GYPSEA COMES ALIVE!
BY Curtis Garrett
Here is my story of the derelict Bullseye I’ve recently named Gypsea. I first saw her lying on the ground in a boatyard in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. It was August of 1984 and I was still attending College at Soutwest Texas State University and had come back to the Detroit area where I grew up to visit my grandparents and old friends. I was driving the Lake St. Clair waterfront with a buddy from Detroit. We were stopping at all the boatyards on the “Nautical Mile”, looking for older classic boats, very few in number in the Texas Hill Country around Canyon Lake, north of San Antonio.
After going sailing again in Galveston, Texas, I was getting the bug to find a small, nice looking, full-keel sailboat to fix up. I had first seen a wooden Herreshoff Buzzards Bay Boys Boat up in the covered exhibit in Mystic, CT a year earlier and instantly fell in love with her. What a nice little sea kindly sailboat I thought to myself. I wondered if I could carry her out of there while nobody was looking!
Gypsea had been lying on the ground in a state of disrepair for many years when I first found her in ’84. There was just a hull, no mast, boom, sails, rudder or tiller, but I saw the fine line of a great little boat even then. (At the time I did not know about Cape Code Shipbuilding’s fiberglass version of the Herreshoff Fishers Island Sound Bullseye.) The little derelict Bullseye had a yellow mopped on paint job on the deck, and all her hardware and comings had really ugly thick layers of old paint under that. Craftsmanship was not a consideration for the hacks who applied this mop job. Really pathetic work!
Before moving to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, last December, I sold all of my boats and one 1966 GT Convertible Mustang I had been restoring. (Remember, I grew up in the Motor City, Detroit.) So, here I was sitting on the Emerald Coast of Florida in the most pristine aqua waters and sugar white sandy beaches and NO SAILBOAT! I started thinking about what kind I wanted to own again.
There was one 1978 Bullseye down in Texas that had been sitting on a trailer for over 10 years that this widow’s husband had bought at an auction for around $700! I contacted her to see if she was ready to sell. I had approached her a few years earlier but never heard back. I learned this time that she had sold the boat to a harbor master named Tony who has done nothing but make excuses for not selling the boat to a new owner like me. Ole TAT Tony tells me “well ya know everything is for sale for the right price!” Bottom line, the boat is still sitting on a trailer and will only get back into the water if he sells the boat to a more motivated new owner.
So I started to look for another Bullseye from a more reasonable owner who will actually sell his boat at a fair price. I found the Bullseye web site in January of this year and started looking at the boats for sale. Pinged web master Phil Notting for some leads in the Southeast, preferably in Florida since there were 2 active fleets in Miami and Key Largo. There was a boat for sale in Daytona Beach that I planned to check out on a trip to Orlando in June of this year. I picked up up a college buddy of mine from Orlando and the next day we went to see the 1953 Bullseye on a trailer at Halifax Marine Service on the ICW in Daytona. On my way back I e-mailed the owner an offer. The boat needed a complete restoration but was all there. The owner did not get back to me until I was sitting in a lounge chair in my Grandma’s driveway in Taylor, Michigan, looking at the little derelict bullseye I had just dragged out of the boatyard for FREE. I’m not in the Bullseye market anymore! I have Gypsea!
I had remembered that bad-yellow-paint-job Bullseye before I went back to Michigan to visit, and I thought I would see if I could find her again or even the yard where she was lying. After driving into several boat yards I pulled into a marina and immediately recognized the old farm house in the center of the yard. This was the place I saw the yellow-decked Bullseye in 1984, but when I looked to the left of the farmhouse where the boat had been, she was gone! So I went walking around the outer fringes of the yard to see if she had been moved and, lo and behold, against the back northern fence was a full-keeled little yellow Bullseye all covered in weed and overgrowth. She was in the same bad shape as 18 years earlier with the exception of a backhoe arm lying in her cockpit that had fallen on her and crushed the front edge of the aft poop deck and the port side mahogany coming.
After looking her over, I went to find someone in the yard office to talk to. I found Nick, one of the brothers who owned the yard. I told him I was interested in the little boat back in the weeks. He said he had no paperwork and knew none of her history, but if I came up with a trailer he would load it if I would haul her away. My timing was perfect! The City of St. Claire Shore had cited him and wanted the yard to get rid of a whole row of old derelict wooden and fiberglass boats due to complaints from the condo owners to the north of the yard. Ole Nick told me he hated to have to break that little sailboat up and had been dragging his feet on mashing her with the dozer! Lucky for me and Gypsea!
Next I had to come up with a trailer. So I went driving north on Jefferson looking for a trailer on the side of the road for sale. Came across one fenced-in junky looking place with several trailers in front. One had a camper shell for a pickup on it with a For Sale sign. I pulled off the road, rolled down the window, and asked the two old codgers who were messing around with a motor what was for sale, the camper top or the trailer? One of them yelled back to me. “come on in...it’s all for sale!” So I got out to see if I could make the trailer work. The tires were in very good condition but I could tell the bearings were worn and needed to be replaced to make a trip from Michigan to Florida. I told the old man some of the things I would have to do: bearings/braces, complete light kit, etc. How much are ya asking for it I asked? He said how about $100. I opened my wallet and pulled out five twenty dollar bills and we were done. Hooked it up to my truck and waved buy to the old codgers.
I had to have the uprights for the screw pads made. Went to a muffler shop down the street from where Gypsea was lying and Manger Kevin agreed to made them for $50 apiece. I showed him some pictures of the Daytona Bullseye on its trailer and what I was trying to accomplish. He asked me where the junked-out sailboat was and after I told him he laughed and told me not to tell the brothers that he was going to help me, at least not until Gypsea was loaded and I was driving away. I never said a word. The one brother, Kelvin, was much nicer to talk to and actually drove the forklift to pick Gypsea off the ground. After she was on the trailer and I had cut down the uprights for the screw pads, I told them a little bit about the boat, and that it was a CCSB Bullseye, a class still being made in Wareham, MS. Kelvin knew nothing about little Gypsea and never remembered seeing a rudder, mast or boom. They didn’t even know who last owned it or how it ended up in their yard all those years. It had been lying around there since the late 1960’s, if ya can imagine that!
I towed her out of Taylor, Michigan where I had her sitting in my grandma’s driveway for a week down to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida in a day and a half, a drive of about 1,100 miles with no problems. Around the 6th of September, I picked her up from a guy in Crestview, Florida who had sandblasted Gypsea inside and out for $300. Today she is in a storage shed in Milton, Florida where I’m whittling away at her complete restoration, much sanding and faring of the hull sides and below the water line. After the old paint was removed via sandblasting all the spider cracks in the gel coat were revealed. I decided to fill the entire hull with Interflux Watertite 2-part epoxy faring and surfacing compound since the original gel coat was still very firmly attached.
I am currently sanding and filling all holes in the deck. Then I will roll on several coats of Interprotect Epoxy Barrier Coat primer. I had to jack up the aft deck crushed by the backhoe so I could WEST Epoxy in the broken piece I had saved. I removed a really bad fiberglass patch job over a long hole in the forward air tank that I believe was caused by water in the bilge (lots of it) that froze solid while the boat was on the ground on her side.
I have made a new rudder of 1” marine plywood wetted out in WEST pigments white. I will then cover the entire rudder with glass cloth and wet out with WEST again. A new tiller has been cut out of a 4” by 4” by 5’ piece of white ash. The original tiller was 48” long. I made my tiller 54” to slightly extend it. I will be doing some glass backup work with mat on the rear bulkhead where the backhoe arm landed and the underside where the main sheet cam cleat will mount.
There is much more work to do, as always is the case on any boat restoration. I was generously donated a slightly used set of sails from Judy Kilroy of the Beverly Yacht Club. I would like to buy a used, restorable Bullseye mast and need to make a Sitka spruce boom, teak toe rails and cockpit comings. Then it will be time for the final finish paint on hull, deck, topsides, and interior. Eventually it will all end and you are sailing in a great little boat that has not been in the water for over 35 years. The first fresh gust of wind hits you and the once little derelict Bullseye remembers from some past time that she was built for this and digs in on a nice heel with a fine bone in her teeth once again.
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