Restoration of
Early Light's
Sailing Dinghy


Although Early Light came equiped with an inflatable dinghy, I also have a 7' 8" fiberglass sailing dinghy which I had purchased used a few years ago. When cruising with no more than two persons on board, I prefer the sailing dinghy for several reasons.

1. She tows very well.

2. She is very easy to row.

3. The 2HP Honda outboard pushes her quite well.

4. She provides a slightly dryer ride in a chop.

5. And above all, she provides countless hours of sailing fun when in an anchorage.

The only drawback is her load carrying capacity if I have guests aboard. Two adults is the max load so if I have a total of 4 people on board and wish to go ashore for dinner, it means 3 trips with the dinghy. :-(

Restoration will consist of the following:

1. Replace luan mahogany gunwhales, inwhales, quarter knees, breasthook and transom plate with Burma teak

2. Refinish luan mahogany seats

3. Replace foam flotation

4. Paint inside of hull

5. Paint outside of hull

6. Add "Gunnel Guard" from Perimiter Industries to new gunwhales

This dinghy was home built in a female mold and the fiberglass work is actually quite good but the builder really skimped on the joinerwork. All of the wood was luan mahogany (for boatbuilding this is junk in my humble opinion). The gunwhales, quarter knees and breasthook were all in rough shape when I got the dinghy and have gotten much worse over the several years I have owned her.

I decided to rebuild her using teak in place of the luan mahogany. I think I will leave the luan seats until I can find a good buy on some more teak but everything else will be replaced with teak.

The first order of business was to find a place to work on her without having to cartop her home. I was able to get some space in a small shed at the boatyard and although it is a bit cramped it will do. At least I am out of the weather and will have power available.

Wouldn't you know, as soon as I put the dinghy in the shed the weather took a turn for the worse (temps in the teens). Suddenly the shed was not the place I wanted to be. I took this opportunity to fire up the table saw and rip the teak strips for the gunwhales (where it was warm).

With a tropical heat wave (temps in the 40's) it was time to start removing the old wood. First I removed the bronze oarlocks, stainless rudder gudgeons and stainless deck straps for the mainsheet bridle. Then came the removal of some 50 odd wood screws that secured the 3/4" thick gunwhales and the 3/8" thick inwhales. Once the screws were removed, the bond of the wood to the fiberglass (3M4200 I think) had to be broken. I used a sharpened putty knife to break the bond and then ripped the wood free from the hull.

Below are several photos after removing the old luan gunwhales. The new teak strips to laminate the gunwhales can be seen in the dinghy.




Unfortunately the piece of luan mahogany on the transom in the first photo was bedded in 3M5200. Some people just do not understand the proper selection of bedding materials. Needless to say, it took me close to 2 hours along with most of my four letter vocabulary, help fom my Profanisaurus and lots of whacks with a hammer and chisel to get that little &%@#*$^ piece of wood off the transom. I ended up with a nice pile of wood splinters that looked like it had been put through a shredder. Oh well, at least it was now off the hull.

Next the adhesive sealant had to be cleaned off and those areas of the hull thoroughly sanded and cleaned before any of the wood could be replaced. Prior to ripping the teak for the gunwhales a few days ago I had decided to use two layers of 3/8" x 1.5" teak on the outside (the gunwhales) and one layer of 3/8" x 1.5" teak on the inside (the inwhales) sandwiching the fiberglass between the two. This would work all the way around the boat (including the transom) except for at the bow. This area would require a different approach since the bend radius around the bow was too tight to bend the 3/8" teak around. I decided that the easiest method for an amateur woodworker like myself was to laminate using teak veneer. Even though this would require the lamination of 18 layers of veneer (this veneer has a thickness of 3/64 inch) it could be easily bent around the radius with no problems of cracking or splitting. More discussion of this process later on.

Cross section detail of
the gunwhale laminations


The transom after removing
everything but prior to cleaning
the remaining sealant

The first teak to be installed was the piece on the transom. This was cut to the same dimensions as the original luan mahogany piece. It was installed using West System Epoxy thickened West 406 colloidal silica. I used the following technique for all the laminating.

Step 1 - Wet out both pieces to be joined with a straight epoxy mixture.

Step 2 - Add West #206 colloidal silica to a batch of epoxy until it was peanutbutter consistency.

Step 3 - Liberally spread the thickened epoxy on one of the mating surfaces that was previously wet out in "Step 1".

Step 4 - Clamp the pieces together firmly, but not so tight that all the thickened epoxy is squeezed out.

Step 5 - Let cure overnight and then remove clamps.


New teak on the transom

Next I made patterns of the quarter knees using cardboard. This was transferred to the teak and the quarter knees were cut using the bandsaw. Once cut, they had to be individually beveled to fit the hull. This required a lot of trial and error. The rough bevel was done with a plane and wood rasp. This was "fine tuned" using a palm sander and 60 grit paper. Once the fit was correct, the quarter knees were installed using West System Epoxy thickened with 406 colloidal silica.


Port side quarter knee


Starboard side quarter knee

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