WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT...

FINN JOHANSON MAGER

The rebuild and restoration of an old 1986 Swift Craft Seahawk.

BEFORE

Mentor Letter.

 

 

My name is Wim Kahmann and I have had the honour to be Finn’s mentor. 

I heard about Finn’s project to restore an old boat via Hoshi, my stepdaughter, who is in the same class. I remember thinking that that would be a GREAT class 12 project in every sense of the word. I know from experience that it takes a lot of time, effort and knowledge to restore a boat to a decent level of any size.

Although I earn my living through other means at the moment, I am a qualified boatbuilder and shipwright and I have worked in this profession for over 20 years, of which at least 12 years have been dedicated to restoring and rebuilding wooden and composite boats. So, when Finn asked me to be his mentor, I was keen to be part of this adventure. 

The big challenge I saw for Finn with a project like this was time and time management. In my experience most old boats that come up for restoration have spent most of their lives in the water and/or collecting water. This makes them an ideal target for corrosion, rot and general deterioration. The moment you start taking things apart in such projects, you will come across unforeseen problems. Some might be small, like a nut that won’t come off and others might be more serious like a rotten Transom, but they all need more time than you initially think. Even if you master all the skills you need to restore a boat and have the perfect setup to do it in, these little setbacks are always tricky and can throw you off target and sap motivation.

Finn’s boat wasn’t any different. Apart from an obvious problem in the Transom, there was also a “spongy” floor. After removing the floor, you could clearly see that some longitudinal timbers were in need of replacing as well. 

I was quite impressed how Finn approached the planning and problem solving of this project. From the outset he had a good general idea of what he would do himself, and what he would like to have done by professionals. He showed good insight, spotting problems early on and asking the right questions at the right time. He picked the projects he was comfortable with doing, did the research and got going. In the above-mentioned floor problem for example, he knew he could have a try to fix it himself or ask for a quote to have it repaired. From the get go he was going to find someone to ask for a quote for the repair of the Transom, so it made sense to also ask for a quote for the floor and the Stringers. If it was going to be too expensive, he figured he could always try to do it himself. In the end a professional fixed up the Transom and the Stringers and the floor even though I think he was quite keen of having a go at it himself. That approach towards the project has saved him a lot of time.

Also, his tenacity and willingness to have a go at it, made it possible to repair, prime and paint his boat under less-than-ideal circumstances. He did not have a climate controlled or dust-free workshop, he did everything under the carport wrapped in plastic.

Considering his lack of experience and the environment he worked in, not to mention the strange times we are living in, I think Finn can be very proud of himself. More than once, I have seen people, who were more skilled, abandon a similar project. Not so much because they couldn’t do it, but because it takes a lot of time, planning and a lot of persevering.

The finished product looks very neat and is finished with an eye for detail. The paint job looks great and the anti-slip strips in the cockpit give it a new look. All the fittings seem to be installed correctly and the Gunwale rubber looks good. Someone with a keen eye could tell that there was some experience lacking in some areas, but overall, it looks great.

In my years as a boatbuilder I have come across a lot of boats restored by professionals and enthusiastic DIYers, and I can honestly say that I have seen finished restoration projects which looked worse than what Finn has done. I say it’s a job well done!