dimmer model 7507 installed underneath the board, and the dimmer switch on the front of the console.

Auxiliary Battery Install

I have a 35AH battery that I will use for all auxiliary electrical to keep my cranking battery just for the outboard basically. It will be used for fishfinders, lights, bilge pump, etc. At first I was thinking I would mount it back by the cranking battery at back of the boat, but due to some space constraints and how I want to fit gas tanks in the back, I decided to move it up near the console. There is a small deadspace just in front of the console that makes wire runs short and should work nicely.

Started with some 2x6 wood blocks to wall it in.

It progressed to a bit more complicated structure... I put zipties in between the battery sides and blocks to create some clearance for any wood expansion that could happen.

Here's the lid

Continued on next post....
Auxiliary Battery Install Continued

Here are the 3 circuit breakers placed for mockup. This turned out to be a good spot. One breaker goes to each switch panel (2) and the third breaker goes to the back of the boat where it will go to an ACR and a On/Off/Combine switch. It's the Blue Sea Systems Mini Add-A-Battery kit model 7649. It will allow the outboard to charge both batteries, but will automatically disconnect the Auxiliary battery from Cranking battery when not charging, so the are separate batteries most of the time.

Here the breakers are mounted, and wires run into the space. I wrote what the wires go to on the duplex jacket.

Here's one of the wire runs up to the console dash switch panel. Wire secured well to the console backing board

The finished wiring to the battery

I added a 1/4" Kydex strip bridging across the battery to lock it down. It really can't move anywhere.

Once I got everything installed and pretty much figured out, I took it all apart and have been coating edges with epoxy, then will paint everything and reinstall.

The breakers will get their protective red boots on final install. I will also need to build 2 spacers for either side of the battery. One side fits a 2x6 wood block, and the other side will have to be custom. I will try to add a protective boot over the positive battery terminal also, should have something that will work there.

The lid is such an odd shape that it can't really hinge to anything so I have just put a lip on the inside of it and it will just sit in place. I don't think it can go anywhere and it is strong enough that you can step on the box if needed.

There will be 1 or 2 more wires added to this battery. I will add a small pigtail with an SAE connector end, because my NOCO charger has an SAE adapter so it is really easy to connect it. I added an SAE connector end to the cranking battery last year and it makes charging really simple.

I am also contemplating adding a bridge wire/connector between one of the trolling motor batteries and this battery for a backup/reserve/emergency tie in. Technically this shouldn't be a problem. Even though I have the 2 trolling batteries in series (24v) I can pull from just one battery and get 12v. I will also have the B.O.S. Battery Optimization System installed for the trolling batteries and what this device does is equalize charge between the 2 batteries. So this eliminates the scenario of drawing down one battery more than another during usage. This should give equal wear/use to both TM batteries so they should last longer while using, and have a longer lifespan altogether.

So essentially if I make a connection between one trolling battery and my Auxiliary battery, I can actually combine the power of all batteries on the boat. The use case for this would be if cranking battery got low and couldn't start the main outboard, which shouldn't happen because it will be isolated and only used for cranking. So lets say cranking battery becomes to low to crank the main outboard. I can switch to Combine mode in the switch which will combine my Auxiliary 35AH battery and the cranking battery together. Now the 35AH battery isn't all that large and not really meant to recharge a larger cranking battery but it may help some. If combining those 2 batteries isn't enough, then I can tie my trolling motor battery (Group 27) battery to my Aux battery, which ties to the Cranking battery, now we have 2 batteries helping recharge the Cranking battery. Except, if the B.O.S. system is working as it should, when the TM battery starts being drained by Cranking battery, the B.O.S. will equalize both Group 27 batteries, essentially drawing power off both of them. That's something like 220AH of battery capacity (at full charge) available.

Kind of a wild scenario and if you read through all of this you must either love electrical as I do, or have a blank stare going on haha.

Anyhow.. I haven't messed with the B.O.S. yet or the trolling motor side of the electrical even... so that information and progress will come later.

In other news... Transom Board Installed!

Big step accomplished here. I installed the board, drilled all the holes but 2 (scupper drains remain). All of the holes seemed to go through epoxy only so we should be sealed real tight. I will have to put a few holes in it with screws/nails that won't be through holes but such is life. The main penetrations outside of the boat should be solid.

Preview shot

Since the knee brace is broken, I have added some heavy duty aluminum angle to the sides of the brace which will be welded on and bolted through existing knee brace bolt holes. I will add pictures of that in next update post. Memorial weekend is upon us and I have 3 days to work on the boat. I should be able to get a lot done, hopefully get the whole transom area done and motors mounted back on it would be amazing.
Had the whole last week off and worked on the boat most of the time, when not distracted by my nephew haha 8)

Got a LOT done, the transom is completed, wiring is probably about 90% done. I have tons of pictures but will get to them later. The last big time consuming items are the console lid and fishing rod storage in the gunnel, or probably just putting it back together the way it was and go fishing.

Time is running out for the Kokanee season and just trying to get the boat serviceable for trolling first, that will put some of the mods on backburner.

All that little stuff adds up to a lot of time... wire management, wire labeling, caulking, cleaning, prep for painting.

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