Starting a sunfish project

Thread starter #1
New guy here. I scored a great deal on a sunfish last week. Well, actually it's probably only a great deal if I sell the sail, hardware, and scrap the hull. But I think I'm going to try to dry out the hull and maybe do a basic restoration on it.

The boat cost $20. The previous owner said the sail and lines are about two years old, but I'm not sure if that's accurate. There is some major fiberglass damage to the bow and the hull is severely waterlogged. First I'm going to dry out the hull and then check for leaks to decide if it's worth moving forward with the hull repair or just scrap the thing.

This weekend I cut a couple of holes in the hull and wired up an old computer fan to circulate air. I pulled out a small piece of Styrofoam and squeezed it...water poured out like a wet sponge. There was also a couple inches of standing water still in the bottom of the hull.

So the plan is:
1. Dry it out over the next several weeks.
2. After it's dry I'll drill the rivets on the front, remove the aluminum trim, and start the fiberglass repair. I'm not an expert on fiberglass work, but I've built three small stitch and glue boats that I fiberglassed so I've got some basic knowledge.
3. The old DePersia baler flange nut is broken and will need to get replaced. The bailer bolt came out easily. I'll try to get the rest of the bailer body unstuck this evening so I can find a replacement flange nut at the hardware store, when the time comes.
4. The daggerboard and rudder are cracked. I think the easiest way to deal with those might be to just throw a layer of fiberglass/epoxy over it.
5. Install inspection ports over the holes I've already cut into the hull.

My goal is to have a working sunfish that costs near nothing. I already have the epoxy and think I can get enough fiberglass to complete the work at the local hardware store for $6. I already have all of the stuff to do fiberglass work. The inspection ports are about $6 each on ebay. The baler flange nut should only be a couple of dollars at the hardware store (assuming they carry it). I'll need to find a new bow handle. The sail, mast, lines, and rest of the hardware are in good condition.


Interesting that you have both an old rudder and a new rudder.... which one fits on the back of the boat? Storage area in the back of the cockpit means it should be post-1971, I think.

For repairing cracks in the daggerboard and rudder, you can drill and epoxy a threaded rod into the wood to help strengthen it at the cracked area.
I detailed how I did it here: sunfish rudder and daggerboard repair – progress
Here's a pic of the repair (on a Super Porpoise rudder, but same process applies...)


Well-Known Member
Looks like you did well. :)

I received a daggerboard that someone had done a nice job of covering with a light grade of cloth and resin. It didn't stay nice for very long. Water snuck under an edge, swelled the board,which popped the fiberglass--most of it. :( I'm still trying to sand through the really adhesive parts, but the mahogany underneath looks fine.
Thread starter #5
Thanks. I was thinking about doing that repair as an alternative.

I have no idea what that plexiglass rudder goes with, but it came with the boat. The wood rudder has the correct hardware for the boat.
Are you sure the plexiglass rudder doesn’t fit? It is the ‘new style’ rudder- I thought that came out when the rear deck stripe was added in ‘73.
Thread starter #7
I'm 100% sure that the boat is setup for the wood rudder, not the plexiglass one. I'll snap a picture tonight. Maybe the plexiglass hardware/rudder was just a spare part from a different boat? Or maybe the boat was upgraded at a later date?


Well-Known Member
yeah... a Sunfish that wasn't afraid to T-bone something. Salty and rugged...that's how we like our fish.
Take special care with that aluminum trim around the bow! Renewing it is a major project. :eek:

You'll be better served by buying a used one from one of our Sunfish "organ donors". (Here, at this forum). :cool:
Thread starter #10
L&VW - I'd buy a different hull and save myself the trouble of repairing this one if there was something close by. But I don't want to drive across the country looking for one when it will take less effort to just repair this one.
Thread starter #11
Here's a pic of the back of the boat showing that it uses the modern rudder setup. I don't see any old patched holes for the other rudder so I have no idea why it's here. I'll probably end up selling it after I get everything put together.

Here's a picture of the baler which I took out yesterday. It's missing the cork ball in it. I'll clean up the threads with a wire wheel and then look for a new retaining nut.

The water in the hull is actually evaporating pretty quickly. It's down about an inch in a couple of days.

I won't have much more to update until the hull is dried out. But once that is done I can start work on fixing it up.


L&VW - I'd buy a different hull and save myself the trouble of repairing this one if there was something close by. But I don't want to drive across the country looking for one when it will take less effort to just repair this one.
I think L&VW was only referring to the aluminum trim around the bow- it is quite fragile!
OK, fixerupper, now I see the issue. I thought your pic of the white rudder (new style) was the fiberglass one, but now I see it is painted wood. My mistake! So ya, no changes were made, your rudder and gudgeon are original to the boat, the first year of new style.
The other rudder you have is from an older Sunfish or a Sailfish. You could probably sell it with the tiller for $50-$75.
You say “the water is down about an inch” Do you have standing water in the hull?
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Thread starter #15
Breeze, yes there's some standing water in there. You can see it in the pic where I cut the hole in the hull. I don't know where it came from but I'm guessing through that damaged bow. After the water is dried up I'll spray soapy water around the boat to find the leaks. I probably should have grabbed a friend or two to help me flip the boat and drain the water before I started with the fan, but I didn't want to wait. It's drying quickly enough anyway.

Tag, it's too heavy to deal with easily without calling a couple of friends over. It's on a trailer now and my kids aren't strong enough to help move a waterlogged boat on and off the trailer. On a side note...a little bit of Seven pesticide kills mosquito larvae in water within a couple hours.
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Well-Known Member
The inspection ports are about $6 each on ebay. The baler flange nut should only be a couple of dollars at the hardware store (assuming they carry it.)
$6 is a really good price! Are these the 6-inch-diameter ports that most of us have?

If you find a source for this metal (De Persia-made) bailer retaining-nut, would you photograph the part's description or bar-code for those with this bailer?

As for the water, it will still be leaking out from the Styrofoam--perhaps for months!

But most importantly, leaking out from the yellow "foam-glue" that was to bond the Styrofoam between deck and hull forever. Now or later, water needs to be kept from the interior. You're doing well with the computer fan, but sun-warmth will be a cheap and desirable assist.
Thread starter #17
Here's my order confirmation from ebay for a 6" hatch. I wanted to try one on my laser sailboat (no water problems yet but figured it wouldn't hurt) and if I like it I'll get more for the sunfish. The total price is after shipping. It's coming from China so it'll take a couple of weeks. I'll see what I can find at the hardware store for the bailer.

Order summary

4/6/8 Inch Round Hatch Cover Non-Slip Deck Plate for Marine Boat Kayak C...

SKU: Size: 6 inch
Total: $6.39
Order number: ************
Item ID: 401783358425​

Bow handles are also cheap if you buy them on amazon as a generic "Perko 1234DP0CHR Bow Handle for Daysailors" are under $15 with free shipping.
Thread starter #18
Update on drying. All the free standing water is dried from the hull. I'll probably leak test the hull this weekend and then drill out the rivets and remove the metal on the bow so I can start the fiberglass repair on the bow. I figure I might as well get that done while the boat is still drying out.

The picture is looking inside through the hull where the inspection port is going to be installed.