Oystercatcher, Before and After

Oystercatcher, under sail in Charleston Harbor
Having completed many major projects in my thorough refitting of Oystercatcher, and having launched her on July 1, 2015, I could now spend my time out on the water with her rather than under a land-bound tent with her on a regular basis. In my last posting I described my launching of Oystercatcher and the brief ceremony I conducted in my official renaming of her. In this posting I offer some before-and-after shots of my work, so that everyone may have a clear view of the transformations that this classic forty-year-old sailing vessel underwent in my lengthy refitting of her.
When I first laid eyes upon Oystercatcher in August 2009, she was in a sore state of repair. Her original teak companionway hatch was a victim of neglect. The same was true for her forward hatch. Both of these hatches readily leaked. The companionway hatch was beyond hope. I was, however, able to resuscitate the forward hatch after a lot of work and after I had replaced some of the parts.
I should say from the start that I did not work non-stop on this boat from 2009 to 2015. For the first several years after I had purchased her I was preoccupied with the completion of a lengthy renovation of my house. During those years my work on this boat consisted in little more than armchair research and the sliding of a credit card through a machine. Slowly I acquired the parts and pieces that I would use in my actual hands-on work on this boat. That hands-on work began in earnest in the spring of 2012. By the spring of 2015 I was, for the most part, finished with all the major projects. Ask anyone who has been through this process before. The thorough refitting of a sailboat is normally a two or three year process, so in this regard my work on Oystercatcher was not outside the norm.
Most of the instruments on this boat either were broken or were so outdated that you'd never want to trust your life to them. Below we see the ship's compass on the port side of the companionway. What direction is this boat pointed? Who knows? Not I.
On the cabin top on the starboard side of the companionway was the winch for the raising and lowering of the centerboard. I would need to rebuild this winch as well as the two others in the cockpit. The centerboard line was shot. Notice how the sheathing of the line has separated itself from the core. You can see the thin core running forward beside the teak handrail. As far as the teak handrail itself was concerned, it too was shot. I would remove both this one and the one on the port side and replace them with my own custom-made mahogany rails.
Speaking of the centerboard . . . it too had its problems. It was cracked and rusted on the inside. I would have to demolish this board and construct and entirely new one.
The bottom of the boat was in need of paint. Scraping and sanding the old paint and then applying two new coats of bottom paint was a messy project.
The deck was in poor condition. Fortunately, there was not a lot of rot. I removed all the deck hardware, filled some one-hundred holes with epoxy, and then reinstalled all the hardware with butyl tape. That took a long time.
The anchor was undersized, as was the anchor rode.
The hull was dull and pasty, and the rubrail (removed in this picture) was almost dry-rotted.
The sheer strip was equally dull and pasty.
The sails were worn and the running rigging (and standing rigging) was due for replacement.
The motor worked, but it was an old, gas-hogging two-stroke motor - good enough to get by in fair weather, but not the ideal in those situations when the going gets tough.
The previous owner had stowed the gas tank for the motor in the starboard cockpit locker. The fumes from this gas tank, over the years, had permeated the lazarette and had made their way into the cabin of the boat itself. The interior of the boat - the cushions included - possessed the faint smell of gasoline. I installed a swim ladder on the transom and strapped the new gas tank there.
The port side cockpit locker was a hodge podge of tools, cleaning fluids, and . . . dirt dobber nests. These muddy nests were tucked away in every nook and cranny of the boat.
The electrical system was a mess. This one picture of the rat's nest of wires around the one, single battery of this system tells you just about everything you need to know about how bad it all was.
The water tank was a disgusting reservoir of brown sediments. Residue from gasoline vapors in the lazarette had rendered the surface of this plastic tank incurable sticky.
Now let's take a look at the interior of the boat. The galley was not functional. There was little space for the stowage of food and utensils or for the preparation of meals. The early 1980s era VHF radio worked, but its tiny, antiquated coaxial cable rendered it useless.
The cabinet beneath the sink was useless - wasted space with no shelves for the stowage of galley supplies. The gate valve for the sink drain through-hull was ancient and unsafe.
On the port side of the galley there was a gimballed stove. Forward of this was the settee for the main salon. The fabric for this settee was dated, the foam was worn out, and in some spots it was soaked from water seeping through portlights directly above it.
The gimballed alcohol stove - being a pressurized model - was out of date and a safety hazard. I removed it and replaced it with an Origo brand non-pressurized alcohol stove. The cabinet beneath the stove was just as useless as the cabinet beneath the sink. There was no shelf for the stowage of cooking utensils. This was a production boat, and like most production boats she needed some custom work by her owners to make her suitable for cruising. It was clear that the first two owners of the boat had never used her for anything more than daysailing.
The main salon was spacious compared to other boats in the 25 foot range. Here, as in other parts of the boat, Ericson had made generous use of mahogany both for practical and aesthetic reasons. Why, therefore, Ericson had chosen to make the main salon table out of Formica, was beyond me. This stowable table was annoyingly cheap in appearance and rickety in use. I would replace it with my own custom mahogany table.
The hanging locker, like most hanging lockers on most sailboats, was too small for hanging any clothes. I would construct shelves with mahogany fiddles to make the most out of this valuable space.
The head was dated, and it was plumbed in an unsafe manner. I would replace the head and all of this plumbing.
Underneath the V-berth there was a large locker. Here, the previous owner had placed a holding tank for the head. The only problem was that this was a fake holding tank - a homemade contraption that was never intended to hold anything.
Speaking of the V-berth . . . it was decent in appearance, as long as you could get past the tacky, 1970s-era, plaid fabric. If you looked more closely at this area, however, there were other things that were more difficult to ignore. The cutouts for the alcove boxes were, for the most part, unusable. The liners for these boxes had long ago disintegrated. On the bare fiberglass many dirt dobbers had made their muddy homes.
For a long time during my lengthy refitting of the boat, this was the way she looked on the inside, with dust and mildew, and parts and pieces everywhere.
Now let's take a look at some of the major projects that I completed prior to my launching of the boat. I removed the deck hardware, filled all holes with epoxy, and rebedded all the hardware with butyl tape.
I repaired the rotten deck core in the chain locker.
I scraped and sanded the old paint and applied two coats of bottom paint to protect the hull against barnacles and other marine organisms.
I built a new centerboard from scratch and bottom-painted it.
I refurbished the original rudder. Water had gotten into it and caused problems.
I built an entirely new companionway hatch out of mahogany.
I refurbished the original, teak forward hatch.
 I replaced the masthead blocks, the spreaders, and the standing rigging.
I replaced the original mast step with a hinged mast step, so that I could step and unstep the mast without having to pay a boatyard to perform this procedure with a crane.
 I replaced the original chainplates and added stainless steel backing plates.
 I replaced the original, corroded bronze through-hulls with new ones.
In addition to installing a new head and new hoses, I installed a new holding tank in the large V-berth locker. This required me to create custom shelving to hold the vertically-oriented tank in place. I also installed a bronze, through-hull transducer in this space. This instrument would measure water temperature, and more importantly, water depth. It would convey this information to the GPS.
 I replaced the defunct cockpit instruments with a Garmin GPS chartplotter.
 The port side of the cockpit received a new compass.
I reinforced the transom with aluminum plates, and I installed a spring-loaded motor mount.
I replaced the original, noisy, two-stroke, gas-hogging, Johnson 7.5 HP motor with a new, energy efficient, smooth-running, four-stroke Yamaha 9.9 High Thrust motor with an 11.5 inch prop. This powerful motor would prove to be an invaluable addition to Oystercatcher in the tides and currents of the Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry.
I compounded and polished the original gelcoat of the hull, bringing back the luster that it must have possessed at the time of manufacture in 1975.
 I did the same thing to the deck. No painting was necessary.
 I removed the portlights, cleaned them, recaulked them, and then rebedded them with butyl tape.
I completely reworked the lazarette to make it a fully functional space. I created shelves for the house battery bank (pictured bottom center) and the reserve battery bank (pictured right). I created a shelf for the stowage of fenders (pictured left). I created shelves and cleats atop the water tank for the stowage of other items. Additionally, I installed two new hatches to access this space - an aluminum hatch in the center of the cockpit, and a plastic hatch (pictured upper right) in the port side cockpit locker. The three hoses that you see are for the three bilge pumps, all of which I installed new or refurbished.
The most complex and time-consuming task of all was my rewiring of the boat.
This new system would provide both AC and DC power. It took many months to figure out how to fit all this in here. It took many more to carry out the actual wiring of it all. Keep in mind that this is just the main circuit. There are many branch circuits running throughout the boat.
Part of this lengthy project involved my installation of a copper grounding bar on the hull of the boat. This would ground the systems, and it would (hopefully) provide an escape route should lightning ever strike the boat. I grounded the mast and all the chainplates (forward, amidships, and aft) to this grounding bar.
In the galley I installed the central, working components of the AC and DC systems (L-R): the battery switch, the battery monitor, the main DC circuit breaker, the bilge pump switches, the AC distribution panel, and the three DC distribution panels. These thoroughly up-to-date systems would make life aboard this boat much safer and more comfortable.
As I said at the beginning of this posting, having completed these major projects (as well as many smaller projects that I have not here discussed), I launched this boat and officially renamed her Oystercatcher on July 1, 2015.
Four days later, on July 5, I picked up Oystercatcher's new sails. Joe Waters of Waters Sails in Lexington, South Carolina earlier had visited my home and taken measurements for these sails when my friend and I had stepped the mast in the front yard. Joe cut me a new headsail and a new, 130% genoa.
The next day my friend and I took the sails to the dock. Below we see the genoa ready to go on the roller furler.
Within a couple of hours we were off the dock and sailing through Charleston Harbor.
It felt great to be out there on the water.
I spent the rest of the summer and much of the fall enjoying this boat.
All of these trips around Charleston Harbor were daysails. There were still more projects to complete before Oystercatcher would be ready for overnighters and long-distance cruises.
Now that we've seen plenty of "before" pictures and a handful of daysailing pictures, let's take a look at some "after" pictures, starting with the exterior of the boat and then moving to the interior.
You'll remember I said that the original anchor and rode were woefully inadequate. I replaced them with a 33 pound claw, 30 feet of 5/16 inch chain and 200 feet of 1/2 inch nylon line. These would prove to be good choices when the time came for cruising. Note the shine on the stainless steel pulpit. I had polished this piece of hardware on a bench grinder before I reinstalled it.
In anticipation of the cruising that I would eventually do, I had installed lashing rails on either side of the foredeck. In this picture you see that I am experimenting with the lashing of a jerry can on the port side rail.
For the time being, these 2 x 4 southern yellow pine lashing rails were sufficient. I would later replace them with mahogany rails, stained and varnished to correspond with the other brightwork on the deck of Oystercatcher.
The new, mahogany companionway hatch got lots of compliments at the dock, as did the custom air conditioner box that I had constructed. It was nice being able to visit the boat during the middle of the day and sit in the main salon in comfort. The heat index outside was normally over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
In my replacement of the running rigging, I had chosen Samson brand Trophy Braid for the sheets. The fuzzy surface of this rope makes for easier line-handling. In terms of the color, I opted for red. Black was the color I had selected for the braided nylon docklines. These two colors, along with white and light-brown are the colors associated with the American Oystercatcher - a bird common to the East Coast of North America. Yes, this is the same reason why I had painted the bottom of the boat red, the boot stripe and the sheer stripe on the hull black, and it's the same reason why I had selected Sunbrella "Toast" for the canvas on the sail covers.
An American Oystercatcher off St. Catherine's Island, Georgia, USA
The cockpit was secure and comfortable, especially since I had added a custom-made stern rail to it. Now that a year has passed, I can't imagine trying to cruise without it.
It's difficult to see in this picture, but to this stern rail, shortly before I had launched the boat, I had added a stainless steel Garhaurer brand stainless steel double block. Through this block and through the double block that I had installed at the mid-point of the rudder, I had riven a 5/16 inch Samson brand Trophy Braid line, black in color. The mechanical advantage provided by these blocks enabled me to raise and lower the rudder with ease. The ability to do this was just as important as the ability to raise and lower the centerboard of the boat.
One of the few items from the previous owner that was of any value was the sun-shade, a canopy custom-made from sailcloth. After daysailing the boat I would almost always cover her back up at the end of the day. This kept her cooler, and it protected all the brightwork. Later it would prove to be indispensable to cruising.


The DC electrical system was (and still is) powered by two Trojan T-125 golf cart batteries. Here we see them on their custom-made shelf in the lazarette. We are looking through the Bomar brand aluminum hatch that I had installed in the cockpit.
I made the lazarette easily accessible via the aluminum hatch in the cockpit. Here we see the lazarette from the galley of Oystercatcher. I had widened this access hole and I had constructed a custom panel to seal off the lazarette from the rest of the boat. When necessary, of course, I could remove the panel and do what I needed to do in the lazarette. Note the reserve battery on the shelf to the right.
Now let's take a look inside the living areas of the boat. In the picture below we see the galley and half of the main salon. On the sole of the main salon is a 75 quart Yeti cooler. When I took this picture I was in the midst of experimenting with various placement options for the cooler (whenever there might be three persons sleeping aboard). Please ignore this and ignore the cut-up white bed sheets that are tacked into the trim around the portlights. These sheets were but temporary curtains to block the sunlight from entering the boat.
Pay attention instead to the color scheme - mahogany, white, and navy. When I replaced the original plaid, yellow cushions, I deliberately selected navy canvas. I have long loved this traditional, three-color scheme. To me, no scheme is more comforting than this one for the interior of a boat.
Later in the summer I would sew canvas covers for the portlights out of Sunbrella Toast. These weren't exactly curtains. They were simply covers that I would snap into place. Much easier to sew, and much easier (if necessary) to stow.
During my refitting of Oystercatcher I had constructed custom counter-extensions (with mahogany fiddles to keep everything in place). In the picture below we see the port and starboard counter-extensions, and we see a center extension that bridges the two halves of the galley. There was little chance that anyone could break the port and starboard counter-extensions. I had through-bolted the hardware that supported them through the deck and through G-10 backing plates.
I had also purchased a Walkstool, a Swedish-made tripod. This stool would be helpful whenever anyone opted to cook with the companionway hatch closed. This could only occur when the generator was running or when the boat was at a dock and connected to shore power. Under these circumstances it was possible to use an AC powered hot plate.When the alcohol stove was in use, it was necessary to keep the hatch open. Otherwise, carbon monoxide would accumulate within the confines of the boat. It therefore made sense when using the alcohol stove to stand fully erect within the galley and not to bother with the Walkstool, a device that in these circumstances would be more of a hindrance than an object of comfort.
At the same time that I sewed the covers for the portlights I sewed protective covers for the electrical panels in the galley. The cook for each meal would snap these into place whenever he or she began to prepare the meal. Notice the custom-made mahogany spice rack behind the stove. This would be very useful for the stowage of spices, oils, and other such culinary items.
In the cabinet underneath the stove I had added shelves and an LED puck light on the bulkhead. This made this space functional.
On the top shelf I had stowed two mixing bowls and a colander.
On the bottom shelf I had placed a Lodge brand three-quart cast iron skillet and a Coleman brand stainless steel coffee pot. I would later stow this skillet in a settee locker. Here, in this cabinet, I would stow a shallow cast iron skillet, a piece of cookware just right for the making of breakfast.
Behind these pieces of cookware I had stowed a three-quart and a two-quart pot.
The other side of the galley was full of many important items. High above the sink was the VHF radio and the back of the GPS. I had wired these two electronic devices together so as to enable DSC (Digital Selective Calling) - a VHF service channel that would provide specific information about this vessel and its GPS position to the US Coast Guard in the event of an emergency.
Beneath the sink I had created a new cabinet for the stowage of plates and other such items. This was valuable space, and I would use it several times a day while cruising.
Underneath this cabinet I had created stowage areas for trash bags and for sponges designated for certain cleaning tasks.The new bronze through-hull and seacock were a big improvement over the old through-hull and antiquated gate-valve.
Now lets look at the main salon. On the overhead I had installed two LED lights. I had also installed two handrails. These were the old teak handrails that had originally been on the exterior of the boat. To these repurposed handrails I had tied white, nylon hammocks for the stowage of fruits and vegetables. These would be quite useful when cruising.
On the bulkhead I had installed two custom-made mahogany bookshelves, one large and one small. Beneath this I had installed a small, darkly stained wooden box. This was one of the few things from the previous owner that I reused for my own purposes. It was just the right size for my hand bearing compass, calculator, and other such items. Beneath this was a small bamboo box. In this I placed pens and pencils.
Also on the bulkheads I had added two, DC powered fans. Above these I had installed carbon monoxide detectors. These digital devices would be very helpful in the monitoring of CO levels when using the alcohol stove. Likewise, they would be helpful when using the Honda generator in the cockpit to power the AC power system. Unlike the stove, the generator, even with the companionway hatch open, would never cause the detectors to move beyond a zero reading.
I added a 75 quart Yeti cooler to the boat, deciding that the existing built-in icebox next to the galley sink was insufficient and that it would serve better as a dry-food storage compartment. Knowing that I would do this, and knowing that I would likely stow the cooler on the port side settee most of the time, I had directed the sewer of the new cushions to make two separate cushions for this settee. The original settee cushion was one single slab. Soon after I took this picture I removed the half cushion you see atop the Yeti. I decided there was no point in keeping it in the boat, if this was where the cooler would spend most of its time.
This Yeti served me well when daysailing and when spending the night aboard the boat at the dock, both in the summer and in the early part of the fall. One thing that I did not like about it, however, was that I always had to concern myself with ice. I would have to buy ice at a store or at the marina, then transport it to the boat via a smaller cooler. Likewise, I would have to transport food, beer, etc. via this smaller cooler or another cooler. Then afterwards I would have to clean up the melted ice and transport the leftover food, beer, etc. back to my house in the smaller cooler. All of this was time consuming, and I often avoided using the cooler for this very reason.
Midway through the fall, I broke down and purchased an Engel MT45 refrigerator. This fridge made a world of difference. It was smaller than the Yeti, but it actually had more space (when you consider that half the Yeti is occupied by ice). It was powered by an AC receptacle when at the dock (or when the generator was running), and it was powered by a DC receptacle when off the grid. Contrary to what you would think, it was very energy efficient and did not take a toll on the battery bank. Disregard the power cord. I would soon afterward install dedicated receptacles immediately behind the fridge.
Now I could stop at the boat after work and drink a nice, cold beer while enjoying the wind and the water and the boats and ships passing by. This fridge would be a real game changer when I would later use the boat for cruising.
Now let's take a look at the other settee. When I had gotten the new cushions sewn, I got the person to sew two separate cushions for the starboard settee, just like I had for the other side. There are two lockers on each side. The split cushions, I reasoned, would make it much easier to access these individual lockers. I ended up being right. I would constantly access these lockers for various supplies, whether daysailing, cruising, or just working on projects while at the dock.
This boat did not originally have one of the optional berth extensions offered by Ericson. I acquired this one from another owner. I must say that this extra space would work wonders in terms of my personal comfort while slumbering. The custom mahogany table that I constructed to replace the original Formica table was so sturdy that it could support itself with one of its three legs stowed - a necessary procedure when deploying the settee berth extension.
There had been a lot of wasted, inaccessible space behind the settee backrests. I created cutouts in the backrests, covered the raw fiberglass with a fabric liner and trimmed the cutouts with white piping. On the starboard side I initially stowed three pillows and three pillow cases. Eventually, when cruising (with two total persons aboard), I would use this starboard side to stow my own individual berthing items on a daily basis. I'm talking about my pillow, pillow case, fitted sheet, and blanket.
On the port side, I initially stowed two twin-sized sheets (one for each settee berth) and one queen-sized sheet (for the V-berth). I also stowed the two twin-sized blankets here. Eventually, when cruising with two total persons, I would use this port side only for the extras, i.e., the third pillow, sheet, and blanket. The Engel refrigerator made access to this space difficult. Thus, I reserved this space for those items I would rarely use.
Now let's look at the hanging locker. Notice the three stainless steel loops on the bulkhead. On the opposite bulkhead and just barely visible are the bungee cords and brass hooks. This would be the space dedicated to toiletry bags when cruising.
My addition of three shelves to the hanging locker made this space highly functional. When cruising, I would access it many times a day. Note the two DC receptacles (bottom left) for the Engel fridge. I wired one of them directly to the house battery bank. The other I wired directly to the reserve. I only needed one for the fridge. This, though, gave me options.
On the top shelf I placed bath towels, hand towels, and dish rags. On the second shelf I stowed a first aid kit, spare batteries, bulbs, and all sorts of other things. This second shelf would become much more crowded over the course of the first year. Note also the fire extinguisher strapped to the bulkhead above the second shelf. This was one of two on the boat. The third shelf was dedicated to immediately accessible paper towels and toilet paper. The mid-locker under the V-berth would be the place for extras. Finally, the bottom area served as a dedicated space for cleaning supplies - bleach, vinegar, Simple Green, gloves, etc.
Now let's take a look at that all-important space - the head. I had done this job right, so this fully-enclosed space not only functioned well, but it also provided a measure of privacy not often found in a sailboat of this size.
On the bulkhead near the door I had installed a custom mahogany chart rack. I had designed this specifically for foldable charts, such as those made by Maptech and Top Spot.
 On the door I had installed a custom mahogany magazine rack.
Let's end this tour by taking a look at the V-berth. Here we see my numerous additions - the mahogany alcove box trim pieces, the clothing shelf (sized for two small duffle bags), and the overhead mahogany trim piece (still unstained and unvarnished in these pictures). My installation of hull cloth over the bare fiberglass made the once nasty and essentially unusable spaces in the alcove boxes both attractive and functional. The three spacious lockers beneath the V-berth were also quite functional as a result of my modifications. We'll examine my use of these in my postings on cruising.
Just before I had launched the boat I had purchased the aforementioned pillows, sheets, and blankets. Coming from Walmart, they were inexpensive, yet durable - just right for this boat. The V-berth would sleep one person quite comfortably. When cruising, this one person could also stow some of his or her personal stuff to one side. Notice the brass hooks that I had installed on the door of the head. These would prove to be quite popular with those aboard. The black electrical conduit in the foreground is the mast grounding cable.
Many of the LED lights that I had installed around the boat had come from Bebi Electronics - a small company founded by an American cruising couple in Fiji. These lights not only had dimming switches, but also switches that controlled green night lights (which helped to preserve night vision). The spotlight that you see is a Waypoint LED with a lithium ion battery. This was the most convenient location for this spotlight, since it was easily accessible and since I had installed an AC receptacle (necessary for the charger) in this space. Note also the DC powered fan. This was a nice addition to the V-berth.

When working on the boat at the dock or when daysailing in the summertime, I always had to keep an eye out for the thunderstorms that would often roll through in the afternoon. The same would hold true when cruising.
It was satisfying to have completed these major projects and to be enjoying the benefits of my labor. Oystercatcher had gone from being a neglected 40 year old vessel to a boat that was on the verge of being able to travel long distances for extended periods of time.
This ends this survey of my work and the before-and-after pictures that I took of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

9 comments:

  1. Roscoe,

    That is an amazing transformation. Looks better than new. If you are not a shipwright by trade, you should be.

    Well done!

    Matt

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  2. Awesome job! Makes me want to go work on my boat now!

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  3. Awesome job! Makes me want to go work on my boat now!

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  4. Fantastic work Roscoe. You should really feel proud of her. Hope to have an E25 raft up someday with you and see her in person.

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    1. Thanks, John. Raft up has to happen. I gotta see all that great work you've done on your E25.

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  5. Very impressive. It's encouraging to see what hard work and a good eye can accomplish.

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  6. Thanks for your words of praise, Christian. I'm honored that such an accomplished sailor, writer, and boat-refitter visited this site.

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