Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Painting her bottom, and other places.

Owning any big boat is like a race, more or less like the tortoise and the hare in fact.  The hare, that’s the owner, is trying to stay ahead of the maintenance of the ship, while the maintenance needs of the ship are like the tortoise in that the deterioration of paint, varnish, antifouling and such goes on 24/7 all year around.
In winter when sensible people are snugged up in front of a fire reading  cruising stories telling of while coral sand beaches, turquoise waters and tropical sunshine, the race is still on with the paintwork still deteriorating. In summer when out sailing and enjoying the boat, yep, still goes on. Never resting!
If allowed to go on for too long the material underneath, whether wood, steel, aly or fiberglass is going to deteriorate as well so there is no choice but to be a part of that race, and the “hare” had better keep up.

I’ve owned my old ship for about 2 ½ years now, have done quite a lot of small paintwork, varnished much of the interior of the main cabin, filled a million little holes where fittings have been moved and the old screw holes not dealt with, have painted the inside of the cockpit, and  put her aground an hour or so before low tide so she’d lean over enough for me to wade around just more than waist deep reaching under and scrubbing her bottom with a hard broom. 

That latter has been fairly effective, and I don’t get much in the way of marine growth anyway as the water here at my dock is often quite brackish.  But the mud cakes, the antifouling paint wears away, and its past time it was renewed.

That plus the topsides paint has been flaking some, its thick, heavy and now that I’ve been in and sanded it some it would appear that whoever did the paintwork ages ago has short changed the owners and not used a proper priming paint.

More work to be done.

On Tuesday last I did the dreaded thing, entrusted my home to the tender mercies of the travel lift at Gulf Harbour Marina.

She’s up on blocks in a cradle, seems stable, but gosh, when I go up the ladder to go aboard it’s a very long way up, probably 5 metres to eye height when standing in the main cabin, when  Im in there I try not to look out the window!

 The end of day one.  There is not quite standing room under her, enough so that with a slight stoop and a roller on a 4 ft handle I can reach in to paint quite quickly. 
I get very nervous seeing my home up in the air like that, she's a long way up, and I'm very keen to get her back in the water where she belongs.

Day one, rumbled off down the river, through the moorings and out to sea, along the coast and into the marina.
The workberth where the travel lifts operate ( there are two of them) is quite tight to get into, and there was a decent sized catamaran aongside in there which made it an “interesting”  task getting the ship against the dock and tied up.  No bow thruster, or even twin screws, or crew for that matter.  So, just me, 15 tons of ship, that big propellor hooked to old Henry ( the ship is powered by a 6.5 litre 6 cylinder Ford diesel,  135 hp and about 450 nm of torque at about 1800 rpm) and the dock.
As it happened, there was no wind, we made a perfect approach, prop walked  the stern across just before the bow touched the pontoon and I stepped ashore with fenders already deployed, picked up the mooring lines already flaked out  ready for use, and tied her up.
The half dozen spectators were just far enough away so they could not hear my sigh of relief!

The Marina crew waterblasted her to get most of the  rubbish off her underwater sections, which was very effective.  Once perched up on her cradle, it was” into it“ with the tungsten tipped scraper and sandpaper.   By the end of day one I had most of the bottom scraped off,  had wet sanded it to tidy the surface up, had begun the application of the underwater primer paint, and had shoulders that felt as though Atlas had been using them to hold the planet up.

I was a bit preoccupied here, so had let the time run on some, and only just made it to the bus stop to catch the bus back to my home, or where my home is usually docked so I could pick up my pickup and drive out to the local geothermal hot pools for a well deserved soak.

Made it, but had to sprint 500 yards or so to get there, it’s the first stop on that bus route so it doesn’t pay to count on the bus being late!
As a by the way, the public transport system here is a vast improvement on what it was a few years ago, and I find that I use it fairly regularly.  Well done whoever did that!

Day two, sanded off the topsides, applied more primer paint to the underwater areas. I thought my shoulders were sore the night before? Double that.  No, double double that.
Back to the hot pools, had a looooong shower and a soak, remember that my shower is 15 ft up in the air having her outside painted! Came home. Slept like a log.

Underwater primer coat on, topsides sanded off, I'm about to put the masking tape on. 
Note that its all hand sanding here, power sanders spread too much dust and that would upset others painting, a very good reason to find somewhere else next time I want to haul her out. That plus usurious costs, the guys in the yard are great, but they dont set the prices.

Where am I staying?  Aha, the marina does not allow people to stay aboard their boats when up on the hard, so I have set up a hikers tent inside the shed, I’ve a portable head, good mattress, cooker, the icebox from Spook, my little gaff sloop, and of course have lighting and electricity.  My senior card gets me into the hot pools very cheaply and I’m a regular there anyway.  Nice place.

Day three, whooboy!  Sore shoulders! Double treble that.  Finished the primer coat underneath, filled the seeveral dings in the topsides with epoxy filler, ran the masking tape around her and managed to get a full coat of coal black antifouling on.  Another coat tomorrow and that’s done.  I’m hoping that I’ll get through the antifouling by lunchtime and have time to put the undercoat on the topsides so I can get two coats on over the weekend.

First coat of antifouling on, prop and rudder polished ready for its special coating. Note that has to be applied to a heated surface, so there is a paint stripper gun in my near future ( tomorrow morning, dont let me forget!) 
There is a second coat of antifouling to apply, that will happen tomorrow.  The weather forecast is for showers over the weekend which may scotch my efforts to complete the topsides paint, but if I can get the undercoat on I can do the rest at my dock. One way or t'other she goes back in the water on Monday next. 

Note, this is not concours standard painting, its roller and brush, it will look fine from a few yards away, on a dark night, with sunglasses on! But it will protect the wood underneath which is the aim.

I had a thought that Diane Salguero ( did I spell that correctly Diane? If not, my apologies) might have liked to be here, she’s the best boat painter I know, a Port Townsend WA USA resident, and if you need your boat painted, she’s the girl to do it.)
Diane, I know about the weather in WA at this time of year,  its shorts and bikini top weather here and I need you and your paintbrush!

So I’m painting, 12 hour days with sandpaper, roller and brush.  In the meantime, there are many things I’d rather be doing, drawing boats, sleeping, sailing boats, sleeping, building boats, sleeping, visiting friends, sleeping, reading good books, sleeping, watching the sunset, sleeping.

I’m off to bed, even a sleeping bag in a tent set up in my shop is a very inviting prospect right now.

So its goodnight from me.


  1. Taking your dog out, sleeping. He's doing just fine, and you've made great progress, albeit with very long days. Thank goodness for the hot pools!

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  3. Wish Dianne were there or anyone to help but especially Dianne. She was on my meet someday list and I was delighted to meet her with Pete and Helens boat. I am not a good bottom job painter but would do fine on bright work.

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