Skip to content

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):


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:

bottompaint-1007 bottompaint-1006

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.


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?)


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.)

bottompaint-1568 bottompaint-1567

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!

bottompaint-1575 bottompaint-1573

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


Boat lifts are cool!

bottompaint-1585 bottompaint-1592 bottompaint-1596

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.


  1. Jerry Kimball Jerry Kimball

    Have you talked to Cap Sante about the power being disconnected? They knew it is a live aboard. Seems like if they knew their business they would have checked with you or at least looked to see if it needed power continued. My experience with the Delta yard was very positive on that issue.

    • Yes, Jerry. We did communicate that it needed to be plugged in and we confirmed that they had plugged it in. The scope of the job changed twice and the boat was moved several times, however, and it was inside during the “storm of the century” 🙂 so any number of things could have gone wrong…we’re not sure where.

      • Jerry Kimball Jerry Kimball

        I’m afraid I’d be pretty unhappy with them over it. Well, in any event a bummer, but there are more fish to catch!

        • Well, mistakes happen. Not much good being unhappy. 🙂

      • Casey Adams Casey Adams

        Btw, I was up at my boat on P dock during that “storm of the century”. It was nowhere near as bad as the storm last august where 4 boats ended up on the breakwater and one of them, ironically named Titanic, sunk. Still it was a pretty good one. When I’m there during storms I sort of patrol the docks looking for problems and try to help when I can. This time two different boats on P dock snapped stern lines and ended up getting set down on the boat downwind of them. With the help of two security guys we were able to secure them and minimize damage. I’m always amazed at how poorly prepared for the strong SE winter storms most of the boats in the marina are and there seems to be a fair amount of damage with every storm. Lines break, fenders pop, canvas flies, dingy in the water bangs against the hull, jibs come loose and get shredded, etc, etc. Storm lines and extra fenders would have prevented most of the problems I’ve seen over the years.

        • Casey Adams Casey Adams

          oh btw, here’s an important tip I just remembered. One of the benefits of being a regular customer at Cap Sante Boatyard is that during these bad storms they send the yard guys around to check on customer’s boats at no charge. I was there one time when they came by and we chatted for a while about the kinds of problems they see. I had one of those black rubber snubbers. They said that most of the time when they see a line parted it’s due to one of those things. For whatever reason (chaffing perhaps?) they tend to cause lines to fail. So, I promptly got rid of mine! After nearly 20 years I’ve gotten the storm prep down to a pretty fine science. I’ve learned a lot of things, many of them the hard way. If anyone is interested I’d be happy to share my storm prep tips.

  2. Cap Sante does great work. I have to say that I’m shocked — SHOCKED! — to hear that the previous owner painted over ablative paint with epoxy. You’d almost think they didn’t know anything about boats…

    About the fish: don’t feel too bad. I did that this past summer. In the Airstream. Of course, it might have been only 8 pounds of salmon. But then, it was a couple of months after something tripped the breaker before I got back to it (unplanned and unavoidable absence). Yes, you’re probably imagining the result correctly. Except for the fruit flies, I doubt you pictured those. Apparently there were some veggies left in the fridge, you see, and, well…. yeah.

    • Yeah I just read this outloud to Kevin and he was groaning right about where you said “Yes, you’re probably imagining the result correctly…” And we don’t really have to imagine, since we have the smell firmly lingering in our nostrils from two days ago. Thanks for the commiseration.

  3. Brenda king Brenda king

    OH NO… I hate when that happens and can attest to seafood being the worst stinky mess imaginable!!! On the positive side, Airship look FAB and I bet you can’t wait for the next adventure, which is????

    • Yeah, Airship DOES look fab!! We’ll be bopping around the San Juans, spending Thanksgiving at Friday Harbor again this year, and we might head up to Princess Louisa in December! Only weather will tell!

  4. Julie Smith Julie Smith

    Awwww! Bummer about the fish–and the boat bucks! Hope you were able to get the stink out…

    • The stink is long gone. (Kevin was so brave to take care of that mess!) Oh well. We’ll catch more fish. 🙂

  5. Kevin McLaughlin Kevin McLaughlin

    the best laid plans…ouch! Man, that long stringy sea growth looked like zombie hair for Donald Trump!
    I do my own bottom cuz I”m a complete masochist with too many tools.

  6. GMertl GMertl

    Quite a story but I think not unusual. As you say, you just never know what’s going to happen during a haulout, and the boat units can add up fast. You’ve posted some very good advice though, thanks for that. It’s comforting to know all is well now, lesson learned, and you can rest easy. I’m due for new bottom paint this Spring. Hope my story will be shorter than yours, ha.

    • I hope your story will be shorter too, Gary!! 🙂

  7. Casey Adams Casey Adams

    Oh no. Sorry about the fish. That’s unfortunate. I saw you guys just across from me when I was being blocked up in the boatyard and wondered what was going on.

    Btw, I used to get that green grassy looking growth along the waterline all the time and finally extended the bottom paint up to the bottom of the boot stripe. Have never had it since. I don’t know about your boat, but when I have full fuel and water,the hull is submerged all the way to the boot stripe.

    I haul every year rather than waiting two years for several reasons. First, even though the the bottom paint overall may be in pretty good shape there are places where it tends to wear more than others. So I always have the bottom paint touched up in between full coats. Also, I like to inspect what’s going on below the waterline. I catch all kinds of things. For example, I have a grate over raw water intakes and one had fallen or gotten knocked off. Similarly my line cutter on the shaft somehow came off another time , etc.

    Btw, I don’t know if you’ve discovered the Sunset dinner special at Anthony’s from 4-6pm Mon-Thu. It’s a great deal. You get a 4 course meal (starter, salad, entre, and dessert) for $22. I always get it and the fantastic Boundary Bay IPA when I’m at the marina working on the boat. It’s my reward for a hard days work.

    • Casey Adams Casey Adams

      Also, I’ve used Cap Sante boatyard for 15 years now. These kinds of errors happen from time to time. But, one thing I’ll say is that they are impeccably honest and whenever I’ve suffered any sort of damage as a result of an error on their part they always make good on it. If you talk to them about fish and freezer I think they’ll take care of you.

      • The guys at Cap Sante are fantastic, and the work they did was top notch. Mistakes happen. In the big scheme of things, this is not a big deal.

    • We haul every year as well. And yes, we know about the sunset dinner. 🙂

  8. Connie Bentley Connie Bentley

    Hi L&K, We can surely relate to this story. One thing leads to another any time you’re hauled. BTW, we had a great fishing adventure at the end of the summer so, when we get to FH in a couple of weeks, we have some lovely fish for you! C&C

    • Awwww, you guys are so sweet! Looking forward to seeing you in Friday Harbor!

Comments are closed.