Building the Folkboat

(4) Restoring a Folkboat. 11 November, 2017.

One of the first purchases I made when moving to California in1996 was a second hand Folkboat--US 49-- a favored number in the Bay Area..I had a partner in this enterprise, Paul Mueller,,a building engineer in San Francisco. We soon discovered that our new boat had its problems. It leaked so badly that it had been nicknamed ‘The Aquarium’ by the Folkboat fleet.We tried various remedies--pounding the rivets from the inside against a heavy backing iron on the outside in the vain hope of tightening the laps. We also tried running a bead of adhesive caulk in the lap but nothing seemed to work.

So Paul and I were faced with the reality that US 49 was worth little or nothing as a boat but about US $5000 in parts--mast, rigging, sails, rudder and a 1000 kilo cast iron keel. We rented outdoor space at Pier 66 in San Francisco and began stripping the old boat of everything we could build into a new Folkboat. When we got down to the bare hull we took a Sawsall and (feeling like a couple of murderers) cut what remained of the hull into 2- foot sections. We left the iron keel at the yard and moved the bits and pieces to Richmond where Paul had the use of a two-car garage. It was a rough part of town and we soon discovered that anything not nailed down would go missing so we had to take all the tools, fittings, fastenings and hardware home with us every day. Paul had the loan of a Folkboat mold which had already been used by the Sven Svenson Boatworks to produce several good-looking boats.

Laying up Fiberglas is miserable work made more tedious when building lapstrake because the glass mat has to be worked around the corners of the  laps. Having to wear masks and protective gear also slowed the work. We had frequent visitors to the workshop--some merely curious others on the prowl. We turned up one morning to find all the workshop lights gone. The next day there was a strange car in the driveway with the battery leads sticking out under the hood. I found the registration, called the owner and told her to get over (with a battery) and collect her car. She didn’t get there in time and the next morning the car was still there with all four wheels gone.
Occasional prostitutes would come by to offer their services but Paul had a disarming manner with them. “We just ain't got the time today, dear” he would say and hand the girl a chocolate bar. So we were glad enough to move the completed hull to rented space in an empty factory in Oakland. It was a huge space, complete with five ton traveling cranes and was occupied by a.variety of enterprises mostly boat related.. A few of the owners were camping out in their projects while working on them so it was more secure than Richmond.
We had kept all the mahogany trim from the old boat---toe rails, moldings, cabin portholes, both fore and aft hatches to use as patterns for the replacements. It was such a pleasure working with clean, clear wood again after dealing with glass fiber and sticky resins.
Fittings were vintage 1956 (the year the boat was built) so we reinstalled what was usable discarding the chrome plated versions. I joined up both toe rails to their full 27 foot length so they bent into smooth, even curves without flat spots or kinks.
To compete with the rest of the fleet our boat had to be weighed (using one of the traveling cranes) which meant collecting the keel from the yard and reinstalling it. . The owner refused to let us have it unless we paid an exorbitant ‘storage’ fee. Paul knew how to run a forklift so we came back early the next morning with a pick-up truck and collected the keel.
.The results were well worth the time and effort. US 49 became US 11and competed successfully with its half brothers and sisters in the San Francisco fleet.. Paul and I went on to build a Norwegian sailing pram in his basement workshop in downtown San Francisco as tender to the new Folkboat. We named it ‘Come-Along’.
(Complete plans and a building manual for the Sailing Pram available from our website at: Digital version $30.00.
Simon Watts