Red Sky at Night with JB Cornwell | Boston Whalers I Have Known: Sunshine III
I found Sunshine III in early 2000. She was a 1981 Montauk 17 powered by an Evinrude 100 of similar vintage. She needed some TLC and rigging to make her ideal for fishing.
My first change was to re-power her. My experience with the original Sunshine led me to choose a 70HP as ideal power. After some research and strong recommendations from other Montauk owners I selected a new Suzuki DF70. Mounting considerations called for a setback plate, so it was mounted about 1-1/2” higher than it would have been if it had bolted directly to the transom. She got an 18” SS prop which peaked her at 40mph @ 5800rpm. Plenty fast for this old fisherman.
Next was a refinish of all the mahogany with several coats of polyurethane spar varnish. The result was bright brightwork.
I replaced the bent trailer axle and 8” wheels with a new one with new hubs and 13” wheels. I relighted and rewired the trailer along with the axle change. The whole package was about 1500#, so I saw no need for brakes.
She had a fitted seat cover and a fitted console cover that was pretty ragged but of high quality, so I spent a few days learning to use my sewing machine to patch and repair it, That came out not very pretty but very satisfactory for covering her up in the marina overnight. Then I bought a fitted towing cover for the whole boat. It was expensive, but worth every cent.
Like many vintage Whalers some rail fittings were loose. The wood anchors under the fiberglass into which the mounting screws went was soft. I drilled each hole out to ½” and epoxied in plugs of Richlite Whaleboard that I made out of a sample I had gotten from Richlite. I then drilled and tapped those plugs for ¼”x20 stainless steel “nylok” machine screws. My rails were then more solid than they had ever been.
I replaced the 50 qt. Igloo cooler that mounted in front of the console with a cushioned 94qt model with cleats and bungees to hold it in place.
The last rehab fix was the 24 gallon Tempo fuel tank. It would not fit completely under the reversible pilot seat with the tall filler cap. After some serious research I found a lawn tractor filler cap with the vent screw that allowed the tank to slide completely under to RPS.
Then it was time for modifications and accessories.
I then installed 6 rod holders and outlets for the troller power and a 12V aux on the front of the console.
I made “$2 rod holders” for both side railings. These consisted of lengths of 2” PVC pipe and 2 SS hose clamps each.
Installed a bow mount for a foot controlled Minn Kota 55AP troller.
One major customization was the installation of the front pedestal seat that was standard on the Bass Boat and Striper models and an option on the other 13, 15 and 17 Whalers of the time. The mount bolted through the aft bulkhead of the anchor locker and greatly expanded the usefulness of the boat for fishing shorelines. I had one of those on Heidi Yawl, my Sport 13, too.
With the addition of a VHF radio (not much use in fresh water), Lowrance SONAR, Garmin GPS and a new compass, Sunshine III was ready for Lake Of The Woods, MN/Ontario, my choice as the finest fresh water fishing hole on the planet.
Over several years of summer trips with my son, and sometimes his son, too, we boated many nice smallmouth bass, walleye, crappy, perch, northern pike and musky on LOTW. The days spent wandering through the pristine wilderness, stopping for sightseeing or incredible shore lunches, viewing varied wildlife and enjoying the peace and solitude are among my most treasured memories.
As the years moved me into my 70s I lost the strength needed to launch and retrieve Sunshine III, and after a life threatening ruptured ulcer from pounding the sometimes towering waves on LOTW I thought I needed to retire her and get a smaller Whaler that was smoother in choppy water.
Sunshine III went to my young iboats buddy where she cruises Boston Harbor and vicinity to this day, always gathering complements.
Her replacement was RED SKY, a 1985 Striper 15. Meet her next month.
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JB Cornwell writes from “The Hideout” in Whitt, TX, and is also an expert moderator, instructor, and fountain-of-knowledge in the iboats.com Boating Forums, where he may occasionally share a yarn of his own.