Grapeview Point Boat Works

81 E Grapeview Point Rd + Allyn, WA 98524 + 360-277-9015 + boat_works@yahoo.com

Restoration of a 1928 Launch, Duchess of the Deep

More than 42 broken frames in the bilge of Duchess
More than 42 broken frames in the bilge of Duchess

When Duchess's ancient gasoline engine finally gave up the ghost for good, the owners selected a small and lightweight diesel engine for a replacement.

The diesel required new bearers, since the gas engine was much wider.

While we were installing the bearers, we noticed the boat had serious framing issues. Most frames were broken, often along the same plank seam. It was easy to see that major repairs were required to make her safe again.

Laminating new frames in the bilge of Duchess. Temporary shoring holds the laminations in place while the epoxy cures.
Laminating new frames in the bilge of Duchess. Temporary shoring holds the laminations in place while the epoxy cures.

We would have preferred to steam bend in new frames, but to do so would require removing the coaming and plank sheer, so the simpler approach was to laminate new frame sections that are scarfed into the sound sections of the original frames.

First the frames were cut back at a bevel to remove the broken section. Then white oak laminations were bent and glued in place. When cured, the excess glue was cleaned up. The repair was tapered to integrate into the existing frame. The planks were realigned by shoring outside the hull to match the original shape of the hull as much as possible. The damaged seams were splined as necessary to provide proper caulking bevels, and the seams were caulked with cotton, painted and puttied.

After the frames were repaired, the interior below bench height was painted red
After the frames were repaired, the interior below bench height was painted red

New floorboards were made to fit the change in the engine footprint, and the interior below bench height was painted red.

Test fit of the engine box cover
Test fit of the engine box cover

The original engine cover did not fit the new engine, so the owner designed a new cover that also serves as a seat for the helmsman. We also took this opportunity to route the exhaust below the floorboards as much as possible to maximize usable cockpit space.

The engine cover and helmsman's seat, ready for installation
The engine cover and helmsman's seat, ready for installation

The cover is hinged at its forward edge, allowing easy access to the dipstick, raw water strainer, shaft coupling, and engine zinc. The hatch provides access to the oil and water fills. Noise barrier foam was glued to all interior surfaces of the cover to tame the diesel racket.

The helm console
The helm console

The wheel was also moved to a forward position; whereas in the past it had been midships on the starboard side. The owner designed a console to hold the engine controls and other instruments. We built and installed the engine cover, console and controls.

A compass is beneath the starboard lens on the console, the fuel gauge is above the wheel, and the engine instrument panel is at top.

The console hinges aft to allow easier access to the forward locker.

The mock smokestack
The mock smokestack

The owner was interested in Duchess having the appearance of an old steam launch, in the spirit of the African Queen. We fabricated a mock smokestack and installed it on the back of the engine cover. It removes easily to facilitate opening the engine cover.

After repainting the topsides, boot stripe and bottom, we tarped her below waterline and soaked her with a lawn sprinkler to start closing her plank seams. She had dried out quite a lot, and daylight was visible through some of her seams.

First lap around the cove, pumping a bit as her seams swell up
First lap around the cove, pumping a bit as her seams swell up

Finally the Duchess was ready for relaunching. The new engine started right up, and soon cooling water was flowing through the system.

Scott, the owner, and Tom took her for a few laps around the cove.

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