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1999 Chris-Craft Triple Replica (Contemporary Classic)

This is a very sad case indeed…so bear with me.  A very nice gentleman contacted us via our web site about a ’99 Chris-Craft that was in desperate need of a new bottom.  I read his description and immediately thought, ‘a 1999…there must be some mistake.’  Furthermore, no boat that new could possibly need a new bottom.  Well, I was wrong.  I confirmed the age of the boat as indeed ten years old then went to inspect the boat which fortunately was not that far from us.  The boat is just plain beautiful…sleek lines (more reminiscent of a Riva), 8.2 liter power, and fine mahogany throughout.  As soon as I knelt down to look over the bottom I saw trouble.  There was…well, a hole in it for starters and many make-shift patches to try and help the problem, which usually just makes things worse.  It was then I was informed it was an epoxy bottom with fiberglass overlaid for extra strength.  Uh-oh, I thought…that’s hardly ever good for wood boats.  I climbed into the boat and lifted the seats and saw…yes, I saw regular plywood on the bottom that could be purchased at Lowes and it had obviously not been sealed or even painted.  It was delaminating and just plain coming apart at the seams and everywhere else.  I didn’t need to see any more.  The owner relayed the story of the last time the boat was used.  He wasn’t far from the dock after leaving the boat lift when his wife noticed her feet getting wet.  They made it back to the lift just in time.  The boat is really quite beautiful and seemed to yell out, ‘please help me!’  

Quite honestly I really did not want the job as removing epoxy bottoms are a nightmare, and fiberglass means you have to wear protective clothing, goggles, respirator, etc.  The owner was so pleasant and really liked the boat…so I gave him a higher estimate based on our experience with such bottoms.  Well, we’re into it now.

Let me just say that this is one heavy sucker.  After removing the engine, interior, and all hardware it still took six, yes six of us to roll that boat over…and then all of us went to the emergency room to see if we incurred hernias.  Noah’s Ark weighed less…even with the animals in it!  Ok, enough of the stories.  Part of the problem is when we finally did get the bottom removed we found over three hundred pounds of steel plates bolted to the stringers that I assume were used to provide better balance in the water.  Uh, ok.  We formulated a plan which basically entailed cutting the bottom off at the inside of the chine.  Once we made our cuts the fiberglass pulled off with little effort.  The wood was more difficult and was quite a mess, but not quite as bad as we had anticipated.

Where do I start?  The keel is made of plywood, the engine stringers are of Lowes grade 2x8s, the chines of pine, the battens of pine, etc., etc.  The manufacturer of this boat shall remain nameless and is no longer in business.  And I must say this is the most poorly constructed bottom I have ever seen in more than fifty boat restorations.  That being said…we can make her better.  We are still working on our plan to repair as much as possible, as to replace everything that should be replaced is just cost prohibitive.  I believe we can make prudent repairs where allowable and then replace the primary components that will provide the owner with years of trouble free service.  So, we’ll do our best to take a lemon and make lemonade.

One thing that you’ll notice from the photos is some kind of foam was injected into nearly every void in the bottom.  I’m not sure why that was done, but it inadvertently acted as a sponge retaining all the water that seeped into the boat…staying there and then escalating the rot.  Much of the bottom structure literally crumbled in our hands.  It’s really quite remarkable that the boat did not sink to the bottom or incur a more catastrophic and perhaps deadly break-up at speed.  This was not a seaworthy boat.

Once the bottom (and I use that term loosely) was removed, we cleaned her up and began making frame, stringer, chine, and other structural repairs.  In a perfect world it would have been best to replace every piece of the structure, but the cost to do that would have been unrealistic, so it was agreed to replace what needed immediate attention and re-seal everything else.

A new bottom transom was fabricated along with new double battens using Philippine mahogany with 316 stainless fasteners.  We decided to use a double-layered ¼” marine plywood bottom using BS1088 Okume with 3M5200 in between the layers.  It will provide more overall strength and also be much lighter than a planked bottom.  We also added a small I-beam between the stringers for the rear lift ring to fasten to, as there was no support for it whatsoever before.  In fact, when we first tried lifting it from her trailer the ring just came out of the boat.  We ended up using heavy-duty straps.

We applied two heavy coats of CPES on the frames and marine ply then placed the seams over frames.  The first layer was temporarily screwed down with 5200 on the frames, chine, and keel and allowed to cure for several days before removing the screws.  A very generous layer of 5200 was applied to the surface before the second layer of CPES sealed marine ply was attached…placing those seams in different locations as to eliminate one seam on top of another.  Much dry fitting was done to make sure we had proper fits.  The second layer was permanently screwed down with the 316 stainless and then sealed again with two coats of CPES, two coats of epoxy primer, and finally two coats of burgundy bottom paint.

It took quite a while to re-assemble everything, but the water test went fine.  The hull was nice and tight.  There was a little seepage from the rudder log, which was not a traditional log with two nuts and packing.  It requires a grease gun to fill any voids and prevent water from coming in that area.  Well, we did not get quite enough grease in there and some water was dripping in.  An easy fix.  We also applied a coat of varnish as a final touch.  Now the beautiful boat is safe, dry, and will provide the owner trouble-free boating without his wife getting her feet wet.

Looks Good!


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