The Matilda project

After not even being in a sailboat for 20 years, I noticed a small ad in the Toronto Sun. "20 foot sailboat for sale, sleeps six, needs work.

We always planned to return to sailing - and had this grand plan of moving closer to water first. Like most plans, things change over time. With a baby late in life, I was thinking "why wait" (and hoping I could convince my wife). Actually, I was doing some math and figuring out how old I'd be when the littlest one heads off to university (we're talking retirement age here). Fortunately Lenore agreed with this "altered plan".

So, we called about the boat. It was a "Matilda" and we learned a great deal about her from the excellent owners website [click here to visit]. Turns out it's probably the best 20 footer ever built for pocket cruising. With a beam of almost 8 feet she has a ton of room inside (for a small boat). The 300 pound weighted, retractile keel gives her excellent stability - plus allows it's depth to be optimized for a given point of sail.

Is 20 feet REALLY enough?

Off to Collingwood we go...

We decided to have a look and drove to Collingwood the next weekend. What we found was a boat that looked horrible! Been left out in a field for several years - even had a free bullet hole in it's hull!

Upon close examination, the boat was not in that bad a shape. It had been maintained until only a few years ago. The previous owner was the original owner - a doctor from Montreal. He used the boat extensively and replaced/upgraded/maintained right up until his death a few years prior. Most of the standing rigging had been replaced, the sails were newer and stored indoors and the outboard had been rebuilt and properly stored away.

What was in poor condition? The windows were crazed beyond belief and the gaskets were rotted to nothing. Fortunately, the boat was tarped and there was no water inside at all. Deck had a couple delamination areas, but from weight bearing/dun and not water i.e. easily repairable.
The finish was original gelcoat, but so chalky that we could barely tell what colour it was. Electrics were nonfunctional. Head was from Columbus's original ship. Trailer was sound with only surface rust but wheels (4 of them) and bearings were probably shot.

But - Matilda's in good condition were selling for around $5000 and we are capable of fixing/restoring everything from fiberglass to mechanical...

No brainer? You bet! We agreed to purchase and headed home to figure out what we had gotten ourselves into!


Matilda arrives!

The trailer was a pig! Not just new rubber, but ALL bearings were shot. We're talking outer races as well - hammer them out, clean everything, hammer in new ones, assemble the hub and move on to the next. Four wheels on this sucker...

Of course, the trailer electrics don't work - thats a given...

Got to Collingwood at 3pm - wasn't on the road until 10pm!

It towed easily enough but it sure is a wide load!

Slept well that night...


Restoration in a hurry

In the shop...

Why a hurry? Because we are already in "boating season"!
Over the next 6 weeks we did a lot of work:

  • restored the gelcoat
  • replaced windows and gaskets
  • reconditioned nav lights
  • rewired, added a proper electrical system
  • installed VHF radio and masthead antenna
  • installed GPS mount and wiring
  • deep cycle battery
  • new cushions (almost cost as much as the boat!)
  • rebedded deck hardware
  • new outboard pad
  • remove keel and replace guides (BIG job - had to lift the boat)
  • refurbished keel winch
  • repaired genoa
  • refinished all teak - hate louvers!
  • repaired bullet hole!
  • repaired sink/cooler drain
  • replaced bug screens
  • and LOTS of cleanup - amazing what this thing holds (held?)!

It floats!


As if there was any question...

We ended up taking her to Bluebill Marina, on lake Erie. A friend of ours pointed out that Lake Erie is the closest water and the Long Point area has more to offer than many of the other areas we considered.

The mast went up easily and she launched with a bit of assistance from one of the other boaters. Only problem we had was an engine that died as soon as it was in gear. The wind and some assistance from another boater got her over to the gas dock and tied up for the night (it was after 6pm by this time). Spent our first night on board and didn't take on any water. Actually, the bilge o this boat has yet to see even a drop of water.

After fixing the motor (clogged primer bulb), we took her out for the first time. Very little wind, but just what these rusty sailors needed. Like all the other Matilda owners we have read about - we love how stable this little craft is. That 300 pounds of lead way down there and the wide beam give her an unbelievably solid feel. The large cabin is also a definite plus when sailing with two munchkins. My only complaint is the head. Yes, it's great to have it's own "room" - but it's designed for a dwarf! Then again, I have been called "Dopey" on occasion...



First night on the water!

Designed by the crew of Teliki