Wooden Super Sailfish repair

Thread starter #1
Hello! I just got a wooden Super Sailfish that I think is from the 50's (this is the first boat . I have been trying to sand it with not a lot of luck. The paint is coming off very slowly so what should I do? Also should I take off the deck to see what is inside? I weight it and it is a couple pounds over what the supersialfish is supposed to weigh (only like 4 pounds over weight) but this is most likley just the wood aging. So is it worth it to take a look inside? Also should I install a inspection port to let the insides dry out? I have never referbished a sailboat before so if you have any advice please let me know. Thank you. Also I will post pictures later.


Well-Known Member
If the paint is difficult to remove, it just might be a good paint—and a good surface—to act like a priming coat. (So stop sanding). ;)

Although the problem might be the quality of the sandpaper—US- and Canadian-made sandpaper is good stuff. Also important is the grade of sandpaper you're using. I think we've been recommending 120-grit to start, but that may be only for fiberglass boats. :confused: Are you sanding by hand and using a backing-block, or using an electrical sander? Orbital, straight-line, or rotary? Orbital is recommended.

Is this Super Sailfish complete—with rudder, sail, rigging, and board? I wouldn't make any cuts, but paint, go sailing and then store it in a dry place. A dry wood boat is going to be lighter, keep the paint longer, and would be less subject to wood-rot. :oops:

I like to keep my touch-ups the same color, so I've standardized on plain-old Rustoleum "Appliance-White"—and use a brush or spray-cans. Similar "store brands" tend to fade. :(


signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
DON'T cut it open, there is just air and frames inside, no foam.

Sanding paint you can go as low as 80 or 60 grit, start with 120 and go lower when you are comfortable. BUT, keep in mind if that is original paint it probably has lead, so if you are going to sand it you should be wearing protective gear like a tyvek suit, gloves, goggles and a Lead rated respirator. So maybe you don't want to sand a lot, just enough to get a good surface for new paint to adhere to, a light scuff with 120 grit.


Active Member
If all the seams are tight and no sign of dry rot don't open. If you must
never try removing the deck first as these boats were built upside down
over a strong-back. You would need to reverse the order of construction
and remove the bottom of the hull.
Thread starter #7
Should I sand all the old paint off before painting it again? Also what else should I do to fix up this boat? are there any steps that I missed? I was planning on sanding all the old paint off, re-sealing the boat, and then paint it.


Active Member
I think they were mahogany sides and ply bottom. Plywood is
tricky because you don't want to sand through the layers. As
everyone says, sand just enough to get a solid base coat. If whats
on there is solid it may not take more that a once over with 200 grit.

beldar boathead

Well-Known Member
Since the current paint seems to be sticking well, there is no point in removing it. You just want your new paint to adhere to the old. So the advice to just rough it up with sandpaper before painting is good advice. And use good paint - I'd see what Signal Charlie recommends.


Active Member
Out of curiosity, is trying to seal these old wooden boats a necessity? I'd think just paint would not do that, but it would look nice. Anyone ever use West System or similar for sealing and protection...and looks if there's a nice wood grain?

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Should I sand all the old paint off before painting it again? No. Just enough to give the old surface "tooth" for the new primer to grab on to. I'd recommend an oil based paint like Kirbys or Rustoleum Marine Topside or Valspar Ultra. Plan to use the same brand of primer, that acts as the bridge between the old coating and new paint. Your paint choice will probably come down to who has the color that you like and whether anyone sells it local. If you want to go one part polyurethane, we use and recommend TotalBoat Wet Edge, it is economical and ships fee in CONUS. We have also had good results with Pettit EZPoxy and Interlux Brightside. Jamestown Distributors sells almost all of them and a very inexpensive roller kit. Use the same brand primer, fairing compound, thinner and paint for best results.

Also what else should I do to fix up this boat? I would get a tube of thickened epoxy , THIXO or FLEXPOXY, and run a bead along the inside of the daggerboard trunk seams. Check the seam along the chine where the plywood bottom meets the solid oak side, fill any voids with thickened epoxy. Check the rudder fitting screws for a good snug fit. If they are loose, remove them and epoxy toothpicks or dowels into the old holes. Then drill a small pilot hole and reinstall screws.

Are there any steps that I missed? What steps have you taken :) What kind of shape are your spars and sail in? You will want a longer daggerboard, the 31 inch board is not big enough, a 39 inch Shadow or Barrington board will be mo betta.

I was planning on sanding all the old paint off, re-sealing the boat, and then paint it. That boat probably has at least 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint, good paint. Don't sand it all off unless it is flaky. We sanded off all the paint on ZIP because it had checked (cracked) all the way to the plywood. If you have bumpy spots, you can use a fairing compound like TotalFair or EZFair to smooth things out, then prime and paint.

Zip sanding.jpg

If you have a week and want to sand all the paint and primer off, then reseal it with West System 105 Resin and 207 Special Clear Hardener.


Yeah, the wood looks really good, another beauty! And I noticed something off the subject, Signal Charlie has a model RR layout in the garage which looks very similar to my own N scale-yes, I'm a model RR nerd...
Thread starter #16
Hello. I just realized that I was using the wrong mask for sanding. I was using a 3M 8210 N95 GENERAL USE RESPIRATOR. I am planning to get a better one. But is it bad that I used that one for like four hours spread over a few days, I am a little worried,

Thank you.

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
You need an N100 mask. And how are you sanding, by hand or machine? We used HEPA filters with our shopvac, hooked to the random orbital sander. And sanded outdoors.