I have a 1978 Ray Craft 15ft fiberglass bass boat that I've been restoring over the last couple years. I've gotten it to a point where it's great mechanically - now I can start thinking about usability. Being over 40 years old the design and layout of the top cap/interior aren't up to today's standards and leaves much to be desired. Here are my complaints with it:
1) small casting decks
2) lack of enclosed storage
3) poor layout resulting in improper weight distribution
First, not only are the casting decks small, the hatches aren't flush and pose a tripping hazard. Second, the lack of enclosed storage is abysmal (it has a large open floor - large enough for an adult to lay down and not touch the bow or stern decks). And third, arguably the most important, is the weight distribution. The live well is directly behind the driver parallel with the starboard gunwale and the passenger seat is 2-3ft toward the stern from the driver (see photo below for reference).
I have a decent idea of what I want to do but don't know the best way to go about doing it. Here's what I'd like to do:
- Raise front casting deck, extend rearward to edge of console, make new flush hatches, relocate batteries to the bow
- Bring passenger seat in line with driver seat and add 3rd seat in middle
- Reconfigure live well to either be centered between the gunwales or on the port side (to offset the weight of the driver)
- Raise and extend rear casting deck to facilitate flush hatches, more storage, and better weight distribution
Here's where I need the help of the wonderful folk on TFF - how to accomplish the above wish list while retaining, or improving, the structural integrity of the boat. I'm a clean-slate kinda guy - meaning I'd love to just cut out the front/rear decks and build all new from scratch, but don't have experience with modifying fiberglass boats and don't want to proceed without some insight from the wiser. Below are some of the questions I have:
- Marine-grade plywood would be the material of choice to construct the new decks/storage compartments, correct? What thickness of plywood would be best for a smaller bass boat that can't handle a ton of extra weight?
- How should the plywood be attached to the boat gunwales/sides/floor (screwed to it via brackets then epoxied/glassed over)?
- Should the new plywood decks be fully glassed over or will epoxy-based paint by itself suffice?
- What precautions must one take when removing such a large portion of the boat's top cap?
- Are there any maintenance items or checks that can be done when the original material is removed that otherwise would be difficult or impossible to do?
I appreciate all input and advice anyone is willing to give. I know this is a lot of work for a cheap older boat but I've already put a lot of work into it making it run and function great, and it's the only boat I have (and can't afford a newer one at the moment).