Amesbury Skiff

by McDuff
(Kinderhook, NY)

I just purchased a 1940's Amesbury Skiff made at the Lowell's Boat Shop in MA.

It needs refinishing and this is only my second woodboat project.

Any recommendations on a good reference book on refinishing?

I also need to decide what to do with the bottom - caulk and paint or go with glassing (West System?).

I've never used rope type caulking and would rather avoid a leaky boat.

Also there is some space between some of the laps.

Can these spaces be cleaned out and filled or do they need to be tightened?




Comments for Amesbury Skiff

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Amesbury Skiff
by: Pete

I just left Lowells a few houers ago.

The best thing to do is call or E-Mail them.

I bet they would love to hear about the boat, and they would tell you exactly what you need to do.

My 1975 peaod leaks like a sieve until its spent some time enjoying the ocean (swelling) hope this helps.

PS. epoxy is NOT the answer

by: Anonymous

Slick seam is a good idea, 5200 is not.

It is too hard and will cause more damage.

The seams will take up right through the paint.

Use a good quality oil paint.

Kirby's is my favorite with Brightside following.

You can see the refit of my boat on
The boatshop completed a router job and reglue of seam edges on TORCH, an a-cat, which is also on the blog.

You do need to leave room for planks to move.

Wood boats are all about part movement.
You have to allow for it or parts and fasteners will break.

Bottom planks
by: Mike

Yea, you could rout out those bottom seams but the pine strips shouldn’t be a tight fit, you need to leave room for caulking and expansion when she takes up.

Perhaps a better solution might be to use what they call a 3m or 5200 bottom.

This entails adding a thin layer of plywood under the outer planks sealed with a jointing compound.

As a temporary fix between the laps, until she takes up, you could use "Slick Seam" or you could just use some bar soap or even some masking tape.

Amsbury Skiff
by: McDuff

I checked the gaps in the bottom and they are approx 1/4 to 3/8s of an inch.

If I prime then caulk and then topcoat, how does the water get to the wood to soak in?

I could use my router to expand the gaps to an even 3/8s of an inch and then add a pine strip to the gap.

Would a simple force fit do the job or should I glue it in using exterior wood glue.
Then I would prime and paint.

What do you think?

I also need some type of filler to fill in small holes, dents and cover nails, screws etc.

What do you recommend.

Exterior wood putty?

Can I use any type of filler between the laps?

Thanks for all your help to date.

Lowell skiff
by: sailor girl

I agree with Mike.

Having worked an a few lapstrake boats including my own, Don't glass it.

Cotton roving with a cover caulking works well.

It is the planks that swell against the cotton and make the boat rigid and watertight.

Give it some time to swell after you paint.

Choose your bottom paint based on how you use and store the boat.

It should be in the water, use ablative.

If it must be on a trailer, use a harder coating and keep the boat covered with a breathable cover.

A trailered lapstrake will leak.

You may have to tighten up on the rivets if it doesn't swell enough after a week or two.

You can start the process by filling it with a hose.

If after a few weeks there are still gaps between planks that won't close with tapping the rivets tight (be very careful not to compress the wood or crack between fasteners) use boatlfe.

Bottom paint
by: Mike

With an old boat it is best to use oil based paints.

The old timbers will probably have soaked up oils and or waxes which will inhibit the adhesion of any ‘hi tec’ paints.

Start with the gray metallic marine primer this is the primer which has microscopic aluminium plates mixed into it.

Then an undercoat compatible with the top paint you are going to use.

Then for the top coat, an oil based marine enamel.

However, if you are happy to repaint her every year and want a cheaper alternative there are many of the better quality house paint enamels, which while not as hard wearing can be a good alternative.

And I have also had good results with acrylic paint.

For the caulking the most important element is the caulking cotton.

This is the stuff which swells to fill the gap.

To hold it in place stick to a traditional type of caulking compound such as red lead putty.

If you cannot source the red lead powder for the putty, Interlux do traditional style compound and I have heard good reports on Pettit’s Seam Compound.

As for your bottom boards, a half inch gap is far too wide to simply caulk, you may need to glue in some splines.

Do these gaps go right through?

Amesbury Skiff Additional Info.
by: McDuff

The gaps in the laps are not too great, they may take up in a good soaking.

The boat has not been in the water in years.

However, the bottom is composed of three wide planks and the gap between them is close to a half inch.

It has some type of calking in the space now.

Should I replace the caulk and if so, with what?

Any recommendations for the type of paint?

Lapstrake Skiff
by: Mike

I would avoid using glass/epoxy on a traditional wooden boat, it can cause more problems long term than it cures short term.

Traditional lapstrake depends to quite an extent on the swelling of the planking to keep her tight.

Has she been out of the water for long?

Perhaps she just needs a good soaking to get the planks to ‘take up’.

If those gaps are too wide to ‘take up’ then it is probably the fastenings which need tightening or replacing.

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