Thursday, June 28, 2012

If You Think a Dirty Bottom Slows You Down

Just imagine what it does for your boat.  Someone who posts on Sailnet has that quote in their signature.  I can’t find it at the moment to give proper credit.

Sojourn had been getting slower and slower.  I smartly or stupidly, ignorantly, or well, ignorantly, bought Sojourn without hauling her to look at the bottom.  It had recently been painted, but that is all I really knew. Almost two years have gone by. Last summer, using GPS averaging, I clocked Sojourn at ludicrous speed - 6.4 knots at 3600 RPM.  At this blistering speed, the ordinarily high and dry exhaust port on the transom is completely submerged.

This year, I could only get about 5.5 knots, could not make 3600 RPM, and the exhaust port wouldn’t get anywhere near the water line.  So I decided that it was time to haul her.  I could have saved some money by waiting for Winter specials, but not knowing what the bottom looked like and knowing it wasn’t going very fast was bugging me. 

On the big day, I motored the quarter mile to the lift, and watched as Sojourn briefly left her familiar depths and traveled skyward as the travellift hoisted Sojourn onto the hard. My first impression was that the hull was much cleaner than I expected.  The only obvious growth at a distance was the volleyball of muscles attached to the bottom of the keel. The prop didn’t have a single barnacle.  As it moved to the pressure wash station and I got closer, my heart sank.  2012-05-20_15-01-29_501While mostly free of growth, her hull looked like surface of a Martian dry lake with lots of blisters.  Water was seeping out of the cracks between the drying tiles of paint.  The guy I had hired to do the job was making noise about a “peel” and how the boat might not be worth that much.

I sent this and several other photos to Ben who was very reassuring. He said his Mason looked the same way when he bought it.  He advised me to scrape it, fix the worst of the blisters, do a few more next year and go sail it.  So that is what I did.  It turned out that most of the blisters were in between the layers of paint and not in the gel coat, although the gel coat had is fair share.  I hired Lakota Marine Services in Everett to do the scraping and painting, not expecting to have time to do it myself.  They fixed 20 or 30 blisters, I fixed 20 or 30 more and I left 70 or 80 for future haulouts.  They re-painted it with two coats of BlueWater Copper Shield.

2012-05-20_15-03-48_610 I took advantage of the time and buffed and waxed the top sides which made a remarkable difference. I used 3M rubbing compound and wax, each costing about $50, but worth it as my previous attempts made little improvement.  One other piece of advice that I followed and pass on is don’t even attempt this without a Makita variable speed rotary buffer or similar. The cheap orbital you get at the parts store might be ok for the final wax, but for buffing, you’d be better of doing it by hand.  It took me about 12 hours over two days to do the complete job including wax. In the process, I was continually struck by the notion of how small Sojourn is in the water and how big she is out of the water! Scaffolding would have been helpful.

At least as important as the buffing was cleaning that the buffer wouldn’t touch.  My hull was anything but white and I had tried several cleaning products that didn’t touch it. Davis FSR is almost magical.  Take a look at the before and after photos. The guy who did most of the work on my boat kept telling me to buy some and try it. 2012-05-25_12-56-33_58 I finally did.   I used about a pint of FSR, keeping it wet with my boat brush for about 30 minutes and then wiped it off.  Amazing!

On day 5, I slimed the prop with Lanocote as I did last year, splashed her and set off for Poulsbo.

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