I mentioned I would have some more news after New Year’s. Well, this is that news.
So, for a long time, the ditch boat has looked like a hollow, dusty shell. Matt’s been slowly laying fiberglass to repair holes and cracks to make her float again. Well, a few weeks ago, the last bit of fiberglass was laid on the inside of the hull, and construction of the floor began.
It’s looking like we’ll need to replace the motors for the windshield wipers- they’re fried. It may need a new foghorn as well. The anchor lights all work, and the new bilge pump is wired in correctly as well. Over the weekend, we also pulled the engine out the corner it was sitting in and began cleaning it up a bit.
So far, we’ve gotten the fuel filter and the carburetor off of it. The carburetor is in dire need of a cleaning and some replacement parts. There’s still oil in the engine, it’s clean and there’s plenty of it. The connections and surfaces on and under the distributor cap all look like new. The sparkplugs are rusted and will definitely be replaced. We’re going to buy new hoses and replace the fan belt on the front, in case any of those rubber parts are dry rotted. Then we’ll try getting it started, in the hopes that it won’t need too much further work.
Two things for this post today. First: we finally have a dedicated smoker.
Gotten at Sears on a really good sale. Smokers of this size at just about every store, whether electric, propane, or wood-fired run about $115-$150. I got this one for $80. This one is propane, and hopefully we’ll be able to make a couple venison sausages soon, and smoked trout if we can catch a couple more. No more attempting to smoke things in the grill with the smoker attachment. It never, ever came out right for me, even when watched like a hawk.
Thing two: Matt’s got the beams for the engine cavity of the boat cut out and resined.
If the weather dries out this weekend, he hopes to be laying a few pieces of fiberglass mat on the interior of the hull, and double checking each of the patches before we begin to lay down the floor supports.
I suppose a third thing could be that the exterior of the gas tank is done. Now we just need to treat and seal the interior of it.
Matt ground off all the rust, and then painted it with the Rustoleum made for grills and other high-heat, high-durability applications. Not that we think the gas tank will need to withstand fire (we hope). We used this on our actual grill, and it’s kept that from rusting, in spite of sitting out in all 4 seasons.
This past weekend was the Wisconsin Deer and Turkey Expo. Since we went fairly early on Saturday, there was a line out the door and a huge crowd inside until about 2pm. I entered at least two gun raffles (which I haven’t won, if my lack of phone calls on the subject is any indication), and probably 3 hunting trip raffles (of which two are safaris). I have never won a thing in my life. But there were some cool booths and it was neat to get out and wander around and touch their stuff.
Beyond that, we got the floor of our garage scrubbed, which was very badly needed. Sometime this week I hope to pick up a floor squeegee to get it again. We have several incredibly warm days ahead of us, hovering around 60. There will be a flurry of activity that requires warm ground and weather to do- I have to till and enlarge my garden plot, get it fenced, get my beets, onions, and leeks in the ground, seed some trays with my non-hardy veggies, clean the yard back up, and Matt’s going to get back to work on the Ditch Boat. We need to locate marine-grade plywood, and pick up a bunch more resin to treat the interior wood structure. He also needs to touch up the last of the fiberglassing of the hull that was cut off by the cold last Fall. This all while my job is finally picking up again for the season, and while my turkey tags are about a week out.
I know that in the PlayOutdoors household, we don’t typically do things the easy way. And given how easily I was able to find content to put in those links just now, I shouldn’t really be surprised at how anything yesterday went down.
While I did manage to get the wiring straightened out a little bit, I was still completely unable to find an owner’s manual for this boat, much less a wiring diagram that would have been any kind of useful. I even scoured iBoats, as recommended by both dear old Dad, and by the sales department of Reinell’s new ownership (they finally answered that email I sent). That at least got done though.
Matt got home surprisingly early yesterday. Normally, he’s home anywhere between 8pm and 10. Yesterday he pulled up around 6, just as I was making dinner and saving him a plate. We hung out for a bit, but I’m really itching to get out and fish, damnit, so I’ve been pestering him like nothing else to get the boat trailer fixed. We trekked on down to Farm and Fleet as more thunderstorms rolled in, wheel hub in hand so we can try to match up a replacement part.
If I had a dollar for every time we’d gone into a retail store this year, and caused the poor service clerk to go “…Hmmm…Uhhhh.”. Unfortunately, this isn’t like finding parts for a car or truck. You can’t just tell them it’s a 1996 Chevy whatever. This is just an old, homely little boat trailer. To top it off, the entire trailer had been spray painted a number of times, and any marking on the hub to indicate size has long since been hidden. The initial clerk we talked to even chuckled how this thing had been red, then black, then red again.
Our nearest Farm and Fleet had a trailer parts section, but no hubs that would fit the spindle on our axle. The truck and trailer parts store next door was closed already, so we might give that a go today. We tried the O’Reilly up the road. They had some that were close matches, but nothing that fit what we needed. They, however, pulled out the micrometers to measure exactly. They also recommended two more truck/hauling/trailer specialty stores in town that either might have something we need, or could order it more easily. So they were at least helpful in that regard. Matt says that if these places can’t help us, he’s already found a similarly sized trailer at a place near his office, and that we’re dropping the $250 to just get a new one, rather than continuing to hassle with this thing.
While still at Farm and Fleet though, we found that they carry fiberglass cloth and resin at about half the price as Home Depot. And they also sell a number of specialty paints and enamel, made for engines and whatnot. Matt got a bunch of resin and cloth to begin patching the hole he put into the boat, as well as the crack near the stern.
In further we-do-things-the-hard-way news, we took the wire brushes to the gas tank for a little while last night. Matt was telling me he’d seen gas tanks half the size of ours for almost $300. Theoretically having to pay $600 for the kind of tank we need, when we still haven’t even found a tandem axle trailer for the thing? Ugh. I set to wire brushing with a vengeance. Fortunately, all of the rust on the outside seems to be on the top of the gas tank, even though it was sitting in that grody wet foam. I got a lot of the bubbling, peeling old enamel off my end, and I brushed a lot of the rust off, too. Next time we do this, we’re wearing masks, though. I’m still sneezing black.
It was muggy, my entire backside and legs were itchy. My hands were covered in fiberglass dust, and I was muttering impolite words about the work of marine electricians from the early 70s. But, what really counts is that I got everything disconnected. All the forward electrical is separated, snipped, and labelled. Most of the wires inside the console are labelled. It had glass fuses, even. None of them blown.
There was also a little panel of metal tabs that other wire terminals plugged onto, which you can see top right of the photo. I numbered and labelled them the same way I did the fuses. There was one wiring harness in the entire mess, and it supplied power to this doohickey, which I assume is the “blower” that a sign above the ignition says to let run before starting.
Anyhow. Now that this is all done, we can take the console out and the rest of the wires to the rear of the boat can hang out overboard for a while. While the heavy rainfall over the last two days has rinsed a lot of the fiberglass dust out of the rear of the boat, there’s still plenty under the roof. I was out there in a squall today and noted plenty of leaks we’ll have to address.
I’m glad this part is done.
Just a quick blurb this evening. I got into the boat on my own today to do a bit of work. After spending most of the afternoon digging holes, putting flowers into them, and getting a sunburn, I decided to take on that wiring harness.
That is the back side of the console. Yikes, right? Most of that rat’s nest went toward the rear of the boat, I assume to the battery. They were all bundled like this.
In old zip ties and old electrical tape. With apparently random splices and changes of wire color. And wires woven around each other. Whatever electrician did this was certainly whimsical. I got roughly half of the wires snipped and labelled. Mostly, it was the easy ones running to lights, the horn, windshield wipers. However, I was racing against this, and sunset.
And I was losing. I got inside just as it began to rain. Anyways, my plan is to snip the wires near the console, flag them with a masking tape/Sharpie label stating what they run to. And then I flag them further up the circuit, close to where they connect to the device, since that’s where the label will stay fairly sheltered. For examples, I labelled two exterior lights, two interior lights, the horn, windshield wipers, and the engine temp gauge. We figure that when it comes time to re-wire, whether we use the old console or not, we can splice everything back together. The previous electrician certainly did so with reckless abandon. Oh, the 70s.
Since the storm brought premature darkness, I plan to move along to the much, much more complicated wiring of the switches and gauges tomorrow. Once we pull the electrical that is just dangling with the console, we can hose out the old fiberglass dust and make the boat much less itchy over all.
As I mentioned yesterday, we had a long weekend. The salmon fishing charter I had tried to plan for fell through. Finding charters with available time slots turned out to be no problem. Finding people who wanted to go with us was another story. Matt found two of his Marine buddies who wanted to go, but that was about it. Maybe a different weekend.
My best friend decided to drive up, though, with her husband and one year old. It was great to visit with them. I hadn’t seen them since about two years ago, when we took a 25 mile, overnight kayaking trip. This was obviously well before their son was born. We hung out, and spent a considerable amount of time at Madison’s yearly Bratfest, held every Memorial Weekend. I ate nearly my weight in bratwursts and roasted corn. We listened to some mediocre music, in spite of the chilly, cloudy, rainy weather. They headed back home on Monday morning.
Since the salmon charter fell through (Plan A), and the boat had yet another fiery failure (Trolling for pike and muskie was plan B), Matt opted for his Plan C for my birthday. To run around to all the outdoors stores and let me pick out my gift. Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything I really wanted, but getting to spend time with Matt was worth it.
We got home, donned our painters’ suits and respirators, and started in on the Ditch Boat.
We got a lot done. I disconnected the two fish finder cables from their transom parts and from the screen. I also un-bolted the various hydraulic parts on the stern of the boat. Once these were all removed, we managed to slowly rip out the transom. The bottom half was rotten and went easily. The top, not so much. The glue there was still holding very well. I worked on sanding that down while Matt sanded off the bits of ledge left on the sides.
Tuesday afternoon, we managed to get a lot more work on it done. I chiseled and pried off the last of the plywood hanging on from the transom, and then sanded down some of the glue spots.
Matt got the last bits of the floor and ledges ground off, so we have a fresh surface to begin fiberglassing on.
There’s fiberglass dust everywhere. Matt also started brushing some of the rust off the fuel tank.
My dad cautioned us against reusing it. He’d had an old Ford dump truck that he’d salvaged. The engine ran, but the fuel tank was so rusted out, that any time they went to a job site, they’d take 6 or 7 extra fuel filters, and swap them out every 5-10 miles. Hopefully this tank will not be that bad. Replacing a roughly 50 gallon fuel tank, of this very specific shape would be expensive. Matt’s researching right now how to patch the rust holes, as well as a coating my dad mentioned for the interior of the tank.
Next up is to brush out a lot of the dust, remove the console and label the very messy wiring harness, and to remove some of the softened, wet fiberglass under where the gas tank sits. After that, we’ll move it up to the asphalt of our driveway and start the fiberglassing process.
I’m sitting here, waiting for my nail polish to dry on my toes, and Matt is on his way to and from his office at the other end of town. He left his uniform belt and one of his medals there. He needs both for the cocktail event tonight. So, I figured before I was out for the entire weekend, I’d share the progress we made on Ditch Boat yesterday and this morning.
We basically set in to the gutting process for the old girl. Yesterday afternoon we pulled the now-empty fuel tank. We tried to pry it out with a shovel, but it wasn’t going. We dug out some of the old buoyancy foam, and hooked the engine hoist to it.
I then had to leave for work, and Matt had something else to go do. Work was incredibly busy, and I didn’t get home until nearly midnight. Matt was still up, and told me he’d gotten a lot of crap out of the boat. I went outside to look, and sure enough.
So, we went to bed, planning to get more done on it this morning, before we leave for this cocktail dinner thing. We spent a good two hours on it. We got a lot of the debris shovelled out. All the wood was so rotted it was nearly just really wet compost. Matt had also picked up a Bagster from Home Depot. We used one when we renovated the kitchen, and they’re super convenient, and cheaper than renting a dumpster. Like, maybe $80 for buying the thing and getting it hauled off. Granted, they’re smaller, but we never had enough crap to fill a whole dumpster.
So, with the rear more or less stripped to the hull, it was my turn to get up in the front of the boat and start taking out partitions. I’m small enough to fit, and Matt also hurt his wrist. He can’t really turn a screw driver or wrench. All the partitions were attached with some pretty long screws that required a square bit. And the drill could only reach some of them. So, I got to work.
So, we got out the grody old toilet, which we may just clean up and re-use. And the holding tank. That, let me tell you, was disgusting. Luckily there was little to no, well, shit, in it. It was just smelly blue water that had been in there since the early 90s. We ended up having to cut the pump-it-out hose, which meant that some leaked out onto the floor. It’s supposed to be pretty warm this weekend, so we’re hoping it will dry up. If anything, the entire floor is getting ripped out anyway, so. No big deal. I took some grocery bags and wrapped them around all the hose ports on the tank, then duct taped them down so we can drain it someplace safe. We’ll have to go after the console a bit later. There are 3 or 4 more small screws holding it up that we can’t get at, and we ran out of time to continue trying. We had to come inside, get ourselves cleaned up, and then pack for the rest of the weekend.
Apparently, when Matt was working on it alone yesterday, he found an old drain hose, which may have once gone to the bilge, under the foam towards the front. Said foam is completely, entirely waterlogged. And it stinks to high heaven. This is just confirming our suspicion that much of the weight was waterlogged, rotten contents. We’re still on the look out for a new trailer, though.
Besides all that, I’m painting my nails, and I packed all our rods and tackle into the truck. I’m just waiting for Matt to get back so we can get on our way to this gig and then head out to fish. I’m clearing all the memory cards and charging up all the cameras. Hopefully we get some good stuff to bring back. Oh, and salmon.
The trip to Wyocena didn’t pan out yesterday. Neither of us really felt like driving 40 miles, to go someplace we haven’t ever scouted. I hope we do get a chance to look it over. It would be nice to have one more place to try to hunt for fall turkey and deer, and it’s a big piece of land. We could possibly take the camper with us so we wouldn’t have to wake up at 3am to drive 45 minutes up there.
Instead, Matt decided to nap (which I later wished I had done myself) while I had coffee, picked up around the house, and wrote that post. Then we started to work on the boat some more. The next step of the process is to gut the thing, but first we had to clear everything off the transom. That included the stern engine mount and the rest of the lower engine unit. With how oddly placed some of the bolts were, Matt had to pick up 3 new ratchet drivers, trying to find something that would fit to get out one last bolt. Eventually, we got them all off.
You can see the corrosion and build up on the wood. The engine mount was corroded enough itself that it was in two pieces, and some of the bolts had been eaten away at, too. Matt wants to remove the transom last, so that we can trace the outlines of the deck contours onto it, and then also trace those contours onto the new transom piece. We picked up some thin foam to trace the curved parts we need to cut out. But before we could get to that point, we needed to drain the fuel tank. We decided to do that after we got back from our evening hunt (which was so uneventful I won’t post about it. A group of three hunters tromped right past our set up around 6, and after we got disgusted at their discourtesy and left, a hen walked out as another hunter showed up and noisily made his way into the woods).
Since it had been exposed to the elements, it was rusted. Surprisingly, it only had one spot where it was rusted through, and it was pretty small. We had originally figured the gas tank was just under that sheet of steel, but yesterday in the sun, I saw there was fluid in there. And kind of a lot. While disconnecting everything from the transom, Matt undid the fuel hose and drained it. Then came the fun part. We had to siphon out all the fluid in the tank.
I doubt it was all gas. With that hole in it, a lot was probably water, and the gas is probably long since spoiled. Matt had some old tubing from a fish tank, and we got a bucket and started the siphon. He got some of that mix of gross in his mouth, unfortunately. I think he brushed his teeth 7 or 8 times yesterday.
Soon, one five gallon bucket was full. Then another. Matt checked online, and we got the 50 gallon number. We hoped it wasn’t full. We only have a few 5 gallon buckets. The flow was slow. Matt had hoped to drain the tank and pull it out last night. The siphon didn’t stop until about 10:30 last night.
Now we can at least get the fuel tank out and hopefully start pulling out rotten wood and old fiberglass.
As far as turkey season goes, my tags are up tomorrow. After being up from 4am-almost-11pm yesterday, there wasn’t any way I could have woken up to go hunting this morning. And anyway, I wanted Matt to be with me for the last few hunts. He has too much to do today to take even a little bit of the morning off. I work a little earlier tomorrow than I do today, but if I get up at 4 again, that gives me another four and a half hours before I have to get home and get ready for work. My idea is to give it one last go by setting up on the public sliver of the hayfield we heard them fly to yesterday morning. We’ve got big plans for next weekend though, so stay tuned.