Thursday, July 3, 2008

Batboat Rebuild: Part 1

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 seemed like a good day to begin dismantling the Batboat in order to get it ready for structural repairs and fiberglass rebuild. It looked so nice and I hated to do it but once started I couldn't stop.

Spent about 4 hours that afternoon through the evening. One of those hours seemed to be spent drilling out 5 rusted screws original to the boat but I had a good time.

The boat is about as old as me. I won't say which is better condition, however.

I began the afternoon taking off the rotating light, fin and rear deck. All were secured with a large number wood screws. I had to be extra careful to avoid accidently damaging the autographed side of the fin. It is signed by Batgirl Yvonne Craig and George Barris, the designer of the Batmobile.

The rear deck came off easily. It was very heavy but after a careful balancing act I needed no help. The fin was attached to the top of the large deck with screws and I decided to wait until I could take the time to carefully remove it.

Next to go was the rest of the damp carpet and the 4 x 8 foot, rotted plywood underneath which was wood screwed on top of the even more rotted original floor.

The moldy carpet came off easy but there were many, many woodscrews underneath holding in the makeshift plywood flooring. Some were totally rusted and despite all the rot I ended up prying it off with the claw of my hammer. I checked to see what the crunching sound was while prying and it was the hull flexing under pressure, resulting in three minor holes in the hull cracking through the gelcoat above the water line. My first major Oops! I have to re-fiberglass in those areas anyway. Not much of a big deal.
My first Oops!

With the false floor out the original deck was exposed for the first time. Nothing but rot. Walking on it sounded like a bowl of Rice Crispies.

I ripped some holes in the old deck by hand and there was nothing but compost and more rot. Yes, I said compost. It smells like potting soil in there.

It is normal for an old fiberglass boat to be in this condition, however. The plywood Glastron and other boat companies used back in the '60s was usually 1/2 inch thick untreated ply. Topside of the wood was epoxyed and fiberglassed to the hull while the underside was left bare, making the wood vunderable to mold, dampness and rot. Especially, if water got down there and saturated the foam that is suppose to make the boat float in an emergency.

Interestingly, most of the foam I've handled so far has been dry.

In the case of this vessel water got under the deck because of unsealed bolt holes drilled for bass boat seats. (scroll 2/3 down the page here for the story)

I ended the evening with carefully taking the autographed fin off and dragging it on to the porch to protect it from the elements until I could figure out how to take it apart.

If you are going to buy a boat to rebuild into a Batboat, get one that is very rotted. Trust me, you will be relieved you did. The structural wood in old, all original fiberglass boats (by old I mean 1950s through the 1970s) has to be completely replaced anyway, no exceptions, and rot makes it easier to get it all out. Most of the deck in mine can be pulled out by hand. This will also save you money than buying one in better shape.

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