Monday, April 27, 2015

Can this Moth be saved?

Back in the early 50s when I was a boy growing up on the farm, my mother had a subscription to a women's magazine which along with recipes plus tips on gardening, child rearing, health, and etiquette had a monthly column with the arresting title "Can this marriage be saved?".  Each month the column aired out a marriage which was teetering on the brink of foundering, detailing the various warts of neglect, injury and sometimes reckless abandon.  I can't remember if the magazine was Better Homes and Gardens or perhaps Ladies' Home Journal.  That is unimportant.  The bottom line is that many broken things, occasionally including human relationships, can be restored if those concerned are willing to devote time, treasure and energy.  The question which always remains to be asked is "Is it worth it?"

Today's post advances this very same question in reference to an extremely neglected fiberglass Fletcher-Cates.  This boat is very close to that point where smart sailors turn away and instead of sinking money into a dubious pit, wisely decide that they'd be better off spending that money on new materials and building a new boat. 

Most Cates Moths, regardless of the builder, carry a traditional system of decks as dictated by Harry Cates back in the mid-1950s.  This boat sports a rare, short production run, roll tank cockpit layout which Blair Fletcher built in limited numbers.  Of all the surviving Fletcher-Cates Moths I've seen in recent years only two other examples have surfaced which have this roll tank deck lay out.

Our subject, built in 1963, is featured in the old Moth Class records for a year or so but then disappears after a change of ownership.  She resurfaced a couple of decades later, left abandoned when her then owner skipped town without paying his apartment rent.  The current long term owner was given the boat roughly twenty-five years ago in appreciation for helping clean up the messy apartment.  As found the boat had a number of soft spots in the glass lamination.  The new owner ground off the gel coat from both the decks and the hull in order to find them all.  Over the years, despite several moves of house our hero kept the boat and repaired some of the damage with new cloth and resin but there's more to be dealt with as the following photos will reveal.  With his next move of residence taking him to Chicago he has decided that it's time to part company and move this little boat to someone with more time and hopefully to a successful outcome. The boat is currently in the south Jersey area.

Due to years of haphazard outdoor storage the roll tank deck suffered delamination in several areas.  The current owner has addressed those problems.  It's a shame that Fletcher Marine Products chose not to make the side tanks and the bow compartment water tight.  That would have added seaworthiness to the more comfortable than usual cockpit.  This could be done.

This photo shows a hole in the bottom of the hull which shouldn't be too difficult to fix.  More troubling is the broken fore deck which involves the mast partner.  The mast partner is a high stress area in the boat.  This damage may require removal of the fore deck in order to make a proper repair.

Another pix showing the fore deck damage.

The hole in the port side of the hull.  The rectangular patch just aft of the CBT slot was once the location of an Elvstrom type bailer.

The keel line forward of the CBT needs some repair, no doubt caused by young owners dragging the boat after a beach landing.

Spars, blades, misc wood trim pieces (useful as patterns at this point) convey.  Not pictured is a box full of period  hardware which also comes with the boat.  If anyone is interested in taking this poor little boat under their wing, leave me a comment.  I tend to be a sucker for neglected Moth Boats but at this stage of the game I've already got more projects than I'll ever complete.


  1. A planter. She's seen better days. I understand mothwood-smoked meats are delectable

  2. Well Baydog, since this one is fiberglass and polyester resin construction I'd hold the Tabasco if I were you...

  3. Can This Moth Be Saved? -- You bet she can. Greetings from New Zealand. If you visit my blog You will see what I have done to date in way of restoration to an 11 foot Starling sailing dinghy. Its been hard work, but a lot of fun, and in the end I will have quite a delightful little sailing dinghy to have fun in.

    From what I can see in the photographs she looks as though she can be made to sail again!

  4. @Alden: I agree, this Moth could be saved. Even if she'd probably not be a competitive racer again, she'd be an enjoyable day sailor for someone with good boat mending skills but who's short of money.

    I've often thought that the Starling class dinghy, bumped out to 11 feet and built to the CMBA's min weight of 75 lb would make an interesting addition to our Classic Moth racing fleet. I've skimmed my way back to the first installment of your restoration project. It looks like an interesting read!

  5. Yes, you are correct - even if she's not going to be competitive again she could well be a very good day sailor for someone. On that basis maybe (if the wood isn't rotten) you could just fix the cracks and holes and just give her 2 - 3 coats of fiberglass or dynel cloth and resin and leave it at that.