Life’s too short for an ugly console

“It’s been my experience with these kinds of projects,” says Bob Birdsall of Birdsall Marine Design of West Palm Beach, Fla., “that they take twice as much time as expected, and they wind up costing twice as much.”

Birdsall Marine Design, by the way, is building the leaning post for our 22-foot Sisu project boat, Swamp Yankee. And Bob is at least partially correct in his assessment of boat projects.

We had hoped to splash the center console by late June, but we’re confident it will see the water very soon. Two weeks? As for the cost, I’m not adding up the invoices at the moment, but we still have a balance in the boat fund.

More important, we’ve been making progress, as these photos will attest.



Installing the Taco Marine rubrail gave us a good leap in aesthetics, not to mention the functional role it will play. “It covers up the ugliness,” shipwright Charlie Koller says. “Until then, it looks very unfinished. Once it’s installed, it starts looking like it’s almost a boat. The insert is a nice little feature. It’s nice stuff.”

Charlie waited for a hot day to lay the rail out in the sun, which makes it considerably easier to handle. “It’s like an anaconda with rigor mortis if it’s not hot,” he says.

With the assistance of two semiskilled laborers, we stretched the big black snake as Charlie screwed the rail in place. Looks nice.



Charlie’s skills as a woodworker were highlighted and tested a bit in fashioning and attaching the 3/4-inch mahogany coaming. The long runs were made from a pair of 17-foot pieces. For the corners, Charlie steamed six 1/8-inch veneers and then bent and clamped them over a jig for a couple of days. Then he glued the pieces together with West System epoxy and clamped them until the glue dried.


“The secret to the coaming is good patterns,” Charlie says. Making the scarf joints for the corners look good and fit just right was tough, he admits. So was attaching the corner pieces to the gunwales. “The coaming is a story for another day,” he says. “That whole thing was difficult.”


The wood dresses up the boat nicely and raises the freeboard aft by almost 2 inches, giving me just enough extra height to put my knees into. Yes, the brightwork will mean more maintenance. Some lessons you never learn.



The console didn’t look like much when it came out of the Maine boat shop early this spring, but that was then, and this is now. Charlie patched, faired, sanded and sprayed the console with Awlgrip. He added shelves, hatches fore and aft, and mahogany trim. He took the raw, bent Plexiglas and shaped it to the desired height and positioned the stainless grab rail where it made the most sense in terms of sightlines and so it will best work as a handhold.


“On a boat like this, the console is the showpiece,” Charlie says. “It’s where you have the most creativity. It’s the thing you’re looking at all the time, so you want to get it right. Life’s too short for an ugly console.”

The Edson tri-spoke stainless PowerWheel with a power knob certainly dresses up the console, as does the removable mahogany panel in which the Yamaha gauges are mounted. Positioned below that is a waterproof Blue Seas distribution panel with eight rocker switches with resettable breakers.


The wiring is nicely laid out but not quite finished yet. The photo shows the battery switch, main fuse, the hot bus bar, ground bus and CAN bus panel.


“A nice, simple, clean electrical system,” Charlie says. “Electrical is fun, especially when you’re doing a new installation. You get to lay it out nice and not have to clean up someone else’s mess.”

Power is supplied by a pair of Optima AGM batteries.


The last shot shows the rigging tube and custom connection carrying cables, hydraulic hoses and fuel line. “No binding, no chafing, easy access,” Charlie says. “Be conscious of what will wear.”


The summer is winding down, but we’re determined to catch the best of fall. Stay tuned.


27 thoughts on “Life’s too short for an ugly console

  1. I must say that I have truly enjoyed this series of articles. Perhaps it is the short concise format, or the simplistic approach to getting the project content out there but it has been a pleasure to follow. This is a basic boat that has been beautifully transformed and anyone that has done this type of thing can fully relate and learn something. I hope we see more of this this type of article in the future. Well done to all involved.

  2. William:
    In my estimation every boat looks good , if not better, with a bootstripe and your restoration could use a red one. Easiest is laying one one with West Marine specific bootstripe tape.

  3. Really nice work gentlemen! It is obvious there is a tremendous amount of pride that has gone into this project. The coaming turned out fantastic! The brightwork along with the two-tone finish makes the boat pop! Love the console and rigging tube. Hats off! Bill & Charlie – what project boat are you going to tackle next? ;)

  4. What’s wrong with using an American outboard motor like Mercury or Evinrude? It’s a good way to support our American owned manufactures!

  5. The coming is beautiful, no doubt about it. But because it’s raised, no one can sit on the gunwale. Isn’t that a problem? Plus, you could trip over it when entering the boat…

    • We did a “backside” test early on to determine coaming height. It’s low enough and the gunwales are wide enough so that you can sit comfortably.

    • Hey Peter,

      Original boat did not have coaming. The various shops doing refits and new 22s such as MacLeod Custom Boats ( and Grey Barn Boatworks ( have done some real nice work with wood, too.
      Even Keel Marine Specialties (the Lowell Brothers) are synonymous with these Royal Lowell designed 22s (
      Also, Eastern Boats is about to reintroduce its version of the Sisu 22 at the Newport Show next month.

  6. I guess a Yamaha is okay here. but what urkes me is to see them on boats owned by state and federal agencies that use my American tax dollars

    • I agree with you about government agencies using other than American manufactured motors. Also it urkes me to see American boat builders putting Yamaha packages on new boats. As a veteran to me that’s Un-American. Japan will not allow us do that in their country, they protect their manufactures.

      • I have to agree on the American made attitude. Americans buying American is the best way to pull ourselves through this recession. But it is a great project and I have enjoyed the pictures and play by play. Thanks Bill and still hope to learn more about the brand and why you did not pick another Whaler for your project. Wish I had a garage big enough to start a project like that.

  7. Very nice work gentlemen, very impressed with woodwork, console, and quality of fit/finish. Can’t wait to see it “splashed”. The boot stripe comment is valid, and will finish off the vessel. Also, how about a Bimini Dodger – would like to see the installation, prep work to have that added.

  8. My career as a Yacht Designer has put me in the midst of thousands of boats, but I still enjoy and appreciate a beautiful boat and quality workmanship !

    Congratulations !

    David Lee Napier

  9. Bill & Team,

    At the transom I noticed an aftermarket fuel/water separator instead of a Yamaha version. Was wondering what was the determining factor with that decision?

    There are always esthetic factors when laying out a fresh console and this one has taste and functionality. With it being a center console boat, I was wondering if she would be fished at all and if so, are cup holders going into the leaning post in lieu of the console?

    I love the bright work and the color choices. Congrats… it’s priceless either way.

  10. I really like the “rigging tube and custom connection carrying cables, hydraulic hoses and fuel line” that’s what they call attention to detail right there. Not the cheap looking boots that I am sure leak water like a sieve.

    However, I noticed the PVC pipe protruding above decks under the console. Will there be a cap of sorts to completely seal that up. I’ve had a bad situation with that particular setup once. Just wondering if it was going to be addressed by the restorer…

  11. Dear Bill:

    wonderful job. I am about 6 months behind you on my ’79 Sisu 22. so inspired by your blog.
    don’t you wish you had all these respondents closer to the project as you went along? Hah! but lots of good input, too.
    and for all those wanting American stuff showing, what are you driving, and what is on your wrist, and what kind of cell phone do you have? Just having fun.
    I look forward to a rendezvous with you next year as you go on tour!

    Totch Hartge, Easton, Maryland

    • Duct seal works well to seal rigging tubes in an enclosed space, particularly where wires, lines, and hoses branch from multiple sources. We don’t do a lot of outboards but usually the primer bulbs work better in a vertical orientation with the check valve pointing up and between the filter and the engine. Fun Project, I enjoy following it.

  12. I echo the comment on the raw wood. going to be difficult to get they protection you need with the wiring installed. Never put any raw wood anywhere on a boat. Project finished results are beautiful, you can be proud when you are headed out to find a few fish.

  13. Wow… I am impressed!
    Bill not only have you chosen a beautiful proven design, but one of the best boatwrights in the business. I can’t wait to christen that work of art with the scales of more 50 pound bass and a bucket of eels for casting!

    It has been fun watching the process. I have had the enjoyment and opportunity to work with Charlie on projects and without doubt he is one of the best. His ability to envision the end product and solve issues along the way are second to none. Charlie’s work is a display of fine art with an added sense of humor. Taking on structural, electrical, and system installations is but a few of his many talents. Having left the marine trades 14 years ago, watching his attention to detail brought back missed memories.

    There is nothing like bringing back an old boat to a new life. Having been through the process many times with a dream guiding the way, you can look forward to the day of guiding your boat to places near and far with your family and friends.

    Bill – enjoy this process as you finish up the project. Fair winds, tight lines, and abundant thin waters. I look forward to a call on some Harvest Moon as in years past…

    Congratulations on a revival well done!

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