Saturday, March 24, 2012

Restoration of a Wianno Senior Bettawin

Pleasant Bay Boat and Spar has restored hundreds of boats over the years, but never a Wianno Senior. A few years ago, owner Jim Hardman had mentioned having us do some work on his Wianno, and so in January the boat was brought to the shop for what we  thought was to be some straight forward caulking and replacing a few planks. Jim and friends were going to strip the hull.
Iron sick bolts
It almost never works out the way you plan. Once we got it in the shop and up high enough, we realized that the centerboard wouldn't move! Bad problem to have on a gaff rigged hull. Going to windward must have been frustrating. The problem seemed to be the steel ballast: the corrosion in the centerboard slot was significant and obviously prevented the board from dropping. We hemmed and hawed about whether to drop the shoe or not. Actually, we were warned against it. It could open up a can of worms. Being fearless and also curious, Seth started cutting the bolts. It didn't take long. In fact the corrosion was so significant that there was very little material holding the shoe on. In the picture (above right), the caliper measures a typical drift rod at 3/8" but the original diameter was 1/2". This is all the gap that water needs to get into the hull and cause further damage. The photo (below left) shows one of the three bolts holding the ballast to the deadwood. They were well on their way to not holding.

Bettawinn Wianno SeniorThe other more deadly consequence to this phenomenon is the toll it takes on the surrounding wood. It's called iron sickness, due to the corrosive properties of the steel drifts and bolts.  Bettawin was laid up by Crosby Boat Yard in 1968 as hull # 141, and built for Ross Richards, who wanted a fast Senior. Bettawin did turn out to be a winner by the way. Richards had a remarkable racing records in the 1969-1970 seasons, winning many regattas including the Scudder Cup in 1969.

Dropping steel ballastWhy use steel? Class rules dictated that the shoe be steel or iron. I'm assuming that since the first keel was laid in 1914, iron was the sensible choice, and less costly. The first year fourteen boats were built, a remarkable feat that was never again to be matched. In all, over 170 wooden Seniors were built, all with the dreaded iron ballast and steel drifts and bolts holding it all together. In the photo on the right the rust is evident. We decided to drop as much of the deadwood as we could without destroying the whole boat. Another more obvious issue was the garboards: they had sprung. The 600 lbs of lead had been left stacked on them for several years out of the water and the weight had taken its toll. But removing them made all the difference in the world. We now had access to many vital parts: stopwaters, centerboard ledger posts, Wianno Senior Bettawinnframes, and the centerboard trunk bed logs. The garboards themselves were shot. Jim Hardman was able to secure several huge pieces of Guanacaste, a species similar to mahogany, and ideal planking stock from Gannon and Benjamin on Martha's Vinyard. The beautiful piece of oak for the deadwood came from Newport Nautical Timbers.
Wianno Senior BettawinnSeth and Brian cut all the deadwood from one piece of 6" X 14"  X 18' white oak. Cuts had to be precise, because we were working around the original rabbeted oak  section. This was in reasonably good shape. We determined that all the rot could be bored out and filled with oak dowels. Only one piece needed to have a new rabbet cut in, saving a lot of time and money. Seth did a remarkable job fitting all the pieces together, just like a puzzle.
Wianno Senior BettawinnThe real challenge would be to get them all together with bolts, drifts, bedding compound all in one go! The ledger posts in the trunk were rotted, so before all the pieces were put back together, they had to be scarfed, fitted, bedded and fastened. Once all the old holes were bunged, then Seth and Brian began the very patient job of putting them in permanently. Drifts had to be set in the iron shoe, which had been remarkably transformed during the week: old rust was chipped oof, and the whole shoe attacked with a grinder then coated in a rust inhibitor. You can see the original condition in the photo on the right (top).

Seth is contemplating his next move in the photo on the left. Everything went together beautifully. It took two men all day but they did it! The next step, shape the aft edges for the rudder post, then fit the iron shoe. The last step was completed on Friday: cutting a 2 foot long rabbet on port and starboard, drilling the stopwaters, and calling it a day. You can see the beautiful mahoagny planking, now stripped of all paint by the owner and some wonderful friends.Wianno Senior Bettawinn                           Rudder post installed
Plank for garboardDriving drifts and steel shoe

The next week will be devoted to the garboards. The "wana" is massive and Seth should be able to get both planks out of one board. Our goal: to float the boat by late spring!
Stay tuned. I'll keep you posted.


  1. Follow the restoration progress of Wianno Senior #141 Bettawinn as she moves closer to the water. The post: planking, caulking and painting.

  2. We are blogging here. Hello Suzanne. Nice work. Wianno is looking good.

  3. Absolutely fantastic posting! Lots of useful information and inspiration, both of which we all need!Relay appreciate your work. OMC parts drawings