It was now June of 1998 and Keith assembled a restoration team headed by Neil Wallace. This team evolved into a business over time , ‘Sea King Marine’. Neil’s involvement was critical to the final outcome of this project. His extensive experience with restoration included spending a few years restoring a virtually burnt out 60′ semi displacement motor cruiser. Had Keith not been able to secure Neil’s services the project would of necessity have stayed in Sydney. Having the boat in his home town allowed Keith a more hands on involvement in the refit. However, he would later say that “a power tool in his hands was a weapon of destruction, but in the hands of others a tool of creation.” Keith is very quick to pay tribute to Neil’s fabricating skills, incredible knowledge and experience of boat repair. These talents combined make Neill an indispensable contributor to the completion of Wraith of Odin.
On arrival in Port Macquarie the work was commenced to strengthen the mast step. This meant that the bulkheads and existing fit out had to be removed, virtually gutting the interior of the boat. Fortunately iron nails had been used in much of the cabinetry, while these left some rust bleeds most of the furnishing came out easily and reasonably intact. The original builder, Alf, when questioned later stated that nails rather than screws had been used as, “boats were never meant to last this long.” Prior to the gutting a plan of the existing interior was drawn up and each White Coastal Cedar tongue and groove board was numbered, and run through a thicknesser to refresh the timber surface. The fit out was substantially replaced board by board into the original positions. An exception was made for the of the port side galley bulkhead. This was moved forward by 400mm to allow for an extension on the return to the settee in the saloon. The starboard side cabinets had suffered extensive water damaged. Some timber from the units was subsequently used in fabricating two armchairs and a drinks cabinet that was complete with custom built Jack Daniels’ holder.
The cockpit area was completely rebuilt in situ and the deck was laid around it in what was possibly the most difficult aspect of the rebuild. Fabricated steel frames were attached to the new chain plates and then covered with heavy duty plastic to create a “shed” in which to work. This was needed as the entire restoration was done with Wraith of Odin in the water to preserve and protect her hull. The tent also protected the deck structure. Keith said he could not understand why you would replace a deck that had filed due to fresh water penetration through the fastening system risk, and risk the same thing. As well as keeping the deck dry. empasise was placed on the watertight nature of all new fastening points. No one was allowed to drill any hole or attach anything to the deck without Keith’s express permission. There are approximately 10 deck penetrations only, all were oversized with a solid teak plug epoxied in to seal the end grain for the full thickness of the deck and then later drilled to the correct sized for each mechanical fastening. Tommy poles and braces were used to bed the epoxied deck timbers, and full-length strakes were spliced and secured on board. Only three strakes per side were done on each pass with the final result giving a full, clean and uninterrupted line on deck. The bulwarks were another major job that required refinishing as damage had occurred when the boat was in Chile during the early 1980s. Half of the cap rail was missing when Keith purchased Wraith of Odin. Keyhole bolts were used to attach the new cap rail and the bulwarks were constructed to original drawings. The decks and bulwarks were completed by mid-2000 and the Rosewood margins on the deck and cabin house were installed into a rebate. The joinery for these took some time as the moulding types selected on the margins and rails complicated things immensely. The work yielded impressive results. Deck lights were wired into the cap rail . When illuminated these create a unique ambience.
An important overall design criteria for the project was that all design would allow fail safe, serviceable and accessible mechanical operation of the yacht. Attention to this very important fundamental is evident by the accessible user friendly components beneath the cabin sole.
The galley was rebuilt to include a fridge-freezer, dishwasher and microwave oven. The modern appliances were l concealed behind cedar cabinets and the other storage spaces replaced in their original position. The forepeak is as original and allows for two crew berths and access to the anchor locker. The tuerpentine cabin sole was replaced with 120year old mahogany before the fit-out stage. Queensland maple has been used for the joists and bearers and the mahogany was milled and cut with tongue and groove. The bath was refinished and the head replaced.
Keith had strong views on what he wanted, a more formal feel in the saloon and a more casual feel in the wheelhouse. The original Alden specification, that the tongue and groove bulkheads be finished in a matt or gloss white finish, was followed and helps to offset the highly polished trim below deck. As the boat progressively came together pieces were covered with bubble wrap and cardboard, not to see light of day again for up to 18 months.
While the interior fit was underway the bulk of the yacht was hidden by what was referred to as “the tomato house”. The removal of this and the covers to allow installation of the rig was an emotional event for both Keith and the working team. Keith recalls, “as we pulled the covers off, we were gob smacked by what we had done. We had forgotten the lines of the boat and the proportions of everything as it had been hidden for so long. It was like the emergence of something we had never seen before.”
The rig was stepped and the sheer line was finally cut to scaled up drawings of the Malabar X111 (0726) design drawings. Those for the 823C were no longer in existence. A fire at the office of Alden’s Design in the United States had destroyed much of the original documentation in the 1970s. Copies of remaining documents were sent through to Port Macquarie.
The original owner, O’Brian, had learnt sail-making from Gus Dunbar and had made all the sails for Wraith of Odin himself. The first of these were reportedly hand-stitched on board in the saloon. New sails were commissioned for Wraith of Odin. Panel sails were designed and cut by Ben Kelly at Horizon sails in Southport and completed with hand finished leather stitching. This was the first professionally made suit of sails in the boats history. Stainless steel deck fittings were custom manufactured and after exhaustive research Conrad blocks were considered best suited for the running rigging.
Originally Keith had planned for the boat to be finished and sailing on Sydney harbour for the millennium New Year’s Eve. This date passed and the next deadline set was the wooden boat festival in 2001. That too came and went. The next target was Keith’s mother’s 90th birthday. Ultimately the Wooden Boat Festival, Feb 2003 in Hobart was targeted. When Wraith of Odin finally sailed to Brisbane in December 2002 it was the first time that the boat had moved since June of 1998 and the first time sailing for almost 20 years. In an 18 knot North Easter at the Deanbilla Bay Regatta, Keith was thrilled at how she had sailed away from all contenders.
“Feeling the power and balance of the boat on a slight reach sitting on 11 knots was incredible. We realised that we had something special.”