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Fool Wants to Fix a 1966 Sunfish - Advice?


New Member
Found this really weird piece of driftwood a few months back.


Its serial number, 34425, places it as a 1966 according to a very interesting pdf file.


This boat is beyond my ability in terms of any real restoration (can you believe the splash guard and cockpit used to be red?), but it only needs a few parts to be ready to sail.

I have a few questions about the bronze carriage bolt and the bowhandle. (It also needs two boom blocks, a brass wingnut, a nylon tube, and a horizontal rudder pin, but those are easy.)

I am aware that there should be a carriage bolt in that notch there:


(Don't mind the horribly disgusting stern. Looks like someone did a shoddy patch job around the Nixon administration. We'll sand that off and slap some fiberglass on it, good as new.)

As for the carriage bolt: How long is it, really? I've read 7", 7-1/2", 8", and even 10". If anyone knows the actual size, that would be super. They're like 14 bucks apiece and I'm a broke college student so I'm hoping to only have to order one.

As for the bow:

IMG_5887 2.jpeg

We're missing something.

A new handle is on its way, but the backing block is too squishy to be trusted, so I'm looking to replace it. Can I do that without installing an ugly inspection port? I'm imagining taking off some of the aluminum trim and just pulling up the fiberglass, which seems almost feasible. Bad idea?

An inspection port, if I'm not mistaken, would need to either be off center (ugly) or directly on top of a piece of foam (difficult?). I can probably find plenty of advice on this if I scour the web a bit, but I don't know if there's anything I should look out for with a boat this old. Also, once I get in there, what should I replace the backing block with? Marine plywood? Regular plywood? Aluminum?

One more thing:


It's a little hard to see it in the picture, but it looks like the boat sat upside-down on the ground for a little too long and the splash guard cracked the deck.

I'm pretty sure I shouldn't leave it that way. I'm almost certain I'll be installing an inspection port here, but it would also be great to take off the splash guard. On these older boats it's screwed on instead of riveted...should I try to take it off? Will it go back on again? Anyone fixed something like this?


All in all, I think this old boat is pretty cool. I'd love to fully restore it, but I really don't have the necessary experience, tools, or money. We'll see in the future.

I don't think it's in terrible shape for its age--I have most of what I need to sail it, and it's miraculous how much is fully functional and that there's nothing loose in the hull. Just needs a few fiberglass patches, some parts, and a little motivation.

I don't believe I have the original sail, booms, mast, or centerboard, but I have almost everything I need to go for a lovely sail. I appreciate any comments or advice you can offer!


Well-Known Member
As a bow-handle backup piece, a $1 cutting board is available from Dollar Tree—and it's polypropylene, so it floats.

It's a lot of work to replace that bow handle, so screw down your new one, and see what you've got in "holding power". (That valuable piece of bow trim would, otherwise, need to be stored somewhere very safe). :eek:

I don't see "a repair" at the transom, but it's fixable—as is. Except for your limited budget, I'd "spring" for the later rudder.

For the splash guard, go here:

Alan S. Glos

Well-Known Member
The original bronze carriage bolt was 1/4" dia. and 7 1/2" length overall with a bronze wingnut. They are expensive, but you can buy two shorter stainless steel carriage bolts and a stainless connecting link. Attach the two threaded ends with the connector then hacksaw the assembly to 7 1/2" length. Add a stainless wingnut and you are good to go and the connector will prevent loss if the wingnut backs off. Total cost under $5 at any good hardware store or Fastenal.

Alan Glos
Cazenovia, NY


Well-Known Member
Addressing the crack below the splash guard:

If you want to avoid trying to match the deck color, I'd remove the splash guard, then try a gentle pressure-washing to the deck to clean the crack edges. Install a 6" Beckson screw-in inspection port between the daggerboard and splashguard.

Check out the thread titled "Ultimate Inspection Port". More expense, but preferable in hulls lacking a cubby.

With the boat inverted, sand the interior, then build up a few layers of fiberglass inside. I think most repair-persons here would use fiberglass"matting". Some resin could fill in the crack using capillary action or gravity--a good thing. :)

Cactus Cowboy

Well-Known Member
This boat is beyond my ability in terms of any real restoration. Looks like someone did a shoddy patch job around the Nixon administration. All in all, I think this old boat is pretty cool. I'd love to fully restore it, but I really don't have the necessary experience, tools, or money.
I condensed your quote to address salient points... :rolleyes:

1st line: Don't sell yourself short... if monkeys can be trained to fly, then you can certainly repair & restore this boat to Bristol condition, LOL. It ain't rocket science, aye? And if you're a student, perhaps you've taken chemistry courses, bound to help ya in this sort of endeavor. :confused:

2nd line: Love the Nixon administration reference... you could name the boat 'WATERGATE' but that would probably be unlucky, LOL. ;)

3rd line: The boat is HELLER COOL... she'll get ya out on the water, for starters. :D

4th line: Ya gain experience by tackling projects... sometimes more than once. Tools for this sort of work aren't that expensive, and some tools can also be rented or borrowed. And remember, time is money... everything ya do yourself, ya won't be payin' some schmuck to do. Not only do you have this website with all its resources, ya also have heaps o' video tutorials in this day & age. Again, don't sell yourself short, and simply knock out the restoration ONE STEP AT A TIME... that's how the pros do it, believe me, it doesn't all happen at once, and if it does, the workmanship is usually p!$$-poor, LOL. :eek:

That's my $.02, FWIW, now I'm back to my cold beer... CHEERS!!! :cool:
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New Member
Thanks for the tips everyone! Just got word that I'm not going back to school for the rest of the semester in light of recent events, so I'll be able to take my time on this project. I'll make sure to share my progress!
I'm in the same boat and will enjoy watching your work as I fiddle with a Jetwind I scored in the fall.


Active Member
I went through the same process you are going through now. Here are the bigger points I’ve learned in the process:
1) in the end, it will, most likely, be cheaper to buy a sunfish off Craig’s, list than to restore it.
2) the only real limiting factor (besides money) is fear. You can easily learn to fix this boat. EASILY. I’m not a handy guy, and I did it. It’s truly not rocket science.
3) This community of The Sunfish Forum is remarkable. The knowledge and the friendly culture here, is profound.
4) (for me) the satisfaction of bringing something back to life is remarkable. It was worth Every penny, and minute of repair time in my hot Texas garage.
start here.... at the beginnin.


Breeze Bender

Breeze Bender
You might try filling in the bow handle holes with thickened epoxy (Flexpoxy is great stuff) then reinsert screws. I think Signal Charlie has also put toothpicks into the epoxy-filled holes to give it more bite. Splashguard will need to be removed, then easily compounded or repainted to look great. Reinstalling was a PIA, but again I reference my post from last year titled ‘Power Washer damage’ that outlines the process. You will need that Flexpoxy tube and the proper rivets. Definitely worth doing! And yes, you’ll feel good about saving a classic. It will pay you back in smiles!E9E94377-BD3E-4389-A828-C724F6868FB0.jpeg


Well-Known Member
Okay, that's in Massachusetts.

Hmmm. Would only "work" on a plain colored sail. :oops:

It appears to be in two parts, and can't see any stitching on my smartphone. Could it have been a big decal that can be purchased online? (Not that I could find one). :confused:
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Cactus Cowboy

Well-Known Member
I painted my Minifish mainsail in the past... first it was the Confederate Gunboat, next it was the Pirate Ship, then it took on an Old Western/Skateboarding combo theme with four aces on one side of the sail, a Z-Flex logo on the other, LOL. Goldurned boat got filmed & photographed more times than I can possibly count, and I passed Calculus in high school, go figure... dunno how, since I was STONED half the time, AYE? :rolleyes:

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Toaster, welcome and congratulations on your new Flagship, Queen of the Fleet. Does she have a name yet?

All of your questions, even the ones you haven't thought to ask yet, have been answered before in this Forum. So the Guild is here to help guide you through your restoration with judicious applications of duct tape and WD-40.

"Experience starts when you begin" - R.D. "Pete" Culler. Pete also said that boat building was "simply about correcting one mistake after another, with the first mistake being to have begun in the first place."

"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." - Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows.

Yes, the boat is beyond your abilities as of yesterday, let's take it one step at a time.

Parts and materials are available for everything. Homework for you is to study our blog post on the Rudder Releasing Mechanism and watch this video.

As for the bow, straighten out a paper clip and probe the insides of those holes, not just straight down, but also around the inner edges. It might be that just the main hole is wallered out and there may be remnants of a wooden block in there that can be used. If so you can try bumping up one size of screw to #10 x 1 inch stainless screws and see if they bite into the old block. Or you can toothpick and glue the hole, once that dries drill a pilot hole and reinstall #8 x 1 inch stainless screws. Option 3...ah, we'll cover that later. Be careful probing that hole though, there may be a nest of Krakken living in there.

If we were replacing a block up there, we'd remove the trim, split the deck edge seam back about 3 feet and get into the bow that way. That is how warranty repairs were done. With an oak or mahogany block. We can't always find those so we use cypress or pressure treated pine. Marine ply would also work, and we suggest coating whatever you put in with 2-3 coats of varnish, epoxy or Titebond III. Regular plywood is junk nowadays, it starts to delaminate on the way home from the store.

Did you weight your boat? She should weigh 139 pounds, but most of the 1960s boats we've weighed came in around 144. Give her a break, she's 51 years young.

Moving along to the coaming, we would remove it and cut the hole for an inspection port midway between the daggerboard trunk and the aft edge of the coaming. There is no foam under that area. Inspection ports are great for getting inside to mop up dribbles and air out a boat. Dry storage bags can be put there also. If you don't want an inspection port, remove the coaming and do a blind patch. Either way the coaming needs to come off so you have room to fair, sand, prime, sand and paint/gelcoat after fixing the crack.

RM 4 Blind Hole Patch.jpg

Random though, keep taking a lot of photos, good for reference later. She is in great shape, get her back in fighting trim now and sail. As for motivation, you have asked a lot of thoughtful questions, you are on the right track. As for parts, place a Wanted Ad here in the Forum or troll ebay. Do you have the rudder?

Style point, the vertical keel is called a daggerboard :) But you knew that.