Bay Tripper - July 2007

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Another year’s boatwork finished

Another year’s boatwork finished

In the recent past, I carried out spring boatyard chores every other year in rather primitive and distant boatyard environments. But this spring was decidedly different at Port Annapolis Marina and Boatyard.

Here, one enters a welcoming, landscaped portal flanked by manicured lawns and blooming flower beds. Farther along, the Wet Dog Café offers alfresco dining on a patio deck shaded by beach umbrellas. There are clean showers and toilets, a swimming pool (for members), and screened Victorian gazebos overlooking Back Creek. (They call this a full-service boatyard?)

Somehow I half expected the workload to be lighter under such elegant and convenient circumstances, but as I grow older I don’t always get any wiser — boatwise, at least. Spring boatwork is always challenging, mainly because of unpredictable weather. This spring, work was delayed by very cold (not wet) weather all of March until mid-April, with temperatures that sometimes dropped 50 degrees from one day to the next. But when the weather began to cooperate, the routine went something like this:

• morning at the yard

• noon break at the office (just three miles away) to check e-mail and such, do lunch, then back to the boat

• end the workday with a late-afternoon beer at Chickie’s Ebbtide Lounge near the marina

But no sooner did April settle down when swirling winds picked up, dumping blizzards of assorted tree trash — helicopter petals, brown seed stalks, and yellow pollen. Kamikaze bugs, drawn by fresh paint, would leave a long trail of spidery “footprints,” escaping doom to bug another boat painter another day.

My ’07 plans were kind of based on what I did — or did not — do in ’05 at a less-than-elegant boatyard. I had entertained the possibility of having a bottom stripper remove an 18-year accumulation of bottom paint but decided I would remove only loose and flaking stuff. I went through the same mental drill this spring, putting off the big job for another time.

Back then I had sanded and painted the topsides a dark Donegal green, using the roller-and-brush method. Interlux Toplac is a one-part silicone copolymer finish that produces remarkable results under proper weather conditions. I was determined not to do that again because the paint held up well, with a few dings and scratches here and there.

I recruited a volunteer helpmate to demonstrate his fine finishing techniques with a large buffer and 3M’s Finesse-It II buffing glaze, which can produce an even higher gloss over a fresh, one-part, high-gloss paint. The curse of an amateur painting a hull is that working on a surface up close magnifies every imperfection out of all proportion to reality. (Once the boat is floating, reflections from the water erase such flaws and blemishes.)

At the yard I try to enforce a 6-foot stand-off rule that, theoretically, prevents me from stopping what I am doing to explain to a stranger what I am trying to do and why. It is really irritating when a sidewalk superintendent presses his nose to the hull and points out miniscule imperfections.

I also had to go through this drill when bottom stripping was crossed off my to-do list. I thought I had made arrangements with an approved yard contractor to grind down the top four to five inches of bottom paint above the waterline, which I wanted to lower by three inches. Toplac, of course, would not adhere to bottom paint. Alas, the job was not finished, so I kept the waterline where it was. (I will explain a plan to keep out of these predicaments during the winter and spring of ’09, when boatwork will come calling again.)

The big job this spring, by far, was sealing the 70-pound steel centerboard on my 1962, full-keel pocket cruiser. I replaced the original centerboard some eight years ago and coated it with epoxy. It was a tough, tough job. When the centerboard is lowered through a narrow slot in the keel, it occasionally bangs against the iron ballast when the boat is under sail. This battering eventually cracked and peeled the epoxy layer, allowing water to penetrate and rust to form.

Following Interlux’s boat painting guide, I again addressed the centerboard problem, which I have been dealing with for 23-some years of owning this boat. But first I had to dig a hole 18 inches deep to lower the centerboard. This meant clawing by hand and garden tools through layers of rock and stone until I reached damp sand, indicating the water table was near. (Now I know what a loggerhead turtle laying eggs must go through.) Then I had to “bring the metal to a uniform bright finish by sandblasting.” In my case, this meant grinding with 40-grit hook-and-loop sanding discs. I did the best I could, blasting through layers of epoxy, paint and rust.

I wiped down the bare metal surface with Interlux’s Special Thinner 216, as per instructions. Next came a coat of Viny-Lux Primer Wash thinned 25 percent with Viny-Lux Solvent 355. Then came four coats (a day apart) of Inter-Protect 2000E/2001E, which also is used as a barrier coat to treat hull blistering. It is a messy, thick and gloppy 3-to-1 mix. At this stage the centerboard was a pleasing, smooth and uniform gray in color. Three coats of Fiberglass Bottomkote ablative ACT with Irgarol was the last step. This is a new Interlux product “enhanced with another unique slime-fighting ingredient,” claims company literature.

This might help my specific problem. I keep my boat in a small dead-end cove off Spa Creek in Annapolis, with little natural flushing and much street runoff. It will be a good test for Irgarol. Two coats of this antifouling paint also covered the bottom. (The two Woodwind day schooners that dayboat out of the Annapolis harbor also tried the product this spring when hauled for the winter at Port Annapolis.)

Other spring projects included painting the deck with Interlux Interdeck, a polyurethane finish with fine mineral additives for a non-skid surface. A high-gloss Interlux Brightside white with Teflon coated the cabin sides. I stripped separate portions of the main hatch and finished with Cetol and Schooner varnish. I also used Cetol gloss on the inside and outside of the cockpit’s mahogany coamings, the main hatch slide and hand holds. Toerails were sanded thoroughly and painted with three coats of Pettit Brightwork Brown — sanding between coats, of course.

I recorded one embarrassing mishap. While painting the inside of the empty lazarette hatch, I had moved a thin plywood covering and forgetfully sat down hard on it. It gave way, and I crashed through into the freshly painted lazarette, with my legs dangling over the edge.

Now, for plans the next time around, in 2009. I hope to find an old boat trailer and haul Erewhon into a high, stockade-fence enclosure by the side of my house. I’ll rig a clear plastic roof, and the boat will be secluded out of sight from any complaining neighbors and available for immediate attention.

We shall see …

Jack Sherwood is writer at large for Soundings.