She is 108-years old – time for a new covering

She is 108-years old – time for a new covering

This article was originally published in the Classic Yacht Association newsletter, Fall 2020.

by Tom Burnett, Canadian Fleet

It’s very likely that those who read this share the common interest of messing about in boats. There is no need to over analyze this. It’s just what we do. It is our art, if you like – and art doesn’t need to make sense. Over this last winter my boat interest got slightly out of hand – with time and funds. It has been most satisfying.

photo: Stripping the old deck
Stripping the old deck. photo Tom Burnett.

As is common in our old craft, there came a time to address the freshwater leaks of a worn-out deck. Gleniffer is an Edwardian-era flushdecker that has 
been actively cruising since 1912, so an upgrade to the long foredeck after 108 years came as no great surprise. The existing deck was painted canvas over tar-felt with lead trim and copper nails in white lead putty. This had done a heroic job for who knows how long. I have been patching this – temporarily – for thirty years. I have not commercially hauled the boat since moving to Salt Spring Island in 1993. All work such as replacing keel bolts, a new cutlass bearing and other regular maintenance, has been done simply on a tide grid off her boathouse.

photo: A new teak deck replaces the original canvas
A new teak deck replaces the original canvas. photo Tom Burnett.

The scale and importance of this deck replacement was another matter. But what upgrade method to choose? Fortunately, Gleniffer found herself on a cradle winched into the workshop of Abernathy & Gaudin Boatbuilders in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia. In the October 2019 issue of Wooden Boat magazine (#270) there is a feature article on this yard. Among the builders’ accomplishments there is mention of modern techniques shared online globally with other boatyards, blending the traditional with the contemporary. In Gleniffer’s case the decision was made to use the torsional strength of marine plywood over the original tongue and grove, bedded in epoxy without permanent fastenings. This was followed by the timeless traditional look of a laid-teak deck. There is teak-compatible seam caulking between the epoxy-bedded teak planking. A sharp-looking result without any bunged fastenings. New covering boards were laid, and there was much discussion amongst friends whether these should be varnished or painted. What an escapist tonic such decisions are in the context of modern global events! I am thankful for these details and it’s one of the ways our old boats give back.

photo: Gleniffer resplendent with new deck, hatch covering, and brass railings
Gleniffer resplendent with new deck, hatch covering, and brass railings. photo Tom Burnett.

A not uncommon outcome of such large rebuilds is the exposure of unrelated structural issues, and this case was no exception. So, along with a super strong new deck came other unexpected rebuilds. The fore deck was removed and new sapele deck beams and timbers were installed under the windlass. The hatch was rebuilt further aft. A section of the upper teak stem was found to be punky, and this too was expertly replaced. All these were dealt with very thoroughly and will assuredly see her well into her next century.

From a personal perspective, I find the sculpture apparent in the slim and dignified lines of Gleniffer to be very rewarding. Somehow, whatever one puts in, there is inexplicable satisfaction. I look forward to joining you all as together we pursue the craft of our craft.