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Too Bad About the Fish

We had Airship hauled out on October 3rd for a much needed hull cleaning, new zincs, and a new coat of bottom paint. Kevin was out of town so I took Airship over to Cap Sante Marine solo. (It’s only a mile or so down the way.) Tight spot!

It’d been about 18 months since we had our last bottom paint, but when we were hauled out in April this year for our electronics upgrade, the hull looked good. However, when we arrived in Ketchikan in May we noticed we had some not-so-lovely green fringe growing on the hull (which got nice and long as it had time to grow all summer). This looked like it was going to be a fairly easy and inexpensive routine maintenance operation (even with all the fringe):

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The estimate for the work to be done (hauling out, pressure washing, adding a fresh coat of bottom paint, replacing zincs, waxing the hull, and then putting Airship back in the water) was about $1800 — about 2BUs (Boat Units). (Spoiler: this is not how things went down in the end.)

Turns out there was more than just the green stuff growing down there:

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How did SideVu even work with all that crap covering it?

After the pressure washing to remove all things living, it was eventually discovered that the previous owner of our boat had used an epoxy paint over the top of an ablative paint, and the bottom paint was now just flaking off.

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Here’s a good, short summary of how antifouling paint (aka bottom paint) works.

Simply put, ablative paint is designed to wear off of the hull (like a bar of soap sluffs off layers as it’s used). Ideally we would probably haul out and do new bottom paint every two years or so. (How often depends on how much time you spend in the water, among other things.) Apparently, if you put a layer of hard, epoxy paint over the top of an ablative paint that’s meant to wear off, then the epoxy paint won’t stick to it. It’s like trying to paint in acrylic paint over oil paint. The acrylic will just peel off.

The remedy for this predicament was to sandblast the paint off of the entire hull and start fresh. (Oh, and the estimate moved from $1800 to….$5000. Awesome.) There was no getting around it though…it needed to be done right. If you paint over flaking paint, you’ll eventually just have more flaking paint, so away we went.

Once the paint was gone, they discovered some thin areas in the gelcoat (sanding? no one knows), which meant moving Airship inside and applying four coats of epoxy before painting the hull with two coats of the normally-used ablative bottom paint. (Another $2000, ka-ching.)

Bare Airship (Bareship?)

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The guys at Cap Sante did a great job, and the hull is now factory-fresh and likely won’t have anything growing on it for a while. (Oh, and the sonar SideVu sensors now have a sonar-appropriate protective paint so hopefully we won’t see barnacles like that again any time soon.)

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The hull was waxed up to the rub rail while it was out of the water (much easier to do than when the boat is in the water). Nice and shiny!

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And…finally! Going back into the water Friday afternoon:

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Boat lifts are cool!

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All good, right? (Except for the extra $ and three weeks out of the water instead of 4 or 5 days as originally thought.)

Not so fast, my little boater friends.

When the boat went back in the water, Kevin discovered that our house batteries were drained. Uh oh. This means at some point we weren’t plugged in as we should have been, and the 12V deck top freezer (the only thing we left running off the house batteries) had run the batteries down to empty. The deck top freezer. The one with 25 pounds of Alaskan halibut and salmon filets. I headed up to the top deck to check…and yep, what we had there was a stinky, soggy pile of fish mush. This must have happened when the boat was inside, because if we’d have been outside and not plugged in, the solar would have kept up with the freezer load. Also, the inside fridge/freezer had defrosted and dumped a bunch of water onto the floor in the galley (mostly dry by now…just the rug was wet). That’s another very good reason I’m glad to have Amtico flooring rather than teak and holly sole…if that had been real teak and holly under the fridge it would have been a big stained ruined mess of very expensive wood. The Amtico was just fine.

But to make matters worse, we think the freezer’s motor burned itself out from running on too low a voltage for some time, so we’ll be trying to figure that out over the next day or two. Kevin’s working on a wiring project (fixing/improving a couple of things that were on his list) and I’m trying not to be too sad that we lost about $600 worth of fish. (We can always catch more fish, right?)

To recap: we thought we’d be hauled out for 4-5 days (and outside in the yard the whole time) and we ended up out for three weeks (and some of that time inside a building, with no solar backup if we failed to have shore power).

The lessons to be learned from this are:

  1. Even if you think you may only be hauled out for 4 days, it could be 3 weeks and all your fish will spoil.
  2. Always be sure you know what kind of bottom paint goes on your boat, and that the next paint job is compatible with what’s already on there. The more you’re educated about the maintenance on your boat, the better. As new boat owners it’s easy to feel like you should just trust what “more experienced” people tell you…but it’s better to know for yourself.
  3. All the loads to your house battery should be turned off. Our lithium batteries have built-in circuitry that cuts them out if the voltage gets too low (to protect them), but most house batteries don’t have this. If something’s running off your battery, it could overdischarge and damage or destroy your house batteries.
  4. It’s a good practice to empty your fridge and freezer and do your defrosting in a controlled manner (and then turn everything off) before having your boat hauled out for any period of time. It’s harder to do this when you live aboard (even if you live aboard half the time), but, well…in our case I’d much rather have all that fish back.

Generally, if your boat is going to be hauled out, you should prepare it correctly to avoid accidental damage to things you care about.

  1. If there’s a chance it will be below freezing while your boat is hauled out, you should fully winterize. The cold can attack much more quickly than when your boat is resting in 50+ degree water.
  2. Be sure your propane is turned off.
  3. Check all through-hulls when you go back in the water before starting up.
  4. Some types of sonar transducers will overheat if they are turned on out of the water. Double check yours.
  5. Don’t assume that your haul out will be a short as you think. You never know what will be discovered when your boat is out of the water.

Friday night after we got back to our slip, we emptied out the stinky freezer and started some tests on our house batteries to make sure they did the right thing (shutting themselves off before they got too low…looks like they probably did). We had a nice dinner and a glass of wine up at Anthony’s, and then came back to Airship and watched the documentary on humpback whales that I bought last week. It was a good choice as an end to a bummer of a day. Oh well. Live and learn.