My Dreamboat: 1979 Sidewinder flats skiff restoration
I’ve owned and run my 78/79 Sidewinder skiff since ’97. Many folks familiar with Islamorada flats history probably know the boat. She was owned by Carl Navaree (past Cheeca Lodge owner) and fished by many well known Capts during her tenure, Capt.George Hommel being the most common, I’ve been told.
The boats name was/is “Backlash”. Have been told conflicting stories on who built the cap/deck. Always thought it was Chris Morejohn as I was told when I bought her, but recently learned about a guy up in Homestead by the name of Chris Kreel, who did the majority of the truckload of Sidewinders that were ordered an shipped to Islamorada in '79.
When I bought her, she was pretty simplistic. Transom mount poling platform, with a carpeted top & the two old school trolling motor mounts on it. No running lights, or any lights for that matter. Two Capt chairs in the cockpit, and the sweet little side console. A very poorly plumbed square baitwell that barely kept shrimp alive. On the port gunnel, there are three pop up/ folding push pole holders, which are conncted below the gunnel like a Maverick HPX. On her *** sat a 1992 Evinrude Intruder 150.
I’m no guide, more of an “enthusiest”… per se. So, I spent the first year or two getting to know the boats abilities, drawbacks, limitations, and idiosyncracies. Feel in love with the ride of the hull immediately. The speed, handling, and stability were incredible as well. On my hull, the space between the outermost lifting strake, and the chine had been filled then glassed over- similar to what Dolphin had done to their take of the hull with their Backcountry 18. Apparently, this did make the hull a bit more quiet to pole than the exposed reverse chine, but had the nasty attribute of making her awfully wet.
So to compensate for the wet ride, the previous owner then had large spray rails mounted on the chine, for about three quaters of the hulls length… and of course, these brought the poling noise back. So yeah, she's slap happy in most situations but downwind.
Over the first few years, I removed the two Capt’s chairs from the cockpit to free up some room. I also added a casting platform to the bow, and made new solid teak tops for both the poling, and casting platforms. Added an anchor light below the aft platform, and slapped in an Accon pop up on the bow. Then I proceeded to use and abuse her for the next 12 years. Used for everything from poling Flamingo's flats, bones, tarpon & permit on fly, nightime snooking in the Upper Keys creeks, freediving the reef for hogs and lobster, and even a little "close to the reef" offshore action. It's really great for family camping trips in Biscayne Bay (cannot believe how much gear you can get below those hatches) and for taking friends and family out for sandbar bbqs, etc.
In late 2010 the boat was really starting to show its age, and about 6 years prior, the below deck fuel tank began to leak- I had been using a red Tempo 18gl, stuffed into the bow compartment… which gave me very, very limited range with that OMC 150 2-stroke.
I decided that it was time to cut up the deck to address the tank, do some other minor rebuild stuff, and then repaint her… Little did I know.
Here she is right before goin’ up on blocks..
I put her on blocks, removed the rubrail, began to sand the hullsides, and strip sand the ablative antifoul off the bottom
I took a circular saw with a blade for composites, and cut up the whole perimeter of the klegecell cockpit sole, to access the bad tank. I had to rig up a redneck style contraption by attaching a winch to the platform leg, loop the strap around the tank, and yank that big ol’ beast outta that tiny little space.
Upon sanding the coaming just above the rubrail, I came on several areas that were not true and fair. With further sanding, it became apparent they were little voids and delaminated areas which must have resulted from fitting the one-off cap to the hull, and the glasswork involved. Got rid of the loose glass, scarfed the openings, laid new glass, applied fairing compound, sanded and applied epoxy primer.
Finally got the hullsides and bottom all prepped and ready. Shot one coat of penetrating epoxy pre-primer below the chines. Then shot three coats of epoxy primer on the hullsides and bottom
Sanded below the chines down to 220. Then shot 2 coats of Interlux VC Performance epoxy for a finish coat on the bottom- great product btw. Shot three coats of 2 part aliphatic urethane in a close match to Awlgrip Seafoam on the hullsides. Then got her back on the trailer, with only one scratch in the new paint.
Somewhere in the prep of the hull, I discovered that the transom was soft in areas, so that didn’t get paint, and is next on the list. Stay tuned…