Most yacht refits result from a meeting of the minds between two partners. One might say, “I can’t live with this any longer,” and the other will say, “Let’s fix it.” Both agree on the changes.
In the case of Belle of the West, a 2001 48-foot Kadey-Krogen North Sea trawler, the success of their antenna-to-keel refit was the result of two diametrically opposed viewpoints.
Luke Carpenter is a former tanker captain and fire chief with immense experience on the water. Cynthia Carpenter, an architect, had no boating background but equally immense design experience. The refit this couple oversaw is fascinating, both for the points of view and the points of intersection.
Luke and Cynthia had been married decades before, found each other again and, because Luke wanted to live aboard and cruise, started searching for the boat. They went aboard a Kadey-Krogen at the Seattle Boat Show, and Cynthia said, “This is it.” They eventually found the right boat in Georgia, sold their home on Washington’s Bainbridge Island, packed everything and moved the boat to Stuart, Florida, near the Kadey-Krogen headquarters. That began what became a six-month refit, complicated by the pandemic’s shutdowns.
A perfect example of the collision of salty husband and architect wife came in the galley. The boat had a typical marine-grade nautical stove that, Cynthia says, had seaworthy potholders “that were always in the way.” She wondered why. They agreed that “if it’s that rough, we’re having PB&J sandwiches,” she says. A new, nonmarine stove was installed and is perfect for their liveaboard needs.
The refit also included some uh-oh moments. When they went to replace the aging refrigerator, they ordered an energy-efficient, 14.6-cubic-foot model after carefully measuring. The published specs weren’t accurate, so they had to modify a cabinet for the fridge to fit. Carpenter Phil Van Zyl of Ship Shop Marine Carpentry in Fort Pierce, Florida, came to their rescue and became a valued partner in the refit.
A second uh-oh was when they went to replace the washer/dryer, tucked into an alcove in a companionway. They both carefully measured for the new appliance, but found trouble when they tried to get the old unit out. The boat had apparently been built around the washer/dryer, and there was no way to remove it in the existing space. Van Zyl modified the companionway wall to save the day.
Cynthia also brought a keen appreciation of paint to the project. The interior, she says, “was the same red-orange wood everywhere: trim, furniture, cabinets, walls, doors, floors … everywhere!” And it had 20 years of holes, dings and fading.
So, she decided to paint parts of the interior—something Cynthia also had done after moving into Luke’s house on Bainbridge. There, she had painted a bathroom cabinet, and he had conceded that it looked good. So, when she suggested painting some of the interior on Belle, Luke says, “Rather than shoving me off the cliff, she gently nudged me to the cliff edge.”
When other Kadey-Krogen owners heard that Cynthia and Luke planned to paint out parts of the interior, they rolled their eyes, the couple says. But the result is, as the photos show, delightful.
Cynthia started in the galley, seeking painters to refinish the cabinetry. The bids ranged from “not enough to outrageous,” she says, including one painter who simply refused to paint anything to do with a boat. The upshot was that one company graciously gave her a mini-tutorial on painting cabinet doors, covering primer, paint, brushes and rollers.
She ended up removing the cabinet doors and having that company paint them, while using the same paint herself on the cabinet frames. When the doors arrived, they weren’t the right color. Back to the drawing board. Van Zyl ended up spraying the doors to match, and the results are perfect.
The trick to painting veneers? Cynthia used Benjamin Moore Stix, a primer designed for challenging surfaces such as glossy tile, PVC, vinyl, plastic and, yes, galley cabinets. She then rolled on Sherwin-Williams Duration, an interior acrylic latex combination of primer and paint. She used a mohair roller and put on two coats, but, unlike many applications, this wasn’t a roll-and-tip process using a brush for smoothing. “You have to use two hands,” she says with a laugh, adding that the only way to keep from having any lines is to “cut in” the edges with a brush while simultaneously rolling on paint.
Finishing out the galley are quartzite counters, which the couple brought from construction of their home on Bainbridge Island. (Yes, really.) They got approximate dimensions of the counters from Kadey-Krogen, which they both agree was incredibly helpful through the entire process. These slabs were rough cut and trailered across country. Patrick Ruel of Accurate Marble & Granite in Stuart cut them to fit and installed them.
While Cynthia was painting bulkheads and cabinets, Luke was attacking the 20-year-old electronics. “I replaced everything with Garmin, working with Voyager Maritime Alliance in Fort Lauderdale,” he says. “We navigated from Georgia down to Stuart using my cellphone, but for future cruising, I wanted to make life as easy and enjoyable as possible while underway.”
As an experienced mariner, he also realized that important non-electronic items were missing: no searchlight, no fog signal. So, Belle was refit from the radar domes to the transducers.
Moving aboard, Cynthia said she knew that what she would miss most was her garden on Bainbridge, so when they had to modify the bulkhead to replace the washer/dryer, Cynthia photographed the garden and had wallpaper made. She and Luke used it to line the companionway. She also created a photo collage of the same garden for the cabin that is used as an office. “It makes me smile every time I look at it,” she says.
During the work, Belle was at the Apex Marine boatyard in Stuart, hauling out as needed. The location is just a couple blocks from the Kadey-Krogen offices, and Luke says “the Apex people were great,” allowing subcontractors for tile and more to do their jobs in the yard.
Luke installed three antennas for GPS: one for the onboard personal computer, one for the Garmin electronics, and one for an independent anchor watch alarm. “I’m a little anal-retentive about position at night,” he says. Repeaters of the Garmin suite are in the master stateroom, along with anchor watch, and another repeater set is on the flybridge.
Other changes included wall-to-wall carpet throughout—and, here again, skipper faced architect. “When I need to get into the engine room, it’s often quickly, so I don’t want to waste time,” Luke says. “Underway, I like to go into the engine room every two hours, just to put my hand on things.” So, the couple worked with Jeniffer Highlander Carpet Installation in Stuart to create specific access to the engine room, as well as to various points into the bilge.
Why wall-to-wall? Cynthia says, “When I first walked aboard, it was overwhelmingly wood and all the same color: cabinets, walls, floor, ceiling strips. You lose the specialness of wood without contrast.” And, she adds, wall-to-wall is pleasant for living aboard.
Other additions for the liveaboard side included new window shades and a retractable screen door. This was augmented by an isinglass enclosure around the aft deck, and a canvas lee cloth around the bridge. The cockpit enclosure has worked well from Florida, where it expands the salon even in torrential rain, to Maine, where it provides a warm getaway.
Having been “edged to the cliff” on paint, Luke opted to refinish the varnished caprail around the deck with Awlgrip, and hasn’t regretted the choice for a moment. Another choice that worked out was made for the couple’s two dogs. The Kadey-Krogen North Sea version has decks on both sides, so Luke and Cynthia turned the port deck into a dog run, blocking access forward with a fender and laying down artificial turf that the dogs are trained to use. It can easily be rolled up, removed and scrubbed down.
Pilothouse doors on each side make it easy for Luke to have deck access for docking or mooring, but reaching the flybridge meant going to the cockpit and up a ladder. So, he had a ladder built on the port side so he could reach the flybridge quickly. The ladder folds against the side of the house, out of the way, when not needed.
When it came to the systems, Luke says, the main engines and generator were in good shape, but he had a technician go through them thoroughly, catching some previous owner changes that were iffy, as well as items such as rubber hoses and clogged exhaust water jets that needed replacing. “Besides,” Luke says, “watching the tech was a great course and a confidence builder.”
The Belle has two Wi-Fi systems aboard with an unlimited Sprint package to give the couple Internet as well as television on a new drop-down TV in the salon.
Were there “wish we’d done that” items? The only one that stands out would be making solid doors to the side decks, because “the snaps on the isinglass just don’t hold in a breeze,” Luke says. Aside from that, both he and Cynthia are pleased with the transformation of Belle of the West into a home afloat.
Now transported to the West Coast because the pandemic ended any plans to go transatlantic, the Carpenters and Belle are enjoying short cruises to the San Juan Islands, and they are looking forward to exploring British Columbia and Alaska.
This story originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Passagemaker magazine.