My aluminum Starchief was built and delivered in 1964 and, for the first few years, served as a family boat at a summer cottage on Indian River, Delaware. A few years later, we sold the cottage and brought the Starchief back to Virginia where it was used for a few fishing trips a year on the Potomac River and Lake Anna. Then, with other activities vying for my
time, I put the boat in a machinery shed on my farm. The boat sat there for many years,
though I looked at her often with good intentions of pulling her out, cleaning her up,
and getting back on the water.
In 2008, in between work contracts, I transferred the boat onto a new trailer, as the original one had long since deteriorated. I had the 1965, 4-cylinder, 65-hp Mercury outboard
motor surveyed; it was just too far gone from saltwater corrosion to be of use. I searched for
more than a month for a period outboard, but in the end opted for a new Honda.
I had the hull sandblasted, and I painted the topsides with white two-part epoxy
paint. This smartened up the boat considerably. It was during this work that we discovered some rot in the wood transom, which was addressed with epoxy resin. Thankfully,
a localized repair was all that was required rather than a complete replacement. I
stripped off the upper deck hardware, then stripped the paint from the deck. After
some prep work, the deck was, like the hull, also painted with the two-part paint.
When I stripped out the interior, I found that the sole had some soft spots and
needed replacing. Removing the existing sole, I found a whole new world of mice
condominiums in the Styrofoam that dated back many years.
Trying to find marine plywood was a challenge. Sign shops became good sources for
small scrap sizes, and they gave me leads on sources for 4-by- 8 sheets. I used the old
sole as a template for the replacement. Even disregarding the rot in the sole, I wanted to
strengthen the replacement, so I used aluminum angles that I fitted in between the ends
of the hull ribs. With these additional supports added, the sole felt very solid underfoot.
Finally, new marine vinyl flooring was laid on top of the plywood before reinstalling
the reconditioned helm console. I decided not to put the port console back in to leave
more open cabin access. Since the boat is more than 50 years old, I thought that she
deserved a worthy name. I christened her after my
Cranes Creek, VA
worked out a deal
with the owner’s
widow and had
the boat shipped
east to my shop in
Once in the
workshop, I spent
a year getting the boat ready for the
water. I completely rebuilt the cockpit.
There also was no interior to the cabin,
so that was designed and constructed as
well. I was able to source some secondhand spars from a boatyard that had a
mast and boom almost the exact size
needed. I’m a strong believer in recycling, so all of Cathern’s deck hardware,
except for her navigation lights, was
recycled from damaged boats. Even her
sail was a secondhand salvage. Cathern
has proven to be a comfortable, family-friendly boat. It’s been a great project
and a craft that I think I’m going to
hang on to for a while. Best of all, it’s
given me another reason to spend quality time with my dad.
Ed Dankievitch, Port Jefferson, NY
Three BoatU.S. members
The Mary E, Starcraft Starchief
share inspiring makeover
stories of how they turned
their boats from mundane