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Episode 1 Bottoms Up

Copy Write10/14/2000©   Updated 12/16/2004

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When I bought "Don't Ask" in June of 1997 she had what was left of a worn bottom paint job, she had also been sitting on a trailer for no telling how long. Her first slip was Grand Lagoon Yacht Club on the ICW in salt water. Within a few months a small colony of critters built a home on the hull.

After recovery from Hurricane Danny damage, some slip space was offered on the north end of Perdido Bay in a bayou of brackish water. The same old bottom paint continued to do its job. The worn areas needed a mild scraping every time the boat was pulled from the slip. For years a great deal of fresh water was dumped through the canal system where my boat is slipped. Nobody has needed much more than a once a year scrub down. This last year much has changed and the salt water is back along with all the critters. A good bottom job is needed before launch.

The barnacles have found all the weak spots of the old bottom paint. They made homes at the head of the keel slot up about 3 inches high into the keel slot; the stern of the keel slot was not as bad as the forward section. Along the sides of the hull the colonies seem spotty... The port side of the hull has a big patch of barnacles. It takes me a few minutes to understand why. There is a mount for a folding ladder on the port side. I usually pull into thin water port to land ward for the ladder. Apparently the paint has worn on that side.

Using some old 60-grit sandpaper and a water hose, starting with the bow I work back to the first trailer cross member. There are a few patchy small barnacles here and there. Using some old carpet, as a pad crawling around and scrubbing is not as bad as I originally thought. Rinsing the hull and myself regularly it is comfortable working in the August heat with the water in the shade of the hull. The remaining bottom paint scrubs easily and things go smooth. It is time consuming crawling around under the boat wet sanding & rinsing, eventually the hull is finished.

Before I can paint, the boat needs to be jacked up and blocked on the trailer to give me access to the entire hull.

Jacking the boat up is a simple process. With the boat is sitting on the bunks you don't need to support the whole weight of the boat. I find auto scissor jacks do well. I also have a small 3-ton hydraulic jack. Cut some " to " plywood into 2'X2' squares and place between the hull and the jack. Ideally you should block the jack from the ground up. Sometimes depending upon how the boat is sitting on the trailer you may be able to use the trailer rails to support the jack. Just set up on one side and jack until high enough to place your block on the bunk. You need to place the block directly over a bunk support post. Three blocks per side are enough for short-term work. I wouldn't recommend leaving the boat blocked for more than a few days.

Most important decide what you are going to do and where you are going if the boat starts moving. Also don't put your self in a position under the boat or trailer or between the boat and trailer while jacking the boat up.

Blue non stick painters tape is used along the water line to keep the bottom paint neat. Things were going smooth until the starboard side. The boat is sitting with blocks on the trailer bunks to allow painting where the bunks are. I would have never seen the potential problem otherwise. Starboard side bunk forward about where the bunk stops. I noticed the bottom paint seemed a bit thicker and hadn't worn like the rest of the hull. It also looked like the bottom paint was cracking away from the hull. Odd to say the least!!!

Scraping away some of the paint it gets even odder. Just a bit more scraping and a chunk drops off revealing gouges. After some serious scraping the truth is revealed. Some time long ago something gouged parallel scratches in this section of the hull about 6" to 8" long.

I am just about to panic, the hull has never leaked but I didn't know what the situation is. Returning with a wire wheel on my drill the area is cleaned. Once the area is cleaned up, I find no serious damage. The gouges cut through the gel-coat but not much damage to anything else. The repair had been done with some kind of fairing compound and came off quickly. Grabbing my can of resin & filler I mix up something to fill.

A trip to West Marine was needed to look at bottom paint I knew there was different kinds but never understood the price difference. I was of the delusion ablative was the way to go. From what I see it is $100 a gallon. There is something called "modified epoxy" for around $60 a gallon. I'm unsure what is on the boat now. Based upon some printed material I "think" (dangerous even when done properly) I may have the remnants of "modified epoxy" on the hull currently.

A gallon of modified epoxy bottom paint good rubber gloves, a space suit, a few epoxy sticks and some lettering is picked out. Looking at their paintbrushes I will stop another place and get them for much less. I have already purchased the rollers and some odds and ends previously. Cashier is drooling as he takes my check. I will most likely get that refund check from West Marine's Advantage Program soon.

Opening the can of bottom paint I find it is separated big time. Have you ever accidentally placed a squeeze jar of honey in the refrigerator then tried to use it the next day. Well stirring that paint was just like that honey jar. Thought I would never get it mixed. The rudder is hung by a rope and brushed a coat of bottom paint. I didn't realize it would set up so fast. It is in the 80's low humidity and a real nice day for August in Florida. Moving to the keel one side is quickly completed with a roller. After the painted side has dried good the keel is flipped and the other side painted.

Starting at the port side bow the bottom paint is rolled on the hull and working back along the outside in as far as I can reach. It goes on real smooth and quick. The starboard side is painted in the same manor. Most of the stern hangs off the trailer and reaching under is no problem. Before I know it the easy part is done. I used 2" non-stick tape (blue stuff) to mask the water line. I thought one strip would be enough. But, you know how it is slinging paint. Coloring inside the lines was never my best subject in preschool. I get a few swipes on the white boot stripe (not bad). Next time I will lay two widths of tape down.

I spent $11.00 on a space suit, thinking I was going to have to crawl around under the trailer to finish the bottom. Looking at the situation, I get another one of my world famous brainstorms, yes this one too worked! Grabbing a paint pole and screwing it in the roller handle I quickly realize the paint can be rolled all the way down to the keel trunk. Even better the roller can be turned up on end and slide the open end of the paint roller brush up into the keel slot. Oh, what a great day I can paint the entire hull and don't have to crawl under the boat. Even better I don't need the space suit. I didn't expect this job to go so fast. Finishing the touch ups on the bottom paint is a major hassle. The paint sticks to the wood blocks and some pulls away from the hull. So every time I move something I have to touch some place up. Eventually it is as good as it is going to get. At this time there are 4"x4" blocks over the forward and stern bunk supports holding the boat above the bunks.

The day is late and I decide to get the boat back on the bunks for tomorrows launch. I am concerned about the bottom paint sticking to the carpet covering the bunks. An idea comes to mind, so simple why haven't I thought of this before. I have wasted much time today moving support blocks around and repainting the sticky spots. If I wrapped the support blocks in saran wrap the paint won't stick to the support blocks. If I do the same with the bunks I won't mess that up either. Carefully jacking one side then the next the support blocks are removed, bottom paint is touched up, bunks are covered with saran wrap and the boat lowered on the trailer. Works like a charm!!! The wood block I place on top of the jack to lift the boat is wrapped in saran as well.

My first bottom job on this boat is done!!!



The information on this page is not intended as a "definitive" guide to sailing .
Rather it is a collection of things that work for me also ideas I have learned from other sources.
The information is specific to my 22' swing keel South Coast Seacraft Eclipse.
The sailing area is local bays and ICW
Use at your own risk
Any good sailing resource book should provide a comprehensive review of sailing theory.

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