1999 Starcraft Superfisherman Transom Restoration

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muskyhunter1978

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Bellefonte, PA
I spoke on another thread about my plans on how to restore and fix a corroded transom on a Starcraft Superfisherman that I recently purchased. I got a pretty good deal on the boat, knowing it had some issues, but my inexperience overlooked just how bad the transom was. Bottom line, the transom needs completely gutted, cleaned up and the corrosion removed from the outer skin, then repaired. The previous owners had a swim platform on the one side and they removed it. Instead of sealing up the bolt holes correctly, they just screwed the bolts back in without any sealant. The bolts were removed by hand! The center of the transom wood is soaked and water logged which I believe exasperated the corrosion from the inside out. Also treated wood appears to have been used in the boat from the factory.

Summary of what my plans are.
1. Remove the wood and expose the backside of the aluminum skin. Take a flap disk and grind out as much of the corrosion as I can, then stainless wire brush, etc to get it as clean as possible. Then an acid wash to further clean any corrosion, etc I couldn't remove and clean up with the previous methods. Maybe use vinegar?
2. Take a new 1/16" thick sheet of 5052 and make a panel, roughing up one side and cleaning to promote adhesion, that I will then use G Flex epoxy to bond to the inside of the outer skin. This does two things. One, when its clamped in place, the epoxy will ooze out the holes that are corroded through, effectively sealing them off. I can then use additional epoxy on the outside to skim all holes completely closed. This also beefs up the aluminum a bit more.
3. Laminate up two layers of 3/4 NON treated ply using epoxy and then completely seal the new wood with a couple coats of epoxy. Fit it, drill all the holes, then redrill the holes slightly larger and encase the insides of the holes in epoxy as well. Install new wood and bolt it all back up.


I am going to use this thread to share my progress and pics as I work along as some expressed interests in my progress and maybe it will help someone else faced with the mess I have.
 
I began disassembling the transom a couple weeks ago. I like to take my sweet old time doing so, labeling, taking pics, etc for reference so I know how it all goes back together.

Motor is off, back deck removed and splash well pulled. Beginning to assess the extend of the damage. As you can see in some of the pics, there is quite a few spots where the corrosion ate through the aluminum skin. You might also note that quite a bit if above waterline as well. All of the little black spots are previous JB weld patch jobs that the previous owner had done at a boat shop. Its all coming out!

Most of the through bolts have been removed but there is one bolt, that is under the gunnel panels on the side, down close to the bottom that I am trying to figure out how to get to. I may cut my way into this one to avoid having to unrivet the gunnels. Time will tell. So far, I'm not overly concerned with the white powdery stuff as I know that will come off easily with a flap disc wheel. The holes ate through are going to take a bunch of work.

Combined with removing the motor, I'm about 4-5 hours in on the project. I think another 4 to get the rest tore apart and the wood removed.
 

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I'm looking forward to this thread - thanks for posting.

BTW, to me the PVC caps protruding from a couple of the thru-hull fittings seem vulnerable. Looks like a threaded cap on a threaded nipple. I know this is not an immediate need, but if they are not to be used, I would use threaded plugs instead.
 
That's quite a mess IMO. Have you done the math? Would it maybe be cheaper to just get a diff boat and scrap this one out? Boats in this shape are pretty much free out my way. Not trying to discourage you, just wondering if you've thought this through. Unless this was my favorite Uncle's boat that I inherited I'd be thinking of aborting this project.
 
I will very respectfully differ. This is a nice boat design, IMO. Other than the transom issues which were made worse by the original builder's poor choice of material, it looks in decent shape compared to a lot of other 24 year old boats. Once you put it the elbow grease you are going to have a great boat. Enjoy the project. Reap the rewards!
 
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That's quite a mess IMO. Have you done the math? Would it maybe be cheaper to just get a diff boat and scrap this one out? Boats in this shape are pretty much free out my way. Not trying to discourage you, just wondering if you've thought this through. Unless this was my favorite Uncle's boat that I inherited I'd be thinking of aborting this project.

The transom is the only spot on the boat that is an issue. The rest of the hull is perfect, with barely a mark on it. Carpet is still in great shape, seats look like new, interior in general is very nice for the year. Motor runs great. Full disclaimer, I bought it for 3500. In my neck of the woods, looking at boats comparable were running around 8-10K (covid money). This one was owned by an old couple that kept it in a garage most of its life and just got too old to use it. This boat is definitely worth fixing at the price I got it for and is why I picked it up. I bought, repaired and flipped a couple now and aside from the transom, this is the best as is condition boat I have worked on.

Doing the math, I will have approximately $500 in materials. Probably a little more as I plan to upgrade bilge and livewell pumps while I have full access to the pit.

Rough breakdown of material costs:

1/16" sheet of aluminum I just purchased - 110.00
3/4" exterior ply - 100.00
Epoxy for joining the metals - 100.00
epoxy for sealing wood - 85
New bolts and hardware to reassemble - 100 or less roughly.

TONS OF ELBOW GREASE and TIME. The good news is, i'm in the garage and out of the wifes hair... lol.

Below are a couple pics of the rest of the boat for reference. After the boat is back in order the trailer definitely needs a bit of TLC but thats pretty easy stuff.
 

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I'm looking forward to this thread - thanks for posting.

BTW, to me the PVC caps protruding from a couple of the thru-hull fittings seem vulnerable. Looks like a threaded cap on a threaded nipple. I know this is not an immediate need, but if they are not to be used, I would use threaded plugs instead.

Yeah, those are threaded PVC caps I put on there to isolate and stop a leak I had right after I bought it. I was using the boat a bit and testing/checking everything i discovered a livewell hose was leaking. i'll be fixing this permanently as I don't need a livewell.
 
Now that you have started, don't be afraid or let anyone dissuade you.

8 hours, 12 hours 20 hours, are well worth it. That's a nice boat!

thank you buddy. I have learned, through a couple other boat rebuilds that I really enjoy doing it. I am not in a position to drop tens of thousands on a turn key new or newer boat. I figure this one, I own it and other than the restore which can sit if I don't have the funds at the moment, I don't owe anyone anything.. lol.
 
To me, that is the perfect attitude. And you have a great canvas to work with.

I've done a number of them, and each one has it's merits. I just sold the Princecraft that I've had for years, and I made money, but I miss the boat. Hopefully, I will like the Spectrum that I replaced it with just as much.

I KNOW I would be happy with the boat you have!
 
Just a quick update. I was able to spend a couple hours last night pulling things apart further. Whoever thought it was a great idea to use those little brad nails, the ones that are ribbed, to attach the top cap to the transom, I would like to have a word with your manager.... lol. What a PITA.

There are two through bolts, in the lower corners of the transom that I am thinking I may have to cut my way into from inside the boat. There is a square aluminum piece that runs the entire length of the hull, filled with floatation foam, in the way. I'm thinking I can cut 12" inches off this, get to the bolt and then when I put it back together, fabricate a piece to patch it back in. Its not structural. Other than those two bolts, I'm close to getting the old wood out.

Aside from a handful of stuck screws that are requiring me to spend more time than I hoped, its coming apart pretty easily.

More pics to come.
 
I had a few of those in the Spectrum. I cut back about 6" to get to the bolts, and filled it back up with fill-foam when putting it back together. Turned out nice and solid.

A pencil torch is your friend when trying to get old bolts out!
 
NEW UPDATE:

I finally had some decent weather where I could feel my face and hands enough to do some work in the garage (not heated unfortunately). Getting the wood out turned out to be quite the chore. Starcraft should have infomercials... "but wait... there's more!" for the amount of screws and rivets they use in their boats... lol. There is a channel that the wood sits into. They had four screws through that channel into the wood. Two of the screws in the center were easily removed, but the two on the ends required me to either lift up the entire floor of the boat to get to, or cut the wood away enough to expose them. I opted for plan B and just cut the wood out. I'm planning on doing a complete reflooring job and vinyl in a year or two anyway. Besides that, I can patch it back in for now and reapply the carpet for the time being.

The wood is really jammed in there on the sides. Its tight to the side walls of the boat and required quite a bit of back and for finessing to finally wiggle it up far enough that it popped completely free. Out it came!

Now the ugly.... yes, its is very ugly. The water intrusion was pretty bad as you can see and the damp treated wood did a number on the aluminum skin. But, alas, I did run a flap disc across the aluminum briefly to see what I had and it looks worse than it is. It cleans up really easily down to bare metal.

I'm going to spend the next week or however long it takes flap discing it as clean as I can get it, then using an acid, such as white vineger, with stainless brushes to scour and further deep clean it. I'm also going to completely remove all paint from the outside of the aluminum to expose the metail so I can see any hidden defects that need cleaned up.

One other thing I discovered is that the foam underneath the flooring I removed is damp. Not soaked, but damp. I am going to cut the floor way back from the transom and dig it all out of there to dry foam and get some closed cell foam to replace it before putting the floor back down. When I do get to the full floor replacement, I'm going to replace all foam with closed cell in the floor.

I feel like the hardest part is over, disassembly. From here its pretty straight forward and not quite as time consuming work. A labor of love.

A couple pics of the carnage...
 

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A wire wheel on a grinder is very good at cleaning, and takes off less metal than the flap disk, BTW.

Keep it up!
Thanks for the tip buddy. I couldnt find a stainless wire wheel locally the other day. I had a handful of flap disc and am using a 120grit one so its not too bad. I did not when looking at the docs for the Gflex Epoxy that it recommends roughing the surface with 80grit for maximum adhesion. I'm thinking after I get this thing all cleaned up, I might buzz over it with an 80grit disc lightly to ensure its roughed up properly.

One thing i might add here, when running a grinder on this crap, its imperative that you open all garage doors and if possible run a fan. The mess this is already making is incredible. The wife is not impressed..
 
Super Quick Update:

Still cleaning like a mofo over here. The worst is over. I ran a 120 flap disc across the entire thing to do a quick clean up of the stuff and see what I have to work with. Using a stainless wire brush, I'm finding the absolute easiest and fastest way to remove corrosion from the pitting is to soak a rag or dip the brush in white vineger and scrub it on, let it soak for 30 minutes, then scrub again. It dissolves the stuff fairly easily. I wish I could find a product I could spray on there that would eat and bubble the stuff up out of the pits better however.

What I'm doing here is taking a sharpy and marking off the back by section, I will work on one area at a time, cleaning the heck out of the metal and the pits unti its finished, then moving onto the next section until its all finished up. I think a week worth of work here should have it all cleaned up and ready to go.

I have ordered a sheet of 5052 1/16" aluminum plate that will be used to plate the entire inside of the skin using the Gflex 655 epoxy. I need to order it yet. Its a little expensive! lol.

One thing that I'm looking at right now as a potential challege or issue is the wood thickness, combined with the added 1/16 plate i'm going to attach. The channel the wood sits down into, as well as the support struts that bolt all this together is pretty tight as it is. I don't want to jam it down in there and put undo stress on the aluminum. Because the difference is a mere 1/16", What Im thinking of doing is once I have the new wood fabbed up, I can simply route 1/16" deep channels in the wood to accomodate the support struts. I can't imagine this would compromise the strength in anyway being so little, and it would fit together much better this way. Anyway, thats a ways down the road at the moment.

Here is a couple pics of the initial clean up of the aluminum. Dont mind the pile of crap in the background...we're in "make a helluva mess mode at the moment. lol.
 

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NEW Update:

Still cleaning. I feel this is the most important step and am taking my time to get as much of the white stuff out of the aluminum pits as possible. I'm find that wire brushes and vinegar do little to remove some of the white corrosion spots in the pits. The stuff is hard as a rock. I've since resorted to a burr bit on a dremel and am going pit by pit and grinding it out of there. While I realize the burr bit is not stainless, I feel like leaving remnents of the the corrosion is worse. That and I never see people talk about taking drill bits and punching holes in aluminum and it causing issues.

Something that has me thinking as I do this. Corrosion, like rust on steel, needs oxygen to do its thing. My thinking is, once as much of this is cleaned out as possible, sealing the metal when I coat with epoxy will prevent the process from continuing.

One more important note. Many of the through hull bolt holes are sunken in a bit. This is pretty common i've noticed on many boats. I am flattening them out as I go so that when the new skin is applied, its as flat as possible to ensure maximum adhesion.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through getting it all cleaned up. Metal has been ordered and epoxy is on its way as well. Hoping I can get this thing back together by the end of March... we have fish to catch.
 
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