My drift boat build was completed in 2011 and I used it for both fishing and a commercial gig to transport a photographer around Montana and Idaho. His long term project is the photojournalistic documentation of Lewis and Clark's travels. Before I got involved he hiked almost all the trail out west that they travel at exactly the same time of year to document the geography, flora, fauna of the trail at the same time of year that they traveled.

When he found out I could transport him via my drift boat we started on the Clearwater and Missouri rivers. It was a multiyear project so we di a variety of trips. However, Lewis and Clark traveled in the spring time on the White Cliffs section of the Missouri. Springtime in the Rockies can be cold, cold and wet, cold and wet and windy all in just a few minutes. The moisture from the sky mixes with the Montana Gumbo, most of us would call it mud. I deem to classify it as a heavy, abrasive, sticky, admixture of rough materials. Not only dies it make your boots heavy when you exit the boat and return to shore it also collects on your gear. Repacking the boat each day meant more Montana Gumbo would be adhered to the interior of my boat.

When I initially finished the boat I used a clear polyurethane finish that looked good and seemed to protect the wood on the interior well. It's abilities to resist abrasion from Montana Gumbu had not been tested. Combine storage under two polyurethane tarps that had been carefully aged in Eastern Washingtons' high UV summer conditions and an abundance of snowfall resulted in a wet environment perfect for removing the interior finish!

I started on wooding the finish so I could apply a new finish in 2019. Covid conditions have proven to be a godsend for forcing me to take the plunge, grab the multitude of sanders, scrapers and tons of sandpaper. I have been spending many hours bent over the interior of the boat and now have the interior pretty much ready. The interior floor has 18 oz S-glass laminated to it. At least on 95 % of the floor. Remember that moisture from excess snow. It too can be used to reduce the tenuous hold of epoxy to the plywood floor in small area. I have sanded the floor, removed non-adhered fiberglass and loose debris. The upright ribs had decided to acquire a wonderous coat of black mold. That is all gone and now the have a protective coat of Total Boat varnish as initial protection.

Note the lack of seats and all other boat furniture, you can see th...

Okay, so now I have almost gotten the boat prepped for finish, which should be coming soon. At the moment I need to prvide a ride for my wife so I will need to add a section continuing where I left off. Butt first a few more pictures before I go.

An overall image of the port side.

In the image below you can the initial body filler application over the now further recessed ring shank nails. Details later!

Rick Newman

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Looking great Rick!!!

You know it's amazing to me how differently I look at boat pics now than I did 7 months ago when I started my restoration. I guess that means I've learned a few things along the way. Thanks to people like you who have shared their knowledge!

Looking forward to more pics!

Sort of like Mark Twain returning home after his two year journey he took when he was young! It is very rewarding to provide assistance to new boat people. It is only because of others that proceeded us that we can learn, especially if we keep our minds and eyes open!

Thank you for your kind words.

Rick Newman

Over the years that I have owned my boat I have done a few touch-ups to the boat furniture and gunnels. Sometimes I did a quick job and slopped varnish on my paint. The sides of my boat have suffered scratches, dings and dents. I am not certain why some of my two-part water based industrial polyurethane finish chose to separate from the underlying primer layer but there were too many to ignore. Initially I had planned to just refinish the interior so I could take a couple of friends fishing. I soon gave up on that idea and have now chosen to do the entire boat. In the above picture you can see the dark burgundy colored primer layer. I don't remember for sure but I think there are probably four layers of substrate below the outside coat. I spend three to five hours a day sanding and now filling imperfections.

The sides of my boat were nailed on with ringshank nails. For those of you that haven't used them they require a careful installation technique to prevent them from bending. Select the hopefully correct location and drill a small hole just a bit smaller than the nails' diameter. A pair of needle nose pliers works well to hold them while you carefully tap them in. The final detail is taking a 1/8" diameter punch to tap them in just below the surface. However, I discovered that either I didn't recess them far enough or the bending and movement of the side panels has allowed them to move. The result is the finish on the nails heads has slightly popped like sheet rock nails often do. So I have had to remove the finish and once again take a punch and recess them a bit lower, about 1/32" below the surface. Bright finished boats, those with a varnish like finish don't have to do this.

I have used a couple of automotive body repair fillers while working on my boat. I go to reputable auto refinisher supply stores and ask for the one with the greatest ability to stick. I don't apply much to the sanding divits or the nail heads. After way too much time spent in the pursuit of a perfect finish I have learned to apply thin layers, start sanding with coarser grit sandpaper, eventually using finer and finer grits. I have been using both a random orbit (RO)sander and a finishing sander on the boats' sides. A kind friend has loaned my a Festool random orbit sander. What a quality tool! It uses a mesh-backed sanding screen and the abrasive material is adhered to the screen. While about 50% more expensive they last at least twice as long. 

Plenty of sheet sandpaper has been harmed during the interior sanding. While a power sander can do more sanding sooner it only takes the blink of an eye or an inappropriate twist of the wrist with a RO sander to create a divit! So a rubber autobody sanding block is your best friend when you need to observe greater control and delicacy.

I have done a lot of research concerning what type of finish I want to use. My concerns revolve around ease of application, durability, resistance to immersion in water and a high quality, good looking surface. Perfection is a difficult taskmaster and is hard to achieve. I have finally chosen to use Total Boat Wet Edge Topside Paint from Jamestown Distributors. If their promotional information matches with the actual performance of this polyurethane finish I hope to be quite happy with my selection. In the past I have chosen to use a HVLP sprayer with the hope that I can achieve a smooth finish and for speed of application. This time I am going to do a roll and tip system as demonstrated on the Jamestown Distributors site. Here is a You Tube video that impressed me:, I hope my results resemble theirs. I have tried rolling and tipping before but my results weren't the same. After watching this video I realized I had been tipping from the wrong edge! The pain gets here so I hope it works as well as they suggest.

Here is a better idea of what I have been doing. When you look at the base of the boat you can see the edge of a 2" x 6" and small casters at either end. Both sides of the cart are constructed in the same manner. When I first built this cart I utilized four sections of 12" x 4" x 4" posts and a couple of 2" x 4"'s to connect the front and back sides. This allowed me to tip the boat upside down to spray it. I need to do that again and get my son and a friend to lift it up. Boat refinishing is not as easy at 69 years old as it was in my late 50's. Arthritis from an old auto accident has been a challenge as well. Nobody said old age was going to be easy!

You can observe the spots that moisture and Montana gumbo collaborated to detach the laminated 18 oz fiberglass from the inside floor of the boat. I will reapply System 3 epoxy to the bare spots and apply the same finish to the interior as to the sides of the boat. I will leave the gunnels and boat furniture in natural wood covered with another Total Boat clear finish product. I have sanded the gunnels but only applied one coat to one side. I figure that with luck I should be able to splash the boat in late October!

I don't enjoy the sanding but I enjoy the results of doing it. As always it is a labor of love, lots of of work with few visible results until completion. While the Covid situation is not pleasant and the wearing of masks is at times bothersome, it has given me time to focus on the tasks required to refinish my boat! I hope this information is helpful to Wooden Boat People visitors and members.

I have completed a major step in the refinishing of my drift boat. If you have read what I posted before you may remember that I had chosen to roll and tip to apply the paint. The Totalboat Wet Edge Topside paint is a wonderful product to work with. I first applied the matching primer they sell, sanding it smooth and then followed the procedures Jamestown Distributing suggested. It went on like a dream and seemed to provide a lustrous, smooth surface just right for the rigors of life that our boats must endure. I haven't gone back to my neighbors garage to see how it looks yet, I don't want to be tempted to touch it and mess things up.

I cannot count the number of sheets and discs of sandpaper I used to ready the surface. I used very thin coats of autobody filler to fill the low spots, sand most of that off and reapplied more filler and finally used a long board sanding device to even everything up. For those that weren't around for the first time I painted the boat I spent a great deal of time prepping the wood and primer coats before. If you own stock in sandpaper you can thank me for any value increases!

Here is the start of the paint application. Roll on the paint with an 1/8" nap roller in a vertical pattern, grab your Badger Hair brush and stroke in a horizontal manner from the wet edge back. Repeat until you have covered the boat and relax!

Those aren't spots on the bow of the boat. They are reflections in the paint, yipee! Much less hassle than spraying. Anyway, now I need to get back to finishing the interior of the boat and applying finish to the gunnels and outer chine strips. Thanks to my neighbor I now have a warm, dry workshop to work in. Also thanks to my good friend Joseph I had the use of his wonderful Festool orbital sander I achieved a fine finish! A few more days and I will be ready to resplash the boat!

Rick Newman

Beautiful finish, Rick!  Love seeing the reflection below it.

Thank you! It was a labor of love. Many, many hours of preparation!


Hi Rick. Looks beautiful. And what an awesome story. 

More photos to come when the sun is out. I appreciate your kind comments! I would love to see your boat rebuilding operation some time in the future. I hope to once again travel to the desert Southwest next fall, perhaps then. Visit my page here on the site to see the initial photos of the "Challenge" being built. Challenge because it was such a challenge to build. I highly recommend the paint for ease of use and its' looks.

Rick Newman


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