Just to be clear, all haul-outs are dreaded, some more than others. Going in, we knew that this one was to be a “more dreaded” affair…a complete strip down to gel coat or barrier coat or whatever was there. We also wanted to get a close look at some repair work that we found during our first haul-out in 2017. The intrepid previous owner forgot that he owned a boat and tried a little rock crawling outside of Pender Harbour in 2015. The resulting damage was not disclosed or discovered during our sale, and was an unpleasant surprise when we finally found it. Despite the assurances of the insurance adjuster who surveyed the damage and the guy who did the repair, we wanted to know what the real story was. All this uncertainty was our main motivation – just what was all that paint hiding?
But wait – there was more.
Our boat has a centerboard. This is controlled by a cable that runs from the centerboard, through a turning block mounted over the keel and finally to a winch in the cockpit. The cable is housed in a stainless steel pipe as it runs aft. Most of this mechanism is below the waterline, and represents a substantial risk as it cannot be protected by a sea cock. The system must be maintained and – big surprise – ours wasn’t. The turning block in the bilge was leaking, and there was some evidence that the aft turning block was too. At there very least, we needed to pull these parts and have them re-welded.
We hauled on a Monday after returning from an amazing week in the Gulf Islands on Sunday.
This was a pretty rude transition – from sitting on the beach to scraping goo off the bottom.
We had her pressure washed and had a good look at what we were starting with. Welcome to our first surprise – hull delamination.
Now normally, this would’ve been a major shock, but we’ve dealt with so many boat surprises over the years that it was all pretty humdrum.
“Hey Lori, check this out. The repair they did when Bill hit the reef is delaminating!”
“Nice…What would you like for lunch?”
I ripped as much off as I could and had a good look. Fiberglass over bottom paint, applied by a “professional”.
After lunch, we started ripping out the centerboard mechanism. This was also worse than we thought – Sabre decided that it was a good idea to put a bronze sheave in the submerged stainless housing and the resulting galvanic corrosion took out portions of all of the metal involved. Over the next week, we stripped all of the conduit out of the boat, re-designed the system to eliminate the dissimilar metals, metal conduit and stainless cable, and hired a fabricator to make new turning block for both ends of the conduit.
We started the stripping the bottom on Tuesday.
We decided to to use a chemical stripper called DeFOUL by Protocol Environmental Solutions. This is a water based non-toxic product that claims to remove multiple layers with one application. The instructions were simple: spray it on with an airless sprayer, let it sit overnight, and scrape. Looking at the thickness of the paint build up at the waterline, we anticipated needing at least two applications.
We suited up and started scraping Wednesday morning. What a terrible job! The DeFOUL did exactly what it was supposed to do, but the sludge that we scraped of got everywhere. Shoes, hats…everything covered in a gooey, sticky, toxic (the paint is toxic) sludge.
A terrible job, but compared to the alternatives, relatively easy. I’ve sanded and scraped before. It’s is very physically demanding and time consuming. It’s also dusty, even with a vacuum, and noisy. Using DeFoul to soften the paint saved tons of time and effort. We started scraping at 9am and had the first 10 years of paint off by 3pm without the noise and dust of sanding. In some areas, we were able to strip all of the bottom paint off with that first application. That’s pretty remarkable. Really messy but remarkable.
The rest of the paint wasn’t quite as accommodating – ultimately, it took two more applications to get through the next 10 years of paint. I have no idea what it was, but that red paint was far more tenacious than the more recent paint. Still, we had the boat mostly down to fiberglass and surprise number 3 by Saturday.
Surprise number 3 and a questioned answered…
Surprise number 3 was the composition of the bottom: bi-axial cloth set in epoxy over a peeled bottom. No gel coat. Somewhere in the sales literature, we’d read that the boat had a barrier coat. We didn’t expect to find a new layer of glass. This layer, which should’ve been extended a little higher up the hull, explained the absence of blisters everywhere except the waterline. Clearly the boat had had a fairly bad blister problem that some previous owner had peeled off in the distant past. This is almost exactly what we’d done to our last boat and was a good surprise. Finally.
Things are looking up…
Spring break ended and the weather became unstable. This required a certain amount of luck to get dry weather windows to coincide with our work schedule..we were lucky.
- We ground off all of the repair work that had been applied over bottom paint and faired what was left. The quality of the work done does not inspire confidence in our marine tradespeople. How would one choose a contractor and ensure quality work? I hope that I’m never forced to find out.
- I ground out and laid up a patch for a small void that penetrated far into the laminate in front of the keel. My hunch is that the boat came down hard on a rock in this spot when it was grounded.
- I removed two unused thru hulls and patched the holes.
- We replaced the bolts attaching the strut.
- We put in a new depth transducer (why we did this is a tale for another day)
- I ground out all of the gelcoat blisters at the water line and faired with epoxy filler.
- We replaced the fairing at the hull / keel joint.
- We applied 1 coat of Clovamastic epoxy barrier coat under 2 coats of Jotun Seaforce 200 bottom paint
- We replaced the entire centerboard pendant system.
- I polished and waxed the topsides
22 days with one Friday night off. Haul-outs aren’t fun, but the feeling of relief and satisfaction when the boat went back in the water was. As an aside, we are lucky to not only be competent enough to do this work (we actually got a job offer!), but also to have the opportunity to do the work. Not all jurisdictions allow DIYers to work on their boat for fear that they will not be responsible. In fact, there is at least one yard in Washington State that won’t even allow owners to change their own zincs in the name of environmental protection. Not only do I doubt that hired guns would take the care that I do to do quality work on our boat, but we couldn’t afford our boat if we had to pay someone else to work on it. I guess that this means that those of us that are still able to find places where we can work on our boats have a duty to work as neatly and responsibly as we can in order to put off the long arm of bureaucratic overreach as long as possible. Happy painting!