Wooden sunfish my father-in-law built

John & Liz

New Member
My wife and I have a wooden Sunfish that her father built in the shed. I assume this was in the 50s. Serial # 44052.
Can anyone tell me more about it?
I've repaired a little dry rot on the side (it was resting on the ground) and I'm in the process of stripping and repainting it. What should I avoid screwing up?
Howdy, the Serial No. dates her to 1967. They were also factory built, it's cool that the family built it. We have restored 4 wooden ALCORTS so we have a few ideas on what works and what doesn't.

CHIP and ZSA ZSA copy.jpg


A good thing to do right now is an air leak test, blowing low pressure low volume air into a drain port and spraying soapy water all over the entire hull, seams, daggerboard trunk, mast step etc...Surprisingly air can even leak through the plywood. In this video you might notice a small bubble forming on the deck, air is leaking through grainwise fractures in the plywood.

We seal up any leaks with thickened flexible epoxy, we've been using TotalBoat THIXO Flex steadily for several years now for repairs and new builds. Pettit Flexpoxy and West Sytems GFlex are a few other options.

"What should I avoid screwing up?" Don't listen to anyone who suggests that you add fiberglass to seal it up. Well you can listen, but don't act on that advice.

For painting we like to stick to the same family of adhesive, primer, fairing compound, thinner, paint etc... to ensure compatibility. And the choice of color from whichever paint maker leads us to their family of products.

We'd love to see photos of your family built boat.

You (and any other Forum Member) are welcome to text or call us at (850) 449-4841. Always fun to exchange knowledge.
Thanks for the reply! I agree that it's cool her dad built it, that's why I'm doing this (it's a LOT of work). Keep in mind that he had 8 kids. I think he needed a reason to work out in the shed :)
I can text photos or post them here. Do you have a preference? I've seen many of your videos, including the air leak test. Thank you!
Dumb question - How important is an air leak test? Can't any water that enters just be drained out? We're not racing, and I'm anxious to get it in the water before summer ends . . .
Wars were created so men didn't have to stay home with small children...

Please post folks here so folks can see the work and the fun.

I suggest air leak test early so that if you do a lot of repairs, painting etc...you don't go sailing and find out you have to undo some work to repair an area. BUT, we do Float Tests sometime and if there are no leaks, you're golden. We have also barely got a wooden boat back ashore because it was full of water, but it was pretty obvious that it was in sad shape before the Float Test. So maybe do a short float and check for water before the longer cruise.

The wooden Sunfish was water tight, the Super Sailfish leaked like a sieve, and the Super Sailfish MKII leaked also and was heavy. One thing we like about the wooden boats is there is no internal oam to contend with.

IMG_1257 (1).jpg

If your boat has a drain plug you should make sure it can be opened. If there is a big leak(s) the boat won't sink but water is 8 lbs/gal.

"Can't any water that enters just be drained out?" Yes, but here's where fiberglass boats are better, if a gallon or so is left in the bilge of a fiberglass Fish it won't cause much damage. But a small amount of water left in a wooden hull for extended periods will start wood rot. Most wooden Sunfish rot from the inside out, over long periods of time, usually along a low point on the side where people stored them. They were built of high grade marine plywood and nice hardwoods, and can last for decades if properly drained. We use a cordless wet/dry vac to suck out ZIP's bilge after a cruise, from water we tracked in. And since she was a prototype, she has limber holes that drain into the cockpit and large lightening holes in the cockpit bulkheads, so it is pretty easy to make sure her innards stay dry.

Audrey Zip gen 2 rudder Lagniappe Beach.jpg

Whatever your family did has worked, so stick with that and make sure the boat is as dry inside as possible before storing.
Wow, time flies! Anyway, last summer was VERY busy. Thanks for your advice and encouragement!
Here are some pics after paint stripper and scraping.


  • IMG_2539.jpg
    1.5 MB · Views: 26
  • IMG_2540.jpg
    1.8 MB · Views: 25
  • IMG_2541.jpg
    1.6 MB · Views: 27
  • IMG_2542.jpg
    1.9 MB · Views: 27
I decided that sanding was needed. It was probably overkill, but it wasn't too difficult with power tools. The scraping was harder work.
After that, I did a leak test with the exhaust port of a shop vac and soapy water. Be careful if you take this approach, it doesn't take many psi over the large area of the deck/hull to equal a LOT of force. I pushed a little too far and heard some nails popping. Here are some more pics.


  • IMG_2586.jpg
    2 MB · Views: 31
  • IMG_2588.jpg
    1.7 MB · Views: 27
  • IMG_2587.jpg
    1.1 MB · Views: 28
  • IMG_2585.jpg
    1.9 MB · Views: 27
  • IMG_2584.jpg
    1.6 MB · Views: 39
  • IMG_2583.jpg
    1.2 MB · Views: 28
  • IMG_2578.jpg
    1.4 MB · Views: 29
  • IMG_2591.jpg
    2.2 MB · Views: 39
I repaired all the leaky areas with waterproof glue and a syringe and then painted. Here are pics after the first coat with thinned paint. There's also a photo of a BIG snapping turtle swimming past our power boat. I think I put 3 more coats on after this (I don't remember exactly). It's not the prettiest job, but I managed to get it ready for a sail with some fall breezes last September before it got too cold.


  • IMG_2661.jpg
    1,000.8 KB · Views: 36
  • IMG_2662.jpg
    954.5 KB · Views: 29
  • IMG_2672.jpg
    432.8 KB · Views: 30
And finally, a few pics of Liz sailing last September. She says it felt like it did when she was a kid. Totally worth it!
I didn't get to do the deck. That will be for the next owner. Unfortunately, we're moving off of the lake. I'll post for sale photos in that section of the forum.


  • IMG_2789.jpg
    1.4 MB · Views: 31
  • IMG_2790.jpg
    670.7 KB · Views: 30
  • IMG_2791.jpg
    606.2 KB · Views: 36
  • IMG_2795.jpg
    538.8 KB · Views: 28
The boat looks happy, we are glad that y'all took the time to get her back into her natural habitat. While we are sentimental with all of the boats we've owned, except for one, we are also happy when we send them along to other folks who can also enjoy them.

Thanks for keeping The Usual Forum Visitors updated!