Monday, 18 April 2016

Auntie Fouling to the Rescue

Dear Auntie Fouling

Spring is here and my bottom is a disaster!  There is so much advice out there about how to get it in shape - how do I know what’s right for me and my bottom? 

More specifically, I have just bought a 25-year old Catalina 25 lifting keel with, I would say, 25 years of bottom paint still clinging to the hull, judging by the layers of colors I’ve found so far. 

I know I have to scrape until I get all of the old paint off, but how do I know when to stop?  And then what?  Do I need to prep the surface or can I just slap the paint on?  And which paint?!  I’m tending towards the really expensive stuff because I want to do it right, but I’m just not sure what’s right for me. I also read that these bottom paints are toxic and that I should suit up for the Apocalypse. What’s up with THAT? And how many coats of paint should I use? And do I need to do something in between coats?  

Bummed about my bottom

Dear Bummed,

If you ask 3 different people how they clean their bottom and apply bottom paint, you’ll get 5 different answers. Confusion is just part of the fun of being a boat owner and you must learn to embrace it.

Scraping your bottom:  yes and no.  (See how much fun this is going to be?)  Ideally, you should try to get as much of the old paint off as possible, but you must keep in mind that your goal is to have a smooth bottom.  If you’ve got pits and rough spots, those need to go.  Usually your epoxy layer is a white or cream color, and as far as I know, no one makes bottom paint that color, so stop when you strike white (or white-ish).  If getting down to the epoxy layer is a massive job, just aim for smooth.  Buy a quality scraper with replaceable cartridge blades. These babies cut through old paint like a hot knife through butter.  When you’ve got things as good as you can with the scraper, pull out your orbital sander and have a go at any uneven spots.

A note about safety:  Bottom paints are toxic to aquatic scum, and very bad for any of your soft tissues, specifically skin, eyes, lungs, etc.  One of the biggest dangers is from the fine dust while you’re sanding the old paint off the bottom.  Before we learned how to suit up properly, we suffered lung infections and eye infections from bottom paint dust and we hope you’ll learn from our mistakes. Tales abound of reckless people eschewing masks who ended up in the hospital for months with severe lung damage, so please take the warnings seriously. 

What's hot in boat-yard apparel for 2016.

When scraping and especially while sanding, cover your eyes, nose and mouth.  Those little filter-type masks with the metal nose clip and elastic bands are, in my humble opinion, good for NOTHING.  They’re hot and sweaty and have gaps in them and make you itchy and miserable.  The best method we’ve found is to take an old tee-shirt and pull it down over your head until it stops on the bridge of your nose and on your ears.  If the sleeves are long enough, tie them behind your head.  Bonus points if you take a magic marker and draw a big smile around the mouth area.  Friendly suggestion:  brush your teeth well before putting on any mask.  You’ll be mouth-breathing in close proximity to your own nose.  Trust me on this one.  For the eyes, use wrap-around eye protection that you can get from a hardware or garden store, not sun glasses with open sides.  When it comes time to paint, cover your skin to minimize contact with the fresh paint (plastic gloves, long sleeves, pants).  Don’t forget a bandana or cap for your hair.  If you have a choice, it’s good to do the painting on a breezy day when the fumes will be whisked away.  See also “Clean Up” below.   

Preparing to paint:  Now you have a smooth bottom and are ready to paint.  Wipe the bottom down with a damp rag to get rid of the dust. Tape off the zone to be painted around the water line.  Do NOT use masking tape.  Once it bakes in the sun it’s very difficult to get off.  Use the plasticky pvc-type tapes for this job found at any boat store.  Bottom paints need to be stirred well before you use them.  Use a stirring stick or paint mixer attachment for a drill and mix for several minutes.  You may need to remix every hour or so if you see any separation occurring.  Read the can for instructions for your particular paint.  Most paints will lose their anti-fouling properties if they are exposed to air for more than 3 weeks, so you should only start painting when you know the boat will go in the water within the time delay.

But wait !  Which paint ??:  This all depends on your bottom, what kind of sailing you do, where your boat is berthed, what kind of water it is in, what the last type of paint applied was, how well you removed (or didn’t) the last coat of paint, and how much money you have.  In general, if you are taking your boat out of the water and re-applying bottom paint every year (as you should), you do not need to do anything fancy.  There are two basic flavours:  hard matrix (modified epoxy paint) and ablative.  The biocide in the hard matrix gets leached out over time but the paint layer stays more or less intact.  It dries to a hard smooth(ish) surface that doesn’t wear off.  The ablative paint slowly wears away, exposing fresh biocide at a regular interval and the paint itself erodes with time as well.  If you sail a lot of miles or if your boat is berthed in an area with a strong current, an ablative paint will wear away quickly, but the advantage is that it’s easier to remove for the next season’s paint job.  The hard matrix will provide continual protection but eventually the biocide will be gone and you’ll just be left with paint and algae, and a bigger mess for the next season.

We have always used hard matrix.  For the way we sail, it lasts longer, it’s cheaper, and we scrape and repaint every year.  This year, however, we’re doing something different.  We’re heading into the Med and we’re not sure we’ll pull the boat out of the water or not for 18-24 months.  We need long-lasting protection.  The Jeanneau boatyard guys suggested the following one-two punch:  hard matrix as a first layer, then ablative as a second layer in a different color.  The ablative will slowly wear away to expose the hard matrix, which will then take over as the ablative fades.  With the color differences, we’ll be able to see the “wear” zones and can judge how quickly the ablative is ablating.

1st coat, hard matrix in grey.  Note red pvc tape at the water line.

Final coat, black ablative.

For you, Dear Bummed, I would suggest 1 good layer of hard matrix.  Your boat is berthed in brackish water in a river exposed to current, and you tend to haul out at least once per year anyway, so no need to go overboard (so to speak…) with fancy high-copper content paints.  Go for plain hard matrix.

Painting:  We like small rollers for applying an even layer.  Use cross-hatched passes to cover an area.  If you want to impress, you can finish the last pass of the roller in the direction of the water flow, which, in principle, may give you an additional 0.1 knot of speed. It’s a long boring job and you may as well amuse yourself.  Start painting the keel and the underside, then paint your way up and out to avoid getting paint on your hat or bandana when (not if) you bang your head. (Hey, you already look pretty silly with that tee-shirt pulled half-way down over your face – why not add an old bicycle helmet to the costume?)   

If you choose to do a 2nd coat, read the can for instructions about drying times.  If you put the 2nd coat on straight away, you can just put it on directly over the 1st coat after it’s dry.  If you have to wait for a few weeks between coats, you will no longer have a chemical bond with the 1st coat and will have to make a physical bond for the 2nd coat, which simply means a quick pass with fine-grained sandpaper (HAZMAT clothes and mask again…).  You want to have a little bit of paint left over to cover the patches under the cradle or trailer that you can’t reach.  Do this just before the boat goes in the water – it doesn’t need much drying time.  If you’ve got quite a lot left over, take another pass along the water line, which is where most of the algae will build up.

Note: this should go without saying, but I’ve seen it happen.  Do NOT paint your anodes, folks.  Think about it. 

Change anode.  Do NOT paint it !

Clean up:  Take the tape off as soon as you finish your last coat.  Don’t let it stay on until the paint dries or you risk pulling off flakes.  Dispose of everything as directed on the can.  For any spills on the skin, you can use paint thinner (or gasoline) to wash it off, but hop in the shower as soon as possible and scrub down well (loofa, sponge) a couple of times to “detox”.  Don’t forget the inside of your ears.  That fine dust can find its way into the darndest places.  Rinse eyes as needed with water or a saline solution.  For your nose, netty pot, netty pot, netty pot. 

And now the most important part: no matter how careful you were with the mask, etc., your nasal passages and throat have probably been assaulted.  The best thing for you to do is to pour yourself a large icy gin and tonic.  The ice soothes, the bubbles dislodge any lingering particles, and the lime and gin disinfect. You may need several applications of this phase, but your health is no place to cut corners.     
Posted on Monday, April 18, 2016 | Categories:

Friday, 15 April 2016

Harken Winch Maintenance

After our wildly popular Lewmar Wavegrip winch maintenance post from 2013 in our Spray days, I didn’t think I would even write a post about Mareda’s Harken 40.2 ST and 35.2 ST winches since, unlike the Wavegrip series, they are brand new and the documentation is easily available.

What could possibly go wrong that might justify a few helpful hints?” we asked. 

On page 10 of the 40.2 ST manual, all goes well down to Step 10: Remove drum support No. 15.  The image as well as an on-line video show a hand simply lifting the drum support up and off.  We lifted.  We pulled.  We shoved.  We twisted.  We swore.  We pulled some more.  We finally called the boat yard technician who said sometimes new winches get a little stuck and that we should tap it with a hammer.  We tapped it with a hammer.  We tapped it to the left, we tapped it to the right, we tapped it to the side.  We tapped until we didn’t dare tap any further.  Today, the technician was on board for another problem, and we DEFIED him to get No. 15 drum support off the winch base. 

He looked over it carefully, positioned himself with knees slightly bent in front of the winch, then hauled back his arm and gave the top of the drum support a sharp karate strike with his palm.  The drum support popped right off. 

The moral of the story is that 1) you can trust the Harken instructions with an addendum or two, and 2) anything capable of lifting 850 kilos (or 1874 pounds) can take a little slapping around.  Go for it.

All went well down to the now-infamous Step 10...

REVISED Step 10: Remove drum support No. 15 (with forceful lateral karate strike...)

...which reveals dirty gears that need cleaning.

Clean the gears with diesel using Patrick's patent-pending bowl-in-a-bowl method.
Re-grease the gears with winch grease.

Use pure vaseline oil in the paws.

And have fun putting all these little slippery bits back together again !  (The Harken diagram and all those photos you took in the dismantling stage are helpful here.)

Posted on Friday, April 15, 2016 | Categories:

Friday, 8 April 2016

Update 4: A Year of Reading the Med

This month’s reads were a mixed bag that left me rather depressed.  For the next round, I’m going to have to focus on countries and novels that don’t feature repressive regimes or war dramas.  I’m not sure I’ll be out of these woods anytime soon with countries like Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro still on my list. To take a break from the Med, I’ve recently plunged into the modern Chinese Classic Wild Swans by Jung Chang.  It features repressive regimes AND war dramas. Sigh.  

A reminder of my star system:
* = don’t bother
** = okay 
*** =  good 
**** = excellent !

EGYPT:  The Map of Love: A Novel by Ahdaf Soueif.  ***1/2
Short-listed for the 1999 Man Booker Prize.  A true historical fiction novel with equal doses of history and fiction.  The Map of Love (frankly, the novel deserves a better name…) weaves two multi-cultural love stories across time into the tapestry of Egyptian history from Turkish occupation and the Anglo-Egyptian war to 1998.  The story focuses on a young American woman and her Egyptian cousin who piece together the history of their grandmothers and great grandmothers (English and Egyptian) through letters and diaries while living through their own mixed-culture crises.  Through the letters, the story and Anglo-Egyptian history unfold in first-person narratives of several characters, and, in a few confusing bits that seem to have escaped a good editor, by an omniscient author. While the first-person accounts allow us to get to know several characters in depth, the shift in time and voice is often confusing. That said, the story is so engaging that we quickly forgive the annoyance of having to stop to make sure who is speaking.  There were generous doses of true history that other reviews have called “gently nationalist” or “sensitive”.  One of the reasons I embarked on this adventure of Reading the Med was to read Mediterranean authors, not western authors writing about Med countries, and so I greatly appreciated Soueif’s views.  However, the old novel-writing advice of “show, don’t tell” wasn’t always respected.  History should be woven in a living and transparent way into the story as much as possible; otherwise, you just end up with a group of characters sitting around the table discussing the ideas the author wants to get across.  While some important episodes of history (such as the Denshawai incident) are neatly treated, others are dealt with by having characters sit around a table and discuss points of view of history and culture.  It’s still interesting for readers (like me) who have very little background in Egyptian history, but it does make the novel feel a bit choppy and unconnected in spots.  But if you’re a reader like me, you’re not likely to go looking for Anglo-Egyptian history on your own or to stumble onto it accidently, so do yourself a favour and combine the enjoyable with the useful.  Read The Map of Love.      

SLOVENIA: That Night, I Saw Her by Drago Jancar. ***
Winner of France’s Best Foreign Book Prize 2014 written by one of Slovenia’s most popular authors.  This haunting mystery is a portrait of an enigmatic free-spirited young woman in the middle of a war whose refusal to accept the interpersonal changes that war imposes leads to her disappearance.  The backdrop, the Balkans of World-War II, plays an important role in the story, where friend and foe are brought together in close proximity, sometimes within the same family, and where allies and nazis and communists and partisans create a confusion of affiliations that makes it impossible to know who the good guys are. The author intentionally leaves the reader to flounder in this confusion, a confusion that our heroine rejects by treating people as individuals rather as members of a group. Too na├»ve to realize that she will not be judged with the same tolerance, her multiple affiliations lead to her disappearance. The author tells her story though the eyes of 5 witnesses, each of whom only knows a part of her story and the role they played in her final days.  It is a beautifully-crafted novel that exposes the tragedy and complexity of 20th century Balkan history, and a story that has left me utterly depressed, but perhaps a bit more informed about the horrors of war away from the front lines.

SYRIA and LIBYA: The Future Arab: A Childhood in the Middle East (book 1: 1978-1984, book 2: 1984 – 1985) by Riad Sattouf. **1/2   Sattouf’s auto-biographical graphic novel about growing up blond in the Libya of Kadhafi and the Syria of Hafez Al-Assad was awarded the Prize for Best Album at the International Festival of Bande Dessinee in 2015, and was the 5th most widely-translated French book of 2014.  These autobiographical graphic novels about growing up in a repressive society will remind you of the brilliant work of Marjane Satrapi of Persepolis fame.  It suffers in comparison, however, since it is neither laugh-out-loud nor particularly moving.  Sattouf was born to a Syrian father and French (Breton !) mother and these books recount his childhood growing up in countries trying to establish Arab socialist regimes. It is entertaining and educational in a way that sometimes only graphic novels can be… memorable but without feeling like you’ve been hit over the head with “a message.”  If you only want a light introduction to the culture, this may be a good choice.  But if you want something more poignant and profound from Libya, read Hisham Matar’s In the Country of Men (see Update 3).

And for heaven’s sake, after this round of depressing novels, go read Arto Paasilina’s The Year of the Hare.  This Finish feel-good masterpiece is a marvelous antidote to all these heavy dramas.