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Sunstar Restoration Project – The Rebirth of a Star
“What we started with” & some very old pre-3208 “Twin Cats”
The Sunstar is a very heavy 34 x 13 ft Radon commercial diving vessel which was built in 1973. When we got her in for “restoration” she was still powered with the original Cat 3160 V-8’s (predecessor to the Cat 3208) and Mercury # 3 outdrives. Of course, when I say original, that was with lots of rebuilds and patches along the way. Only an estimate, but we think the “boat” had not less than 80,000 hours on it since new. And believe me, it showed. I don’t know if it was run that hard, but it sure was put away WET. This boat worked hard in the Southern Californian Sea Urchin Industry for the past 38 yrs and earned a good living for the owner who is now in his mid-60’s but is still as tough as nails. This quote from one of owner’s e-mails to me says it all as to performance – “I neglected to mention that I am doing 6-7 kts at 1100 rpm. I used to do 10 kts routinely when the engines were fresher. My outdrives are mismatched, one with 1.5:1 gears, one with 2:1 gears. One prop 20/17, one 19/21”.
But now, the time has come for the Sunstar to be restored to her past glory and with the help of some EPA money and a lot of work from the owners and us, what follows is how we restored this vessel to better than new by drawing on our past experience in this type of work.
The journey from nothing to something
Initial cutting of the deck
Getting things ready…
Then came the SAWSZALL with about 2 dozen 12” course blades, and not construction, but “DE-CONSTRUCTION.” The rear decks were cut and removed, along with all of the under deck compartment & walls, and the old leaking fuel tanks down to a bare hull. Then we sandblasted the interior to expose some clean fiberglass or whatever we could that looked solid enough to bond to. Took a solid 3 weeks to “gut” this boat down to a “workable structure”.
New stringers and forward engine room bulkhead
Moving forward, finally the first NEW PARTS this boat has seen for well over 30 yrs – Bulkhead template
More from under the deck
V-drive mounts – This is what pushes the boat.
Pictures above show the general way we made new integral tanks for the boat. Using construction techniques we developed back in 1982, and combining them with the new super fuel resistant resins & coatings, along with 30 years of past “experience,” we prefer this type of diesel tank construction for most of the projects we do.
Microlam rear deck supports running from the transom to the front engine room bulkhead, and the first coating of gel coat in the engine room.
Fuel tank construction
A new bow too…
And the fun begins – “The mechanics of movement”
For those who have never built or re-constructed a boat using fiberglass, the best part of the overall project, or when the Champagne bottle should be served, is not on launch day. It’s really when you can throw away the grinders and close up the fiberglass & resin shed, as now you can go home after a day’s work without itching all night!
My real passion for boats and what we do best is what follows…
A remote mounted ZF325IV was what we choose for this project. Rated to over 600HP and could easily be coupled to a QSM 11, going “overkill” in an application like this always pays long term dividends. Also, re-engineering and v-drive specifically design to be “close-coupled” always presents a challenge to me but it’s something that keeps my 65 year old mind functioning.
The pictures above show a very simple or basic layout of the Cummins QSL9 engine, exhaust, and support equipment to allow this boat to do what it must. Big engine room with an “up & over” out of the way exhaust that exits under water. Remote coolant x-tank, hydraulic reservoir, 30 gallon air tank tucked under the port rear deck. All easily accessible so you won’t end up with bloody knuckles when doing simple maintenance.
Shaft seal is re- machined by us from a Buck Algonquin casting/part. We install a grease fitting that lubes it in the center of the pure Teflon packing we use, assemble them on the lathe and run them in at 1800 rpm. We use as long of a soft multi-plied marine exhaust type hose as practical, to allow the packing to more easily “follow the shaft”. Plus, we never use “T” bolt clamps – that is another story that goes against the grain with most, but something that I believe in for multiple reasons based on 30+ yrs of dealing with shaft seals & logs of all types. When sea trial day comes, putting together a packing like this is just one less thing I have to deal with.
His “dive-air compressor” hydraulically run driven at about 700 shaft RPM putting out 120-150 PSI and about 20 CFM.
Very custom bow roller modifications needed to clear to “new bow”. We added in a 1/4” SS “bash plate” just in case.
We built him a custom davit from 3.5” and 4.5” OD heavy walled 6061 aluminum. Used solid bar up the center and 3/4” x 3” legs to the cap rail. A pre-tensioned stainless steel bar at the top. We tested it with 500 Lbs and then jumped up and down on it while swinging it around. Worked really good. It was a fun project for me.
Sea Trial Day
Performance has been way better than they hoped for. The vessel cruises “light” (about 23,000 lbs) at close to 12K’s getting about 1.5 Mpg. When Sunstar is heavy (about 28,000-30,000+ lbs) with a load of Sea Cucumbers or Sea Urchins, 6 K’s was norm burning about 7 gph per hour between the 2 old Cats. With the QSL9 and one big prop, she comes home loaded to the max at 9 Kts burning under 8 GPH. Not that this means anything, but when we seatrialed Sunstar with a full tanks and a lot on misc stuff, she hit 18K’s with the engine against the governor at 2160 RPM / 90% load. As of this writing, Sunstar has accumulated about 1000 hours and has not had one glitch. Terry and his long term partner, Gary, finally have a boat that is tougher than they are and now just watch the weather instead of spending time working on the boat.
Now you ask, why the orange top?
It’s the Sun Star’s trade mark that goes back over 30 years. Terry wants to be sure that his buddies know who it is him, when they see the boat traveling about 2.5 times faster that it used to!
This is what all this was for – Big bags of Sea Urchins hand picked in 40-100 ft of water.