Hull, Bottom Painting

Oystercatcher, receiving her second coat of bottom paint
For anyone who plans to keep his boat in the water for an extended period of time, bottom paint is a must. Bottom paint, laced as it usually is with copper, serves the same purpose that copper sheathing used to serve on tall ships of old - it inhibits the growth of aquatic plant and animal life on the hull. Now for those who store their boats on trailers and who launch and retrieve their boats from those trailers - as many power-boaters and many day-sailors do - bottom paint is something that is often omitted. A quick washdown and scrub at the end of the day is enough to keep that bare gelcoat free of most marine growth. For those, however, who store their boats on trailers, but who use their boats for days, weeks, or months on end, as anyone with a trailerable cruiser such as the Ericson 25 inevitably will, then bottom paint is really something that should be taken seriously, especially if the boat will be sailing in salt water. Fresh water sailors, it should be noted, have their own marine growth issues to contend with as well. Knowing that I would use my Ericson 25, Oystercatcher, in a variety of locations and a variety of waters for cruising purposes, I knew that bottom painting the hull was something that I had to accomplish before I relaunched her, after her lengthy refitting.

I also knew that I had to apply new bottom paint to the boat, because the previous owner had told me, before I had ever purchased the boat, that the boat was in need of this maintenance. He might not have maintained other parts of the boat very well, but when it came to bottom painting, he was a devoted owner. He had bought the boat in the early 1980s from the first owner, who had kept the boat in the water throughout the sailing season in the Middle Atlantic states since the mid 1970s (the boat was manufactured in 1975). Since the mid 80s, this second owner had kept the boat in the water twelve months out of the year at his own private dock in the Pamlico Sound region of North Carolina. He reported to me that, since that time, he had regularly paid various boatyards in this region every two years to haul out the boat and paint her with ablative bottom paint. He also reported to me that the boat was now due for this biannual treatment, and he indicated that this was one of the reasons why he was selling the boat. He was an elderly gentleman, and I can see why he would want to avoid the costly yard bill that would result from paying other people to haul out and paint the boat for him. The haulout alone would cost hundreds of dollars.
Oystercatcher as she appeared at the time of her survey in 2009
Despite the fact that the boat needed new bottom paint, and despite the fact that there were other maintenance issues, I liked this solid, well-built vessel, so I put my money down and sailed away with her, knowing that I would have to invest some time and dollars into bringing her back up to full speed. My first opportunity to break out the wallet came just two days later when I paid a boatyard in Oriental, North Carolina to haul out the boat and put her on the trailer - the trailer that I had recently purchased in Savannah, Georgia and towed northward from my home in Charleston, South Carolina.
Aside from paying the boatyard to haul out the boat (and unstep the mast, I might add), I also paid the yard to pressure-wash the hull. This was an important first step toward the bottom painting task that I myself would eventually perform. This removed the thin layer of marine growth that otherwise would have dried hard to the hull.
Back at home, I inspected the hull and discovered that the last bottom-painting job had been a sloppy one. This was not especially surprising. After all, I had discovered at the boatyard in Oriental that the reason why the centerboard was stuck in its trunk was because the last yard that had bottom painted the boat had installed the centerboard before the paint inside of the trunk had cured. For more on this story, see my article, "Centerboard Extraction and Analysis."

In the picture below you can see what I mean about the sloppiness. The yard didn't bother to tape the line. From what I could tell, this was free-handed work.
This next picture allows you to see the extent of the sloppiness.
The only benefit that I could find to this sloppiness was that it allowed me to see what lay beneath the bottom paint. From what I could tell, and from what others whom I consulted told me, this gray-colored paint was an epoxy-based barrier coat. At some point, the previous owner must have paid a yard to apply this barrier coat as a preventive measure against blistering.
Eventually, after completing a lot of preparatory work, the time came for me to apply the new bottom paint that Oystercatcher needed. To accomplish this, I trailered her to a local boatyard. There, a buddy of mine, who owns the yard, transferred her from my trailer to the jackstands by means of a gantry and block. For more on this task, see my article, "Trailer to Jackstand Transfer."
After we had gotten the boat onto the jackstands, I set up a temporary tent, not only to protect the deck from the rain, but also to protect me from the scorching sun during the bottom-painting process.
Prior to making all of these preparations for bottom painting the boat, I had constructed an entirely new centerboard as close as possible to the original specifications. See my series of articles, entitled "Centerboard Construction," for more on this. When I was finished with the board, I bottom painted it with Pettit brand product. I selected Ultima SR 40. This is a copolymer ablative paint that contains 40% copper. I selected a copolymer ablative paint, since this type of paint is not rendered ineffective when the boat is removed from the water. I did the math, and according to my calculations a single can would allow me to apply two coats of paint to the centerboard and to the hull. As it turned out, my calculations were accurate. Isn't it nice when something actually goes your way?
The first task that awaited me, once I had gotten the boat off of the trailer and onto the stands, was the scraping of the hull. I started this job on a bright, sunny, and hot Saturday morning.
I spent about half of that day on this tedious and repetitive task. Just as is the case when scraping the wood on the exterior of a house, there were some areas that quickly submitted to the scraper, sending large flakes of paint in all directions. Likewise, there were some areas that were solid, and thus in no way yielded to the blade.
I spent a good bit of time scraping the centerboard trunk. It too, in some areas, released large flakes of paint.
When there was nothing left to scrape, I at last, in the latter part of the day, took the sander to the hull. I used a random orbital sander because of the consistency it provides. The quarter-sheet sander that I often used on other projects for the boat would likely have put divots in the surface.
This sanding of the old paint produced a lot of toxic dust. As you see in the picture below, I took as many precautions as possible, wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a full-shield mask, hearing protection, and, of course, a respirator. I started out wearing gloves, but eventually gave up on them. The leather did not allow me to sense the texture of the hull with my fingertips. The blue nitrile gloves tore up too easily. Note that I'm working in the area around the two through hulls for the marine head. Ideally, I would have installed the new bronze through hulls prior to doing this work. Time did not permit.
I mentioned above, didn't I, that I had to build an entirely new centerboard before I could ever think about bottom painting the boat? Well, I also had to accomplish a few other things, one of which involved the resizing the holes for the through hulls. The new ones did not have the same sized flange as the old ones.
Therefore, I had to fill a portion of the old holes with thickened epoxy. For more on this project see my article, "Through Hull Resizing."
I also had to fill an old instrument hole. This project was related to work that I was doing in the V Berth with regard to adapting one of the compartments for the purpose of installing a new holding tank. For more on how I filled this hole, see my article, "V Berth, Aft Locker, Holding Tank Shelf, Part III: Holes and Cleats."
I completed this hole-filling sub-project around the same time that I completed the centerboard construction project, and though I do not show it in this picture, I painted the patch with several coats of the Petit Ultima SR40 red bottom paint. I wanted this patch of thickened epoxy to be well covered with bottom paint so that it would blend in with the existing layers of paint.
Yes, sanding the hull was a nasty job, so nasty in fact that I went home and changed clothes before doing anything else on the hull that day. A buddy of mine, who was visiting from out of town and, who had helped me with the initial scraping, gave me a ride. He had a truck. I rode in the bed. Not the safest thing, but who wants some sweat-soaked guy covered with bottom paint dust riding his cab? When I got home, at the Admiral's insistence, I threw my clothes in the garbage. She could tolerate (somewhat) my clothes with epoxy dust (from other projects) going into the washer, but not these bottom-paint afflicted things.
Back at the boatyard, I took a few pictures of the freshly scraped and sanded hull.

To remove the sanding dust, my buddy and I donned blue nitrile gloves and grabbed some rags, which we soaked with paint thinner.
He went down the port side, and I went down the starboard.

The paint thinner did a good job at removing the dust and residue from the hull.
Here's the starboard side as it appeared after the wipe down.
The next task was to tape the edge of the white stripe that separated the bottom paint from the faded red boot stripe. I would later paint the boot stripe black.
Laying down the tape was a two-person job. We worked from the bow to the stern. My buddy led the way, unwinding the tape in front of me, as I pressed it to the hull. The hardest part was the area around the stern. The curves that make this aft end of the boat so beautiful were not easy. The tape wanted to go one way as the hull curved in another. The gray gaps you see are the areas that the last person failed to cover properly when applying the bottom paint.
After finishing the starboard side, we applied the tape to the port side. This marked the end of a very busy day. As you can see, it was dusk, and the darkness was approaching.
Regardless, we couldn't leave the boatyard without having a little hops and barley.
Back at the house, we had a little more hops and barley as we celebrated the end of a successful day.
The next morning I woke up bright and early, a little worried that if I did not get to work quickly, I would not be able to accomplish everything I had to do on this day. It was Sunday, and on Monday morning I had to have the boat ready to go back onto the trailer, so that the boatyard workers could have this space available for regular business purposes. This meant that on this Sunday - this long and busy Sunday - I needed to apply the first coat of bottom paint; then, I needed to modify the keel skid on the trailer (see "Trailer, Keel Skid Modification," for more on this); next, I needed to apply the second coat of bottom paint; and, finally, after this second coat of bottom paint had dried sufficiently, I needed to install the new centerboard (for more on this see, "Centerboard Installation.") Does it make sense now that I woke up a little worried?
The part of the hull to which I first turned my attention on this Sunday morning was the centerboard trunk. Before I started painting, I thought it would be good to take a few pictures of the trunk itself. In the picture below we are looking forward. You can see the slot or pocket into which the head of the board fits.
In this next picture we are again looking forward. This time we can see not only the pocket, but also the shaft that leads upward into the mast step in the main salon.
Here's a picture of the shaft as seen when looking athwart.
Finally, we see in this picture below a view of the centerboard trunk when looking aft. It's hard to tell from this picture but the trunk becomes smaller the closer it comes to the aft end. This tapering of the trunk mimics the tapering of the centerboard itself.
The materials, laid out and ready to go.
I used the red plastic bucket to mix the paint. I poured half of the paint in the bucket. I mixed this half, then I mixed the half that was still in the paint can, and then I poured the paint from the bucket back into the can. I did all of this, so that I could mix the paint more thoroughly, and so that I would not slosh any of it over the sides of the can.
In the pictures that follow, you can see the results of one coat of paint in the centerboard trunk. For this part of the job, I used the small roller you see in the picture above. Without that long handle I would not have been able to reach all the areas of the trunk.

After I finished the centerboard trunk, I grabbed the large roller and got to work on the hull. When I finished, I took the series of pictures that follow.

The light in this picture below allows you to see the inconsistencies that remained after just a single coat of the bottom paint. A second coat was definitely necessary for this job to be done right.
I was finished with this first coat by about 9:00 AM.
Back at the house, I bid farewell to my buddy who had been visiting from out of town. After he left, I got to work on modifying the keel skid on the trailer. As I said above, I've described this little project in detail in my article, "Trailer, Keel Skid Modification."
When I had completed the modification to the keel skid, I made a quick trip to the local gas station to put some air in the trailer tires. It was much easier to accomplish this task, of course, without the boat sitting on the trailer.
After a speedy lunch, I headed back over to the boatyard to apply the second coat of bottom paint.
This flashlight was essential for the painting of the trunk. I could not have see what I was painting without it.
While I was at home eating lunch, the Admiral had become curious about the appearance of the boat with the fresh bottom paint having been applied. Therefore, she decided to make a trip over to the boatyard to check out my progress. She took the picture below of me painting the inside of the trunk. Note the flashlight in my hand.
She also snapped a few shots of me rolling the sides.

Below we see the work materials at the conclusion of the job. There was still plenty of paint left in the can for me to paint the areas underneath the screw pads. I planned to do this after I had gotten the boat back onto the trailer, and after I had driven the boat back home. My buddy, who owned the boatyard, had told me on Friday, before he went home for the weekend, that I could shift the jackstands around, in order to paint the areas underneath the screwpads. I had initially considered doing this, but after giving it a little thought, I decided against it. I just didn't feel comfortable moving those things around without his guidance. Besides, there really wasn't enough time for me to do this. I barely had enough time to do what I did.

Note how smooth the hull is in this picture after the second coat compared to the hull, as seen from the same angle above, after the first coat.

The last thing I needed to do was to remove the blue painter's tape. If I'm not mistaken, I did this at the very end of the day, after I had installed the centerboard. I wanted to give the paint some time to dry before I pulled off the tape.
I thought the paint job and the clean lines that resulted from the careful taping of the stripe looked pretty good. If I had to do it all over again, I would have tried to do this over a national holiday, like Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend, so that I would have had one more day in the boatyard before having to get out of there on a Monday morning. As it was, I did the best with what I had available to me, and it worked out just fine. It was just a little more hectic than I preferred.
This ends this article on how I bottom painted the hull of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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