Remember when I said, cheerfully, that we enjoy working on the boat? I should clarify.
We do enjoy the work. (Well, for the most part. Sanding the anti foul really, really sucks.) There’s something fulfilling about planning a large scale project, focusing on that alone for weeks on end, and seeing it through to completion. We like the physicality of it and it being involved at every step of the process reminds us that this is our boat - we’re not working for “The Owner” or some anonymous boss. When your boat is your home the work is satisfying and you feel like each completed job is cause for celebration. But It’s not the work that bothers us. It’s the time.
New Zealand’s Maori name is “Land of the Long White Cloud”. It’s proven to be an accurate description this summer. Having come from much smaller, more remote islands, it’s easy to forget that New Zealand it just a little strip of land in the middle of the ocean and as such, it’s a regular phenomenon for the island to create its own hard to predict weather. Sometimes it feels like there’s a stationary bulk of cloud overhead just waiting to see what we’re going to try to achieve. We were told February is a gloriously sunny month here on the North Island. How naive of us to believe that. Those tauntingly beautiful blue sky days seem only to interrupt the long periods of start again stop again rain for a few days at a time. Before long, another front is traversing the country and the fleeting summer weather has vanished.
Actually, it’s raining as I type this. Relentless sheets of rain driven by gusts of wind that shake the boat. Sanding, painting, even polishing are out for today. I suppose we can go wash the boat down again…
But as much as I’d like to, I can’t put all of the blame on the rain. We’ve had a few setbacks along the way that have cost us an hour or two here, a full day there. We’ve never painted a boat before, and the way we’re doing it - with rollers, as opposed to having professionals spray it for us - is repetitive and tedious. When you’re painting nearly every exterior inch of your little 43-foot boat - decks, topsides, and underbody - you begin to appreciate how big 43 feet really is.
Without getting into too much boring detail (I’ll do that below for anyone interested), our process has gone like this: machine sanding, epoxy fairing, another sand, more fairing, more sanding, priming, final fairing, another coat of primer, sand, primer, sand, topcoat, sand, topcoat, sand, topcoat. We didn’t expect to do so much sanding because, in theory, you shouldn’t need to sand between each and every coat. But we’re amateurs. We’re amateurs painting outdoors, in a dusty yard, only meters away from boats on either side who may decide that they want to sand their own hulls as we’re trying to paint. Suffice it to say that we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes during our time in the yard.
Despite those setbacks, we’re starting to feel pretty good about the whole thing. In the past few days we’ve been told by numerous people wandering by that the paint job looks great. I like that about the boatyard, people always stopping by to ask questions or borrow a tool. There’s a certain camaraderie that exists here. Excuse the pun, but we're all in the same boat. Everyone is active, working hard, making progress, solving problems, and encouraging each other. It’s a pretty positive environment on the whole, and quite a welcome contrast to the days of cruisers banding together on some tropical island to complain about the lack of provisions or the price of potatoes. At times like that the social side of living on a boat can be rather depressing. The boatyard may be dirty and loud but it’s nice to feel like you’re doing something substantial, if only for your own happiness.
So we like the boatyard and we like the work. We could just do without the extended rain delay. We are way behind schedule and we still have a long way to go. But we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, or the water at the end of the Travel Lift runway if you like. Gone are the days of bumming around in a shabby boat with torn canvas. We’re looking forward to admiring the results of our hard work once we’re finally back in the water. Let’s hope that by this time next week I’ll be posting photos of the boat afloat! The forecast for the next several days doesn't include a drop of rain. But of course we know that means, practically speaking, nothing.
In the meantime, here is a little summary of the work we’ve done so far and what we still have left to do.
First we removed all of the hardware. It sounds so easy when I type it, like it’s just unscrewing a few things. It sounds like one of those things you’d ask your boyfriend to do on your way out the door. “Oh hey can you do me a favor? Can you just remove the hardware when you get a second? Thaaanks.” This was a huge job, though, involving the removal of ceiling panels and one of us up on deck and the other below to loosen each bolt one by one. Once every stantion, screw, D-ring, and bolt was labeled and stored away we could begin sanding. Ah, the days of orbital sanding on a horizontal surface! Having now experienced the arm workout that is sanding the hull, I think back on those days fondly.
After sanding, we painted a few coats of epoxy on, sanded once more and set the deck aside to move onto the hull. Deck work is something that can be completed in the water, so after hauling out the hull took priority.
At this point all of our prep work is done and we’re just waiting to prime. Once that’s done we’ll apply two coats of Kiwi Grip non-skid and then begin the process of reinstalling all of the hardware.
Antifoul is never fun to work with. Matt has tackled this job by himself so I can’t claim to have had to suffer through much of it. He first had to scrape the entire surface with a 2-inch heavy duty scraper, one narrow little pass at a time. The noise alone, which sounded like nails on a chalkboard through an amplifier, was enough to drive someone mad. After that the sanding began. Matt spent over 25 hours working away at the antifoul with the orbital sander, which is a really disgusting, not to mention toxic job. He’d zip into his hooded Tyvek suit, pull his boots on, glove up, and snap on his goggles and ventilator. I guess now’s a good time to mention that when it’s not raining here, it’s horribly humid (I’m really good at complaining about the weather), making this job even more miserable.
Here’s where our second big setback occurred. Once Matt started sanding, he discovered that there were many more layers of anti foul than we’d realized, several of them applied quite poorly. We could have simply added one more as a short term “fix” and not dealt with the real problem. But since we knew that what was underneath - i.e., the hull and the barrier coat - was in such good condition, we were better off spending the extra time to get the surface right. So as the layers slowly disappeared, the hours kept piling up.
Now we’re finally ready to start painting. I speak mostly for Matt when I say that it’ll be especially nice to check this part of the job off as done.
SAILS AND CANVAS
We are really excited to have our huge 150% genoa reduced back to a more manageable 110%. Actually, Roger at North Sails just did this today. That’s right. He completed this job in his nice dry sail loft in a single day. Which is great. But makes me feel inadequate as a human.
We are also FINALLY replacing our tattered canvas work. I don’t like to claim that things are “literally” happening unless they, well, literally are. Our dodger and bimini were in horrible condition before we even left Rhode Island, and after 16,000 miles at sea this year they are now literally disintegrating. We imagined meeting a star seamstress in some Panamanian village somewhere who could help us. Instead, we found Peter here in Opua. He is sharp, personable, and is doing a bang up job with our canvas work. We’re looking forward to drinking a beer in the shade of our new, blue bimini out at anchor somewhere soon.
Last but not least, we got ourselves a storage unit, carted pretty much everything except for tools and clothes over, heaped it all in a big pile and shut the door. We didn’t plan to reorganize and reinventory the boat, but now’s as good a time as any.
I mentioned this general process already, so you get the idea. Sand, paint, sand, paint and on and on and on. We really wanted to get this right, so we were a bit meticulous with it. After the initial sanding, we marked tons of imperfections in the hull that had to be filled with fairing. This is where time seemed to just evaporate. We’d apply the fairing, wait for it to dry, sand it back, apply more where it didn’t quite fill right, wait for it to dry, and check our work once more. While we were waiting for the port side to dry, we’d begin on the starboard side. And before we knew it three days had gone by.
When we finally started with the paint, applying the primer proved to be nice practice for the topcoat, which we were pretty nervous about. We were getting various tips and suggestions from all the paint guys in the yard (who, by the way, are super friendly and amazingly helpful). We’d read that rolling and tipping - rolling the paint on with a foam roller and evening it out with a wide brush - was the way to go. But most of the pros told us not to bother tipping. Every day we’d try some new technique - tipping vertically, tipping horizontally, “tipping” with an empty roller, not tipping at all. We were finally happy with our results after the first coat of topcoat and were optimistic that we’d only require two coats. We were telling people things like, “We’ll be back in the water next week with some luck with the weather.” (Ha!)
The second coat didn’t go so smoothly. Though we were extremely careful when mixing paint and wiping the hull down before painting, somehow some sort of contaminant must have gotten in causing little craters to form all over the hull. Meanwhile on the starboard side, there was one rectangular patch that had dulled considerably when dry. It turned out to be the spot where our fridge backs against the hull, its coldness creating condensation in the humid evening air. It hadn’t affected the first coat because we’d applied it in the morning when there wasn’t as much moisture in the air. So both sides would have to be re-sanded completely. Not a disaster. Just added time, effort and frustration.
Thankfully our final coat came out smooth and shiny and and we are happy with the results at this point. Now we’re just waiting to paint the stripes below the toe rail and just above the waterline. Once that’s done, the hull will be 100% finished.
On rainy day Matt decided to design and build a platform for our anchor winch. It meant some extra time out of the water but it’ll be worth it the next time we get our anchor chain wrapped around a big coral head someplace. We weren’t happy with our old system, which wasn’t quite strong enough, and Matt had been thinking of raising the winch off the deck for a while. It looks flash and it’s going to be a huge improvement.