Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Latest Aquisition

Posted by Jeffery C.

How does one tell when you have a real problem with boats?  When someone says "Hey, do you want a free boat?", and you reply "Of course!".  Enter Zeta, a nineteen foot Lightning Class One Design.

First look at the "new" boat!

One Designs are sailboats that all follow the same (or very similar) specifications.  This allows them to race against each other with the only theoretical difference being the skill of the skipper and crew.  There are many different one design classes in the world that are raced actively.  Zeta is a Lightning Class, designed by Olin Stephens in 1935.  The first boat was built in 1938 and the design has gone on to have over 15,000 hulls built worldwide.  Originally the boats were built of mahogany frames and cedar planks, then of plywood and now in fiberglass.   

I stopped on the dock the other day to talk to a good friend of mine who was working on one of the seiners.  Todd is an excellent shipwright, and like most people I know, buried in various projects that are "just a weekend away from being finished".  He mentioned that an old friend of his was giving him a dory and he needed to pass on a Lightning that his father in law had given him.  The Lightning wasn't really a boat he had much interest in finishing and sailing.  He'd started to prep the boat for new paint and deck covering, and said it really didn't need much work.  Since I've jumped at boats in far worse condition,of course I told him that I wanted it.

Then of course I had to figure out how to let my long suffering wife know that I'd just acquired yet another project. Much to my surprise, when I mentioned that Todd had the boat and was looking to get rid of it, she was very interested.  We've been talking about finding a good daysailer that Juliet could use and gain confidence in small boat sailing.  The next thing I knew, Chris was telling me to call Todd and go get the boat.  I sure do love that woman!!

The next morning I met Todd at his house to bring the boat to the shop.  It was already on a trailer, but we had to check for all the gear, fetch the sails, pump up the tires, clear the pine needles off and get it ready to move.  Todd's wife told me some of the history that she knew, and asked that we keep the name "Zeta".  With an understanding to keep the name and invitation to Todd and Holly to use the boat, we loaded up and pulled out.

View of Zeta from our VW bus as we pulled out.

The drive was uneventful, Todd pulled the boat with his truck and I followed behind in our bus to keep an eye on things.  A half hour later we pulled into the shop and unhitched the trailer.  Todd helped clear out the few things he needed and headed on his way.  I then proceeded to fire up the shop vac to remove the water and pine needles that hadn't blown out on the drive.  I then turned my attention to the pile of parts and hardware, to sort through and determine what I was going to have to replace and rebuild.  The more I looked, the more amazed I became.  So far it appears that everything is still with the boat and very little actually needs to be done to return it to the water.

Cleared away for inspection in the shop.

Zeta looks rough at first glance, but that's because Todd had already removed the rotten canvas covering the deck and sanded the topsides to prep for paint.  The current plan is for Chris to start sanding and varnishing the coaming and rub-rail pieces while I'm out on the next tug runs.  When I return I'm going after the deck and hull.  The mast needs to be re-glued and re-varnished as well, but the rig is intact and serviceable, so no work there.  The boat came with two complete suits of sails, both in good shape.  This boat is going to be a fast project, the goal being to get it in the water this spring, keeping it with Zodiac for the crew and interns to use while in port.  No restoration needed or wanted, just a good working, sail-able boat.

If the sails are accurate, this is hull no. 1543, built sometime in the 1940's.  I've already started looking through the online information from the Lightning Class website and will be documenting ownership history for our records.  Once Zeta is back in the water, we'll contact the organization and update their records.  According to Todd's wife, the boat and it's skipper won the Lightning Nationals sometime in the 1950's.  I'm hoping to track down the information to verify this if it's true.  Unfortunately, there is no Lightning Fleet in Bellingham that I'm aware of and even if there was, Zeta wouldn't be competitive.  The new boats are fiberglass with aluminum spars and just that much faster.  That's okay as we just want a good, fast daysailer.

So there it is, the story of the latest addition to our Flota Navium.  Juliet totals us at 169 combined feet of boat in one form or another.  Maybe someday I'll get rid of a boat or maybe even say "NO" when someone says "It's free".

Waiting for work to commence this spring.

I'll close with a photo of Zeta organized and tucked away in the shop.  Project minor hiding in the shade of project major.  And don't ask about project major, Aldonza will be a post sometime this summer.


  1. No--really ASK him about project Major, cause it's a doozy!

  2. Nice posting! Thanks for sharing such information. I had a great time reading this article.