The Right Of Passage.. Only Once



This boat.. this damned boat. I can see what she will become.. slowly, surely, I can see her transforming.. but holy-mother-of-joseph dealing with the bottom of a boat sucks.


I bought the boat and had her hauled out shortly after. "Ok", I said to myself.. "It's not.. umm.. awful." I looked at the guy power washing the crud off. "It's not awful right?" I asked him.


"Meh. I've see worse", he replied.


Crusty Crusties

I didn't know what to think about that. He was a bit older and looked like he'd seen quite a few boats in the sling.


She had a few crusties growing on her. A bit of slime and a lot of raggedy looking bottom paint. Blue bottom paint. Very blue.


Once I got her up on the hard I started doing the planning to bring her hull back to it's original splendor. This was going to be a piece of cake. Just sand the hull to a silky smooth finish and re-apply paint. No problem.


I read some articles and watched my fair share of YouTube videos on the process. "Looks simple", my inner naive voice reassured me.


I told my buddy / brother-from-another-mother Marco my plans to get the boat sanded in one weekend. He smiled.. looked at me intently and said, "brother, I will help you in every way I can to get this boat ready for your adventures but I already did a bottom job.. and I will never do another one again."


C'mon.. how bad can it be?


I was at least bright enough to heed the warnings about not breathing the paint in. I bought a full mask with proper filters. And then I started sanding. Blue paint getting sucked into my vacuum.. not as fast as I wanted, but my random orbital sander was making a dent.


A boat-yard neighbor stopped by later in the day and took one look at me. "Wow" he exclaimed. "You are very blue." I looked in the mirror of my truck and immediately realized that I looked like I was auditioning for Blue Man Group.


No problem.. I'll just head down to the marina showers and wash this stuff off. Not-so-much. I scrubbed for an hour and I still was a nice pale shade of blue. It was all over me, in my ears, my everywhere. I was attending a dinner at a friends in Annapolis later that evening. I was the only blue person there.


My friend and boat mechanic Andrew stopped by for a few days to help me get the paint off. He was doing me a HUGE favor. Sanding bottom paint is most definitely not his highest and best use.


I bought a Tyvek suit and learned to seal myself up. I was able to get the rest of the blue off. I then faired the whole bottom with epoxy-based fairing compound.


Note to self: read the f#@&ing label and believe it when it says to sand as soon as it sets up. Letting it stand longer makes it harder to sand. It got VERY hard to sand.


Angry Sand Man

I have since sanded the hull and got it pretty fair. I'm not able to get to the boat every week so suffice to say it's taken months.. which is weird because it seemed to go so quickly on all those YouTube videos I watched :) My shoulders have paid the price.


There is no doubt that the bottom needed to be taken all the way down. She had been neglected pretty well. Paint on top of crusty paint. And she is now almost ready for barrier coat and bottom paint. The bottom is like new again.


And as I near the finish line I keep thinking.. I'm almost there.


I'm sure there are other jobs I need to do that will also test my resolve and i will do them. Learning the boat by rebuilding her is priceless training. When I go on my big adventure I will have first-hand knowledge of every inch of her.


But now that the bottom is fair, and will be in my care, I will never do this again. Proper maintenance and upkeep should help me to avoid this type of bottom restoration again. But if there is ever a need, rest assured, the boat yard will be getting my money.


I imagine myself much older, sitting in the marina and talking to new boat owners whom I will eagerly teach the lessons I've learned refitting my boat. And when they ask me about the bottom I will look at them very intently and say: "I will help you in every way I can to get your boat ready for your adventures but I already did a bottom job.. and I will never do another one again."


Mike D. is the founder of Sail Junky Magazine. Striving to find more purpose in life, Mike writes and shares about his journey to rediscover his passion for living a fulfilled life, especially through the medium of sailing. sailjunkymagazine@gmail.com

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