Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Simple Boat Restoration

Years ago, I made a business error.  You see, part of my responsibility as a business owner is to make money.  That way I am able to hire employees, buy equipment, and stock boats that people will buy.  Well one August many years ago, I made an emotional decision that ended up being very expensive.  I took a 1960 26' Mackenzie Cutty Hunk in trade toward a new boat on our lot.  Initially, it looked like a fine decision.  I even took a video to showcase the beautiful boat.  See for yourself...

Looks good, right?  I thought so anyway. 

The events that followed can only be described as catastrophic.  Back then I knew a little bit about boats of the fiberglass or aluminum variety, but I had not had the pleasure of working with our grandparents' material of choice...wood. 

Wood is romantic you know.  Reminds me of simpler times when people had time to hang out on a mooring and apply coats of varnish without being interrupted by a smart phone.

The problem with wood is that it needs care and love.  The Mackenzie Cuttyhunk is a classic and has a distinctive lapstrake wooden bottom.  If you've watched the video, you'll notice the bottom of the boat was smooth.  Hmmm...that's weird.  That's because the boat had previously been repaired by sanding down the lapstrakes and applying fiberglass to the bottom. 

So, I learned that I didn't have an original example of the classic Mackenzie, but surely someone (including myself at the time) would be proud to own it as a seaworthy vessel. 

That was until I backed the boat onto our newly installed radiant-heat floor.  By the way, don't put a wooden boat on a heated concrete floor.  Bad things will happen including a thing called may have heard of it.  The only way to fix contraction is to put her back in the water, and let her swell.  Not only did our poor Mackenzie experience contraction, but her bottom fell off exposing the sanded, lapstrake bottom.  

What happened next?  I met with the few wooden boat experts still alive and agile enough to inspect my specimen.  They were all excited about the possibilities, and I heard more opinions than what you'd find in the New York Times editorial section.  One thing was was going to cost a lot of time and money to put her back on the water. 

Until now, the Mackenzie has been a constant reminder for me to always do my homework. My daughter, now 4, was given Mackenzie as her middle name.  I think I've moved the boat around the yard a hundred times now.  It just never goes away. 

So, guess what?  We're going to fix her up.  Why?  Because wood may not be practical, but it is romantic! 

We're going to report our progress, but here's what she looked like yesterday:

There is hope

We'll need to polish that bell

Inspecting the Mackenzie Cuttyhunk

Wouldn't Dare Take Her Out Today!



  1. Wow beautiful boat its a classic one.
    I really like the wood on boats,like you say needs allot care and much love.

  2. Making bad decisions happens to all of us. What's important is that you're willing to correct what is wrong. If I were I would've sought experts to inspect the boat as well. I hope the restoration is going smoothly. Good luck!

  3. So what is the status of your Mackenzie? I am pondering taking on a similar project and i am trying to decide whether to listen to my brain or to follow my heart.

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  14. Very nice article and video! Thanks so much for the information. Great tip on not putting a wooden boat on a heated concrete floor. Good to know for sure. We have had our boat detailing business in Wilmington NCfor over 17 years now and always enjoy coming across other peoples boat and yacht projects.