Powerboats

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Topic: Chris*Craft 251 Catalina (’73-’86)
Jennscout1
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Posted: 31 May 2005 at 11:00am | IP Logged
I just bought a 1981 Catalina 251 in January and am having one heck of a time trying to figure everything out as it came with no manuals.  Does anyone know where I can get the owner's manual?  I have looked all over the web and found nothing.
PascalG
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Posted: 31 May 2005 at 11:29am | IP Logged
these are beautiful distinctive boats...i saw one on saturday, an 1983, fully restored, new paint outside, interior totally redone.  Had a hardtop with canvas extension aft of the hardtop which gave the boat georgeous classic lines...

talked to the owner, he put a lot of effort in it but it was worth the result. distinctive, classic... real standout amoung the typical modern cruisers.
Pascal
Miami, FL
1970 Hatteras 53MY
Hobie 16
12' Westphal Catboat

Live Cel. helmcam at http://www.sandbarhopper.com
CC-John
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Posted: 01 June 2005 at 11:08pm | IP Logged

Howdy Jennscout!!!

What do 'ya need to know???? These are pretty simple boats. I have the original owner's manual for mine, you're not missing much! There isn't any model specific information, just a lot of generic information, ie: safety, converting dinette to bed, maintenance log, anything breaks take it to your Authorized Chris Craft Dealer; yada...yada...yada...ad nauseum

As far as the engine goes, if your 251 has the Chris Craft (Marine Power) 305K, I have the engine and parts manual from my old engine that I could copy for you. I also have copies of Paragon & Velvet Drive transmission service manuals. If you have the Mercruiser inboard, just pick up a Clymer service manual for that vintage Mercruiser sterndrive. The I/O and inboard engines are the same. Maybe someone who has an original Merc. inboard owner's manual will chime in

Later....

 

Golfman25
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Posted: 05 June 2005 at 12:02pm | IP Logged

Interesting thread.  I have a 1980 281 with twin 305s.  Had about 4 years.  Here she is:

CC-John
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Posted: 07 June 2005 at 12:33am | IP Logged

Golfman,

Quite a looker you got there!! Sure is a shame no one builds boats like these anymore.

BTW, did you ever get your thermostat replaced???

Golfman25
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Posted: 07 June 2005 at 10:17pm | IP Logged

Sorry about the large pic.  Yea, she's nice.  Everyone wants to check her out at the marina.  I've put a fair amount of work into her to get her updated and just right.  Looking to add power outlet, cable for TV, and possibly new h20 heater. 

Haven't dealt with the thermostat yet.  Not 100% sure it is the problem.  Just wanted to drop a new one in.  Looks like I'll need to pull the old one and start shopping around.  Never thought that a t-stat would be the tough part to find.   

Jennscout1
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Posted: 08 June 2005 at 10:06am | IP Logged

Hi John,

I have a stern drive, your info. is very helpful, thank you, I will be back for more questions, one I have now is how do you convert the dinette to a bed, I haven't attempted to try it yet.  Also I just ordered a manual for the 305K. 

Jennscout1
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Posted: 08 June 2005 at 7:48pm | IP Logged

Golfman and John,

According to the Engine Manual operating temp should be 150 to 170F or 155 to 175.  I just replaced mine and got a 160F t-stat for a small chevy, which is available at any parts store.

 

CC-John
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Posted: 08 June 2005 at 9:59pm | IP Logged

Jennscout,

Sterndrive??????? You wouldn't by chance have a 254 Mid Cabin would you???

The 254 looks exactly like the 251 in profile, but has a mid cabin where the 251's engine is and has sterndrive power. The 254 also has a split level deck in the cockpit to accomodate the mid cabin.

If you have a sterndrive with a Chris Craft 305K engine, you have the Volvo 280 drive. That combo was common with early Chris Craft sterndrive powered boats. Otherwise you have a Mercruiser with either the 198 or 220 H.P. 305 Chevy engine with either a 2 or 4 bbl. carburetor respectively.

As far as converting the dinette goes, on my 251 you fold the leg up under the table, lift the end of the table as high as it will go to disengage the retainer channel at the side of the cabin. Once the table is free, lay the table on the wooden cleats that are just below the seat cushions in the footwell. Once the table is in place, remove the seat backrests from their locations and place them on the table to create the berth. Clear as mud????

Hope this helps...

Edited by CC-John on 08 June 2005 at 11:45pm
CC-John
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Posted: 09 June 2005 at 12:05am | IP Logged

Golfman,

Just pick up a 140 deg. thermostat for any 305 Chevy application from Mercruiser or Indmar. It will drop right in the CC thermostat housing, get some gasket material to cut a new gasket for the cap that covers the thermostat.

Had to do it on my old 305CC in my 251. I finally got fed up with all that hard to find and expensive CC stuff. I bought a running PCM 350 takeout from a friend, and built it up into the fire breathing 383 cu. in. beast that's in there now. Her performance really surprises the hell out of a couple of 25' Sea Ray owners at the marina I keep her in.

Best move I ever made!!

Edited by CC-John on 07 May 2012 at 3:01pm
jr_cape_cod
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Hi All,
I just bought a 1978 hardtop-- found an add in the local paper picked up my 6 year old from her last day of school, when to see the boat "just for fun", ran the engine for 2 minutes and bought it.  The engine, Chevy 350 , has 90 hours since rebuild, the hull looks clean and the rest is kind of rough but seems to be pretty much all there. My plan is to bring the boat to my mechanic and have him go over the engine, do some serious cleaning and then throw it in the ocean for the season and hope something major does not break. If it is a keeper, I will start making it nice-- a lifetime project, no doubt.  I am really thrilled about this boat and equally thrilled to have found a fabulous resource in this forum.  I will post pictures if there is an interest.
Thanks to all.
Bill Miller
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Hi jr_cape_cod,
Welcome! A 251, with a hard top, lucky you! You will have loads of fun doing maintenance and improvements.
Jenscout, any chance of posting a picture of your 254?
Yesterday I completed a hot and cold water shower for the cockpit. Lots of leaks, lots of blood from the fiberglas snagging my hands, but it works. My boat is Canadian made, and has removable sidepanel storage in the cockpit. This enabled me to drill and mount the shower mixer valve on the downslope where the hardtop brace would be fixed. The hose just reaches the transome.
Next project will be a rear seat that makes into a single bed. It has to have the centre piece removable so the engine hatch can be lifted straight up. Anyone else done a rear seat?
Bill in Sidney
CC-John
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Posted: 16 June 2005 at 8:17am | IP Logged

Bill,

I have copies of the factory engineering drawings for my 251, including the plans for the RPO rear lounge seat for both early and late models.

Looking at the plans, it appears that the rear seat was not permanently attached to the boat. The plans show a 1 1/4" X 2" teak cleat on each side of the cockpit that the seat base rests on. The seat base is nothing more than a piece of 3/4" plywood with a piece of 1 1/4" X 3" teak screwed to the bottom to stiffen.

The seat back attaches to the taffrail with vinyl straps that wrap around the rail and snap to the seat back. It has 2 vertical triangular supports(after 12/78) and a 1 1/4" x 3" teak horizontal support that are attached to the back, the bottom of the vertical supports rest on top of the seat base, while the upper part rests against the taffrail. The seat back is also made of 3/4" plywood.

Both the backrest and base are covered with 3" foam and upholstered in white marine vinyl.

Both drawings show the cleats for the seat base extended, so as to allow the backrest to be used to make a large sunpad.

E-mail me if you would like to get a copy of the seat drawings. I'll try to find a place to make copies of them, as they are large drawings(18"x 24").

Hope this helps...  

CC-John
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Posted: 16 June 2005 at 8:46am | IP Logged

jr_cape_cod,

Welcome aboard!!!

You wouldn't want to swap that hardtop for a complete sunbrella cockpit enclosure, would 'ya...

Ive been looking for a hardtop for mine for years, but every old derelict 251 I've found lurking in backyards & boatyards all have the soft top.

The 251s make excellent "project" boats, I've acquired a better education in painting, fiberglass repair, & marine mechanical & electrical than I could ever afford to pay for in a trade school.

One other thing, the styling on these boats guarantees you WILL stand out from all the "bloated bleach bottle" styling that runs rampant in most small cruisers now. The styling on the 251s looks as good today as it did over 30 years ago.

It's a shame Chris Craft never credited their designers of the 251, they really had their finger on the pulse of the boat buying public back then.

Sorry about being such a long-winded S.O.B.!!! You can't tell that I really love the 251, 280, 281, & 291 Catalinas(sorry, Jennscout, I'm a die-hard inboarder), do 'ya

jr_cape_cod
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Posted: 16 June 2005 at 5:38pm | IP Logged
I have hull no. CCH08733M78L.



CC-John
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 12:31am | IP Logged

jr_cape_cod,

It seems our 251s are litter mates, my hull# is CCHO8579M78A

Built at the Holland,MI plant in July of 1977.

jr_cape_cod
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CC-John,
I would like to decode the hull ID.
CC is obvious, H must mean Holland, I am pretty sure the next one is a digit zero (not a letter O), and I am guessing  08579 is the  production number  (probably they sequenced all CC boats in order, not just the 251's ? because the difference between yours and mine is a big number so mine must have been built later) M must be Michigan, 78 is the model year, and I have no idea what the last letter means. BTY, my engine is a rebuilt GM 305k (not the 350 as I said earlier, I was mixing it up with another boat). I litterally just bought it and have not moved it from the sellers yard yet-- he had two boats and the wife wanted this one out of there. Two of my friends have already told me I made a mistake acting impulsively (no sea trial)-- but I don't think so, I love the boat. Let's see if I feel the same way when it's on the water. I boat in probably the roughtest area in all of New England (maybe even the whole East Coast), 5 knot current and nasty chop (4-8 feet) is common.
CC-John
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 8:45am | IP Logged

jr,

Chris Craft placed two different hull numbers on their boats. The HIN located on the transom is used for registration purposes, the actual hull number is on an engraved brass plate located on the engine hatch. The hull number is also located on top of the starboard engine stringer between the engine mounts.

The 251s were known as the MXA-25 hull series. From 1973 to 1977 all hulls were consecutively numbered, starting with MXA-25-001 in 1973 and ending with MXA-25-1558 in 1977. After 1977 the hull numbering system changed, the first digit of the hull number reflects the model year.

For example, my hull number: MXA-25 8579-H.

MXA-25 = Hull series

8579 = 1978 model year, hull number 579

H = Assembly plant; H= Holland, MI; T= Chattanooga, TN

As far as the HIN on the transom goes, the last letter corresponds with the month of production. Chris Craft's model years were similar to the auto mfg. in that their model year production began in July.

Based on the number of 251s I have looked at and have compared hull numbers on over the years and from info. from the Mariners Museum,the following is the best guess for decoding the HIN on 251s.

Codes are as follows for CCHO8579M78A:

CC= Chris Craft

H= Assembly plant; H= Holland, MI; T= Chattanooga, TN

O= Check Digit

8579= Consecutive hull number

M= Engine code (305K 225 H.P.)?? (I have seen this code on hulls built in TN too)

78= Model year

A= Month of production; A=July 1977; L= June 1978

Hope some of this helps...

 

Jennscout1
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 10:24am | IP Logged

Hi All,

I have a 251, not a 254, I will take a digital picture a.s.a.p and post it. 

John your scaring me, I have a 251 and I keep being told I have a stern drive??? Unless all these people are wrong?

It's a 1981 251 Catalina Express, cabin cruiser.

Jennscout1
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 10:26am | IP Logged

Hi All again,

I just looked up my hull # CCHDA240M81F

Do whats the DA stand for?

 

jr_cape_cod
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 11:54am | IP Logged
CC-John,
Thanks! So you got one of the first boats of the 78 model
(# 579) and I got one of the last (# 733). This also means
that they made at least 155 MDX-25 in that model year.
Sounds like a lot to me; they must be out there somewhere because they do not die easily.

Jennscout,
Following the logic of CC-John, the A stands for 1980, so your boat was manufactured in Dec. 1980. I don't know what the D means?

jr_cape_cod
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 11:56am | IP Logged
jennscout,
Are you sure the D is not a 0 ?
CC-John
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Hey gang,

Jennscout, The easy way to figure out what you have is by engine location. A sterndrive powered boat has the engine sitting at the very rear of the boat with an outdrive hanging off of the transom, while the inboard powered 251s have the engine located in the center of the boat with the propeller shaft going thru the bottom of the boat. BTW, the 254 Catalina Mid Cabin was Chris Craft's answer to Sea Ray's Sundancer until the Amerosport line came out in the early 80's.

jr,

My decoding is accurate for all 1973 to 1979 models, after Dale Murray(of lawnmower fame) purchased Chris Craft from NAFI in 1980, some of the coding changed.

As far as total production goes, the best guess estimate from people in the know, of total hulls produced from 1973 to 1986 when production ended, is somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 hulls.

This number does not include the nearly 500 hulls for the twin inboard 25' Tournament Fisherman('74-'77)/25' Catalina Sportsman('78-'79). These are the same hull as the 251 Express with a different top and twin 130H.P. 4cyl. gas inboards(GM 3.0L).

Hope this helps...

 

Jennscout1
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 1:33pm | IP Logged

I'm looking at the title and it is a D????  I will look at the hull when I go out this weekend and see what it reads. 

The engine is located in the middle of the boat, with the propeller shaft going through the bottom.  So what is it?????? 

 

Carolina-boat
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Hey Guys-  My boat has just arrived from the hauler.  He says it needs a lot of TLC.  The last time I saw the boat it looked great.  I think that I have a renovation on hand.  I am looking for ideas on where to start and different things that have been installed in boats.  By the way my number CCHDA424M82I-251.   At least the motor is new.  Carolina.  
HwdFloater
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 3:06pm | IP Logged

Jennscout1 wrote:
I just bought a 1981 Catalina 251 in January and am having one heck of a time trying to figure everything out as it came with no manuals.  Does anyone know where I can get the owner's manual?  I have looked all over the web and found nothing.  

Hi all, first post here.

Been looking for manuals myself. We've just acquired an '86 Catalina 28' with a flybridge and we're really enjoying it. There's a super sharp little CC at my marina (maybe 25'). Just happened to walk by it last week and was quite impressed. Such a great looking boat and definitely in top shape.

This is our first boat so everything is new to us but so far so good. I'll check the Clymer books, that seems to be pretty good advice. Thanks!

-Rob

jr_cape_cod
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 3:40pm | IP Logged
Does anyone know where to get the chrome Chris * Craft
emblems that are on the outside of the cabin?
CC-John
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 4:39pm | IP Logged

jr,

Nameplates & underwater hardware(struts, rudders) & replacement hardware are available at LPX Sales & Service in Bradenton, FL   http://www.chrisparts.com

Edited by CC-John on 17 June 2005 at 5:04pm
jr_cape_cod
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Dear All,
I hauled the boat to a neighbothood boatyard so I can start work on her. BTW, I filed for Coast Guard documentation as the simplified measurement gave 6 tons gross. My next question is about the prop. The comment was made to me
 the the prop was undersized. I was lucky that the previous owner saved all receipts and even had some from  an earlier
 owner.  I know that the prop was replaced in 1995 with a
13 inch.  Who knows  what size SHOULD be on this boat
(CC 251 with 225 hp 305 k)?
Many thanks,
jr

CC-John
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 4:51pm | IP Logged

HwdFloater,

I was wondering if any 291 Catalina owners would jump in this mess Welcome aboard!!!!

Your '86 should have Mercruiser inboards, just pick up a Clymer manual(B742) for that year Mercruiser sterndrive, the basic engine info., tune-up specs, and engine cooling system are the same as the inboards.

BTW, for future reference, the 28' Catalina models break down as follows:

280 = Single Engine

281 = Twin Engine

291 = Twin Engine w/ Flybridge

Hope this helps...

 

CC-John
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 5:00pm | IP Logged

Jennscout,

You most assuredly have an inboard sir!!!! Just be careful in shallow water, if you "sniff" the bottom it can get a little pricey.

One thing about the 251's is, with a right hand wheel you can back up in the prettiest left hand circles all day long!!! These boats are next to impossible to back up in a straight line unless you're backing into the wind, just something to think about when choosing a slip in a marina.

Later...

CC-John
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 5:10pm | IP Logged

jr,

The OEM propeller supplied with these boats is a Michigan Dyna Jet 13 x 10 RH Super Cup 3-Blade Nibral, shaft dia. is 1".

These boats won't handle much larger than a 13 1/2" diameter propeller.

Hope this helps...

 

Edited by CC-John on 17 June 2005 at 5:13pm
Jennscout1
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 8:37pm | IP Logged

Hi John,

Boy are you right about backing it up we have been having one heck of a time getting a hang on that!!!  Yes it does go the left.  The boat slip we have is not bad when the outside person is not there otherwise it's tricky.  Boat is doing well except we have discovered it will not go over 10 miles an hour guessing, we where along side friends of ours and not registering on there speedometer.  So we have gotten tons of reason's whyyyyy, plugs, wires, distributor, carborator, old gas, fuel filter, so far we have eliminated the gas, plugs and wires. 

Jennscout1
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HwdFloater,

http://www.marineengine.com/manuals/chriscraft/

This is where I got my manual, hope it helps.

 

CC-John
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 11:04pm | IP Logged

This is for Jennscout and all the other 251 newbies

251 HANDLING TIPS 101

The key to learning to handle your 251 is to learn to exploit it's handling quirks to YOUR advantage.

First: Practice....Practice....Practice... The 251 has a right hand propeller. This means that when you shift into reverse the stern WILL swing to PORT. I've never been on any 251 that would back to starboard. You can force them to back reasonably straight by using the back & fill method, where you turn the rudder slightly to PORT and using short bursts of forward gear while backing up, to "bump" the stern back into line.

Second: Always remember the rudder has little to no effect in reverse. You steer these boats in reverse by using short bursts of forward gear with the rudder turned to port to "bump" the stern back into line.

When approaching a face dock, always try to approach with the dock on your PORT side. Since the stern swings to port when you shift to reverse, use the side thrust to YOUR advantage to both stop the boat and to pull the stern toward the dock.

To back into a slip... I always approach with the end of my slip on the port side, when I am approx. one slip away, I begin a hard turn to starboard, shift to neutral. As the momentum completes the turn, I cut the wheel all the way to port, give a hard burst of reverse to stop the turn and begin backing into the slip. With practice you will be able to time the turn and the burst of reverse to stop right in front of your slip. Once aligned with the slip, begin the back and fill method described above.

Now for when you really want to show off.

These boats can be made to turn around in ALMOST their own length. This manouver comes in handy when in crowded marinas. Start by turning the wheel hard to starboard and leave it there. Just as the boat begins to turn, apply a short burst of reverse, this will accelerate the turn to starboard. Just before the boat begins to back-up, apply a short burst of forward gear, just enough to continue the turn without moving forward. Repeat as many times as necessary to turn the boat 180 degrees.

An excellent book to get is Getting Started in Powerboating by Bob Armstrong (ISBN 0-87742-267-2) published by International Marine. There is an excellent chapter on handling single screw inboards along with proper springline use to get you out of any situation.

Class Dismissed!!!! 

Edited by CC-John on 18 June 2005 at 8:37am
CC-John
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Posted: 17 June 2005 at 11:47pm | IP Logged

Jennscout,

10 M.P.H. huh!!!

One thing to check is the distributor shaft bushings, the Mallory dual point distributor Chris Craft installed in the 305K is known for the bushings getting sloppy. This causes the points to "bounce" which kills performance.

To check the bushings, remove the distributor and try to move the shaft side to side in the housing. If there is significant movement the bushings are shot. Time for a new distributor 

BTW, Mallory makes a USCG approved Unilite(magnetic pickup) electronic replacement distributor for these engines, part# YLM 585 CV. You can order it thru any automotive performance parts store that carries Mallory ignition products for a hell of a lot less than any marine supplier.

If the bushings are tight, remove the plate that the points are mounted on to check the centrifugal advance mechanism. There are two flyweights with springs that control the spark advance, it's not uncommon for them to be seized up. This will cause a BIG loss of power. Spray with WD-40 to loosen and lubricate.

Also, the only way to set the points on these distributors is with a dwell meter and a remote starter switch. IIRC, total dwell on 305K's is 28-32 degrees. To adjust the points you have to do one set at a time. Slip a thin piece of cardboard between one set, and adjust the other set while cranking over the engine to approx. 1/2 of the total dwell setting, repeat for the other set. These distributors are a pain to deal with, but when everything is right it'll make your engine sing!!!!

Good Luck... Hope this helps...

 

Edited by CC-John on 18 June 2005 at 8:28am
CC-John
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Posted: 18 June 2005 at 9:18am | IP Logged

This is a list of books that need to be in every 251 owner's library. These will come in handy for keeping these old classics alive.

Your Boat's Electrical System by Conrad Miller and E.S. Maloney

This book can be found HERE

Getting Started in Powerboating by Bob Armstrong

The Fiberglass Boat Repair Manual by Allan H. Vaitses

Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual by Nigel Calder

The above referenced books can be found HERE

These books were a tremendous help when I took on the major mechanical and electrical refits on my 251.

Later all....

Jennscout1
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Posted: 18 June 2005 at 6:23pm | IP Logged

John,

Thank you so much for all the great needed information, today we changed the distributor to an electronic ignition distributor.  Still having lack of power???  Next we are changing fuel filters.  We will just keep knocking away untill we find the problem.  Thanks.

 

 

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Posted: 18 June 2005 at 9:02pm | IP Logged

CC-John, 

I have a lot of work to do on my boat the mechanic is checking the motor so I am on the wood and cleaning the boat in the fall I am having the boat painted. 

 I have a few questions.....

  • In the galley the head liner material actually looks like installation I know it is just old....but is there a reason why the ply is this think??????  Does it have something to do with the sound or Temperature?  I want to get something new what would you suggest?  The ceiling looks like a throw back to the 60” and my old van interior.

  • The Captains and mates chair is sitting on a seat cabinet.  I can't tell if this original or something added later.  What do you think?

  • All this teak wood I have started to clean and sand off the old varnish.  Turns out that the teak is in very good condition.  I am using a teak oil but I am not sure that this enough should I varnish as well?

 

  • I found a ladder on the boat and yes it is teak as well, but I can not find a place where it might go.  Any ideas? It looks like it is part of the boat....

Yeah that is the swimming platform I can’t wait to get my sander to her.  Yes the boat is brown and beige.

 

Also I am looking for some ideas for canvas and a pattern……

I hope that these pictures make the site.

I will keep you all posted on the progress. 

 

 

 

 

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Posted: 18 June 2005 at 11:09pm | IP Logged

Jennscout-

 

 

What is the condition of the Bottom?  The bottom of my 251 was very rough to say the least, and was only able to cruise at 10 to 12 knots.  I had the bottom stripped of 20 years of paint and put a fresh coat of Petit "blade" paint. 

 

I picked up 3 - 4 knots, for a cruise speed of around 15 knots.

 

Just an idea...


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