By Gary Cunningham, Michigan Chapter, and Mark Gelders

Loon is a 1949 Hinckley 34 SW sailboat which is in the process of undergoing a complete restoration in Macatawa, Michigan at the Eldean Shipyard. She is a very unusual Hinckley sailboat because she has never been in salt water. Loon was taken directly from the Hinckley shop floor, loaded onto a rail car, and then delivered to her first owner in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York where she spent about 35 years plying the waters of those pristine freshwater lakes. She is also unique because she is one of only two Sou’wester (SW) 34s to get a factory installed teak deck (the other one became the personal launch for Henry R. Hinckley).

Loon’s second and third owners were from the St. Louis area and sailed almost exclusively on Carlyle Lake in southwestern Illinois for another 30 years. Starting about five years ago, Loon’s third owner started an extensive restoration that grew larger and larger in scope as he got into the project. He was trying to do everything himself and finally became overwhelmed by the challenge. So, I acquired the boat from him with the promise that I would finish the restoration to the standards of the Hinckley Yacht Company and would give him a ride on Lake Michigan when completed.

A good friend of mine, Mark Gelders, had previously restored several significant sailboats over the years, including a 1985 Hinckley 64 CC. Mark agreed to partner with me to complete the restoration of Loon. Our plan is to do the following: (1) reattach her keel, (2) replace all rotten mahogany planking below the waterline, (3) strip the topsides, teak deck and cabin top to bare wood, (4) completely seal both the inside and outside of the boat with the West system, (5) restore and re-install the interior of the boat, (6) paint the topsides with Awlgrip flag blue paint and the undercarriage with Interlux red antifouling paint, and (7) install a new electronic propulsion system, probably from Elco in Wisconsin.

Also assisting us on this project are James Christie from Port Huron, Chuck Diamond from North Branch, Jonathon Reus, the owner of Macatawa Bay Boat Works, and Bob Shapton, the owner of Michigan Boat & Engine. We have already completed the keel and are almost done with replacing the exterior mahogany planks. The sika spruce mast and boom have already been sanded down and received an initial coat of varnish (with four more to go).

We will continue working on Loon full time until she is completed – hopefully in the early spring of 2024. Then we intend to go harbor hopping around Lake Michigan.

Technical Specifications of Loon’s Restoration:

  • The original Iron ballast has new 1.25 inch SS bolts that go thru the new keel and new SS welded frame attachments. All have weep holes and a clean out chain.
  • Frames were replaced as necessary with oak West System laminated in place. Also installed new wood cap and toe rails, along with the cockpit being totally removed and rebuilt with all new wood. The new bottom planking is done with 1” thick by 12’ to 18‘ some 13” wide to 3.25” wide , all fastened with 2.5” silicone-bronze screws and fully West System encapsulated, filleted and coated. All original caulking and cotton were removed and replaced with epoxy set wood strips, sanded then coated with West System before faring with Awlgrip products.
  • The original rudder was replaced with a new SS welded frame and teak. Reset original bronze shaft alley through the keel (2 feet long) along with a new shaft and seal.
  • New motor bed beams are fabricated from mahogany and West System to accommodate the new Elco 20 electric motor. This is replacing a 14 hp diesel engine and transmission.
  • On the deck we started by replacing the front corner post and front of the cabin house. The teak deck was about 40 % replaced, sub deck replaced as necessary. All deck beams are in good shape. The teak decking on this Hinckley is all curved, making new we had the help of Macatawa Bay Boat Works (Jonathan Reus). They supplied us with a steam box, to bend all the pre-cut teak decking. We steamed them for about 1 to 2 hours until bendable, then set in a jig with over-bend to allow for spring back. Then all fitted and West System in place with bronze screws and bungs. Then caulked with Teak Decking System Caulk.
  • When the vessel was totally empty, we sprayed the whole interior an acrylic white marine paint in semi-gloss sheen. Bulkheads are about 80% replaced with new marine quality panels. Most of the original interior is solid mahogany and will be refinished.
  • All deck hardware is original solid bronze and has been sent out to a professional buffing shop for polishing.

To Be Completed:

  • Wiring for the new Elco 48 Volt DC using Lithium-Iron batteries (either 4-12volt or 2-24volt for the motor and 2-12 volt for the house power). We intend on charging at the dock overnight and using Loon essentially as a day sailer.
  • The house batteries will also be Lithium-Iron and charge at the dock.
  • When complete, all wiring and plumbing will be new, with fresh upholstery, running rigging, and sails.
  • She is also being treated to a brand new cradle.


[All of the foregoing as of November 1, 2023.]


  1. What a transformation !! A true labor of love . Owning a 23’ Grand Craft (all mahogany planked) I know what kind of commitment it takes . Thank you for sharing all of intimate details of this wonderful journey , being the current caretaker . May you enjoy many Red Sky’s At Night !

  2. Dear Richard, Jimi & Chuck:

    Thank you for taking an interest in the Loon project. I could not have gotten as far as I did this year without the help of Mark Gelders, Jon Reus, and the Eldean Shipyard. They have all pulled out the stops to help out on this project.

    I previously restored a barrel back and a Sportsman sedan. So I cannot say that I had no idea of the size of this current undertaking. But I am getting to the age where this is probably my last large project and I want it to be “heirloom” quality.

    For better or worse, we are going to restore a 34′ Hinckley and I want to sail her before my 75th birthday. So wish us luck and I will try to keep you advised of our progress. -Gary

  3. Thank you for sharing your journey if not for people like you a great treasure would be lost. May the sunshine on you and the wind hit your sales 🇺🇸🦈👍

    • Thanks Shannon. We held an open house for Loon a couple weeks ago and had about 40 ACBS members in attendance. The exterior is now about 85% completed and the interior is probably closer to 50%. But with a little luck, we hope to launch her yet this summer. -Gary

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