Worth the Restoring Hassle?

Sailor Roberts

New Member

I recently aquired a 1965 Sunfish. The bottom is covered with old crusty bottom paint and some terrible (but small) bondo like repairs.

I'm wondering if I should prep and gelcoat, or just prep and paint the bottom.

The boat was given to me, and it's probably only worth $200 at the most after I clean it up. It does have all its hardware (and a few spyders).

I'm just learning to sail, and if I did fix it up I would probably keep it for a bit. I would like to race it for fun. I think it's kinda cool having a boat that's older than I am. The lady who gave it to me said she used to race it when she was young.

Thanks, SR

If I Were You I Would Just Sand Off The Bottom Paint Using Medium Grit For The Heavy Areas Of Paint And Then Switch To Fine Grit When You Get To The Existing Gelcoat Then Wet Sand With A Very Fine Grit Paper. As Far As The Bondo Areas I Would Remove And Epoxy Those Area. Also Remove Any Water In The Hull And I Would Check For Any Leaks In The Hull. If You Are Going To Race The Sunfish I Would Not Gelcoat The Boat Because You Are Just Adding Weight To It.
Check my answer to Deck Paint a couple of days ago. Remove the paint, then follow the complete instructions, repair any problem areas and then sand and polish. Marine Tex (in place of gel coat) works for small scrapes, cracks and gouges and is easy to work with. When the sanding is done, my opinion and preference, do not paint or wax it (any mismatched areas will be underwater when sailing), treat the bottom with Mclube, paint or wax will just slow you down. I suggest that you get the boat in shape to sail first, race it in the current condition and then figure out how much you want to spend on your SF verses a new(er) SF with all the upgrades. If you really want to race, you will have to invest in a race sail, upgrade the rudder if it hasn't been done, add a new "composite" dagger board, mainsheet ratchet, ports, ect. If nothing else, you will end up with a nice recreational SF. Get a copy of the SF Bible (Christmas idea?), it is 3 books in one and has some upgrade ideas (a few are obsolete), racing tactics and history.
I am having the same experience with a 1968 Sunfish that I got at the dump. I have put in less than $100 for some sandpaper, varnish, inspection ports, halyard line and PVC pipe for the dolly ( I got the wheels and lumber at the dump also.) I plan to follow the SuperCub instructions on refinishing the bottom. I lack the motivation (and talent) to race, but for very short money, I've been able to sail a good number of weekends and evenings. It's been as much fun as when I spent a few thousand to get a new boat that was a lot more involved I've met some neat people and had a great time. The projects are keeping my idle hands busy and when I do sail, I know I did the work to ge the boat back to this condition. Anytime I want out, I'll at least get my money back and I had a good time to boot. Do the work and have a good time. If you donate the boat to a camp, you can probably write off more than $200 on your taxes. I'm betting you'll sail it well into the future.
I just started sanding the bottom. It looks like it will probably need paint because the gelcoat is pretty much the consitancy of sand stone in places and I have made it to the fiberglass in some spots.

I also opened up the bad bondo repairs only to find some damaged areas running along the spine that go all the way through the glass. Of course they are not in areas easily accessed by a port hole. One big crack is right under the cockpit. I am considering opening it up so I can put a cardboard and fiberglass patch through the hull (as described by Vanguard's website). This will be my first patch attempt ever, so all comments are welcome!

I looked at the big Keel repair. I like the logic behind putting the piece of wood in for reenforcment, but why such a large peice of wood (heavy oak, not balsa), and why no fiberglass on the wood? It seems to me the big piece of fiberglass should be on the inside of the hull so it doesn't get sanded down.

Otherwise the web page is great! I'll have to take pictures of my job.


Do it! Its good fun and keeps you motivated during those winter hours. I rennovated a '66 sunfish over last winter and learned a lot. Mine was in poorer shape than yours - the keel was badly ground down and there was a really ugly wart of an epoxy repair on one side (which also leaked). I used MarineTex for the smaller dings and epoxy/glass to do a proper patch on the side (back fitted patch;outside ground to 1:12 bevel;4 levels of glass;sand;fair;gelcoat) and on the keel (ground down previous epoxy/paint repairs;re-faired;two layers of glass to strengthen/ruggedize;gelcoat. You'll find all kinds of resources on this website - some really helpful and detailed The underside looks a little patchwork but overall adds character and is watertight and should last a good while! No doubt this boat will never be up to the newer boats but even after the repairs the weight is ~130lb, which isn't too bad. Oh, I put an inspection port just behind the splashguard and I leave the cover off when the boat isn't being used - it rests inside a garage which has some heat. I've had a great time with the boat this summer and really enjoyed bringing a boat back from the brink. Cost of rennovation ~$150 including $60 for a mast;$30 for fittings.
If your project becomes too involved, I have a 1968 sunfish hull in excellent condition that I would sell for $195.00.
I am located in Massachusetts. :)
Well, I can't see your boat, so it's hard to fully coment on it. From my perspective, why spend countless hours and a few hundred dollars on a boat that's only worth $200.00. Been there, done that! Now, if you're looking for a learning experience, by all means go for it! Just keep in mind the hours you'll spend, and even if these hours were spent working at Burger King, you could easily afford a boat that has more value than what you'll end up with!

Al Courtines

I've kind'a changed my mind in how I'm going to deal with this boat. Now I look at it as a way to teach myself fiberglass repair, and that is an end in itself.

If I find that I really enjoy sailing the boat I may just buy a newer one and sell this one. Or I may try a different boat like a Laser.