Allow me to get wordy here, since there are no pictures for this; the accumulated knowledge of thirty five years of fixing boats ; in yards as an employee, in yards as a sub-contractor , in marinas , out on anchorages , out at sea ; in the water and out ; maintaining and commissioning boats , either new or in the process of customizing.
VARNISHWORK Seems like sooner or later , anyone with a boat will have to consider the condition of either painted or varnished surfaces, as well as metal equipment and fibreglass gelcoat. One of the main reasons boat owners are daunted by paint and varnish is because yacht painting is a specialized trade and it takes a lot of skill, and a few tricks. If you know the tricks, the degree of skill required will be the same, you'll just need less of it. The key is to do it once and to make it last by "maintenance". The word maintenance means you come back later; ideally 3/6 months and go over it again with a fresh coat. Don't do a number and expect it to last for ever......The ingredient that you can add, to make it last forever is quantity. Topping that off is Gloss. Shiney surfaces reflect sun; be they chrome, paint, gelcoat or varnish. Keeping that sparkle on reflective surfaces wherever possible is our quest. If you start from scratch, you'll know pretty much how many ' good ' coats you got on and LEFT on. Too many amateurs put on a coat of varnish , or paint; then sand it right off again. DON'T !! Don't sand at all. Let's assume you're starting with a new surface, either brand new, or stripped and sanded. My highest recommendation would be to apply several coats of penetrating epoxy consecutively, before the first sets up. For varnish I then apply a full coat but not too thick. The next day I wipe down with thinners first then paint etch/surface deglosser and apply another. It's a lot harder to see where you're going , you'll have to be extra careful and watch what you're doing; paying attention to the drag on the brush and the depth of the material being left on the surface by watching the depth of the brush hair grooves , and ONLY use a Badger hair brush! You'll be able to get your coats on more quickly by skipping the sandpaper phase but you won't have the sanded milkyness as a surface to gauge your next coat with. You'll have to get right down alongside the surface as you apply your material and look for reflections and light sources to guide you. If you need a couple of quick coats because of weather or schedule, and you have a pair of large cojones , try putting on two coats in one day ! It's better to lay it on a bit thinner than thicker, ( that holds true for b.s. too), as a matter of fact , do NOT under any circumstances put paint or varnish on too thick !! It will run and never dry. The reason is that paint and varnish dry from the outside in and if it's too thick the outside will dry before the juices beneath the surface have a chance to escape.You'll have to scrape it off with your finger nail where the curtains are still wet underneath and either let it dry or wipe it down with solvent to dissipate the wet material still remaining. After that you end up with a hole in your surface which on a paint job , you can fill with glazing compound or a build up of primer, but on a varnished surface it's fatal. Besides looking like hell, what you have ultimately is an area where your build up is one coat less than the rest and therefor that area will be more likely to burn through. Ever wondered why varnishwork burns in one place and not another?....that is one of the causes , another of the causes is sandpaper. In this process we've begun, I won't sand until I have five or six coats on. Then I'll smooth out the surfaces one time, having filled the grain by this time. 100 grit is fine for this application of sand paper, it'll get your work done swiftly and get you to the next coat more quickly. Then I'll coat it three or four more times in succession ( wiping down first thing with thinners, then paint etch before each coat ); before sanding again. The last sanding can be done with a block wherever possible to even out the planes, using 120 grit. So I've applied 8/10 coats and sanded twice I figure I've gotten 8 coats, minimum 6 to stay on. THAT is enough build up for one season, if you're in a cloudy a lot type of environment that'll help, ( a full boat cover terminates this line of thought ); also if you wash the salt off of the surface after usage. The quantity of material left on the finished product is the amount of goods that you're expecting will be able to suffer the perpetual onslaught of elements 24/7, and that quantity has a better chance the thicker it is. If you've been careful with the sandpaper you won't have any burn spots at the end of the season. If you have sanded like a demon and taken the goods off of the corners of things,....they'll burn first. A typical and popular place is the handrailing and the half round trim on cabin tops and coaming tops, like along the cockpit backboard. The reason for this is because they fit in their hand nicely and the inspired varnishier will rub and rub and leave only a layer, or go right through to the wood after five or six coats !! THAT is criminal ! And a total waste of a varnish job. Should that happen, a diligent applicator should put a build up back onto the area and fair sand it out when up to par......a time consuming process at best. At every step along the way the degree of caution you engage will determine the quality of work you have to look at for the life of the job ; which could be decades !! ( One job I did," Radiant " , of Sausalito, is STILL good. I wooded her down in 1981 and put on 13 coats !, see portfolio ) If you mess it up you'll never hear the end of it, and if you're doubtful about your abilities with a brush, practise somewhere in private. If you create a scene on the marina you will NEVER live it down and no one will forget it either ! You can become the brunt of scathing digs by every person who passes your berth , on their way to their own pristine yacht, and they WILL tell all their buddies, and sailors yarns go from Harbor to Harbour. But mostly, I suggest practising in private because we are talking about a highly skilled trade here and you really are going to need to know what you're doing before you touch anything. If you believe that you can go down to your boat and master the brightwork over a long weekend you are mistaken. If you believe that ; perhaps you'd like to start your varnishing career be restoring an antique piano or a Stradavarius or a Louis XIV !! If you do destroy an old side table or chest of drawers, ...no big loss, and no none has to know about it; and you will have spared the world another offense, by not displaying your ineptness on the marina. Unless you're a patient, conscientious person with unnatural degrees of talent, you will have a bit of a time of it, and I strongly advise you to go slow, take your time, and bite off only a small section first. If you have to remove the old surface, you'll need stripper, sandpaper, and scrapers and if you're not careful with those things you could: Not only make a fool out of yourself, but do severe damage to the boat, end up in the hospital, lose an eye or end up with costly lawsuits and be thrown out of the Marina. If you have to scrape off the old stuff, you'll need to learn how to use a scraper and you'll need to learn how to SHARPEN it. Run the widest part of your file diagonally across the edge to keep the edge straight; at the same angle as it is when it's new. Sharpen often ! The scraper will be your best friend or your lethal enemy according to the amount of respect you give it. You'll feel it when it sharpens and you'll know when it scrapes correctly; but by all means sharpen the blade over the side or on the dock. Little metal filings will light up in a day or two as rust spots on the cockpit seat , deck or wherever you've applied file to steel. The few times I sand still bring up the issue of dusting down the boat before varnish. My preference is to sand one day, then hose the boat completely and go home. Next day , in fact every day, I'll wipe everything I'm working on with thinners to remove any soot, salt, dust or bird droppings that could have accumulated overnight. I say ' could ' because diligence precludes that one must consider all eventualities and deal with them in advance.Then I'll wipe down with etch, then I'll wipe down with a dust cloth; then I'll put on the varnish. Varnish is one of the most beautiful things that can be done to a boat, or a piece of wood, and it can last forever if it's done right, but the varnishier must cover all bases at every step of the process or pay later. Just one little bubble under eight fresh coats of Man-O-War can lift areas off in sheets; so be neurotic, be particular,be diligent, be aware, be extreme, ...be successful.
PAINTWORK The same techniques apply to paint but paint is a bit harder to get to stick on vertical surfaces than varnish is and will sag and droop like an old pair of underpants if mastery is not achieved. While nothing should ever be added to varnish, and it should never be shaken or stirred, paint should be thinned a bit before brushing and it should be mixed, shaken and stirred. I've never used Penetrol or any of those fancy additives, but a little of the correct thinner, ....T-10 or what have you, will help the paint to flow a bit better and with that the brushstrokes will dissappear and leave a shiney smooth surface; if that surface was smooth to start with. The beauty of paint is that there are surfacing compounds avaliable....Z-SPAR, Surfacing Putty #4 ,....there is nothing else to use, and I use it on houses too when I do oil based on shore.
CAULKING One day your average boat owner will require some caulking where water is getting in. Let's say deck seams. After the area is sufficiently cleaned up, ( that basically means you have new wood to work with ) penetrating epoxy ' till it's full ' serves as a good place to start. Then the dreaded two part polysulphide should be used. Mix a small amount. Do NOT use something from a tube !!! I cannot stress that point enough! If it comes from a tube, it will be air cured. One cannot expect a one part / air cured material to be as strong or durable as a component that requires a chemical interaction to set. If you have to add a hardener to it...use it ! I have come up behind jobs where Sikaflex has been squirted into places that were once leaks, only to find that there is a large area of rot there instead. Without adhesion, any material applied to any surface is useless. Boatlife? forget it too. There are few situations where less than polysulphide will serve, but one is around windows or port lights. That is the domain of Dolphinite. It is the industry standard for mounting equipment to hulls, it stays soft and it works like a charm. Stanchion mounts, deck fittings, hatches, cleats, anywhere something comes in contact with the cabin, deck or hull; even below the waterline, like a through hull fitting--Dolphinite..the only one!! A word of warning.While you may concievably get away with using silicon for the rare application, do NOT EVER use any DOMESTIC tile or tub caulk EVER!!! Or go ahead and let me know you did when it leaks and I'll tell you that I TOLD YOU SO. HEADS Every boat has one and virtually everyone stinks to high heaven !! Enough !! There are several tricks I've learned to eliminate that. One is to rig an alternate fresh water line to the flush supply leading to the head unit. A simple y-valve can switch from salt to fresh in a second. When at your berth, or on a day trip, fresh water can be used to rinse the bowl. Another thing I do is to squirt a bit of Lysol toilet disinfectant into the bowl with each usage. These two supplements to the regular flushing schedule will resolve all the odor and clogging problems onboard. Reason being that living organisms enter the system via the salt water intake , and they stay there and breed. The salt crusts up so bad that a head unit will need to be dismantled once a year to keep the channels open fully, and slime and amoeba will grow quite well in that environment; thus the fresh water. It will kill anything marine living in the head. The disinfectant too will keep the channels clear and compliment the aroma of the cabin. Nothing worse than going below , in a bit of a blow, to relieve ones bladder and ending up on your knees donating lunch because the stench was so bad you couldn't keep chicken fricasee in your stomach. If you have an electric flush system, install a secondary manual one as well; for the unforseen situation where; your battery is low or dead or you want the juice to send out a Mayday. Likewise any other place possible, manual, non-electric systems should be installed as back ups. The galley sink is another place where manual systems need to be. Whale makes a fabulous foot pump for water and with a y-valve, both salt or fresh can be utilized that way.
GELCOAT Though I avoid it if possible, gecoat needs to be polished. On the water, things that are shiney reflect major amounts of sun, and thus repel the intrusion of solar rays into the cell structure of the surface material. Polyester resin is no different. If it's kept glossy it will resist breakdown. Conversely, a cabinside that's been untouched for ten years will look milky, chalky and be harder to keep clean. The accumulated dust from streets will stain the gelcoat eventually and it will stick to the film on the surface and track below onto the nice new carpet. Contrary to popular belief, fibreglass is not invincible, and if left untouched it will craze, crack and chip.It will do this anyway and there won't be anything to do about it, but for now, prevention is a matter of delaying the inevitable. Polyester resin, in the sun, salt and temperature changes will decompose slowly, like everything else does, and the evidence of that exists on any glass boat ten to fifteen years old. Spider webs in the gelcoat, or impact rings across the whole foredeck, or star like cracks at the corners of the coach house....these are irreperable; at least as far as owners are concerned. A pro would have to go to extreme lengths to repair those flaws and frankly, it would be cost prohibitive.
TEAK DECKS Many boats these days still have them and most of them are neglected. What do you think your back would look like if you lay out in the sun all year with nothing on ? Teak strips are only an inch thick at best and will dry out, shrink, crack ,buckle,warp and split if left unprotected. Get a coffee can or a tin bucket and heat up a mix of deck restore ....40% linseed oil,40% turpentine,20%wax. On a warm dry day, late in the afternoon after scrubbing/bleaching a couple of days before, heat up your brew and paint it on lavishly. The wood will love it, stay resilient and flexible and it will also be non skid because of the wax.Any thing else on the foredeck could prove to be fatal !!
SHINEY METALS Anything topside that sits in the sun and the salt; needs attention.That sparkling chrome winch handle will do remarkable things if left in the bilge for a couple of years. NevrDull is the handiest way to clean and polish metal fittings of the chrome persuation, while brass and copper can be cleaned quickly and easily with Copper glow or other domestic wipe on wash off copper cleaners. Then Brasso should finish them off. The metal things onboard will do better and look infinitely better if they have a clean smooth surface, especially aluminum masts and booms . BOTTOM PAINT What pray tell can you do to your bottom paint? Three things.Besides putting it on nice and thick, drop in an additive or a bottle of roach killer or something before you put it on. Then paint it with hot grease. The grease will stay on for a month or two and when it wears off, you'll have new paint underneath. The last thing is to make a diaper out of sheet plastic and slide it under your bow till it comes up over the stern.Tie it up on the sides, thereby encapsulating the water within. Then drop some chlorine tablets in the pool and keep that bottom ready and clean.This technique isn't for the weekender, but more suited to a vessel being layed up for a while. BILGES Each boat has one and again most of them stink. People seem to forget about the bilge and let dust, dog hair, combs, bobby pins, screws, toothpicks, money, and general household skank build up in the vital space beneath their feet.Then the bilge pump gets jammed, the limber holes clog up and extra water starts sloshing around between the cabinsides and the setees soaking the cushions and the articles inside the lockers. DON'T ! The bilge needs to be inspected and cleaned at least once a month. Limber lines should be installed the entire length of the keel, the cabin sole should be lifted and left open when the vessel is at berth, and keel bolts and other fasteners observed regularly. If there's an electrolysis problem below the waterline, it may show up in the bilge as crusted salt on fasteners. If that should occur...e-mail me !! You have SERIOUS PROBLEMS !! HELM In case no one's actually realized it yet,....your vessel spends nearly all it's time alone , in the water, exposed to the elements 24/7 , tied to some dock somewhere; waiting.......Have you checked your helm lately? While you're back at the ranch watching the game, your helm is being nudged CONSTANTLY , by the motion of the water. The pintles and gudgeons are taking the brunt of it. Be sure to lash the helm when you leave. Oh, I already do THAT ! Really now ! And where do you lash it ? Oh, amidships... DON"T !! Secure that helm all the way to either port or starboard and prevent low spots in the midline of the course. Don't get it? The majority of sailing time is spent with the helm dead ahead (motoring too ), but that's where you lash your helm...dead ahead.So 24/7 that set of pintles and gudgeons is wearing in the same place.If you moor in a turbulent place the wear will be rapid and there will be a low spot there before you know it. This low spot can eventually make it more difficult to manouver your vessel. Tie your helm to the side.
MASTS Besides your regular maintenance, the only other thing I can think of regarding the mast , assuming you're on a sailboat, is to tie off your halyards. Bunji cords will do, although I just take the tail ends of the halyards and loop them around the outer shrouds then back to the halyard and tie off. This'll prevent them from banging 24/7 against the surface of the spar. You are advised to this to ALL halyards, since the wear will accumulate and varnish/paint can be sanded off by the chafing of lines against it and aluminum masts are actually weaked in time from the banging . Something about tempering.
VENTILATION Your vessel breaths, just as we do and fresh air needs to be flowing throughout the entire vessel as much as possible if not always. Because salt is in the air , it sticks to surfaces. Any part of the hull that has been wet, has salt left on it. Unless the salt is removed, it will continue to absorbe moisture from the air in the environment. Admittedly, allowing more salty air to fill the space and thereby maintain moisture content seems a bit counterproductive, but the drying effect of air changing does overcome that. In any case, there must be air entering and leaving at all times. If you have a leak somewhere, the fresh air will reduce the humidity content of the space and prevent mould and eventually rot from forming. Seat cushions need to be left out in the sun regularly, and clothing, bedding and carpet must likewise be kept salt free and/or sun dried as often as possible. The forward vent on your bow must face aft and the one astern on the after deck must also face aft. The cabin sole should be left lifted if possible, any other vents or port holes can be left open too. Screens help keep cats out. So do dogs. HANDS I want to put this in here because the issue will come up the second you get your hands dirty. If you've got varnish and paint, you'll have thinners. DON'T ! Eventually thinners will do damage to your nervous system if you swim in it. For that and most other purposes I use automotive hand cleaner and wipe with a towel set aside just for that purpose. No need to use water, the material is good for your hands and leaves a protective coating in your skin.And good news for fibreglass users, Permatex makes a miracle cleaner that Iused the other day to clean up after resin and matt application...the stuff is a MIRACLE !!
BOAT COVERS The best way to keep your work safe is to cover it ! A full cover will cost a small fortune so you'll want to figure the depth of your commitment about now. By all means run yourself through a cycle or two of annual repairs and maintenance of sun damage and sky fallout; then when you're sick of that get a cover made or at least strap something over your boats best parts.
CHAFE GEAR Use fire hose, check it constantly, don't contact me if you've gone ahead and used something else and your boat got loose! TAPE Everyone is going to use tape onboard one way or another and if you remember three simple rules you'll come out okay. One, for edges during paint or varnish jobs, Use only green or blue fineline tape. Two, for electrical work use black electrical tape, and for tears in spray jackets use duct tape. I don't even reccommend masking tape below out of the sun since if it dries out, it shreds and won't come off. Scotch tape will go brittle and or fall off. Should you find yourself in a predicament with tape, use Adhesive Remover, for best results.
ALUMINUM SKIFFS Lots of them around, lots of them leak. There's a liquid polysulphide paint ( made by Smith and Co. out of Point Richmond Ca. which is excellent, like all of their products ) that I used once after applying zinc chromate and a polysulphide binder; that solved all those problems with rivets that eventually leak. I painted the bottom with it then did some anti fouling and it stopped being wet ! -+=00000000!@;-