Restoration & Outfitting a 40  Year + Old
12' Fiberglass Lake Boat



Here we will be doing some restoration of a 12' 1968 Columbia fiberglass tri-hull lake boat.  I had owned a shorter 10'er brother to this boat for many years, but had given it to a grandson, as he could haul it in the bed of his long-box Chevrolet 1/2 ton pickup.   This 12' boat is rated at being able to use up to a 18 hp motor, a capacity of 4 persons or 900# total weight, (heck it would be impossible to get 4 people in it) but it fit well within my requirements nevertheless.


I had built a boat rack to fit my 1/2 ton Ford pickup which would work for either the 10' or a 12' boat of this style, and negotiated with a neighbor for this 12'er.   This neighbor, his brother and friends would make a annual spring fishing trip to British Columbia, Canada, take two or three boats, either trailer or pickup racking for a week's fishing.  They found out that with the rough roads in the bush country there, that fiberglass boats did not stand up well on a boat trailer, either because of it bouncing on the bunks or by rocks being thrown against or even thru the bow, or a loose battery or fuel tank can be disastrous unless totally secured.  They learned to have automotive body putty and duct tape along, finally they gave up and just went to using aluminum boats.


This fiberglass boat had survived better than some, but had some deep holes in the bottom that were patched with a fiberglass impregnated body putty.  It had sat beside his garage on the trailer with the drain plug pulled for 3 or 4 years when I had asked if he wanted to sell it.  He had to talk to his brother.  To make a long story short, we traded and I apparently have become their resident outboard motor repairman on 3 of their motors prior the their yearly spring Canadian trips.


Boat ID Plate:   The nameplate/ID plate should be pop-riveted to the inside front seat if an early boat, later ones could be on the outer RH corner of the transom.  Information stamped here is serial number, max HP, max number of persons, boat color and  max weight.  This serial number incorporates the date.


My serial number is #6894.   I know the 68 is the year of Manufacture but not totally sure on the others. The 9 could be September and 4 the number made in September OR the 94 could be total made to date that year. This is a very common method used my many boat manufacturers.  This was typical before a VIN number was assigned, however the methodology still follows this pattern.


This ID plate on mine was so worn that about all that was readily readable was the metal stampings, as the rest was pretty much faded out.  But by comparing it to my previous 10'er I was able to resurrect a reasonable facsimile and CNC engraved it on a aluminum plate as shown below.  This was then moved and fastened to the inside right rear of the transom.  Now the common location will be the OUTSIDE rear, top of the transom.


These plates are very important to still be on the boat AND readable if you ever need to license it, as I ran into a problem on this boat where someone in the past could not find or understand the existing nameplate and had a licensing agent issue a new state ID number.  It took a lot of legwork to convince my county license person's Olympia superior and we had to provide a scanned copy of my nameplate AND the boat manufacturers large plastic nameplate that I took off the hull for scanning also, along with copies of the old title.  The lady I was dealing with knew I was right and understood, but a DoDo sitting in a state capitol office building was the holdup.  Finally we prevailed and my newly acquired old boat was finally properly registered.  My concern was if I was stopped by an officer who was not really informed, that I may be cited for possessing a stolen boat because nothing matched.

Shown here is a reproduction of the ID plate


Condition of This Boat :   The exterior of this boat had been painted previously apparently with a barn broom and house/barn paint.   There were numerous nicks in the fiberglass bottom and sides.  The keel needed repairs as some of the gel-coat was worn thru in many on the keel, chines and transom corners.  There were many rock marks on the bottom where matchstick sized gell-coat was nicked away.  There were numerous unused old rod holder mounting or tie down holes along the gunwale on both sides.  The center seat had a sheet of 3/4" plywood bolted under it to compensate for the rotted wood under the fiberglassed seat top and a heavy duty steel pedestal type support was installed under the center of it.  The interior floor had a couple of non structural damaging open cracks.  A 1" X 4" wood plate on the inside bottom of the transom where the drain plug is installed had a hole in the fiberglass covering and some of this wood was rotted.  But for a 44 year old boat, it was actually in pretty good structural/repairable condition.


Repairs :  First priority was to get it in my barn, upside down and mounted on sawhorses and inspect it with repair to the outer hull first.  This took place mid winter so doing any fiberglass work would have to be put off until the weather warmed up.  However there were a few good days in mid February so I did get some automotive body puttying and filled many of the holes or nicks.  Then the bow rope eye was removed to get ready for laying fiberglass cloth down the keel to replace what had been worn off by dragging it on gravel.


Then enough of 4" wide fiberglass tape was purchased to cover the keel with 2 coverings, that had a 1/3 overlap down the center.  As the weather warmed the cloth strips were glassed on covering and building up on the worn keel.   It also seemed beneficial to have another cloth layer centered on the keel from just above the waterline on the bow, back about 4' for extra wear resistance at this critical location.  During the colder weather, much of the ridges and roughness left by the glassing this cloth on the keel was sanded down.  


Here, I made a mistake by not looking closely at the amount of catalyst that was left in the tube before starting to mix the resin to bond this 2nd overly on the bow.  I ran short of catalyst for this cooler weather, but it was too late now as I did not really want to scarp this weakly mixed resin, so I did the job anyway.  The hope was that with the warmer weather coming that it may cure, at least partly.


Well after 2 weeks, the curing that appeared to get hard, but the outer surface was tacky to the touch.  I found that where the overlay was (being thicker) that it cured pretty well, but where I just painted on a thin layer, on over the previously sanded glass/body putty that it really did not cure.  It really needed to be sanded before anymore body putty could be applied and was sure this tacky surface would just gum up any sandpaper I tried to use.


Saved the Day :  What to do?  After reading the fiberglass cleanup instructions, it says use Acetone.  Maybe I could use this to at least remove the tacky stuff.  Yes it did, and I found it also did dissolve some of the thinner uncured resin, and would remove it if I rubbed it long enough, but in the process, it saturated my wiping rag from which got my hand real STICKY.  OK use a latex glove next time, which solved that problem.


In the photo below you can see the keel overlay of fiberglass and after being rubbed with acetone to remove the tacky fiberglass using a old pink/redish shop rag, hence all the redish swipe marks on the hull which sanded off later.  The acetone dissolved so much of the resin that when letting the rag dry, it became stiff because of the saturation of the resin.


Shown here after the acetone treatment.  You can see the dark color on the keel where the gel-coat was worn thru.


Now the vibrating sander could be used to sand down much of the glass ridges at the edge of the cloth and remove all of the runs.  Then more catalyst was purchased and mixed another couple of small batches then a semi-final glass resin overlay on top of the cloth overlays.


Sand that down again and now use the automotive body putty with a 4" flexible putty knife to smooth out the slight humps and hollows.  Sand again and touch up any depressions with more body putty.  Then do more semi-final sanding, mixed enough resin to do a protective covering on the keel and bottom edges of the chines.  There was just enough resin left to make one final protective coat down the keel again.


Now the final sanding to smooth the last resin coats and getting ready for the primer paint.


Here we have sanded down the body putty to where it is nearly ready for the primer coat of paint Here you can see the gray colored body putty used to blend the differences between the layers of fiberglass cloth overlay & hull's gel-coat


Final Prepping :  Now sanding the balance of the whole outer hull to remove the barn broom's previous brush marks was required.   Next was to remove the hardware that was left on the boat, like the transom motor pad, oarlocks, pop-riveted on plastic name plates and the old Coast Guard numbers.  Then came masking off the plastic chrome-like edge molding on the gunwale, wiping down all the sanding dust and blowing off any left with compressed air before the primer painting. 

Painting the Exterior of the Hull :
  After looking around for the right boat paint, I settled on Interlux Brightside polyurethane marine paint from West Marine, rather expensive, like $40.00 a quart, but it is VERY durable.  This paint of course needed it's special Interlux Pre-Kote primer also.  After all the prepping, I sprayed the 1st coat of primer on basically the repaired keel area and where all the body putty was used on the chines.  The second primer coat was done on the whole outer hull.


The the final outer white polyurethane paint was sprayed on in 3 coats.   I found that when spraying white paint, that it went a lot better by being in a building with indoor lighting plus being able to open a sliding barn door if needed.  By this I mean that if you paint white paint in bright sunlight, it is darned hard to see how thick you are applying the paint and with the subdued light it allows for better eyesight and eliminates many runs.  I also found that if it was sanded lightly with 220 grit sandpaper between coats also made it easier to see the new overcoat and it probably adheres better also.


All the hardware, transom motor pad and bow eye bolt were reinstalled along with the replacement the Coast Guard numbers and yearly license tab.  The wheels mentioned below were positioned, transom drilled, caulking placed around the holes and the wheel pads were bolted in place.


Inside Repairs & Modifications:  Then the boat was turned over to do the inside repairs, rigging and painting.  The previous owner had reinforced the center seat with a sheet of 3/4" plywood UNDER the existing seat.  He said the original was so weak it sank down when someone sat on it.  He also had fiberglassed a steel support boat seat pedestal between the floor and under this new plywood.  What I found was that the original seat had been overlaid with fiberglass mat, but only on the topside.  It appears that the boat over it's lifespan it had sat out in the rain and apparently had become full enough to rot some of the wood on the underside of this seat of any wood that was exposed.  Their 3/4" plywood just reinforced what was left of the weakened seat.  Upon inspection, it would have been a somewhat major effort to remove the seat, replace it and make things look anywhere original, so I just left their patch, replaced the steel center bracing with a 3/4" plywood upright lengthwise like it originally came out with. 


Using the internet to look for more info on this boat, it was found that the later manufactured boats by this company used a 1/2" plywood sheet running across and under the rear of this center seat.  This made sense to me, so using a heavy duty scrap long cardboard box, I made a template, transferred it to a 1/2" plywood, but cut it slightly oversize so final fitting could be done without ruining the whole thing.  This now bears on the floor in the center and on the floor on the outer corners, up the sides with a 2" gap on both sides of the keel area.  But with this center support, the oars would have had to be laid on top of the center cross seat, so the thought of drilling and cut out slots to accommodate the set of oars seemed practical, one on each side right tight against the inner side of the hull.


This 1/2" plywood was given it 2 coats of Thompson's Waterseal, let dry and just painted it to somewhat match the interior light gray color.  This plywood is then screwed to the 3/4" plywood under the center seat and to the center upright.  The edges that fit against the floor and sides are fiberglassed, using cloth and resin.  This gives me a location for a 3 1/2 gallon fuel tank on one side plus a plastic rectangular pail to hold the anchor, anchor line, tool pouch and miscellaneous small items, and still being able to slide a 12 volt marine battery beside the pail.   Some 1 1/4" round holes were drilled to accommodate the fuel line and 15" bungee cords to go around the chair legs and under the center seat to hold it in place if needed.


In the photo below you will notice the fiberglass cloth bonding the new support to the floor and sides before a final paint job, and the closely matched paint color.


Shown here the new center seat support is in place & the oars in their now secured position


The interior secondary floor had couple of non structural damaging open cracks that were overlaid with fiberglass cloth and resin.  The 1" X 4" wood plate on the inside bottom of the transom had a hole about 1/2" X 3/4" hole at the very upper corner and  was rotted behind as far as I could poke a screwdriver.  A couple of 3/16" test holes near the bottom of this glass covered 1" X 4", and it was not as rotten as the top.  Fiberglass resin was mixed and poured it in the upper hole, waiting for it to weep out the two bottom holes, nothing came out but it started overflowing the upper hole, so apparently it was filled.  Next the boat was rolled over on it's side and poured more resin in until the rest of the hole was full.  Then body putty was used to blend with the original contour and a layer of resin impregnated cloth to match the final repair at the hole.   Also the test holes were body puttied closed.


We had painted the house the year before and had some Ace Royal satin acrylic latex in Charcoal Fog left over.  This was used as a primer on the wood add ons for this boat, but the color match was lighter than the original.   So, the sawn out fiberglass deck-plate holes (explained later) were taken to a hardware store to use to scan and reproduce a close color paint for the inside.  A acrylic satin base porch and deck latex was chosen by the paint department employee, the scan was taken and paint mixed.  OK when home and a sample painted, it was close, but had a shade of brown more than a real good match.  A mix of the house paint at a ratio of 50/50 was tried and it came out almost a exact base color match except for the splatter painting of black/white, which will come later.


One thing was found that if you try to paint latex onto newly cured fiberglass resin, you really need to rub it down with acetone to remove any slightly oily surface or the latex will not adhere well.


OK, now to try to duplicate the original black/white splatter paint over the base coat of the gray.  This will be done after the new gray was painted on.  Take a narrow 1/2" stiff bristled brush and cut the bristles off to about 5/8' is what worked for me.  Nylon may be better being stiffer than hog bristle.  Also you may have to thin out about 1/3 of the bristles.  Take a margarine tub lid and pour about 1/8" of the black paint into this lid.  The paint needs to be as thick as possible (non-thinned).  Wear surgical gloves and dip the brush vertically in the paint in this lid.  Now holding the brush with one hand close to the intended surface, (about 4-6" for a full brush and down to 2" before refilling) use your index finger to pull back the bristles, letting the bristles snap forward which gives a splatter type appearance.  TIP #1.  Try this on a sample piece before you start on the boat as this may take a bit of learning.  Be prepared to clean up the splotches that seems to want to be overly generous.  Let this dry and then do it again with the white.  You will note that it may easy to overdo the white so count on only using about 1/2 as much of the white as the black or darker color.


You will probably not have the same splatter pattern as when the boat came from the factory, as there appear to be more than one style of this application, but with some trial, error, AND time, you should be able to do a respectable job.


Extras : OK, maybe I am spoiled, but some small things make life a lot easier at times.  So, between the two rear molded in fiberglass seats and in front of the transom, a shallow catch-all tray was made and installed.  This can hold a few exchanged lures, lead weights, a jar of fish eggs or worms, hook remover, folding knife or a multitude of small items without having to open a tackle box and put them away after each usage while on the water.  A drain hole in one corner was made to accommodate a regular boat drain plug.  It also may be nice to have a spare drain plug on hand, or one you can give to someone else in an emergency, you never know what is in store.


Under this 5" overhang, a 1/2 pint plastic hamburger relish jar lid was attached to provide a secure place for the jar.   The lid was screwed to the underside of the tray providing a now waterproof accommodation in the jar or the boat registration.  Also after using this boat a bit, I remembered that I had one of the rubber foam insulation leader spool metal holders that my oldest grandson had made and sold 9 years before.  This unit was attached under the tray as a place to coil up and have handy tied up lure/leaders.


With the rack type carrier I would be using to transport this boat with, it was imperative that nothing protruded above the top of the gunwale so loading/unloading was not a problem as the boat needs to be loaded upside down on this carrier rack.   I had mistakenly purchased the 1/4" bolts longer than needed that hold the top wheel brackets to the transom.  And was about ready to cut the excess off, but, why not utilize that longer length to bolt a 1/2" x 2" X 4" aluminum plate that could be tapped the right distance to accommodate small mooring cleats on the front inside of the transom, which makes a more secure mounting than just #8 wood screws into the transom plus being out of the way.


Sonar/Depth Finder :   It took a bit of looking then trial/error, but a lawnmower battery was found that fit inside a plastic marine dry box and still leave enough room for the used depth-finder, transducer and all the cable in this box that also serves as a self-contained carrying case.  A small take-off depth-finder (Garmin Fishfinder 120) from a previous boat purchase was used here.   There is even enough room for the owners manual inside the box.  This depth-finder also measures the water temperature and battery voltage, which comes in handy. 


With fishing for 4 days in Canada and using this depth-finder almost continuously the battery still maintained a voltage of 12.8 volts.   Then  2 months later, still with it not being recharged and with 2 more days of fishing it is still at 12.7 volts.   So for me, it is apparent that this battery will stand up quite well for the intended purpose.   

The depth-finder base unit is mounted to the lid of the dry box and the display unit can be removed/adjusted by two different thumbscrews.   Also a aluminum channel section was made to fit into one of the wheel brackets (with the wheels removed) to attach a depth-finder transducer to the boat when needed.

Here the skipper's station showing the catch-all tray with PWC Freon horn attached,  a folding knife on the tray, rear mooring cleat, rod holder, downrigger, removable deck plate under the rear seat & the portable self-contained depth-finder unit. A rearward looking view to the skipper's station with fishing
 in progress on a Canadian Lake with a 1984 6hp Johnson. 


Anchor Jam Cleat :  At the bow, a bracket was made out of 3/16" X 2" aluminum that was formed so the bow eye retainer bolt protruding inward acted as a major attachment base for a jam cleat for a anchor line instead of having to lean over the bow and tying to the bow eye.  This was originally designed just for lake fishing, but since this little boat works so well, river fishing seemed a good idea.  But here I may be anchored and without a definite anchor line fairlead, the line could slip sideways creating a problem, so more aluminum was welded onto the initial strap and two 7/8" X 1" dia. Nylon studs were bolted through the aluminum and the fiberglass, making a very secure situation.

Attached to the base is a 2 1/2" carbineer clasp that secures the USCG required throwable cushion and stops it from flying overboard, yet it is readily available.


Here the bow jam chock with anchor line guides & an attached readily available throwable cushion are shown


Rod Holders :   I have never had a problem with Fish-On rod holders and did have a few extra units with bases that were fitted to this boat.  These were located strategically on the boat to accommodate both the motor operator and a fishing companion.  As a spare or backup, an Old Salty brand double clamp on rod holder is available if needed in a different location.


Seats :   Comfortable seats were a must if you are to spend hours on the water, or if I am convincing enough to get the wife to go along, (which she did one day on the Canadian trip) cushiony seats with backrests come high on the required list as we get older.  Also in the confined areas of this small boat swivel seats seem to be mandatory.  One seat swivel unit was bolted to the starboard rear seat for the motor operator to use.  This unit is made so the operator seat can be readily detached from the mounted swivel base.


In getting this rear skipper's swivel seat situated, it was needed to move the swivel in toward the center of the boat more than the original boat seat could accommodate and yet allow it to swivel without hitting the gunwale.  This meant a 3/4" plywood base would have to be bolted onto the top of the original seat so the swivel would be secure with the slight amount of overhang.  No problem, just lag screw the plywood to the top of the original seat.  Surprise when the holes were drilled, the original seat was just a fiberglass shell and not fiberglass over plywood as was thought.


It was questionable that just screwing lag bolts into this thin (3/16") fiberglass would be substantial enough to hold for any length of time.  And there was no way to get in/under there to attach nuts to 1/4" bolts as the seats were glassed to the inner hull.  So a set of 4" plastic boat deck plates was purchased that the round removable cover screws into the base sealed by a Neoprene O-Ring, making a watertight seal.  After saber-sawing out the 4"+ hole needed to install the plate, this allowed access underneath and into the old Styrofoam floatation compartment.  Another surprise, this floatation Styrofoam was so saturated with water and deteriorated that it was useless for floatation.  In testing a piece of it by dropping it in a cattle watering trough, it floated, but with only about 40% above water instead of normally at 95%.


By reaching inside this 4" hole, then using a keyhole saw, sawing the existing wet foam into pieces small enough to be extracted thru the hole, there was enough room to attach washers and nuts to the bolts holding the plywood to the top of the seat.  If one seat's floatation was bad, there was a good chance the other rear seat was the same.   It also suffered from the same disease, so a second deck plate was added to this side.  Then came the mess cleaned up inside these seat compartments.


Now do we need to replace the Styrofoam as a floatation?  This new deck plate has a Neoprene O-Ring between the plate and cover, and I caulked under it's outer ring before being Pop-Riveted on.   The other only source of any water intrusion would be at a drain plug area where the plug units were probably not caulked around the face of the seat before they were Pop-Riveted in place.  A sealed waterproof compartment should have at least the same amount of floatation as was originally installed and a heck of a lot more than the waterlogged Styrofoam taken out.  Plus it can be a location for extra out of the way storage for seldom used items, like mooring and docking lines, or other small miscellaneous items.


Next the question is the front bow seat in the same condition as the rear ones?   When this drain plug was removed on this one, along with the others to caulk under them (making them all waterproof), this front cavity appears to not have had anywhere near the same degree of water in it, but a deck plate was installed there also after the foam was removed.   All of the drain plugs were removed, cleaned and new paint underneath, caulked, then re-Pop Riveted to rectify the previous leaking problem.


The center swivel seat chair (purchased from Wal-Mart) unit and straddles the center cross seat.  Originally the thought was that it may need to be secured by two 15" bungee cords around the upper legs, crisscrossed thru the upright support and seat top.   However after using this unit a few times, the bungee cords appear to not really be needed.

Here is a rear-view showing the wheel assemblies.  The depth-finder bracket on the port side, is just hanging there.   It mounts in the same bracket as the wheel unit.

However, I found that when using the electric trolling motor on the Port side, that the transducer needed to be moved to the Starboard side bracket to give prop clearance for the electric motor.  


Shown here the depth-finder bracket is mounted in the wheel bracket channel & ready for a day of fishing.


Extended Battery Cable Nuts ;   OK, so you have a electric trolling motor, or even a electric start main motor on a small boat that you want to relocate the battery more forward to balance the boat better.  How do you isolate these connectors so they do not arc, even though you separate them a few inches apart when you solder on the eye connectors?


I used Velcro fishing rod raps to cover the wing nut connectors.  You will notice in the photo below that one connection is wrapped, while the other is unwrapped, but the cover just laying there.  These connectors are not attached to equal length cables, but one being about 2" shorter than the other for isolation purposes.  The eyes are soldered onto twin #10 marine grade wire and protected by heat shrink tubing over the solder joint.  This Velcro cover protects from any chance of arcing the two together (which makes the Coast Guard happy), yet readily available to disconnect if need be.


To provide for ease of connecting, the stainless steel bolt has a short 1/4" dia. rod silver soldered onto the head, so no wrench is needed when connecting the wires.


Here are the protected wire connectors using rod wrap Velcro


Other Gear :  In the photo below, under the center seat you can see the 3 1/2 gallon fuel tank that fits rather snuggly.  Notice that the tank is slightly tapered and sets at an angle matching the hull shape.  The fuel pickup tube inside the tank is on what is now the "high" side to the right of the bottom's internal ridge.  This will make a larger emergency reserve when the high small pocket runs dry.  Just pull the tank out, tip it so what fuel is left in the larger area runs to the other side and turn it around (it won't fit under the seat then however).


On the other side is a bulk laundry bucket, that has been cut down, the upper section slid back up over the lower section and both Pop Riveted together so the height just fits under the seat.  In this bucket is a 10# mushroom anchor, 6' of 1/4' anchor chain and 100' of 1/4" poly anchor line.  Also in this bucket there is enough room to store a fish knife, hook remover, a small boat fender and a small condensed tool pouch. 


I later wanted to use my electric trolling motor and found enough room under the RH side of the center seat by removing the float and shifting the laundry bucket against the boat's side to then accommodate the 12 volt deep cycle battery.   


There was just enough room  under the seats on the outer edges to accommodate the oars without any restraint.


Now it has been modified again to use a electric start 9.9hp Johnson.  So the series 27 marine battery has been crammed in the center, pushing the plastic anchor rope bucket to the starboard side.

Here is a view showing the completed ready to fish boat looking rearward


Downrigger :  A used Cannon clamp on, lake troll downrigger unit had been purchased at a garage sale for $40 a few years before found a home.  Mounting this securely proved rather simple by merely sawing a block of lumber to the proper thickness to fit under the clamp on the outside of the hull.


Propulsion :  Here the plan is using a 1984 6 hp Johnson as shown in these photos.  CLICK HERE for more in formation on it.   After the maiden voyage, this 6 hp is a smooth running trolling motor and the high speed will be sufficient for most lake fishing I will be doing.   And on a week's Canadian fishing trip, surprisingly if I positioned myself leaning forward onto the center seat it has enough power to just plane this boat at 8 MPH.   However my other 1992 9.9 hp Johnson will be used on larger lakes or rivers if more power is required and may even replace the 6hp as after rebuilding the 9.9hp carburetor, it trolls down almost to what the 6hp does.  And cutting 1/2" off a old battered prop will help even more if I need it to go slower.

And for this 9.9 hp motor, I fashioned a stainless steel prop / skeg guard, basically in case I may get into shallow / unexplored water to protect the prop from rock rash or the skeg from being broken off.  Been there, done that.


Here is a side-view of the somewhat finished product with the 6 hp motor


Boat Transportation :  As mentioned previously, I plan on using the boat rack type carrier that I had previously built to transport boats of this size.  CLICK HERE


After our Canadian fishing trip, using the boat rack carrier, I was happy with that, however it takes about 20 to 30 minutes (depending on the proximity to the water) to unload and reload taken into account of all my gear.  This is fine when we stayed at one lake for a few days, but with this little boat performing so flawlessly, then when we got home, I decided that maybe a small trailer under the boat would be beneficial for shorter local, trips and if it was on a trailer maybe my son might be able and decide to take the youngest grandson fishing at times.


One Man Launching Plan "A" :  Since this boat was to be carried on a overhead pickup rack and me being retired, many times I fish alone and getting this boat from the pickup to the water and back could be a slight problem.   I refuse to drag it across a gravel parking lot or concrete ramp.   To eliminate this problem, a set of folding or removable rubber wheels were installed on the transom.  Happy's Wheel-a-Weigh launch wheels #WR-8 which can be viewed at


These wheels make life a lot easier for one person to load, and/or roll to the water's edge.  These wheels can be pivoted and rotated 180 degrees so the boat can be used like a dual tired wheelbarrow either right side up as shown, for moving from the parking area to into the water or upside down when loading onto the carrier rack.  The wheels can then be rotated back up while under way, or totally removed.


Plan "B" :  Now the original thought was when loading /unloading off the pickup carrier rack was to stand the boat on it's transom at the rear of the pickup for the transition between the boat being right side up to upside down for the loading onto the rack.  This proved a bit awkward and hard to accomplish for a 76 year old man, so plan "B" was brought into play.  Plan "B" is to use a 2 1/2' X 12' carpet remnant parallel to the side of the boat as a pad to roll the boat onto sideways and then completely over to protect the newly painted sides as most launch areas are either gravel, blacktop or concrete, with little grass likely to be close by.


The actual loading is accomplished using a rope and a slider lock system similar to the river anchor retrieval systems.  A new slider unit was made out of aluminum with the attachment on the opposite side than the original anchor unit because the load would be in a situation where the unit would not have the benefit of gravity to activate the slider lock.  In addition, a set of coil springs (one on each side) were mounted on the new unit to ensure it would position the slider close soon enough in the lock position to start the actual wedge locking and not allow the rope to slide backwards once the boat started up on the pickup racks.  The effect of the springs are overcome by simply pulling on the rope or grasping the extended acorn nuts of the slider cam pin and retracting them.


This system required welding a single chain link on the center bottom of the front carrier rack and another with a second link in the same location on the rear rack.  The slider unit is attached to the welded on rear chain link by a snap.  In the loading operation, the boat is turned upside down using the rear wheels for maneuverability, the bow is placed at the rear of the pickup.   A rope is ran from the  boat's bow eye, up and over both the overhead racks, then down thru the welded chain link on the front rack.  Then under and rearward thru the slider which is attached to the rack's rear welded chain link.  When the bow is raised up manually and the front gunwales laying against the rear rack, with the wheels still on the ground, this bow rope being held by the slider keeps the boat from sliding rearward.  Pull on the rope while lifting and pushing forward  on the stern, the boat tips enough to lay on the rear rack, while being retained from sliding back down by this slider pinching/holding the rope.  Push the boat forward more and pull on the bow rope and the bow now slides onto the front rack.  Once the bow is even with the eye under the front rack, then you will need to release tension on the slider to allow the boat to be moved farther forward and in the travel position.


The side extensions added to the rear rack keeps the boat from sliding sideways and off the rack, (Been-There-Done-That) and possibly damaging the pickup bed.

In the actual loading using this slider, there is not enough leverage to just pull the rope and have the boat slide up and on, but the slider does limit the amount the boat can slip backwards.  So in use, the boat is lifted up/pushed on AND by manually pulling the rope taking up slack, allowing it to act as a anti-reverse for the rope, the boat only slides back a minimal amount of just taking the slack out of the rope.  This eliminates much of the effort in trying to load/unload at the awkward 1/2 way point. 


In unloading, as the boat is being manually pulled rearward and then the stern when being let down, just grasp and pull both of the acorn nuts on the slider spring, feathering the needed tension applied, allowing the boat to slowly move back and down to a stop resting on it's wheels with the bow still leaning on the rear rack.  Then manually release the slider and lower the bow to a horizontal position on the ground and wheelbarrow your boat to your desired location.


Here is shown the loading slider lock, holding the boat just before it was dropped onto the front rack.   This is also the point where the operator can release the slider for controlled unloading Here is shown the loading slider lock functioning, holding the boat in the transitional position as shown using the slider lock shown in the LH photo  


This whole procedure is not that easy, but doable for one old man (as long as you don't hurry me).    It takes longer to load all the gear into or out of the boat than it does to load the boat onto the racks.


In the photo below you will notice that the 2" square tubing that the wheels are mounted on has been welded at the top of the transom.  This is because this bracket was originally used on another boat of the same size, but when transferred to this boat, the bases did not match so the tubing was cut almost thru, bent and welded so the wheels are all touching the ground equally when being wheeled with the boat right side up.  After the Canadian trip these aluminum tubing wheel arms were replaced by a solid 1/2" X 2" aluminum and the wheels were lowered 2" to give more boat clearance when right-side up.

One thing I noticed on the trial run was that there was a unusual noise with the boat on top.  Remembering a page from an old truckers note book, I just twisted the tie down straps on the return trip and the noise created by the vibrating straps disappeared.


Here you can see the fish arched shaped clamp screwed down & clamped on the gunwale, the felt roller, the ratchet strap and the afterthought pipe extensions



Reloading - Plan "C" :  One of the main problems lies in the time involved (20 minutes +) to unload the boat at the water's edge, or a bit longer to load it back onto the carrier racks.  The unloading can be done out of the way on the upper end of the launch/parking lot, and then wheel barrowing the boat down to the water, but on ramps that are steeper for reloading, a helper would really be appreciated especially if the ramp is wet/slippery or muddy AND I am tired.


With the above in mind, I devised a removable "trailer hitch tongue" for the boat.   This is a 1/4" X 2" X 20" flat steel with a slot cut in the bottom end to accommodate sliding over the bow eye which is the main attachment point.  This steel is then bent to the shape of the under side of the bow, but allowing clearance so it does not rub the fiberglass. 


A section of 3/4"steel pipe was formed to fit the arc of the bow's underside of the gunwale.   This pipe section is welded to a sliding plate that can be positioned in place and locked down by a lever welded to a 3/8" bolt giving added support for part of the weight of the boat.   Another section of the 2" steel was cut to act as a screwed on clamp over the top of the forward gunwale above the pipe which is under the gunwale.  The lower section of steel that straddles the bow eye is held in place by a wooden wedge pushed into the eye holding the steel up/inward against the eye base.  


Now another section of steel was welded onto the first piece and positioned so the boat's keel/bow would raised enough to not drag when going up the ramp.  A section of 5/8" round steel was heated and formed into a pear shaped circle large enough for the largest part to go over the trailer hitch ball of the pickup.  The small part of the pear shape is the size of the base of the ball and is welded pointing forward so when the pickup is pulling the boat up the ramp, this pear shape slides rearward securing the ring from coming off.   Braces were welded in place.   The clamps all have a 5/16" diameter handle welded to them so no tools are required for this installation.  A stout cord secures the wooden wedge so it does not wonder away when not in use.  And this cord is actually a spare starter rope.


This finished product is not exactly what was envisioned to start with, as modifications were needed as the building progressed and then for it  to raise the keel high enough as to not drag going up the ramp.


In use, the boat's wheels are lowered while still in the water before approaching and landing on the ramp, or after beaching it but using hip boots to get behind the boat for this re-attaching of the wheels.  The motor is locked in the up position.  The pickup is backed down to the water's edge and removable boat tongue is put in place on, and secured to the boat.   The boat's bow is then lifted and the steel ring is dropped over the trailer hitch ball.  Up the ramp the boat goes just like it was a regular trailered boat.  The unloading of the gear takes place in the parking lot out of the way of other boaters where the boat is then loaded onto the pickup's carrier racks at my convenience.


This tongue will probably only be used for recovering the boat, as this boat is so low and narrow, it is about impossible to back it up unless some flags are installed on the rear sides of the boat.  And letting the tail gate down is not a doable thing unless I want to really scratch it on this newly made tongue clamp.  Maybe a conversation with the design engineer would be in order to possibly lengthen future models IF there is ever another one fabricated.


Readily removable boat trailer hitch tongue attached to the boat & pickup.  Man handling it from this particular unimproved launch would have been totally impossible for me alone as the gravel was so LOOSE, a 4 wheel drive was needed to drive from this Canadian lake up to the campground



Plan D :  Now an added bonus.   Not to let my eyesight become out of focus, when returning from a Montana deer hunt the next year, on the freeway a vehicle passed me, which I noticed something that got my attention and now has been added to my rack. 


That has been a 2,500# 12 volt electric ATV winch that is wireless remote controlled, from Harbor Freight that they had on a coupon special sale for $49.99.  It is mounted onto a plate welded onto the top front pipe frame with the winch on the underside to clear my garage door opening, and has the drum facing rearward and mounted so the wire spools off the top of the spool.  On the rear frame a 1/4" X 2" pulley is attached by means of 2 welded on chain links.  The 12 volt power is supplied off a 7 prong RV plug-in that was wired into the front drivers side of the pickup bed that was used to power my previous slide in camper.


I try to go to Montana deer hunting with my grandson every year.  He however seems to never have enough accrued vacation time for all the time that I am there, so many of my days are me hunting solo.

I am not that young anymore (78) and loading a deer into the pickup bed would pose a problem if being alone, even if I got permission to drive out to retrieve the animal.  An elk could also be a chore for oven two hunters. 

In use, the winch line will go to the upper rear pipe frame, through a removable 2" pulley there and then can be used to lift a animal up onto the pickup bed tailgate.  In all probability a couple of  2" X 12" planks may have to be used to slide the animal up onto the tailgate, as my model Ford F150 does not have a readily removable tailgate.  But once the animal is up near or on the tailgate, repositioning it farther forward would not be a problem with tension being applied by this winch.


Now with the addition of this electric winch system, my manual loading/unloading will probably be abandoned.


Here is the view showing the winch mounted on the front pickup rack


Conclusions : One thing I found is that the extra weight of this boat and gear aboard the vehicle lowers the rear of this 1/2 ton pickup.  I had added air lift bags to the rear suspension when carrying my 8' camper, so adding another 20# of air was an easy fix to keep night oncoming traffic from flashing their high beam lights at me.


This boat and rack system was essentially put together for a week's Canadian fishing trip in mid August of  2012.  One thing I did find was that when loaded with all the needed things for this trip, room in the pickup bed was getting crowded.   OK, just slide the skippers swivel seat in place, lock it down and haul it up and out of the way attached to the now upside down boat.  And a simple thing of marking the floor off in inches as a ready measuring device was also been done.   A few things popped up that will be improved on, but all in all, everything went quite well.


Another thing I learned, is that don't skimp and in your motor repair kit, or take old, used, or even cleaned spark plugs on a Canadian fishing trip of a lifetime.


Here I am fishing on a quiet afternoon on Nimpo Lake in upper BC Canada


Trailer :  As mentioned previously, a small trailer would be beneficial for short, closer to home trips.  The Holsclaw trailer I later purchased from the same previous owner of the boat which was about the same age as the boat (apparently a matching pair when new or shortly thereafter) and it also needed some tender loving care as it had been stored behind a barn in the weeds for a time.  The frame was cracked and needed some welding.  The rollers had been replaced by bunks, which was a good idea, but they needed to be adjusted to fit the boat better.   Most of the bolts that needed to be loosened for any adjustment were so rusty that they had to be cut off with a angle head grinder or a Oxygen/Acetylene cutting torch.  These were then replaced with new cadmium plated ones. 


The existing trailer light bulb receptacles were rusty enough that they worked only intermittently even after a cleaning and complete going over, so it was apparent that new lights were also needed.  All metal mating surfaces that were bolted together that held the lights were unbolted and sanded down to bare metal, repainted, new retainer bolts installed and the ground connection was renewed all thru the system.  No need to go the expensive LED lights for this little used boat, so the old fashioned incandescent bulb style was used.  And Walmart had a set at a reasonable price of $6.97 each. 


The winch needed to be completely torn apart and cleaned/oiled and repainted plus the winch eye snap broke the first time it was used.  And there was no rear tie down strap to hold the boat.


The wheel bearings were bad on one wheel, so both were replaced with new bearings and seals.  Bearing Buddy grease retainers were also installed on the hubs.  There was no spare tire/wheel.  One tire and wheel appeared to be the original and in need of replacing.   Two new tires and wheels were purchased, retiring the rusty wheel with the flat tire, and using the other newer usable tire and wheel as a spare. 


The paint color is mostly rusty with a tad of blue showing through.  The fenders really needed some painting so initially I did them using the same almond color as original.   The next year I wire wheeled all the metal parts down and repainted them, replacing many of the bolts.   I removed the ID plates, repainted under them and re-Pop Riveted them back in place.


The coupler was 1 7/8" ball dia. and after looking over the tongue size to be able to change to the standard 2" ball, it became apparent that the easiest thing to do is just buy a new hitch extension and use a 1 7/8" ball when towing this boat.  The coupler needed to be torn apart, cleaned and parts reinstalled.  For some reason my new 1 7/8" ball would not fit up inside the coupler's lower opening, which meant opening the lower coupler lip with a large 1/2 round Bastard file was in order.


Then after the first day of usage, it was obvious that bunk side guides were needed which were made of 2" X 3" angle iron and installed for easier centering during loading if windy or a tide / river running.  Since this trailer is so narrow and being able to just see it, when backing down to reload the boat, is about impossible because of my bed mounted toolbox, so on the top of these bunk guides, small steel platforms are welded so that by using a set of magnetic base Hitchin' Rods sold by  and I can now see where the empty trailer is.  These are a set of 2 hollow fiberglass rods 48" long.  They are finished in a bright greenish yellow and are about the size of the front part of a pool que.    For more info on these, CLICK HERE


One bright thing is that it had a fairly new and functional tongue jack.  And there was no problem changing the title over, as was had for the boat.  Now I have over $280 into a trailer of possibly a $150 value.  However I dislike the idea of being broke down alongside the road miles from nowhere, so the price equates to peace of mind.


Here the boat is sitting on it's trailer after a very rainy day's fishing with the new bunk guides installed & with the 9.9 hp Johnson along with a electric trolling motor.  You will also notice the prop skeg guard on the main motor.


Compliance with Federal Regulations :   It took a lot of research to find the real meaning of the conflicting boating regulations.  Essentially the law says any boat under 16' and powered by less than a 10 HP motor does not need to be registered, (USCG numbers) IF it is NOT used on Federal Waters.  OK just what are Federal Waters?  Also somewhere in the mix there seems to reference to the wording "Navigable Waters".


Yes, you may not need the registration for a boat of this size, HOWEVER it will behoove you to do so.  Both of these waters can be construed to nearly anything that a frog could survive in.  You would have to carry a book around that has rivers identified as Federal/Navigable up to River Mile XX.   Most of us do not have access to this information as River Mile charts may be unheard of by many.


The sticker is if you only used it on inland lakes, or never attach a motor to it, (depending on the state you reside in) or if you do not venture onto moving water, you MAY be fine.  -- USUALLY-- .   Some impoundments or reservoirs behind dams are also a NO-NO in this case.

The other thing you will need to be sure you comply with is the safety devices you are carrying onboard.  No matter what size a boat you are running, you will have to have the proper number of PFD (life preservers).  Since you will be using a craft of this size only on inland waters AND you are under the length/HP rating, from what I have found in addition to the PDFs, is you only need a sound producing device (USCG approved whistle or Freon horn) a non-pyrotechnic device (orange flag) and a throwable floatable boat cushion, to be in compliance.  The inspectors also look for a "dewatering device" (piss can).  Of course you will need some source of emergency propulsion, hence the oars. 

The following wording has been extracted from the USCGA boat inspection sheet.  "The number and type of signals is best judged by considering conditions under which the boat will be operating".   So for these small boats there may be some latitude ???   But don't count on it, depending on the inspecting officer.

The problem seems to be that now we are blessed with many well meaning law enforcement agencies who are out to protect us from ourselves, under the guise of water safety.  Don't get me wrong, I am all for this kind of informational messages being given, especially to the newcomers to this method of outdoor entertainment.   BUT the thing I have a problem with is that there usually are a few officers who do not really understand the true law as it is written and are out to write as many tickets as their book holds.  It also seems that there is now Federal/State monies available for boating safety inspections.  All the more reason to see those friendly faces even from different agencies all in the same day.    Remember that your state/county needs the funding in these trying times.

So, it will behoove you to learn the law as it pertains to your situation, AND be prepared to question the friendly officer if you believe he is not interpreting the written law correctly.  You might request him to show it to you in writing.


And each state may well have different regulations.




copyright © 2012 -2015  LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved

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Originated 05-11-2012, Last updated 07-11-2015
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