How we redid our catamaran's bottom paint,
added an epoxy barrier coat,
pushed ourselves beyond exhaustion,
and abused all our friends.
Good friends help you move the body. - Al Capone.
Great friends help you paint your boat. - Robb Triton.
|Triton up on blocks in Trinidad, when we first bought her.|
You can see that I'd just finished putting a layer of red paint
over what turned out to be several layers of blue bottom.
First, buy a catamaran, preferably a large one, that needs new bottom paint. Do make sure that there are at least seven or eight layers of old paint already on there, so that you'll eventually need to grind it all off before you can put the new paint back on. Then, move your boat to California, where the environmental protection laws require you to use absurdly inefficient and costly mechanisms that require enormous physical effort and a vast work force to achieve your goal. Oh, and while you are at it, decide at the last moment that what you really want to do is grind all the bottom paint completely off, right down to the gelcoat, so that you can add a couple of coats of two-part epoxy barrier paint before re-painting your boat.
|Triton with her original blue bottom paint- we'd already|
easily scraped off all the red paint I had put on in Trinidad,
leading us to a false sense of security.
The actor Edward Kean, on his death bed, is claimed to have said "dying is easy . . . comedy is hard". Well, the sailing equivalent of that would be "painting is easy, grinding is hard". When they say "Ignorance Is Bliss", they are talking about folks who've only ever put paint on, but never removed it.
I think I spent all of three days, in the hot tropic sun of Trinidad, to slap two layers of bottom paint on Triton, and I was by myself. I thought "Taking it off shouldn't be much worse. How hard could this be?" I think you'll find that question running through many of my blog entries. Usually followed by a heart-wrenching tale of woe.
|Mike has never fully recovered from the ordeal|
of painting his own boat. He still twitches when
ever anyone mentions it.
My dear friend Mikey [one of the original Triton crew] scraped and painted the bottom of his 21' monohull over the course of about a week at the same marina. He had half a dozen friends helping him, and was exhausted by the end. We foolishly ignored his experience and thought we would have no problem. We expected to have at least three times as many (and maybe more) show up to help, so we were confident we could kick this job out in no time. Perhaps coincidentally, Mikey was busy that week, which should have clued us in. [editor's note: in the end it turned out that over twenty-five people came to our assistance, all of them worked tirelessly, and some of them are still speaking to us.]
|Our loyal, supportive friends. |
We are not worthy.
|Jen after just two hours of grinding.|
It got worse.
So, we needed to put paint on our catamaran. We knew that was going to be a big job, but we figured we'd be able to depend on our vast network of friends to help us, which we hoped might reduce the cost a bit by "doing it yourself". We had a large assortment of friends who've been there for us in the past, and we were confident that we could pull this off. Little did we know that the net savings would be offset by the increased health risks of sleep deprivation, penury through boat-yard micro-purchases [i.e. being nickle and dime'd to death] and the negative health effects of breathing toxic paint dust.
Napa Valley Marina, just up the Napa River, in beautiful Napa, CA. They are (as best we could determine) the only non-industrial boat yard in the bay area capable of hauling our boat. At just under 25' wide, there just aren't that many boat yards that can handle us on the west coast. . . that don't require a trip to L.A. or San Diego. There were some real headaches in arranging a date to make this happen [see our post titled Napa Valley Marina] but we eventually managed to arrange a date in July and sailed up there the day before.
|There is nothing so much fun as|
messing around in boats.
|John ate more dust than|
Wile. E. Coyote
|How Blue Beard got his name.|
|Are we having fun yet?|
And to make matters worse, the state of California has decided that scraping off paint is a threat to marine wildlife, and therefore you can only do so in a controlled fashion. The controlled fashion is a grinding wheel attached to a vacuum cleaner. Think R2D2's retarded cousin, but with a mean streak. These things are loud, heavy, cumbersome and sprayed copper sulfate dust everywhere. If you weren't careful, some even ended up inside the vacuum cleaner itself. I always wondered what you got if a jack hammer mated with a bench grinder, whose mother was an industrial Hoover.
|Oh sure, it looks cute and friendly, but this little beast is pure|
demon spawn from hell. You have to use special sandpaper
with a Velcro backing, except that half the grinders we got
didn't hold the sandpaper. In the end we just glued them on.
|Believe it or not, there is a beautiful, sexy|
woman underneath all those bandages. I just
don't know why she is still living with me.
|A very blue Chuck.|
As the days wore on, the symptoms would occur sooner and sooner. This is not a good sign. We were not having fun, and it probably meant we were causing permanent nerve damage. There is nothing about this in the glossy ads for boat ownership, and you never hear about this from the yacht salesman. AnnMarie mentioned this fact repeatedly.
|Kids don't try this at home! Operating|
a grinder attached to a sling shot isn't
for the faint of heart.
|Barb the wonder bunny!|
Also, the disks themselves were very expense. If you are foolish enough to do this job yourself, be advised that it is far cheaper to buy the sanding disks in bulk somewhere other than the marina, as you are going to use an English-Standard-Intercourse-Tonne of the them. [editor's note: English-Standard-Intercourse-Tonne is the registered trademark of Her Imperial Majesty and may not be used without permission, especially if you are part of the EU, which uses the metric version.]
|J.D. is our hero. She worked harder than guys|
twice her size, and still rocked the place. I'm
amazed more people didn't fall off scaffolds
for not watching what they were doing.
|That this woman is still|
speaking to me is amazing.
All that will take away from your ability to get anything accomplished yourself. Being a foreman is a full time job, which means you won't get any actual work done, and you'll be hard pressed not to want to start yelling at people who are only trying to help. Yet another reason to let the pros at Napa Valley do the work. They know how, and won't make costly mistakes, like promising your better third you'd take her out for a nice dinner, and then falling asleep in front of all your friends instead. This is not the best way to endear yourself to the love of your life, especially if she has just spent the day being miserable on your behalf.
|Chuck & Susie chat with Fracas while I snore through my|
promise of a hard-earned dinner for AnnMarie.
|John Roller - one of the many saviours|
of our project! We would still be
grinding if it wasn't for his help.
Unfortunately, the remaining bottom paint was six layers thick, and baked on. I think the space shuttle tiles would be easier to get off. It was twice as hard to grind, and three times as thick. And there were less of us. Most of our friends had left, and only the few, the proud, the marine lunatics remained. While we are very, very grateful to everyone who helped, it was ultimately the folks who showed up day after day that made this task possible. We can't thank them enough! JD, John, Felix, Terri, Ed & Diana all came back over and over again to help, and that made a huge difference for our moral.
|Joe & John beat back the blues.|
You paint it on and wait a few hours, keeping the surface slightly moist, then scrape off the paint. No grinding, or at least, not as much. It would take off about four layers of paint per application. For a boat our size and condition, I'm guessing you would need about 15 gallons of the stuff to do the whole boat, and probably a high pressure washer would help, but it would all be worth the cost. Had we been smart, we would have used this on the boat before anyone showed up to grind, then reapplied it after the first wave of volunteers when home for the day. It may have made the job go much quicker, and it would have helped save our backs.
|Scott never stopped working!|
|We don't quite know how she managed it, but Barbara's|
coverall remained clean throughout her grueling efforts.
|Terri needs to get out more.|
Eventually we ground the boat down to the gel-coat. It was grueling work, and each day we crashed exhausted into a bed that was twenty feet above sea level, only to wake up in a freezing cold boat surrounded in fog, with a 100 yard dash to the bathrooms.
At this point we've got the bottom mostly scraped clean, just a few hard to reach areas around the stern, and are about to patch up any small dents or pockmarks we find, slap on the epoxy barrier coat, then throw on a couple of new layers of bottom paint. We're way behind schedule, and way over budget. But that shouldn't be a surprise if you own a boat.
In the meantime, my hands are destroyed. It was weeks before the blue dust exfoliated from my skin, I've no doubt taken several years off my life, and ingested enough toxins to have permanently altered my DNA. I'm hoping for new super powers from this, preferably the one where I can see into the future and avoid death march boat projects.
We'll cover finishing the bottom paint job in part two of this entry.
[editor's note: No one died during the first phase of this effort. That may not sound like much to you, but it came as a major shock to the author.]