The Ongoing Restoration of Little Gull II

Little Gull II (LG II), a 1929 Davis-Hand designed, Herreshoffbuilt, forty-two-foot express cruiser is currently undergoing a multi-year restoration at the yacht restoration shop MP&G in Mystic, CT.  Following the philosophies used for the refit of the 1914 Buzzards Bay 25 Mink, MP&G is applying those same approaches of forensic disassembly to uncover the actual “as-built” by saving and restoring original material wherever possible and reassembling the yacht with the traditional 1929 era techniques and materials.

LG II spent her first decade as a pampered sportfish, residing in a boathouse on Fishers Island with a professional crew seeing to her needs. Over the following decades, she saw modifications transforming her from a cruiser to a liveaboard followed by a  decline in maintenance until she ended up on the hard, for sale once again in Montauk.

Eventually, tucked in the corner of a handsome shop in Deep River, CT, Little Gull II awaited a full restoration.  The hull and loose parts were packed up and trailered to MP&G in the Fall of 2015.  Prior to moving the hull into the MP&G shop and initial disassembly began, the hull was laser scanned.. Loose gear was documented, removed, and stored in preparation for the forensic disassembly. 

As with the 1914 Buzzards Bay 25, Mink, disassembly meant using a screwdriver and small pry technique. Details and conditions were photographed and documented along with all parts labeled and stored for reference and restoration. 

The scanned data was used to develop a 3D model of the as-arrived hull shape.  In addition, using the original Davis-Hand offsets, an as-designed 3D model was also created.  Overlaying the two models revealed differences between the as-arrived hull shape and the original design shape. The as-designed model was also used to produce full-size mylar templates to construct hull molds for restoring the hull shape.

LG II was delivered with copies of drawings from MIT’s Francis Russell Hart Nautical Collection.  The design is disclosed in fourteen Davis-Hand drawings and four Herreshoff Manufacturing Company (HMCo) drawings, HMCo producing the interior arrangement and details, along with exhaust, shafting, and rudder details.  From Mystic Seaport files, reference materials specific to LG II were uncovered, and Herreshoff Marine Museum files and artifacts were accessed for additional details.  A review of the era’s local newspapers and periodicals has also helped confirm events and timelines.

The as-built design is documented by the careful disassembly and recording of the conditions found.  Differentiating later changes from original differences, this careful piece-by-piece removal allows discovery of as-built nuances, from hand-written notes on the back of trim pieces to shims and patches adjusting joint fits.  And like Mink, these original differences are documented and repeated in the reinstallation, leading to an original as-built condition, “warts and all.”

The restoration commenced both on and off-hull.  Off-hull, bulkheads, partitions, and joiner-work have been stripped, holes and blemishes repaired, the Hall-Scott engines were shipped to a restorer (even original Hall-Scott engine paint analyzed for replication), and original hardware refurbished.   On hull, the hull was reshaped using the molds, the original pine cabin top deck repaired and recanvassed, the underlaying cedar layer of the teak side decks restored, and the original coamings rehabilitated and reinstalled.

The hull arrived without gas tanks, the copper tanks having eroded to the point of weeping through the shell.  Photos of the tanks prior to removal, along with the construction drawing disclosure led to a project to build and certify riveted copper tanks.  From the construction drawing and other HMCo tank drawings, details were developed and a test tank has been built, to be tested to ABYC requirements.

The hundreds of pieces of teak staving have been preserved for installation around the cockpit, the cabin sides revived and erected, the restored bulkheads, partitions and joiner-work below reinstalled.  

A significant challenge for the MP&G shop crew has been to constantly ensure the space would fit the old parts meaning original pieces had to fit with no adjustments for fitting or trimming the original parts.  The hope is to install the rebuilt engines and new fuel tanks prior to closing in the cockpit, with a workaround path to completion should the schedules not coincide.

Amidst the sawdust, Jefferey’s Marine Glue, hide glue, and varnish, the vision of 1929 slowly comes into focus.

Little Gull II in the shop/ Curtesy of Bryan Burdick

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