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Thrift Store Sunfish!

Congrats on your new to you Sunfish find. I found mine for $125, all parts included, I think it is a 1970’s Mfg. My question is, how did you weigh the Hull? Thanks for sharing your find, good Luck with it. Look for a used Jet Ski trailer, they can be found cheap on Craig’s List or on Facebook Market place, I got my trailer for $150. LOL
Wow, that's pretty amazing. Do you have pics/thread here? Thanks for the tip on the Jet Ski trailer!

To weigh the boat, I put my scales on a solid surface but with the readout facing behind me, then with the boat laying on its side, I stood on the scale and reached down and lifted the boat. My boat has rolled gunwales so it was easy enough to lift using those for grip. The hardest part was looking down to read the scales while the boat was lifted. I then just subtracted my weight, measured at the same location.


Swamp Goose
Some great suggestions here - wish I had joined this forum when I started work on an old Sunfish two years ago. I was looking for a trailer for a wooden skiboat I just finished and found an old Sunfish, sold with a trailer. The trailer works great and I now enjoy sailing the Sunfish and making improvements. A few comments on what has helped me in this effort:
  1. The book 'The Sunfish Owner's Manual', by Kent B. Lewis. Includes many details on repairing composites.
  2. I installed an access port in the stern as I needed to modernize the rudder hardware to the gudgeon design.
  3. Replaced the old 'Scorpion' sail with the $199 white sail from SFD. Great value.
  4. Made wooden daggerboard and rudder from laminated birch. See my comment to your new thread on this.
  5. Replaced the old main sheet swiveling ratchet cleat with a new unit from Harken. Very nice for gusty conditions on my lake.
  6. Added a hiking strap. Can't seriously sail here without one.
  7. Installed a Harken tiller extension. I do not like such extensions though as they force one to think in reverse. I just designed and installed my own telescoping extensions which works very well.
  8. Designed some plastic clips that act as sheet guides to keep the line from sagging. It would hang on the back of my head when tacking, leading often to interesting maneuvers. These are working out great, made them on my 3D printer.
  9. While out sailing in good conditions last Friday, I noticed a 2 foot crack up the length of my spruce mast. I nursed the boat home and spent the weekend making repairs with T88 epoxy adhesive and West Systems fiberglass. Old masts will crack and you do not know their past history. Aluminum will also corrode, often from the inside out and you will not get much indication of this until a catastrophic failure. Remove the end caps and inspect with a flashlight, or borescope if you can borrow one. (I have worked on aluminum planes for 50 years - spruce is in many ways superior, but expensive.)
It is great fun to make improvements and save money. From my experiences the past two years, when things break, they usually happen in windy, gusty conditions and far from shore. Not fun. I have greater respect now for the forces on sails, masts, booms and underwater fins. The Sunfish is a neat little boat but it will kill you under the right circumstances. I also fly small airplanes and the same is true for these. Sometimes spending a few dollars more is a great insurance policy. The most expensive used boat (or plane) often turns out to be the one with the lowest initial purchase price.
Looks like intensitysails.com just updated my order and its on the way. Gotta love those prices! The customer support has been great too.

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I finally managed to source a daggerboard for my thrift store sunfish.

First though, I had put up a post on CL and FB marketplace looking for anyone willing to sell Sunfish parts. I only got one response to that ad however. The owner had two Sunfish boats with full rigging for each. He was willing to sell his "spare" boat with sail, rigging, rudder and daggerboard for $350. I drove out and took a look at the boat today on my way to the Birmingham Sailing Club and it turned out that the boat hull was a mess with a delaminated top and as it was sitting outside for who knows how long, likely waterlogged.

Despite that though, the rudder and daggerboard (original mahagony) were both in very good condition. I made him an offer for both of those, but he wouldn't budge off $350 - he wanted to sell everything as a package, including the delaminated boat hull. I decided to pass.

Then once I got to the sailing club, one of the boats there had a for sale sign on it and just happened to be a Sunfish. I called the owner and it turns out he has a spare daggerboard he will sell. He had all the Sunfish parts stored under the cover of his Thistle, also docked at the Sailing Club dry docks.

I checked it out, made a deal with him for it and I couldn't be happier with it. Looks to be in great condition and the last piece to the puzzle for me to get this boat ready for the water. I'm looking forward to this long weekend to work on the boat!

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Well-Known Member
you’ll be happier if you upgrade.
Beldar, is this a standard daggerboard for Sunfish? The daggerboard on my old Sunfish looks very similar and if so, I might want to get a replacement from Intensity next summer. I agree with Breeze Bender though; it does look like a nice board. Sure miss the Old Fish...
Leak Testing this morning...

I started out using the small hole at the front of the cockpit just under the gunwale.


After a few seconds I heard a "Pop" sound at the front of the hull. I pulled the air to let it escape and then pulled the rubber plug on the starboard side of the cockpit to help. Concerned I may have separated the foam to hull glue somewhere up there but afterwards, pushing down on that area I could detect no signs of any separation from feel and sound.

Anyways, once that happened I surmised that the hole I was using is probably a vent hole to keep pressure stabilized in the hull and I moved the air hose to the rubber hole on the top of the cockpit. After spraying some soap/water solution on all the fittings, I could detect no air leaks anywhere other than the vent hole - air continued to escape there for a bit even after I removed the air source.

I weighed the boat again, this time from a different location in my garage vs outside on a paver and its pretty much the same as before at 126 pounds. It did rain for a few days after that first weighing, but since I can detect no air leaks, I'm thinking the 1 pound difference is likely within error range of the scale, the base I was using and my technique for measuring the weight.

I think she's pretty well sealed up and ready to move on to patching the gelcoat dings on the bottom of the hull.

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Mast work...

Getting prepped to insert the missing lower mast cap into the base of the mast, I just noticed a rivet, what appears to be to keep the rubber mast cap from slipping out or getting stuck inside the mast tube:



Should be OK to leave it in the position its in - it appears to be flanged into the mast - and brute force the mast cap into the mast - again, with a pilot hole at the location where it will intersect with the rivet stem? The mast cap is rigid rubber but should be able to slide past the bump of the rivet flange with force.


Upside down?
Staff member
Yes, that pin is to secure the bottom cap. I think that you well need to (re)move the pin and push the bottom cap in. Rotate the cap until the holes line up. Then insert a pin that fits the hole in the bottom cap. Use some caulk to make this water tight.
Yes, that pin is to secure the bottom cap in. I think that you well need to (re)move the pin and push the bottom cap in. Rotate the cap until the holes line up. Then insert a pin that fits the hole in the bottom cap. Use some caulk to make this water tight.
Just now seeing this and I managed to file it down just enough to get it into the mast but I didn't put any sealant on it. I'm going to try twist it back out, apply some silicone and then put it back.

I just finished applying the marine-tex to the gel coat chips and guages on the bottom of the hull and the one topside back of cockpit. I'm going to have to let that dry I suppose all day and overnight and then remove the tape and sand tomorrow - OK to set the boat out in sun while it dries or will that cause cracks in the epoxy while drying?

FWIW, here are some pics of the marine-tex project in progress:


Comparing above and below. In below pic I've started grinding the spider cracks with a tiny little dremel like tool I got from Harbor Freight for $10. It seems to do really well on those cracks. Later, I feathered out the main chips in this photo before applying the marine-tex:


While the epoxy dries, I'm going to continue with the other tasks:

- Repairing the tears in the sail with sail patch tape
- Replacing the broken sail clips with new ones
- Replacing the stock "Race-Lite" mainsail pulley with the Harken pulley and stand up spring and spring cap I just received in the mail.
- Dissasembling the rudder to sand and refinish the wood
- Replacing the broken pintle onto the rudder
- Attaching the new nylon cleat to the mast, just below the 48 inch line following Tag's example blog post
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beldar boathead

Well-Known Member
Did you soap/bubble test the hull/deck seam after you heard the pop? You could have popped a seam. How much air pressure were you using?
120 psi air tank. It has rolled gunwales. I'll have to check on the bubble test to be certain but it sounded like maybe the top deck flexed a bit with the air pressure. Similar to the sound a dent makes when it comes back to right.
Maybe the pop was the cockpit seam?
I don't believe so but I'll check that too. The sound came from the bow area. I think it was just the flex of the top deck as the air forced it to bulge perhaps. That's what it sounded like, an adjustment rather than a tear.

beldar boathead

Well-Known Member
Beldar, is this a standard daggerboard for Sunfish?...
It was standard for several years. Up until the early 70s the boardwas larger with a rounded tip. Then they launched the Minifish which required a smaller board. For whatever reason they sold Sunfish and Minifish with the same, smaller, “shadow” board. After Sunfish sailors complained for a few years about the poorer pointing and slower recovery after a tack the Barrington Board came out as standard equipment. It looks like a bigger shadow board. Then the plastic board came out making all others obsolete.


Well-Known Member
MarineTex looks fine...down the line you may eliminate the tape (that gets trapped under the hardened putty) and the neater the job, the less sanding. ....or pull the tape when done spplying. A little power sander will make quick work. ...shaping with 220 and finishing with 400 or 600. No need to go finer imo.
MarineTex looks fine...down the line you may eliminate the tape (that gets trapped under the hardened putty) and the neater the job, the less sanding. ....or pull the tape when done spplying. A little power sander will make quick work. ...shaping with 220 and finishing with 400 or 600. No need to go finer imo.
Yep, I'm all done now. The hardest part was removing the tape. I used old 2 inch masking tape, that was first mistake. It pretty much bonded to the gelcoat finish and was a real pain to get off. I still have tape residue on there in many places. Tried some acetone but it started to make the gelcoat take on a bluish tint so I stopped. Used a razor blade in places to lift the tape and that worked pretty well. Lesson learned on the tape.

Anyhoo, it looks decent, much better than before with the naked fiberglass showing. Won't win any beauty contests but this boat is more for fun than show.

Glad this phase of the work is done though, I spent all morning untaping. Sanding didn't take long at all. I started with a low speed orbital with 320 to knock down the edges, then hand sanded wet with 400. Its a smooth finish but for the residual tape glue.

Any suggestions for removing the tape glue? All the stuff that looks like sanding dust in the pic below is tape glue.



Well-Known Member
3M goo-gone is fair, Interlux 333 brushing thinner (or 303??) about the same. However acetone changing course paper towels A LOT...like every other wipe, is basically as good. The acetone shouldn't discolor old gelcote and I suspect it's the tape residue coloring you're seeing. Drench the paper towel....1/2 sheet folded..etc... won't be instant, but it will come off.....keep the wiping side clean and soaked with acetone.

Breeze Bender

Breeze Bender
It’s a nice looking repair. I’d think you could wet sand that tape residue off with a little more gentle persuasion.
You got the deal of the century on that Sunfish and have promptly prepared it for sail. When’s the maiden voyage?


Well-Known Member
My GF suggested buying Goo-Gone for removing labels from jars. There are other brands that use citrus as an "un-gooing" agent, so I bought some. Later, I tried some WD-40 that I already had lying around, and it worked just as good—maybe a little slower to "de-goo" the labels. Try soaking a paper towel and giving it 20 minutes to soak.
It’s a nice looking repair. I’d think you could wet sand that tape residue off with a little more gentle persuasion.
You got the deal of the century on that Sunfish and have promptly prepared it for sail. When’s the maiden voyage?
Thanks. I did get some of the goo off with wet sanding 320 by hand. Just didn't want to damage the gelcoat too much so I decided to see if there's a less abrasive way to do it.

I'm shooting for next weekend. There are still a few things left to do on the boat before I can take her out.

- The rudder wood looks really bad and pitted with the varnish completely gone. I'll need to disassemble and refinish that.
- I'm replacing the mainsheet block - a stock "Race-lite" pulley - with a Harken 305 and adding a stand up spring
- The bailer housing is snug up to the bottom of the boat. I've got to take it off and replace the rubber O ring.
- Adding a teflon mast seat disc

Here's what's been done thus far:

- Weighed the boat to gauge any leak issues - Boat weighs 126 pounds
- Leak tested the boat and nearly broke it using too much air pressure and no vent release. No leaks detected on any screw or seam or trunk or mast seat
- Fixed the chips in the hull underside and one topside using Marine-tex putty (2oz jar purchased from Amazon.com)
- Taped up the tears in the green and white N/S North Sails Lateen sail. We'll see how that sail tape holds up - its clear so its virtually invisible beyond a few feet looking.
- Replaced the broken clips on the sail.
- Replaced the rudder pintle - opting for the much easier to install cotter pin instead of the lock ring washer that came with the original broken pintle.
- Added a cleat to the mast at appx 47.75 inches from the bottom using 2 #10 stainless sheet metal screws
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beldar boathead

Well-Known Member
In order to go sailing, the only thing you really should do is the rudder repair - the rest of the work is optional. The o-ring isn't necessary - just remove the bailer, apply a ring of silicone to the edges of the bailer, put it back in place, and tighten the plastic nut back up. It makes things more streamlined and weeds cannot catch on it.
Now that the sail is patched up, and the mast has a new end cap, I can finally hoist the sails and get a few pics of what I'm looking forward to:

Sails Up.jpg


And here's a few pics of her eventual home at the Birmingham Sailing Club on Lake Logan Martin (she will be dollied at one of the roadside "ad-on" slots like the Sunfish in the last pic):




Here's the rudder after a sanding the flat sections with 80 and 120 grit on the orbital sander. I did the same for the edges but by hand. I think its much better, all the grime layer is gone and its pretty smooth. I expect I'll be replacing the wood with composite at some point, so this will do for now. On the tiller, there are some large gaps in the wood where it connects to the rudder so I'm going to have to use some wood filler there before final sanding and finishing.

BTW, what varnish should I use? I'll be brushing it on. Thanks for all the help! Don't know how I could have gotten this far this fast without the help.

Before sanding:


After sanding:



Tiller needs MUCH help:

To finish the rudder, I've found on search here, many suggesting "West System epoxy to seal the wood, spar varnish to protect it". I should be able to get the spar varnish at a local big box. Maybe I can find the equivalent of the West epoxy locally as well?


Well-Known Member
I'm thinking gloss...to show all the imperfections....but at this stage, it's really your preference. I like high gloss on almost all exterior wood and the satin stuff is for belowdecks...an area not commonly found in a Sunfish!
Not sure why I didn't see this until now, but with the sail rigged, I just noticed a have a hole in the boom spar! I'll have to research and figure out how to patch aluminum.


On another note, I got the Harken block installed. Even with the ratchet on, I'm not feeling much resistance at all. Does it require a larger main sheet or do you have to hold the sheet up to get it to bite?

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I would personally just cut the boom shorter by an inch or two and reinstall the end hardware.

For the main sheet block, use one hand to pull on the line like it is the sail pulling away. Hold the end of the sheet in your other hand. Basically simulate on the water conditions... and you’ll feel the grooved sheaves grip the line.

This is important to figure out how to check this so you make sure you set up your rigging right before starting to sail.