My dear colleague and friend at our company, Achmed, allowed me to keep records of his work on GEKKO during the antifouling project. He is our principal specialist when it comes to sanding and painting the new boat´s hulls which have ticked the hull protection box. I am thankful for his work on my boat and of course for his intimate insight into what he did and how he did it. Thanks, Achmed, your work is appreciated very much! Now, let´s check for this last of my 4-article series how these last, crucial steps of procedure have been done by him.
First of all let´s remember that working your sailboat´s hull is a very hazardous and potentially harmful operation. Sanding the gelcoat hull will produce particles and dust which can and will affect your lungs and can cause serious implications. The stench of the priming and antifouling agents used to paint the hull afterwards is equally harmful so wearing protective clothing as well as appropriate breathing masks with filters are absolutely crucial! I one day visited the workshop for just taking out some things of the boat, not wearing any mask, and after 15 minutes my head began to ache for the rest of the day. So that is really not child´s play!
The burden of the choice
After writing the article on epoxy primers last time I did receive some remarks and questions on which product in particular we used and why. Well, let´s put it the other way round: If you want to apply antifouling DIY-style to your boat, check the manufacturer´s websites and resources which product suites the best.
In this, the manufacturers have very clear recommendations which product to use: First you check which paint fits the material of your boat´s hull the best. There are differences between agents used on aluminium, wooden boats or GRP of course. Second you check for the area and type of water your boat is floating in: We have of course different antifoulings for saltwater and fresh water areas as the type of encrustation, flora and fauna is different. In this, it may be that the colors or the products change – like the Oceanis 30.1 seen above where the priming agent (Gelshield by International) has a different color than that of a boat going to the Mediterranean for example.
Nevertheless, the colors of the primer paint is irrelevant as the one and only purpose of these layers is to protect the hull from water entering the laminate. It´s osmosis prevention. We choose to apply no less than 5 layers – as recommended – and that is by the way what makes a professional antifouling so expensive. A guy (or bunch of guys) need to paint your boat 5 times with hazardous material in awkward position, looking for drying temperatures, air moisture and timing. And that was just the first step!
As you may have read, I chose a hard, self-polishing antifouling by Akzo-Nobel´s brand International. After Achmed finished the five layers of primer, he applied one layer of binding agent to form a good bond between epoxy and the very antifouling. Then he began to work with the encrustation-preventing paint itself.
Painting the hull with antifouling
We apply three layers. The first one usually in red, the following two final layers in the colors our clients wished for. Mostly it will be black or grey, like in the case of GEKKO. Sometimes, predominantly when boats go to inshore sailing areas, the product (VC-system by International) do not leave any color-choice and the antifouling is at first brazen-colored, and will eventually turn grey when exposed to water.
We choose red and black because that is a good indication for when to refresh the antifouling. Taking out the boat off the water at least once a year, one can easily spot the parts where red color will be shining through: That will be the sign that the two outer black layers have already been taken off and a refreshment is needed. Achmed starts at the swing keel of the First 27 SE and works his way up. He of course leaves unpainted the stainless steel-parts as well as the sacrificial anodes.
A specialty of the Seascape 27 / First 27 SE is the engine tunnel. This is basically an opening in the hull through which a small outboard engine (combustion or electric) can be lowered to the water for maneuvering or in calms. This tunnel and the flap closing it needs to be painted as well – that is a painstaking job. For cruisers there is a kind or ongoing battle between people stating that propellers and saildrives don´t need any protection, others say they of course do. I have a clear conviction on this too, which can be read here.
Here is a small hint for all DIY-antifoulers: The waterline-protection. After you have painted the first layer and have it dried reasonably, you will apply a new waterline with masking tape just one or two millimetres lower (onto the freshly painted layer). And so forth. In the end you will have a set of 8 layers of masking tapes – taking this off is far easier and smoother, will create a much better looking waterline that just painting over the first waterline-masking tape with each layer. It may cause, upon removal, to break out larger chunks of the whole system.
Now, after roughly one week of hard work my boat was ready. We took off the masking tape and put her from the trailer to the crane to paint the unpainted parts where the boat was resting on the cradles as well. Another 8 layers of priming, binding and antifouling paint. Having witnessed the hardship of this work and that it is far more than just “brushing” a boat, I take my hats off to all the specialists sitting under the boats, grinding their backbones and breathing awfully through heavy gear to work our pleasure crafts!
GEKKO is now dried through, back on her trailer and yesterday I brought her to our showroom. Here she awaits the next two steps in her long voyage to the water: One is crucial, the second is just for fun. The crucial part is the installation of the Torqeedo engine, throttle control and big Lithium-Ion-battery, which will take place in the course of the coming two weeks. The second is the application of the Geckos and the custom design of my boat which will make it special.
I hope that we can finish works on GEKKO in time as the crane in my home marina is already booked and scheduled for April 20iest. That is one full month of wasted demurrage, but anyways, due to Covid 19 we still have many restrictions for travel, even by boat, but sailing nevertheless would have been great. Anyway, things are completed now regarding the encrustation-treatment of the boat and that makes me really happy – the other open projects will be tackled as well. Soon. Very soon.
Read these related articles too:
Skipper´s essentials, all articles
Learnings from my first real offshore sailing trip