Saturday, September 25, 2010

Straightening up an Elite Craft

This is Sandy's Elite Craft Riviera, and it is a beautiful vessel to say the least. These beautiful runabouts were evocative of the classic wooden runabouts of days past. They looked like they were made of mahogany, but it is really an all fiberglass boat. How they did this is still a secret, or at least no one is telling. Elite Craft started building production boats in 1979. The last models were produced in 1993, and about 450 of these beautiful boats were built in total. Many of these runabouts now sell for more than the original sales price, which is notable in the depreciating world of boats. Production ended when an employee was killed while testing a boat, and the subsequent costs involved with dealing with the accident, put the company out of business. 

Sandy's boat was built in February 1990, and is a 1990 model year boat. Despite the fact that it is twenty years old, the boat is absolutely pristine, and all original. Sandy is a very meticulous guy, and there is no part of this boat that has not been carefully lavished over. The engine compartment, and Mercury engine look factory brand new. You will be introduced to Sandy downstream in the second "Meet" story, and you will learn why minute attention to detail is so important in his line of work, and cool work it is. Wait till you see these man toys!

In this case, beauty is only skin deep, and boy is this skin pretty, but the boat does have some designs warts. There are no strakes on the hull, making it a bit slippery in turns, and the narrow beam makes the boat list to one side when there are not additional passengers to balance the load. This is definitely a smooth water lake or river boat, and if conditions get a little bumpy, the boat, and crew will get wet. This boat now lives in Sarasota, and it is unusual to have dead flat water in the local bays. Our bays do not have rowdy water, but a 1' chop, will make for a wet ride in this boat at speed.  

So Sandy wants to make some minor changes to the boat. The first is to get rid of the somewhat kludged up mounting system for the Apelco depth finder. It is cantilevered out about a foot on a stainless steel pipe, and continually bounces while under way, so in the short run it is going away, and the transducer is going bye bye anyway.
You can't get away from the listing to one side, if there is only one person in the boat while sitting still, but a set of trim tabs will dramatically improve this problem while under way. That green spray rail was a factory "after the fact, after thought" option that makes the boat a little dryer when the water gets choppier, and adds a little extra stability to the boat.

Sandy originally wanted Bennett trim tabs, and after looking at the boat I said no. It wasn't that I don't like Bennett trim tabs, I do, but the fuel tank is in the aft of the boat, and about 2 1/2 inches from the transom, leaving no way to attach the Bennett hydraulic fittings and hoses, so I suggested Lenco. With Lenco tabs, all we have to do is to shove the wire through, and with some interesting gyrations, a coat hanger, and no need for an orthopedic surgeon to fix my body, the wires were pulled into an area where we can deal with them.  

Now Sandy, being Sandy, called Lenco, and they graciously agreed to make a custom sized set of tabs for the boat out of stainless steel, and to polish them to a high finish, and I have to admit, they are very striking. You can see the trial fit above, and if you look closely you can see the hole, where the pitot tube hose passed through the transom (by the way this little gadget was invented by a French Physicist Henri Pitot in 1732). On the other side of the transom were the holes left by the old transducer, so Sandy's finisholgist came in and did a perfect job of making them go away, and I mean perfect, no evidence, no halo, no nothing but a factory original finish 

Tabs are now installed, and what to do with the control pad? This is a bit of a conundrum. We don't want to punch a hole in the dash, because the black trim tab switch will compromise the original dash appearance, so Sandy fashions a small fiberglass plate that is the same width of the trim tab switch, and extends above it about 2". The switch is mounted to the plate, and the plate is epoxied to the back of the dash. It is rigid enough to use, and it can be relocated later. You can see the switch below in between the wheel spokes.

In the long run, a console will be fabricated that will sit on the floor to the left of the helm. This will be the final home for the trim tab switch, hatch lift switch, Garmin 740S, and maybe a couple of drink holders. Exactly what this will look like is being thought about, but it will look perfect for the boat when it is done, because Sandy will not accept anything less.

Up next is the new hatch lift for the boat. It's not that it is hard to install, but I am going to do a little geometry, and moment calculation 101 in plain English on  how to spec one out. You won't need anything more that a pocket calculator to do it. It won't make your brain hurt much all, and some pretty pictures will be used to help. Euclid is watching.

If you would like to learn more about Elite Craft boats you can visit the Elite Craft Owners Club.