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Barnwell Boatworks: RESTORATION

Full project management and restoration services.


Whether it's a small project like 16-foot Stork or a real 'fixer upper' that was once a world-class 32-foot sailboat, the feeling of success in a resotration project comes when you re-launch it. It’s unreal to experience something you saved go from being a pile of wood to a finished product that’s flying across the lake.


Restoring a really well built boat is an amazing education. You gain a strong understanding of what works after 90 years, and what doesn’t. In giving an old boat new life we have a opportunity to rebuild any pieces that didn’t hold up while strengthening potential weaknesses, so the next 90 years will be as bright as the last.


My most challenging restoration project was working through two frigid winters in a huge plastic tent rebuilding the Bernida, a 10,000-lb., 32-foot. Universal Rule R-Class Sloop, designed by MIT professor, George Owen and built in Boston in 1921. The sloop is an icon in Great Lakes sailing history having won the Bayview Race in 1925 and 1927, but it was in extremely poor condition when I found it at the Mill Slip, a boat yard in St. Ignace, Mich. The previous owner agreed to give me the title when I offered to rebuild the sloop from the keel up – replacing the horn timber, floor timbers, 90 percent of the ribs and 30 percent of the planking as well as replacing the deck structure and rebuilding the original rig, which included a 51' hollow spruce mast.


Thankfully, there were other people passionate about restoring the Bernida and willing to help scrape paint, lift heavy objects and move large pieces around. The reality is completing the project required the support of the community. I couldn’t have done it by myself physically.


The ultimate sense of success is when a new owner invests as much effort into caring for a boat as you did building it. For example, the Bernida took me years to complete so it was really wild when the new owner sailed it in the 2012 Bayview Race and won.  Three wins for three races! The boat has since been donated to the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven, Mich.  They use it for day sailing and charter cruises as well as a floating display.  

Restoring Bernida – A World Class Sailboat
Restoring Stork – A Classic Picnic Launch
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