30' Sisu alterations and renovations

steelguy

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1980 Sisu 30'


VISIT THE BELOW LINK FOR PROGRESS PHOTOS

steelguy49's Library | Photobucket

BOAT LOCATION and LOGISTICS
Wrangell, Alaska
Svendsen Boat Works - one of Southeast Alaska's premier master aluminum boat builders

I should start by mentioning that my boat partner Don does large project asphalt paving and heavy machine construction and my background is that of an architect and custom home builder. I also build cabinets. Don and I have a combined 75 years and we both are not shy about working before playing. And, one other thing that might be unique to the equation, although our boat is in Wrangell, Alaska, we both live in New Jersey and get no more than 10 days or so each year to go "play". That sucks, but it is what it is. Good thing is the other 50 weeks of the year we get to dream and plan.

THE BEGINNING
It all started 4-1/2 years ago when my boat partner and I decided we needed to make a move up to a larger boat, one that we could comfortably navigate between southeast Alaska islands, sleep and eat on and basically use as a base for our stream fishing. Our previous boat was a 21' North River jet boat, which prooved on numerous times to be way too tight and, because of our overloading it, dangerous even in the more secluded waters we sailed. We found our new boat for sale through a broker in Juneau and managed, after a very thorough survey which confirmed a good, solid potential investment, to purchase both the boat and a tri-axle 40' trailer. It had been previously owned by a fishing lodge and was used second inline for close water sport fishing for guests.

The original traditional lobster boat design had, at some point, been altered to include an enclosed cabin, constructed of 1/4" plywood over a 2"x3" frame. The cabin measured 9' wide and 6' deep from the bulkhead to the rear wall. 2/3 of the engine box cover, also made of plywood within the cabin and the rear 1/3 with the dry exhaust muffler was outside. Within the cabin was a Dickenson Bristol diesel stove/oven and not much else. What windows existed were made of plexiglass, none of which opened. Most of the electronics did not work and the electrical wiring was dangerous at best. The V berth had a raised platform with storage under and some standard ratty foam cushions. Walls were covered with even rattier carpet that looked like a blind man had done the original installation.

THE WHEELS START TURNING!
The above being said, we saw "good bones" in the survey, well worth the $675 spent! and promise with potential for renovations and alterations. But, where to start?

Our first trip up was nothing more than a shake down to see what we had bought sight unseen and do some basic assessing of what we thought needed to be done.

Because of the stream fishing we do and already owning 4 Mokai's (check them out!! = very cool), our first priority was transporting them. We realized that building a canopy over the aft deck would let us store the Mokai's up top and afford covered area below. I designed a raised canopy attached to the rear of the existing cabin and supported by 2 - 2-1/2" diameter posts. Svendsen's main-man Frank made intelligent fast work of it over the next winter and we were pleased with the outcome when we next came up. We also built and installed a rain gutter on the port side of this canopy to collect fresh water (Wrangell is located within a temperate rainforest with an average of 182" of rain each year)

But, and this was the big BUT, we knew we had to make a commitment and enlarge and renovate the cabin. It was way too small. We wanted some sort of a galley. The windows were hazed and had minor leak problems. The engine box cover was too large and infringed on our use of the cabin itself. So, back to the drawing board. I sent a design up to David Svendsen, he had an opening in his shop that coming winter and we went for it! Cost? Oh, "we'll just keep track of things and it should be close to what you want to spend" (!!!!!). Concept again turned into reality and Frank's magic made it all come together. Yeah, it ended up costing twice our allowance but we honestly have no regrets. All of the existing plywood walls were trashed, but the Sisu fiberglass roof was left untouched. The cabin was enlarged rearward 4', which now put all of the engine within. The engine cover was rebuilt much smaller and better insulated. All of the windows were replaced with aluminum frame clear glass, including side sliding windows. The stove was relocated and a 42" galley, shelves above and below were added. Clever fold-down seats and a rear bench added. Svendsen also redid all of the wiring and added switch and circuits panels.

Our trip up included some work in the V berth that included 5 large shelves, 2 raised bunks above the existing storage platform and a "head", which was nothing much more than a proper hinged toilet seat above a 5 gallon bucket (hey, it works!). We also clad the cabin ceiling in a 5-1/4" wide double beaded hem fir wood. Oh yeah, we transferred some of our Furuno electronics that we salvaged from our previous North River. All in all, we were all smiles!

Understand this: every year, after spending those 2 short weeks in Alaska, we go home saying "that's it, nothing major left to do". And, every year for all of the next 50 weeks we dream of small projects, some of which grown uncontrollably larger. Plus, we're constantly buying "stuff", like those 3 salvaged solid brass ship lights (www.bigshipsalvage.com/‎); Furuno open array radar; antennas; generators (we've had 2); all sorts of saltwater fishing stuff; prawn and crab traps; spot and flood lights

I then spent a week by myself in June 2011 and totally stripped the bulkhead and dash. I installed almond Formica on the dash and faced the bulkhead in the ceiling-matching hem fir paneling. I also installed the refinished (chromed and new turned ash spindle handles)(the little wood center knob has a small fly fishing fly encased in epoxy) and all of the electronics. I also installed the V berth bifold hatch and hinged door. Never got out fishing and ended up working from 5 in the morning to 9 at night for the 5 days I was in town. That's sick! But the results were worth it and added just what we wanted.

Don, on one of his trips, he plumbed the rain gutter into our fresh water tank; installed an extended anchor pulpit

Of course, all sorts of standard maintenance stuff was always being done both inside and out, all part of owning a boat I guess.

Our next project was kind of minor, but really added a "custom" touch to the cabin. Our original table was slapped together out of 3/4" plywood and worked, but being in the center of things, wasn't very pretty to looked at. We decided that we wanted an epoxy covered map of Wrangell and the surrounding waters and some inlaid personal photos. I edged the table with more white oak with decorative 1/4" diameter brass pegs around the perimeter. The table is presents supported by 2 turned oak legs set in Todd aluminum bases, but we decided to add a third leg for better stability. That will be done on our next trip in 2014.

That pretty much brings us up date and our last trip this past September. Our plan for this trip was to totally rip out the V berth bunks and platform, remove the ratty hull carpet, raise the floor 4", build higher bunks to fit the new 5" thick foam cushions and panel the hull walls and front bulkhead with custom milled white oak quarter sawn strip paneling. I also installed the new berth stair I built here in NJ and shipped up.

Our immediate plans for the future are to add a proper electric toilet. We presently shower on the rear deck, and although that can be cold, coming back into the warm cabin and sipping a cold whiskey helps forget things pretty quickly.

THE FUTURE
That's it! I apologize for probably boring a lot of you. But, it has obviously been, and will be a labor of love. We know we will never recoup the cost of what we have invested, but feel we have each evening when we talk about our day's fishing and feast on the bounty of what we've caught! Thanks for reading.
 
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Toolate

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What an incredible story- the pictures in the link at the top are really great. Looks like you hooked up with a man who is not afraid to work some stainless steel too. Obviously some great design ideas combined with some things that are a little off the beaten path (SS exhaust pipe cover- is that wood stove piping?) but it all comes together for a boat that takes you places that would otherwise be out of reach.

What does she have for power?

Love the underwater testing of your flies too- there is a lot of time between the 10 days a year you get up there :).

I wouldnt mind 10 days myself.
 

steelguy

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1980 Sisu 30'
Perkins 6.354

Six-cylinder, 354 cu. in. (5.8 L) diesel engine. 8 knots at 2,500 rpm, never exceed that. The jet boat got us places faster, but the Sisu gets us there safer
 

DBM

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steelguy

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Mokai's and how-to on the table

Thanks for the compliments. The kayaks are exactly what you guessed, jet-powered Mokais. The company has a decent website and I'm sure you can find videos online. They are not fast, maybe 7 miles or so an hours and run for about 5 hours on the 2 gallon tank of gas. Years ago the alternative was either walking up streams or bushwhacking. The stream/river walking was exhausting to say the least and the bushwhacking was done on bear trails. Remember, this is Alaska and there are lots of bears and they aren't particularly friendly when you invade their space! We often go out in open saltwater and last trip, this past September, I was within 50' of a pod of curious Orcas. You realize very quickly how big they are, and fast! when you are on the surface with them. I definitely do not recommend it.

The table is resin coated. I knew what we wanted and having never done something like this before, then watched all of the You Tube videos I could find. The chart is first laid on top, along with the photos also and then the coating begins. It is critical to ensure that there is no air trapped under the chart, or whatever paper you want covered. I did this by using a water based urethane to adhere and, like installing wallpaper, brushing the trapped air out. You can also pin prick the bubble and the air will escape. The small hole will not be visible, don't worry. I believe 3/16" final thickness took 5 coats and 1 gallon of mixed material. I will say that to get a good bubble-free finish is harder than the videos lead you to believe. The bubbles are introduced to the mixture when combing the resin and the hardener, which has to gently but thoroughly be stirred for 6-8 minutes depending on the quantity. Once poured on the surface, the bubbles can be dissipated by slowly heat the pour with a hair dryer. that actually works quite well. Bottom line is spend some more on the liquids needed and practice on a small project first. That's critical. And you should also try to work in a dust/lint/cat hair-free area. If you decide to try it, send me a PM and I'll try to better offer advice.
 
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Toolate

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Where do you put the .357 mag 6 shooter in that Mokai? Cant be out there without some firepower...
 

steelguy

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bear protection

I use to carry a 44 mag, but then switched to a Benelli 12 g Nova, marine coating with a 20" barrel. Shells are Brenneke Black Magic Magnum slugs.
That being said, nothing replaces a whole lot of common sense. I have never had a need to raise my gun and hope I never will.
 

Toolate

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Long gun is always safer and now that you are not on land so much you are def much safer I would imagine.
 

CCtuna

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I didnt know "keg" was an option for a dry stack haha Looks mint
 

steelguy

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keg muffler

yeah, we really thought the "keg" anointed our purchase as a true Alaskan boat. We also put that on the list of needing immediate replacement!
 

DBM

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steelguy

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table and bear spray

More than glad to help with the table project, I'll send you a PM with my cell.

My vote is for a gun. As far as bear spray vs. a gun, I think I have read quite a bit on bears and their habits, behavior, especially when and why they might get aggressive, and I feel more comfortable with a gun than spray. My buddy carries spray.

A gun, especially a shotgun is substantially more cumbersome than a can of spray. Spray is said to be most effective to within a range of 15'. That last 15' can be covered by a charging bear within 1 second. I know most charges are false, but at 15', I think it is fair to assume you're in for making a new friend. I think if a bear is charging and gets to 30', I'm making a positive decision to take the one shot I may get. At 15', you better hope you aim with spray directly at a galloping bears face hits its eyes.

During the heavy times of salmon runs, you will find bears, especially where we go. Later in the season, most of the locals do their bear hunting in the areas that we fish. During the salmon season (there are 5 distinct and overlapping types of salmon that basically start in late June and run through early September), there are PLENTY of bears. You will not walk up a salmon stream without very well knowing the wet tracks and dripping blood guts on the rocks your stepping on means the bear you just warned of your approaching presence has moved off into the bushes. We have literally gone 75' past such points and seen the bears come back out. And, add youngsters to that mix and all rules are thrown out the window.

Last two trips, I've stopped carrying a gun. The reason for this is "when" I go fishing. Early in the summer, when I hunt steelhead trout, the bears are just beginning to come down out of the winter dens. They are hungry, but salmon have not yet arrived and chances are you might not see any bears. Later in the season, when we are prospecting for coho salmon, many of the bears have begun to come up off the streams and begin to eat berries. At all times, I wear a whistle that is ear-piercing when blown and always use it when quarters are tight or coming around a blind corner. Always look over my shoulder and be aware of my surroundings. Try to always have another person with me (and the old joke: make sure they run slower than you!).

My buddy has had one very close encounter and he had my shotgun. I later listened to his story and thought he was extremely lucky. The bear let them know he was real angry but, after tearing up the brush and saplings at a distance of 15', decided to run in the opposite direction. I am no hunter and will always pick a bug up inside my house and put it outside. My wife kills the ants on our countertop while I simple ignore them. Karma. But, I honestly believe I would not hesitate one second longer than needed to pull a trigger if my safety, or anyone with me, might be in jeopardy.
 

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