The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Monday, May 20, 2013

Boat Maintenance for Dummies

I have friends whose sailboats look shiny and tidy rain or shine. My boat, on the other hand, is a perpetual disgrace. I'm always fifteen projects behind and no hope of catching up. It just occurred to me that the boat owns me; it's a 39-foot, 11-ton parasite and I'm the host that keeps it alive and floating.

If I had more time, more money or six muscular arms equipped with power tools, brushes and scrapers - and wings to work on the 51-foot mast...But MORE TIME is the only realistic goal to shoot for. I'm working on it.
mast painting
I'm in the process of scraping the flaking paint to prevent corrosion caused by salt and water trapped in paint bubbles.
My mast has a bad rash. It's taken hold mostly on either side of the sail track which I painted in 2007. Let me bore you with my existential experience six years ago when I unstepped the mast, sanded all the bad spots, degreased it, washed it and, under ideal conditions, applied International's two-part etch primer. 

The instructions said something like this: "once applied, the etch primer should change from bright yellow to dark yellow within about 30 minutes. If it doesn't, it hasn't catalyzed and must be sanded off to the bare aluminum and redone."

Guess what? After staring at it apprehensively for 40 minutes, it remained exactly the same shade of yellow as when I applied it, exactly the same! I stood there feeling as if I and my yellow-streaked mast were the only two objects on earth - nothing else in the universe mattered except me and the stubborn yellow etch primer. 

I read the instructions at least ten times, stared at the yellow color until my eyeballs were ready to pop out. What's going on!!!! What am I going to do now?

I did what imbeciles and idiots do; I convinced myself that it couldn't be true. I even whipped up a used-car-salesman theory: it didn't catalyze because I had sanded the aluminum powder coating and that's what the etch primer was supposed to react with. It'll be OK. What an idiot!

Did I tell you my mainsail cover's zipper was thoroughly destroyed by this winter's strong winds.
mainsail cover
A creative way to live without a zipper.
Is that rust on 316 stainless steel? A new meaning for stain-less, since it could also stain-more, but I doubt it.
corrosion on 316 stainless
Stainless. Why is it stained again? I cleaned it last year.
Then there's the dungeon. I always keep this door closed, and if a guest asks me what's in there, I say "a boogeyman, don't open it!"
Boat equipment
Simply disgraceful.
I removed all the junk to measure the anode bolts so I can buy a replacement before the haultout. I have a huge anode bolted to the outside of the hull which is connected to nearly all metal parts via a thick copper cable running through the bilge and branching off everywhere, terminating at a grounding plate near the mast support. 

I've been told this is bad, and I've been told that it's good. I figure it's "better than worse".  Americans seem to favor bonding all metal parts, Europeans have a more laid back approach and tend to believe that bonding will launch all your metals into a galvanic corrosion war. I was educated in Canada, so what would you expect me to choose?

Boat cleaning tricks
I removed everything to get at the bolts under a removable plywood floor.
Anode bolts
7-inch gap. Digital cameras make everything look so filthy.
Then I put everything back just the way it was. What else would I do? Remember, I got no time - I'm an overworked translator.

Now here's the final touch. The exposed chain is so rusty that I'm trying to conceal it in a rag. I guess I'll have to change it end over end at Nazaré, get the rusty part in the chain locker attached to a U-bolt and bring out the shiny galvanized end for my shiny new Rocna anchor. 
Tiger Manual Windlass
My manual Tiger windlass is also in desperate need of some TLC. Even the lock by my foot is rusty - there's just no end to this mess. Plus, there's another boogeyman in the starboard sail locker - a dinghy that looks like it was salvaged from  a garbage dump.
Corbin 39
The secret is not to zoom in on anything specific and, voilá, it looks presentable, sort of. Maybe that's why I like anchoring in the Algarve - I don't have to put up with highbrow marina neighbors sipping cold cocktails in the large luxurious cockpits of their shiny production boats looking down their noses at me (my boat, I mean - I still look respectable).


  1. ... and we are all certain you look respectable.
    ...but poor Jakatar. Actually it's not that bad. Just needs some luuuvin'!
    And time.
    Recommendations from me...eew
    get in to preventative maintenance mode. Sand off the very flaky stuff and keep hitting it with fresh water from a garden sprayer (best 10euros). Hit the stainless or corroding stuff with WD and keep and eye on it.Clean out the dungeon. Personally I wouldn't change the chain over yet. It'll really mess up your locker. It should clean up after a bit of use.
    Just hit the whole thing with WD and clean. And on your summer vacation (you are having one!), give 'er all the luuuuuuuuuuuvin' you got

    1. You're right, it's not that bad...except for the mast. A couple of maintenance hours every morning in the Algarve and she'll look like a doll all done up for the prom dance.
      I used to spray everything with WD40 until a friend of mine stepped aboard one day, leaned against some stainless and "what the #"&%$, my expensive coat is ruined!!!"
      I'm not going on vacation - I'm going on a voyage.

  2. A voyage?!? The suspense is killing me.

    1. No need for suspense. I'm only sailing to the Algarve...I haven't even managed to go to Nazaré for the haulout (maybe this Tuesday), bottom job and transmission swap...and that's assuming the transmission job doesn't turn into a tragic flop.
      What a life, started translating at 4 am today and my head is begging me to stop.