Rebuilding a Gheenoe (Complete Step-by-Step)

Several years ago I purchased and entirely rebuilt a Gheenoe. I posted during that time on the board, but unfortunately many of the posts from that old thread did not survive a server transition. So, I am going to recreate the essence of the thread here for posterity. Consider this a whopper of a gear review.

Here is what the boat looked like the day I brought it home:


Here’s my drawing:


For starters, I plan to totally clean the boat out and start from the hull instead of incorporating the seats like we did before. I want the center to be completely clear so I can use my Yeti as a mid-boat seat and for storage. I know it will still need some buttressing there so I’ll make similar struts and glass them in.

For my front deck, I’d like there to be some under-deck storage. My plan is to glass “shelf rails” in along the sides and use those to support the deck itself, which I think I will make out of 1/2″ marine plywood (we used 3/4″ before and I think that’s overkill). I’ll have to glass the underside of the the front deck for waterproofing but I should be able to do that outside of the boat then drop it in. I’ll do rod storage just like we did before.

For the rear, I am thinking of just doing what I did up front in reverse; not sure yet if I want to just leave the under-seat area open or close it off so it is only accessible from the rear (for battery and gas tank). I think that’ll keep the boat clean.

The first thing I did was remove the entire interior, excluding the rub rails, and I cut out and ground down all of the seats:


At this stage the hull itself was extremely floppy.

Here’s where I am so far. I’m copying over from my board so in some cases I am explaining stuff you guys actually explained to me – thanks again for all the help here.

I cut and clamped rails on for the front deck. These will get glassed into place for stability but they’re on there with Liquid Nails and they’re probably already strong enough to bear my weight.


I am really enjoying using this locking bench/sawhorse which I got for Christmas.


The centerline of the boat is about an inch and a half deeper than the edges, so I needed to put in stringer rails. These ended up being three layers of 1/2″ marine plywood thick. I’ll waterproof them with resin before they get glassed over.


Here are the forms for the lateral buttresses since the boat no longer has a central thwart via the bench seat.


Those get foamed in as well.


Front deck “curtain” with cut out for storage. Although the floor is higher than the inside of that compartment, I’ll glass it in so any water which gets up under there will drain back down under the floor. It won’t be “dry storage” but it’ll be handy for things like life jackets and anchors and what not.


And finally here are the decks for the floor:


Front view of where I am right now:


The slowest part so far has been waiting on the liquid nails to set up; it necessarily has to be clamped and it’s been wet, so it is taking a good day for each application. I’ll have to do both rear rails before I can start making the decks themselves. Those are going to be the last cuts of wood though. I probably won’t even need my third sheet of plywood. Then it is all glassing and–my favorite part–painting.

Next I cut the main decks and waited for the foam to set.



Maybe talking to myself a bit here, but anyway here goes:

Got quite a bit done today and may be able to finish the glass tomorrow, but it’s going to depend on materials.  I suspect I’ll run out before I can get the top of the front deck glassed in.  That’ll have to wait until Monday to pick up more epoxy.

First things first, I had to get a pork butt smoking so we could bathe ourselves in the delicious smells of the South while we worked. Then the decks went down for good. Next we glassed in the rear deck after painting up under it for the sake of making it easy later.


The rear decks and floors required some very heavy fillets, which we made out of chopped excess plywood.


I am pretty sure you’re going to be able to go to space in this boat as solid as we’re building it.


Got the back half all glassed in.  The overlapping spots will get grinded off later.

Meanwhile the front box really gave us fits because we didn’t have the right size hole saw.  Eventually we sorted it out.


Again we painted up in the to make it easy on us later.  I also constructed a rear dam with a drain to encourage that area to stay as dry as possible.


We’ll glass down to the floor when we finish out the front deck/floor.

Getting close now.  In my opinion any boat project looks like absolutely hell until the first coat of paint goes on and ties it all together.  May be able to do that this week.  Then I’ll flip it and do the exterior and get ready to splash her.

Here is the booat all glassed in, but before sanding and painting. As you can see, I removed the rub rails for easier access during this process. Up until this point they had provided the boat with its only real rigidity.


First coat of paint:



Got my paint and finished the first coat at lunch.




Needs another coat of paint now and then the sprinkle/swirl.  I am matting off the decks and debating matting off the floor before sprinkling, so they’ll remain this color.  I wasn’t able to eliminate the ridges on the floor from the glass overlap so I have to decide if that is something I can live with or not.  The sprinkled paint truly hides all sins.  Those buttresses came out rougher than I wanted (but not rougher than I expected), but once they get sprinkled and then covered on the flats in Sea Deck, I expect them to look pretty great.

Next I applied masks of paper and tape and did a sprinkle-coat with black paint on a paintbrush.

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Next the boat was flipped onto saw horses for priming and then painting using the “roll and tip” method:



Finally the rub rails, which I also painted, were re-installed using a rivet gun:

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Here was the complete initial setup after Phase One of the rebuild:



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Finally, on advice from Andrew Wright, I fabricated and attached custom push pole tabs:

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Because the Gheenoe, as pictured above, rode very strongly nose-high even with weight in the front, I decided that Phase Two of the rebuild would creating a jack plate and permanent trim tabs. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves here:


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I also added a tiller extension.  Today I find the boat rides most comfortably while standing.  I can leave a cooler in the middle of the boat, as originally intended, with a passenger.  I’ve taken it all over the country since I completed it, and it has become a key part of my fishing and hunting life.

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New jack plate and trim tabs on Gheenoe from Zach Matthews on Vimeo.

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