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by Harold Duffield - Florissant, Missouri - USA

I didn’t know Ron B. very well, but I do recall him and his wife Faye having a boat at the Marina I owned on Carlyle Lake in southern Il. It’s one of those relationships you recall as casual, and business centered. I really didn’t know just where they lived, or what their dreams were, but I do remember them, and especially their boat, a 23 ft Aquarius. I always like the Aquarius sailboats and can remember how satisfied the owners seemed to be. I sold the Marina in 1990 and moved on, and over the next years ended up doing boat canvas and buying and selling used sailboats.

I saw the ad on Craig’s List. “23 ft Aquarius Sailboat $1,000”. It seemed cheap enough, even in the crashed used boat market of 2010. I made the call and discovered the boat was stored for several years in the machine barn of the owners Daughter and Son in Law, and only a couple of miles from Carlyle Lake. I offered $500 to see how motivated the seller was. I expected a counter offer or an outright rejection, but was pleased when the offer was accepted. The owner had died, and the owner’s Wife just wanted the boat sold for any amount. She wanted closure with the sale of the boat

It was only then that I discovered the owner was Ron and Faye B., my previous Customers. I sent the check to seal the deal and made arrangements to pick up the boat and titles. It was at that time I had the opportunity to discover the dream Ron had. He wanted to re-hab the interior and sail the boat during his retirement. However, he became ill and unfortunately died before the re-hab could be realized.

I met Ron’s Daughter at the boat to pick up the titles, and to discuss setting a date to pull the boat to St Louis. At that time I discovered the state of the interior and the effect of being stored for 10 years in a machinery barn.

“Wow! She needs a little work!” my friend offered, as he opened the hatch to peer inside. The hatch was closed, but not tight enough to keep the mice outside. The mouse smell wafted from the interior and you could see several dead mice in the bunks and on the floor. I couldn’t get up to look because my legs have given out and climbing on boats is not in my future. My friend snapped pictures with his cell phone to show just what I had bought sight unseen.

As part of Ron’s rehab, the interior bulkhead that separated the forward area and the enclosed head was removed. I assume he wanted the boat’s interior to be more open, but it also removed the compression post that is necessary to support the compression of the mast. This necessary structure had to be installed in any rehab. There was also a shag rug on all the hull’s interior surface. I can understand wanting to cover the hull interior which is left raw in the hull lay-up. The Aquarius was designed to be an affordable trail-able sailboat so the interior took a back seat to economy. In addition to the tear out was the issue of smell and mouse bodies and debris.

2,500 lbs from my high pressure water cleaner would take care of that in short order. Rip every thing out, wash the dickens out of it, both outside and inside, brought the underlying boat back to the 21st century and ready for a much needed rehab. When using any high pressure cleaning equipment be sure to wear eye protection and keep the water jet away from exposed skin. The high pressure water stream can give a nasty cut if directed onto exposed skin. Never go barefoot should be an unbroken rule when spraying with this effective yet potentially dangerous tool.

The paint chips flew and the dead mice were swept into the trash can as the clean up proceeded. The mice not only invaded the boat, but also tried their teeth on all the sail bags. Not being satisfied to just get in the bag, they also proceeded to gnaw into the layered sail cloth as well. Sails with mouse holes will still sail, but not very attractive. It would be a good talking point for PETA but a little overboard if you want to sell the boat. I decided to wait on any sail replacement or repair until the new owner is located. The expense of sails can be saved if the boat becomes a Terminal Trawler.

The man doing the building is a special skilled mechanic. I say Mechanic to describe one of those rare individuals that can do everything needed for a quality amazing job. Ray has worked for me since I sold him a burned out 47 foot Atlantic yacht that I purchased as salvage. The boat had sunk in an ice incident with the superstructure just above water level with the deck being just below water. While the dock was being removed the above water structure was set afire from a spark from cutting tools, and the boat was burned down to the water. The burned debris then fell inside the remaining underwater hull.

I purchased the burned out mess from the Insurance Company and had the burned debris removed. Once the boat was cleaned out, I sold it to Ray as a potential live aboard vessel.. Over a period of three years, he completely restored the boat to it’s current yacht quality condition. Since then I have been in awe for his skills.

I gave Ray my drawings and instructions to what I envisioned for the Aquarius rebuild and sat back while he did his thing.

Once the mice debris and ten years of accumulated grime was disposed of and everything spotlessly clean, we started the rehab by installing the head enclosure. The enclosure includes the needed compression structure for the mast. I chose to build the structure with tongue and grove pine for it’s ease of building and appearance once painted. I included shelf structures for appearance, and for a visual break from plain wall structures. The Aquarius has lots of room inside for such inclusions and can offer roominess and living space not offered by other boats. That’s why it is my favorite boat for a Terminal Trawler layout.

The faces of all the bunk structures were rotted so a replacement was included as the cost skyrocketed. So what! When you are on a roll with the end product in mind, you often throw caution to the wind and just do it right. That’s what Ron would want as he watched down on our progress.

Finally, after more time, money, and effort anticipated she was done. We took pictures of the finished job and emailed them to Ron’s daughter for a showing to Ron’s wife Faye. Needless to say she was very pleased to see that Ron’s dream was finally realized.

Good job Ray, I am always amazed at your input and professional building skills. Completing dreams, whether your own or someone else’s, is surely a good thing to do.

Harold's site is



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