Category Archives: cheoy lee

From the Archives: 1977 32′ Cheoy Lee Trawler

1977 cheoy lee 32 trawler

If you haven’t figured out from previous posts, I collect old postcards and vintage boat advertisements. Oddly, I’ve found it easier to track down ads dating from the twenties clear through to the fifties for Wheeler Yachts, yet it took ages to find this lone ad for a 1977 Cheoy Lee 32′ trawler. But considering only a handful of these ‘chunky’ (yes, that was the very word I used the first time I saw Annabel Lee, and it turns out to be the very same word the shipyards chose for their ads,) boats were ever built, I suppose it makes sense.

Click on the image, and then click on what opens, and you can read all the fascinating fine print.

Life in the shed continues…

It’s a reasonable expectation that if you own a boat, that’s the place you’d spend the 4th of July.  Of course it’s reasonable to imagine that the boat in question is floating tranquilly on sparkling summer waters, not high up on blocks in the far shed. But I did spend this holiday weekend aboard, with the bridge uncovered I could look out the doors and see the river, and the roof overhead provided some relief from the blistering sun so it wasn’t all bad. Still, how is it that when ever Frank and I find ourselves armed with power tools to cut and grind away old fiberglass the temperature tops 90? More accurately, it bordered 100 as we worked to remove areas of delaminated FRP from the cabin-top.

For those who have never experienced this task, fiberglass work involves wearing goggles, a dust mask and protective clothing of some sort to cover all bare skin, or else suffer the consequences as thousands of pollen-sized glass shards finding their way into every pore of exposed skin. Sweat or itch, that’s your options.  I know some hardier souls are less sensitive the fiberglass dust; I’ve seen them working oblivious to the irritating glitter, but I’ll admit it: I’m not that tough. Needless to say, our weekend would have been far more bearable had the temperature been less excessive.

So, what destruction are we up to this time? We’re onto the next phase of the leaking cabin top/bridge deck. Phase one was removing all the teak from above, revealing the fiberglass and its approximately 900 or so holes from where the teak had been fastened. For the most part, the majority of these holes had not penetrated that fiberglass to the core beneath, though a few, mostly ones changed by previous owners, had.  Unfortunately, a few is all it takes for water to find its way into the coring and that’s where the headaches begin.  That water will remain, saturating the core, and between compression and expansion from freezing over the winter it will eventually cause the fiberglass to de-laminate from the core, compromising the deck’s strength.  This process occurs silent and unseen until ultimately some small drip finds its way through the headliner and into the cabin, and at that point the damage is done. Worse yet, on so many boats by this point the wood coring, normally constructed of balsa or plywood, has begun to rot. All in all, not a pretty picture and certainly not a simple repair.

On a boat of Annabel Lee’s age, the odds are high that there is wet core to be found. It would be more surprising if all was dry. Fortunately, our little boat has a certain unusual, exceptionally rare feature.  ALL her coring, in fact all wood used in her construction, be it structural, joinery or cosmetic, is TEAK.  Aside from the engine and the concrete in the ballast, if it’s not fiberglass, it’s teak. Teak has many wonderful qualities, most important in this case being its resistance to rot.  And as we’ve cut away the delaminated fiberglass, the teak we’ve found is indeed wet, but as solid as the day the boat was built.

The photo below shows sections of glass we’d removed, exposing the core teak planks. We’d start by cutting a small square, just big enough to wedge a prybar in, then work out from there.  The dark are is wetter wood that’s freshly exposed. With the  day’s heat the surface was dry within minutes.


The fiberglass itself, despite being delaminate, put up one hell of a fight. Once the damp wood is all exposed and allowed to dry over the coming weeks, then we’ll begin the process of re-glassing it back together.

There’s still more to go, but this is the majority of it. Heat exhaustion was taking its toll and we quit for the weekend, with hopes that next weekend is at least a little cooler.

The Great Keel Ordeal…

The latest issue of  DIY Boat Owner is out, and page 45, 46 and 47 look awfully familiar, with stress on the ‘awful’.  Yes, that is Annabel Lee’s keel in those photos, but every time I see pictures of the repairs we’d done they still make me shudder… and itch! Recalling how we’d gone into that project with what could best be described as outright dread, I’m very pleased with the final results.  It’s satisfying as well to see the whole ordeal in print, where hopefully it will provide guidance to some other poor soul faced with the same unnerving task (not to mention it’s helping pay for some boat parts).  And reading this makes me particularly happy: “Like all issues of DIY, the Tools & Gear section is full of product reviews and the Projects section lays out several major renovations (read The Great Keel Ordeal — it’s great stuff).”


The article itself can be found in the Summer 2010 issue of DIY Boat Owner Magazine, but more pics of the messy process from start to end can be found scattered around this blog.

Keel2  Keel3


And looking back, it did turn out quite impressive in the end. We do nice work!


So much for our theory about the stuffing box being pressed in. The come-along did nothing of the sort, and we decided to see what several rotations would do to budge the stuffing box. Despite being secured down to a gasket with four massive bolts and an abundance of Phillybond, which I’d best describe as day-glo orange MarineTex on steroids, it turns out the stuffing box was actually threaded onto the shaft tube! It took a massive custom-welded wrench, liberal application of WD-40 and 25 full rotations, each involving four repositions of said wrench, within the confines of the engine room to ultimately remove the stuffing box.

It’s moving!!!

And it’s OUT!

And why, you might ask, would we even embark on such a disturbing undertaking to begin with? To replace the inner cutlass bearing, buried deep within this stuffing box. An inner cutlass bearing? Yes. Never heard of that? You’re not alone. And while perhaps it may have been possible to access this particular bearing without removing the stuffing box, no one we spoke with could venture a guess as to how it was installed.

One very worn stern bearing…

The next step is to determine how this bearing is set in, removed and replaced, not to mention finding that replacement. The fun never ends!

The previous stuffing box struggles…

A shed full of trawlers…

At first we were pretty much alone.

Then others arrived. First there was Fair Winds, a lovely wood 36′ 1973 Grand Banks.

And now, looking astern, more trawlers!


We’re surrounded by Grand Banks!

Shipbuilders to the world for over a century…

That’s what it says on the Cheoy Lee web site, and through the weekend we gained a new appreciation for that statement. Since 1870 they’ve built a range of ships, tugs, and an assortment of yachts. Overbuilt is a more accurate term. The further we delve into our boat’s construction, removing the stuffing box and disassembling the steering, the more her shipyard lineage becomes apparent. Every book and article we find on stuffing boxes bear no resemblance to our specific stuffing box… until I found it! There it was… that one on the right! That’s our stuffing box. Then I scroll further down, only to see the image of an ocean liner. Oh-kay.

The steering is another curious situation. Again, nothing resembles the parts we’re dealing with, and there’s no manual to how it was assembled or how to take it apart. That is, if we can even get it apart. I’d swear this boat was built to break ice! Bit by bit we’re making cautious progress, learning more about our boat’s construction than we ever imagined. So for anyone treading this unfamiliar path, here’s what we’ve determined so far. The main steering housing is mounted to a massive block of solid teak, with the rudder and tiller removed.

With all bolts removed, it does NOT budge. It turns out the housing is threaded on, and with great effort is gradually turned counter-clockwise until it is unscrewed from the bronze pipe beneath.

The bronze pipe is then coaxed out the same way, leaving us with a cockpit full of parts. However….

The lower steering tube is bolted securely into the hull. We first removed the teak block, and discovered all four lag bolts were ever so slightly bent, a minor thing, but just enough to throw the main housing out of alignment with the lower housing. It’s likely this misalignment was just enough to result in last summer’s sticky steering. Whether the rudder or the bronze tube are bent remains to be determined. But it looks as though the main stress went to the weakest point, and that appears to be the lag bolts.

We removed the four carriage bolts, but no amount of persasion will separate this tube from the hull. We suspect there may be some 5200 at work here, and some research revealed a bit of assistance with a heat gun, combined with some gentle upward pressure and rotation may solve the problem. However, rotation is the problem, as no tools are large enough to grip the housing. This week Frank will be welding up some custom ‘wrenches’ to tackle this and the stuffing box base.

So here’s the sum of my weekend….

(Pic of truckload of boatparts has gone AWOL)

Funny thing is, when we bought this truck all those years ago, it was with the intent that it would tow something like a 23′ Steigercraft or the like. For several years it served as tow vehicle for Myra Lee. But never in my wildest imagination did I ever see it hauling parts like these.

WTF is that orange stuff???

That is the question of the day, (besides what did that guy do last night). It’s orange, and I mean BRIGHT orange.

So what is this stuff we’ve been scraping away? Turns out, it’s Phillybond Orange, a two component, epoxy paste, developed for sealing exposed edges on stern-tubes. Which is precisely what it’s doing, bonding the stuffing box to the stern-tube. And quite firmly sealed between them is the inner cutlass bearing. And by all appearances, that particular bearing is years past needing replacement, which brings us to why we’re trying to separate that brilliant orange bond.

Here’s the outer cutlass bearing and stern-tube. If you look real hard, you can almost see the engine from here. So what exactly is the stern tube constructed of? Yet another thing to ponder.