Care, Storage & Maintenance of Your Classic Whitehall Boat

(See below for Solo 14 & Tango 17)

Here are some tips to help minimize wear and tear on your Classic Whitehall Spirit. We believe that spending only a few hours a year of maintenance on your boat will keep it clean and pristine. Here are a few tips to start with:

  1. Leave an old towel in the boat. Use the towel, dampened with fresh water preferably, to wipe off saltwater splashes from teak surfaces. Wiping the saltwater off will keep the oil finish free from the prismatic effect of UV sunlight and prevent lighter colored blotches from forming.
  2. Keep sand and grit off seats and floorboards to reduce abrasion and the need for oil touch-ups.
  3. Use fenders and proper tie-up lines to prevent rubbing and scratches when tied to other boats or to docks.
  4. If you want the gel coat hull finish to keep its pristine “as new” appearance, start maintaining it right away (see section below). Don’t wait until it’s several years old with the surface all chalky and the color bleached out.
How you store your boat is an important factor, either during the boating season or when it’s stored for the winter.

Damage from the sun’s rays causes the most damage to a boat’s finish. This is why all boats are shipped shrink-wrapped, while an optional, longer lasting, custom fitted Sunbrella canvas cover is also available. Sunbrella canvas covers, available in a large selection of colors, will last for up to 10 years or more.

If left uncovered in hot summer sun, the boat will require oiling every three weeks to keep it in prime shape. However, once you get into the routine of keeping the cover on when the boat is not in use, a light oiling once or twice over the season is all that is required. Some owners enjoy oiling their boats so much, that their teak shines with a fine-furniture like finish. Others simply let their teak go completely natural which gives it an almost white look.

If your boat is stored in a humid or damp environment, steps to prevent the growth of mildew on the wood surfaces need to be taken. Check for the telltale signs of mildew, small gray-black spots forming on the teak. Airing the boat out and ensuring that seats and inside surfaces are thoroughly dry before covering the boat for storage will help considerably. Products such as Dry-Z-Air work well at extracting moisture from the air under the cover.

Many owners store their boats by hanging them from the rafters of their garage or cottage boat shed. Run a short 3/8″ line through the stern eyes and another through the bow eye and tie them into loops. The loops can be fastened to a block and tackle system, which can be used to hoist the boat up into the rafters.

Dock davits are a handy solution for dry storage and ready access to your boat. These can be purchased from us, or you can have someone make them for you locally.

The benefit of an oiled teak finish goes beyond the way it enhances the wood’s beauty.

It’s also in the ease and simplicity of application. An added advantage is that if the wood is accidentally scratched or marked the spot can be carefully sanded out, then re-oiled and blended into the surrounding wood. Teak is the most forgiving of woods. It has a natural oil that prevents decay and enables easy refinishing of neglected or damaged surfaces.

The wood’s surface should be clean and smooth before oiling. If necessary, wash the teak’s surface with soapy water and a soft brush to remove any stubborn spots. Otherwise, simply wiping down with a damp cloth will suffice. Allow the surface to dry thoroughly before oiling.

Before getting started on oiling it is important to know that if you spill or drip any oil onto the gel coated surfaces while you work, the spill needs to be wiped off with a clean rag immediately. Once hardened, these spots become sticky, darken and are very difficult to remove.

Important! Oil soaked rags must be carefully disposed of because, given the right circumstances, they can combust and potentially cause a fire. Follow the directions on the can for handling and disposal of oil soaked rags.

When re-oiling your boat it is best to apply the oil in moderate temperatures and never in direct sunlight. The oil can be applied using a cloth, brush, roller or what we prefer, a foam applicator. Apply it liberally and let it penetrate for 10 to 15 minutes watching for spots that dry early and adding fresh oil to them. Then simply wipe the surface completely dry with clean rags. Generally speaking, one coat is enough but if a second coat seems necessary, follow the drying time instructions on the can.

For a really fine, furniture-like finish, leave the wood for 24 hours then, working on small sections at a time with 400 grit sandpaper, burnish-sand the wood. Wipe the burnished areas clean and apply a final coat of oil and allow it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Then wipe hard and follow by polishing with a soft, dry cloth.

The length of time an oil finish stands up usually depends on the number of hours of direct sunlight exposure. As mentioned, keeping the boat covered whenever possible increases the longevity of the oil finish considerably. Another factor is the number of coats of oil on the teak. If sunlight cannot be avoided, re-apply the oil whenever the wood looks parched.

There’s something special about the deeper, warmer glow and the smell of a freshly oiled, wood finish. So if you feel like oiling your boat just for the pleasure of it, go ahead.

If you’re faced with refinishing neglected or scratched teak, first clean the surface and allow it to dry. The best means to get rid of scratches or mildew staining is by sanding the wood using a medium grit (150) sandpaper followed by a quick once-over with a finer grit (180-220) sandpaper. When sanding always run the cutting surface along the grain of the wood, never across it. You can tell which way the grain is running by observing the wood’s pattern of texture lines. If you sand across these lines rather than with them, scratches will appear which will take considerable time to sand out. Wipe the surface with a clean, slightly dampened cloth or vacuum it, to remove excess dust. Unlike varnish, oil is not seriously affected by small amounts of dust on surfaces during application.

Seriously neglected boats with teak that is gray or heavily mildewed can be brought back to brightness using one of several available brands of teak cleaner systems which utilize chemicals to clean, bleach and restore the surface. Follow the instructions provided with the product and then re-oil, applying two to three coats.

Your boat’s hull is constructed of hand laid fiberglass that is coated on the outside and the inside with a hard resin called gel coat. Gel coat is much tougher than any paint type coating, but sharp surfaces such as barnacles or steel bolt heads can cause scratches.

Avoiding this type of damage is always best. If you must land on a harsh surface, try to avoid excessively bouncing the hull against rocks and barnacles. The hull can take serious abuse. It will just look worn. A product such as our Boat Slider Trax can eliminate most of this type of damage and is very useful on camping expeditions where landings and departures are made on a variety of beaches.

Most hulls are damaged slowly, over time by the gradual effects of ultraviolet sunlight breaking down the surface molecules if the gel coat is left unprotected. A good coat of wax every few months will prevent this degradation. Waxing the hull also makes it easier to clean grime and keeps it slick and slippery.

There are dozens if not hundreds of wax brands available but the brand used is not as important as building up fresh protection. Brands with UV resistance are recommended. Full hull maintenance involves washing the boat inside and out with a biodegradable cleaning agent, water, and a soft brush. If the hull is already quite clean, simply wiping it down with a damp cloth will suffice. Let the boat dry and then apply a coat of wax as per the instructions provided on the container.

Leaving the boat in either fresh or saltwater for extended periods is not recommended unless the hull is sealed and bottom painted. The gel coat finish will eventually become stained and, in saltwater, barnacles will attach themselves and grow furiously. When the barnacles are scraped off, the glue they have secreted to attach themselves with is so tough that the gel coat is likely to be damaged. The boats are light enough that they can either be stored clear of the water on a davit system or simply hauled out onto the dock or beach. The vast majority of owners keep their boats stored on a boat trailer.

If the gel coat finish gets damaged to the point where a piece is chipped out, the following steps can be taken to remedy this problem quickly and easily:

  1. Obtain a small quantity of white gel coat resin and hardener, disposable latex gloves, a sharp knife, some Scotch tape, some toothpicks and a small piece of cardboard or the bottom of a paper cup for a mixing pallet.
  2. Using the sharp instrument, remove any gel coat flakes and expose the entire void in preparation for filling it.
  3. Using a toothpick, thoroughly mix a tiny amount of gel coat with hardener (two drops of hardener per sugar cube size amount of gel coat), using your mixing palette.
  4. Using a toothpick as an applicator, carefully fill the void. You want to just fill the void, not overfill it.
  5. Apply a strip of clear Scotch tape across the filled surface area, stretching and carefully flattening the tape over the void. If the void has been filled with the correct amount of gel coat it will flatten flush with the surface of the hull. Allow up to one hour for the gel coat to harden.
  6. Peel back the tape and examine your work. Hopefully, the void is now nearly invisible and as strong as the rest of the hull. Overfilled areas can be sanded with 900 grit wet and dry sandpaper to bring the surface level. Care must be taken not to sand too deep. Under-filled areas can be brought to level by repeating steps two through five. Once you are satisfied with the appearance, wax and buff the area using your favorite boat wax.

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Care and Maintenance of Your Solo 14 & Tango 17

The Whitehall Spirit Solo 14 and Tango 17 are designed to be as durable and maintenance-free as possible and due to its copolymer construction, will stay shiny for years. However, there are some simple measures you can take to ensure that your rowing boat stays in the best condition possible.

The special UV proof finish called Solarkote® that is bonded to your boat’s exterior resists scratches and abrasion. To keep it looking absolutely new all that is required is washing with a soft cloth or sponge and water.

Whenever possible, avoid dragging your rowing boat on rough or rocky surfaces. If minor scuffs and abrasions do occur, we recommend the use of Novus or similar polishing products.

Important: Never use strong solvents, such as acetone, lacquer thinners, or paints on your rowing boat as these can seriously damage the finish of your boat.

All outside surfaces of the rowing boat can be waxed but this is not at all necessary. After use in saltwater it is very important that you thoroughly rinse off your boat with clean freshwater to prevent salt and grime buildup. Pay particular attention to the slide seat tracks and the outrigger arm bases. Flushing off the salt water will prevent salt crystallization with resultant wear and potential metal corrosion.

Routinely check all safety items for wear and abrasion. Replace these as required.

General Care and Maintenance for Whitehall Solo 14 and Tango 17 Boats

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Your rowing boat is designed to be stored right-side-up to prevent water pooling in the hull joint seam, which may result in pinhole water leakage. Ensure that you have supports on areas that the hull makes contact with. Before you store your rowing boat make sure that all salt water is thoroughly rinsed off and that any gravel, sand or grit is wiped off of the slide seat tracks, footstop, tracks and other hardware. Dry the boat well before putting a cover on the boat for long-term storage to prevent mold and mildew formation. We recommend keeping the boat securely covered with cover battens in place to keep water from pooling in the cover when stored outside and with the drain plug removed. If storing upside down, keeping water from pooling in the hull joint is mandatory by covering the entire hull with a well-secured tarp. Removing or loosening off the drain plug located in the bow of the boat is also recommended for winter storage.

It is best to store your Solo 14® or Tango 17® away from direct sunlight whenever possible to further prolong its life.

All plastics have a minimum temperature rating. Cold weather can take a serious toll on even highly durable products. Plastics tend to crack when temperatures drop too low, and engines can seize if they don’t warm up quickly enough.

At temperatures below freezing the material becomes brittle and its impact strength has been significantly reduced causing it to be susceptible to cracking when under stress or pressure.

Furthermore water expands when frozen and the pressure this creates is sometimes enough to crack plastic, especially those that are brittle at temperatures below freezing.

In addition due to differing expansion coefficients between stainless steel and plastic, earlier Solo 14 and Tango 17 models featuring full length keel strips should not be stored in below freezing conditions. Models without full length keel strips can handle freezing temperatures down to -17c or O degrees F.

All current Solo14 and Tango 17 2021 models feature bonded internal reinforcement with the option of a shorter bow area stainless steel keel strip for landing on rocks or concrete. These models will handle freezing conditions much better although for temperatures below zero Fahrenheit or -17 Celsius stainless keel strips should not be ordered.

It is best to store your rowing boat out of direct sunlight whenever possible to further prolong its life.

Transportation of your boat is safe and easy with the proper gear. We recommend the use of a good galvanized bunk trailer 12’ in length for the Solo 14 and 14’ in length for the Tango 17. The lightest weight trailers possible work well. Several keel rollers or slippery plastic guides located along where the keel rests will support the hull and help with loading and offloading. Use at least two 2” gunnel tie down straps with a proper cam lock buckle to secure the rowing boat to the trailer. Rope may be used as a substitute but may not be as easy to secure the boat and could cause chafe. Pay attention that you do not over-tighten to the point of distorting the rowing boat’s shape.

On road trips at higher freeways speeds be aware that loose flapping material on boats covers can cause shredding, extreme wear and complete failure of the cover. It is best to take the cover off during road transport and remove the drain plug to ensure that rainwater does not collect. Check the boat often to ensure the drain plug is not blocked by debris.

Another easy form of local transport is with a hand dolly especially if the distance is only a block or two to the water or across a reasonably smooth beach. A hand dolly is not intended for highway transport but works very well otherwise.

Your thermoformed co-polymer rowing boat is made with materials that, if required, make repair very simple. Review the following repair methods below to determine the best course of action to take for your rowing boat’s particular damage.
Carefully wet sanding with 400 grit wet-dry sandpaper, followed by 600 grit, can repair scratches and abrasions. Use a cut polishing compound, such as Novus #2 or #3, to bring the finish back to its original high polish.
If a leak is found in a deck seam we recommend sealing the problem area with Devcon Plastic Welder (methyl methacrylate), which is a two-part adhesive that can be purchased at most hardware shops across North America. A urethane marine sealant can also be used as a sealer although may not be as effective as the adhesive.

To repair a crack, begin by ensuring that the edges of the fracture are tight and aligned together so there is no gap and the surfaces are flush. Lightly sand and clean the site of the damaged area, extending at least an inch beyond the crack.

Fill the crack with Devcon Plastic Welder. This is a two-part adhesive that can be purchased at most hardware shops across North America and also in Europe. (A urethane marine sealant should not be used for this type of repair.) Immediately apply and glue in place a piece of ABS plastic sheet that is cut to overlap by at least 1⁄4” around the outside edge of the crack to the area. Fill the edge of the ABS plastic sheet patch with Devcon Plastic Welder to ensure a watertight seal.

Alternatively, use a small piece of fiberglass cloth to cover the filled crack using the Devcon glue as a saturation resin.

Another glue suitable for repairs is Locktite 330 Adhesive. Hopefully a Google search will find one of these products close by.

Unfortunately, it is no longer legal to ship these substances via mail or courier.

A fiberglass cloth patch will also require filling with an epoxy filler, fairing and painting. Fairing the area smooth with a succession of sandpaper down to 400 grit and recoating the hull with a suitable paint. We recommend a spray can of ‘Krylon Fusion’ in gloss white which is well formulated for this type of application.

Tango 17 Rowboat, Whitehall Rowing & Sail