Don Casey’s This Old Boat gave thousands of classic fiberglass boats a new lease on life while providing their owners with a tremendous sense of accomplishment and uncountable hours of sailing pleasure. Now, This Old Boat has had its own extensive refit — and not a moment too soon. At a time when the price of a new boat has increased to fractions of millions of dollars but many families’ savings have been cut in half, Don throws a lifeline to would-be boatowners, offering them a way to realize their sailing dream without busting their already-battered budgets.
The “generic service manual for old boats” leads would-be do-it-yourselfers through every step to bring a 20-, 30- or 40-year-old boat back to as-new condition. Early chapters detail how to put together a work list and develop a budget while addressing such critical issues as “differentiating between thrift and cheap” and “knowing when not to do it yourself.” Later chapters lead readers through the refit: restoring gelcoat, re-tabbing bulkheads, rebedding deck fittings, installing new hatches, refurbishing a mast, upgrading electrical and plumbing systems, installing refrigeration, and varnishing woodwork. Casey’s workmanlike approach, step-by-step instructions, and “learn-by-doing” projects ensure that even someone with little DIY experience can successfully install a leak-proof portlight or replace standing rigging. His folksy style makes what should be tedious material enjoyable and easy to read.
Even if you have the first edition of This Old Boat, you’ll want to buy the second edition. The book has grown by half and covers a variety of new topics, including a detailed chapter on refrigeration that tells the “cold truth.” Don has cut outdated information and rewritten 70 percent of the remaining material. Most of the first edition’s “bar-napkin drawings,” as Don refers to his own artistic efforts, have been replaced by high-quality Fritz Seeger illustrations. The new edition does have a few shortcomings. The headers shown in the Table of Contents do not match the headers in the chapters, making it frustrating to locate specific material. Don does not address some of the newer products that offer big advantages in refitting older boats, like LED lights and cored panels (instead of marine ply).
But the basics are all here, presented with humor and honesty, in a way that makes the reader want to roll up her sleeves and dive right in. The new edition comes at just the right moment to keep the sailing dream alive for a whole new generation of budget-conscious cruisers.
This Old Boat by Don Casey (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, 2009; 576 pages)