Category Archives: Zara (Paul Sollito)


September, 2015

The boat was extensively refitted and restored from late October 2011 through the end of August 2013. “Zara” is her original name and I remember sailing against her in 1968 in Greenwich Bay when she was owned by Dr. Edward Gould. At the time, I was sailing my brand new Sea Sprite “cruiser” (we didn’t call them “Weekenders” back then), hull No. 279, “Sollittude”. If you look closely at the picture below, you can still see “Zara”on the transom.

A summary of the transformation:

It all started when I met Dave McGhie while racing on a boat of a mutual friend. He recognized my name from the Nancy Belle Trophy; we talked about Sea Sprites. The following week we raced together again and he told me that he had a Sea Sprite that he would give me if I promised to fix her up. I hesitated at first, but after a few weeks I took the bait.

This is how I found her:

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The first step was building a trailer. I purchased a new single axle LoadRite 4300# capacity trailer. I next bolted a 2 1/2” thick x 12” wide oak plank down the middle and then had a friend weld steel plates to Brownell jacks stands which were secured to the trailer frame with bolts and U bolts. The stands are removable.

I brought the boat home late in October, 2011. I immediately removed everything that could be unscrewed: all fittings, stemhead, cleats, blocks, combings, ports, companionway trim (what was left of it), winches and tracks. I cut holes in the aft deck in order to reach bolts for the mainsheet and spinnaker sheet blocks as well as the stern cleat and chock. It felt good to get rid of all that ugly red painted wood and the fishing rod holder.


I then stripped the bottom and waterline of many years of paint. I next removed the head through hull fittings. I was able to unscrew the valves quite easily with the help of a 3 foot pipe added to the end of my pipe wrench, but the thru hull fittings were another story. I tried to unscrew them, but I could not get a good purchase with any type of wrench. That is when a friend suggested that I use my angle grinder with a cutting disk. The solution was to cut the retaining ring in half, cutting vertically through the pipe and then the ring. Once that was done the ring fell away and I was able to easily hammer the fitting out. I would later fill in the holes, flaring them from the inside with a 12:1 bevel, then applying 8 layers of glass, each layer a little larger in diameter than the one before it.

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After that, with winter approaching, I needed some inside (the garage) projects:

I fabricated brackets out of heavy duty aluminum angle iron for the four cam cleats that would be located behind the combings for the traveler control lines and spinnaker sheets. I cleaned and painted the port frames, then replaced and reglazed the plexiglass.
I next fashioned a tiller out of teak; there was no tiller when I got the boat, just the bronze fitting and the bolts. I laminated two pieces, which I knew would be strong enough, given the boat’s light weather helm. After that I laminated more teak and crafted two winch pods.

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By then ski season had begun and the boat was covered. I was so happy with the way the tiller came out that I kept it in my study all winter to keep me focused on the project. During that winter I designed running rigging, searched for parts and lumber in my inventory, searched for parts in consignment shops, purchased other parts, purchased all fastings, purchased all ropes and ordered new sails.
The sails:
Jib: Doyle 150% roller furling Dacron.
Jib: Doyle 135% Diax 2-70 cloth.
Jib: Doyle 99% Diax 2-70 cloth.
Mainsail: Doyle 6.46 Oz. Dacron, top two battens full, max girth.
Spinnaker: used J22 spinnaker

I usually ski at least three days a week from early November to early May. As it turned out, there was very little spring skiing in 2012, so I was able to get back to the project in the middle of March.

I started by sanding the inside of the cabin down to bare fiberglass using an angle grinder. That is when my 3M full face air filter/mask really earned its keep. Most of the time it was like being in blizzard. It was a good job to get out of the way early on. I applied one coat of primer and two coats of gloss white, water base paint.

I then began to strip paint from the bulkheads and bunks while they were inside the boat; however, I quickly realized that most of the tabbing strips holding any plywood to the hull were either loose or totally adrift. The anchor locker bulkhead was totally detached. At first I thought I might be able to leave everything in place and retab where necessary, but that did not work very well because I kept finding more and more places where bonding was questionable. Time to start from square one. So I put a cutting wheel in the angle grinder again and cut out all of the bulkheads, the bunks and the cabin sole. I then removed everything from the boat and was able to strip and paint them in the garage. I primed and painted all of the wood, but left it bare where the tabbing would be so as to insure penetration of the epoxy. All were reinstalled using West System products.

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Before reinstalling the bunks and bulkheads, I fabricated an adjustable mast compression post from a broken Laser mast. It is stepped thru the cabin sole to the top of the keel and held in place with an oak step secured to the top of the keel with West System products.

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The hull and bottom were in horrible condition. I spent most of the first summer refairing both – many, many, many weeks of filling, long boarding, rolling on epoxy, long boarding, marking imperfections, filling and resanding. I consumed two quarts of Woolsey EasyFare, a waterproof sandable filler. Initially I used various types of sanders, both electric and air powered with grits ranging from 24 to 220, but eventually I was able to switch to manual sixteen inch flexible longboards. By the beginning of October I had primed the hull for the last time and sanded it with 220 grit. I than call my friend Mike Casey, a professional boat painter, and asked him to come by and take a look at the boat to see if it was “Awlgrip worthy”. He came over, checked it out and immediately offered me a job! The hull was spray painted by Mike with many coats of Black Awlgrip and then more coats of Awlgrip clear coat. The last picture in this section, which is a picture of the side of the boat, was taken by Mike with me standing beside him; you can clearly see our reflection in the hull, like taking a picture of a mirror! At the end of October the boat came home and was covered for the winter.

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In May of 2013 I took the cover off and cut holes for rigging features, mounted the traveler and all of the blocks for the various control lines. Once I was sure everything worked properly I removed everything and then began the tedious task of sanding and fairing the deck. Sanding and filling, priming and resanding many times until mid July when all the smooth areas of the deck were painted in Oyster White Awlgrip. I cut out new plywood shelves for the area under the combings and new cockpit sole plywood sections that fit under the seats. These pieces and the exterior side of the aft cabin bulkhead were painted with several coats of white Woolsey EasyPoxy. I retained the original teak cockpit sole, but I did reglass the supports where they attach to the hull. A last minute addition was the installation of four cup (bear can) holders in the shelves.

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Before painting, I had sanded the non-skid areas almost flat. I next masked the Awlgrip areas, and applied white KiwiGrip non-skid to the non-skid areas. At that point I was hoping to launch by July 4th.

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In between all of the sanding and fairing, I was fabricating (with my brother-in-law’s help on the combing blocks and seats) new teak combings, combing blocks, seats and companionway trim. All were fitted and removed prior to priming and painting of the deck. There is a fair amount of bend in the combings, but not enough to require steaming of the wood. Note the one and a half ton jack used to bend them.

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When the boat returned home from the deck painting it was late July and I decided that I probably would not be able to recommission her until the following spring. I really did not want to rush the project at that point. I immediately started reinstalling the deck fittings, new rigging controls and all the new teak. Everything was bedded and reinstalled and any excess stock on all bolts was removed using a hacksaw, Sawsall or Dremel tool.

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All standing rigging was replaced and a Harken Small Boat Furling System was installed (same system used on the J70). This system sits very low and allows the use of non-furling sails as well as furling sails because there is no foil. The whole headstay rotates! Consequently, my racing headsails are not furler sails, but my cruising genoa is a furler. The pictures of the boat at the mooring show the furled sail in place.


The mast and boom are original; however, I replaced all halyards and led them internally using low weight, low stretch rope. I installed an internal 6:1 mainsail clew outhaul inside the boom, set up so as to be easily adjustable from the cockpit. The mainsheet cam cleat was relocated to the underside of the boom, making it accessable to either the helmsman or crew member sitting forward of the helmsman. Main, jib and spinnaker halyards, boom vang, cunningham and spinnaker pole controls were led across the cabin top for easy cockpit access. Winches and a halyard stopper were mounted on the cabin top for ease of jib and main halyard adjustment. Lemar 8 jib sheet winches were installed on the teak pods.

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All other running rigging was replaced and upgraded, primarily with Harken products. I installed a Harken mainsheet traveler with 3:1 traveler controls led below deck and exiting into the cockpit thru the combings within easy reach of the helmsman; cam cleats are mounted on brackets behind the combings. The traveler can be adjusted and cleated from the weather seat or rail. A backstay adjuster was installed with 8:1 purchase, exiting under the aft deck below the tiller so as to be within easy reach of the helmsman. The jib sheet blocks were installed inside of the toe rail; each of the 3 jibs has it own track.


The spinnaker sheets were run below deck forward to Harken ratchet blocks and cam cleats, exiting thru the combings.

Although I do not use a motor, I rebuilt and reinforced the outboard well.

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. I had thought about using an electric bilge pump with an automatic switch and a 12 volt battery, but decided to keep it simple. Instead, I installed a heavy duty Gusher pump in the cockpit sole. The pump can be operated from the cockpit while underway; water exits from a through hull fitting in the transom. The boat is equipped with a full cockpit cover which completely seals the cockpit and cabin entry, keeping rain water out of the boat when it sits on the mooring. I also have a mainsail cover to protect the sail when the cockpit cover is not in use.

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Putting it all back together was the best part of the project and things progressed more quickly than I thought they would. Much to my surprise, byss220 the third week of August the boat was ready to launch. The finishing touch was the application of the name and port of hail on the transom. I used an online website to design the lettering font and color. Lastly, the Wickford Harbor Mudheads burgee was affixed to the transom. The rebirth was finished!!! Although it was almost September, I couldn’t resist; she was re-commissioned on August 22, 2013. On August 25, 2013 she competed in The Herreshoff Regatta in Bristol, R. I., finishing first in her class in the first race and second in the regatta. What a fitting reward for a fine Lady who had spent over eight years sitting on the hard!!

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