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The Muthah-Ship and the Dodge tow vehicle at the shop

The Muthah-Ship and the Dodge tow vehicle at the shop

As some of you may already know, my mothership (better known as the “muthah ship”) has been a project for the past 15 months. Three weeks ago we trailered the boat to Oak Harbor where we had a marine mechanic go through the engine/outdrive and get the power systems ready to go. Tonight Sue and I will drive to Oak Harbor (on Whidbey Island) and spend the night on the boat and then launch in the morning and do some test runs around the bay there. We have a covered slip there (least expensive – I hate to say “cheapest” – covered moorage in the Puget Sound area) for at least this summer; next summer we plan to have a mooring set up at our lot near Freeland on the southern end of Whidbey. Oak Harbor marina has a bunch of good things going for it: 1) 14 miles from Deception Pass and only another 5 miles to Lopez Island and the San Juan Islands; 2) A free launch ramp that used to be the ramp for Navy seaplanes (that means wide and well paved); 3) Oak Harbor itself has good shopping for provisions and gear; 4) Did I mention a *FREE* launch ramp?

The waterway between Whidbey Island and Camano Island and the mainland makes for a nice protected kayaking area and also has several marine parks (Cornet Bay, for one) as getaways. In addition there are good anchorages (Similk Bay near Deceoption Pass and Penn Cove near Coupeville). Because Sue and I live about 200 miles from the Puget Sound kayaking experience we felt that having a mothership was a better choice than trying to camp. Sue isn’t big on long kayak trips but likes boats (she I and I cruised a 32-foot sailboat around the Pacific for five years) so the muthah-ship seemed to make sense. And we thought that we could fit it into a budget.

We have been right on the budget. The boat and trailer cost $3500 in December of 2007. I have installed the following items: a) KVH digital compass ($150 used); b) SONY DMCSS VHF ($100 used);  c) VHF Antenna and mount ($70 from Defender);  d) LED dome, nav station and reading lights ($250 from Defender);  e) LED port/stbd nav lights ($140 Defender); f) Fire extinguisher ($10 Cabela’s); g) barometer ($50 used); h) Clock ($75 West Marine); i) LED running lights on trailer ($100).  Items purchased but not yet installed are:  Webasto heater ($400 used); Fuel Flow Meter ($150 from Discount Marine); Ratheon Radar ($250 used – burned up in shop fire); LED Anchor light ($75 from Defender); LED Stern light ($50 from Defender – burned in shop fire). Subtotal for boat, trailer and equipment is $5,370.

The mechanic in Oak Harbor charged us $571 for going through the engine/outdrive, changing fluids, new zincs, and new plugs/points and ballast resistor. So right now we are at $5,941 for the project. I had hoped to be under $6,000 and it looks like I might just make it!

The biggest job in the

Portside Trim Damage before Repairs

project was the new dinette table and the repair of the port trimpiece under the windows (see photo).  The old dinette table was heavy, slightly too big (requiring me to hold my breath when I was seated at the table), a crappy cream colored formica, and scarred up from one or two too-many project.

The trim piece had obviously suffered from dry-rot caused by water ingress at the window. Someone in the past had simply torn and broken the mahogany back to good wood and just left it at that.

My new dinette table is mahogany plywood (3/8″) with teak fiddles. I sized it so that I could sit comfortably at the table or even turn sideways and lounge against the port side of the boat. It made a remarkable difference.

The damage to the mahogany trim piece was fixed by cutting a 45-degree diagonal in the good wood and scarfing in a new piece of mahogany.


Fortunately I had some mahogany. Unfortunately the color of the replacement was not quite the same as the old wood so I fabricated a mount for the clock and installed the clock above the dinette table.

Before the weather closed in for the winter I pressure-washed the exterior teak and then applied 5 coats of varnish to all the teak trim. Meanwhile Sue had spent a couple of days applying bottom paint to the hull of the mothership making it possible for us to keep the boat in a salt water environment for months at a time.

At this point I removed all the interior and exterior plywood panels and took them into the heated shop for refinishing. They had been varnished with some sort of cheap varnish by a previous owner and the finish was flaking off badly. Rather than varnish again I decided to use a high-quality marine exterior paint and found some on sale at Defender Industries. All the panels were sanded down to the wood and sealed and then given 5 coats of spar varnish.

Once the boat was painted and varnished we erected a frame made from 1-1/4″ schedule 40 PVC and bought a high-quality tarp and wrapped the boat up for the winter. I placed a 100-watt light bulb in the engine room and put a small ceramic heater in the main cabin and wired them to the electrical system in the shop.

Cockpit area looking towards rear of cabinUnfortunately in February of 2009 there was an electrical short in a surge protector in the shop and the resulting fire destroyed a lot of personal items, 4 of our best kayaks, and some of the items that had been scheduled for installation in the muthah-ship. Fortunately there was no damage to the boat but the electricity went out and remained out for the rest of the summer.

In late March I began working on the boat to get it ready to be launched. After stripping the tarp off we had several rainstorms and I noticed that a lot of rain water was making its way into the cabin. An investigation into the problem revealed that stanchions and cleats had been installed with either no bedding or inadequate/inferior bedding. I removed the stanchions and cleats and used a product called “GluVit” (an epoxy) to seal up the screw holes and to penetrate into the decking material in order to forestall any rot problem. Afterwards I set the stanchions and cleats in place on top of 3M bedding compound. Once both sides of the boat had cured we used a water hose to test for leaks and found none.

The next weekend we towed the boat to Oak Harbor where the mechanic was available (at a great hourly rate) to go through the mechanical parts of the boat to determine whether the engine/outdrive were in good enough shape for launching.

Next: The first launch.

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