Thursday, October 6, 2016

On the Hard Again (Part 2)

I rolled and tipped the undercoat to make it as smooth as possible for the topcoat, machine sanding between the coats with 220 grit. Some parts of the hull that were still not well faired got the treatment with West 207 filler and then sanded. The Berkerley Marine Center rents high-quality Fein sanders which helps the whole process considerably.

More undercoat

The first top coat was rolled and tipped on after wiping down with alcohol on paper wipes, and then wiped down again with Interlux 333 "Brushing liquid". The weather was pretty hot so thinned the Brightside polyurethane with the 333, and also followed the procedure of using a good brush damped with 333 for the tipping off.

To get a good finish with these expensive, hard, marine paints, it seems that you have to follow all of the procedures by-the-book, which is really hard work. For example, the weather has to be just right - not too hot and not too cold, meaning morningish. I started by painting a whole hull coat in one sitting, rolling on about 4 roller-widths, and then tipping off. But I soon found that the paint would start to thicken, and the brush would drag, so ended up painting each hull side separately. So, 4 hull sides X 4 coats = a long time. Factor in work in the real world, and it took me a month (!) to get the job finished.

First top coat.

The first topcoat was machine sanded with 320 grit, and then hand sanded all over with maroon 3M pads. This hurts because you have a nice shiny coat which you then destroy to get the matte surface required for the topcoat. The topcoats are nervy because you can't fix any foul-ups by sanding afterwards - what you roll on is what you get! Before final coating, the surface got the two-wipe-downs regimen followed up by a final wipe with a tack cloth. The two wipe downs (alcohol then 333) worked so well, that there was little or nothing on the tack cloth afterwards.

I found that the tipping went better with less 333 and some paint on the brush. Too much 333 seemed to contribute to brush lines in the finish (learned this on the first top coats).

Second top coat - looking good.

As well as the hulls, I also gave the 4-coat treatment to the underside of the center narcelle which had some flaking paint, and the glass seam repair.

After the hull paint had hardened for a few days, the next job was to tape up the waterline. I used the existing true waterline mark that I had left on, and then marked up 3-inch arcs using dividers. Three inches is a lot above the waterline, and means less shiny topside showing, but Little Cat is on an open mooring now and gets a lot of wave wash action that had put slime above the previous lower water line mark.

Taping up the water line. The blue tape is the true waterline.

Next, I rolled on the Bottomkote Aqua. Now the weather was real hot, so I thinned it a bit with water (water based paint). It went on OK, but had to work fast as it dried quickly in the heat. I did two coats over all, plus an extra coat on the waterline and edges (pretty much three coats).

Bottom paint goes on

Now it was time for Little Cat to get an actual name saying "Little Cat". I ordered the name and numbers from BoatUS and they were good quality and easy to put on.

She is now looking sharp and will no longer suffer from an identity crisis. My only regret is not getting a larger letter size. Because the hull sides are small compared to most boats, I went with 3" letters - in hind sight 4" would have looked better with this font.

OK, so now we are looking good and started the clean up to get back in the water. Some detail not mentioned here is the work that went into prepping and painting all of the steel work - what a PITA, but now all done with epoxy base coat, 3 or more coats of undercoat, and 2 topcoats. I really expect that the steel fittings will remain rust-streak free for the life of the paint. Another job I completed that I will show in a later post was bolting the center deck section to the cross beams to reduce vibration when the outboard is running.

Looking good

Then it was launch day, and she was lowered back into the water gentle as a baby. That was a lot of work and I'm expecting that she will still be looking good in two years when she comes out again for the next bottom job.

But the work is never over - right? I still have the rudders to re-glass and paint, and the entire deck and top of the boat are still waiting for the four-coat treatment - I should be done and ready for next summer. Because I took so long, the job was pretty expensive, but now everything underneath the boat is in great shape, and I can work away on the decks in my own time on the water.

Materials used:
2 quarts of  Interlux Pre-Kote primer
2 quarts of Interlux Brightside polyurethane top coat
0.75 gallon of Interlux Fiberglass Bottomkote Aqua hard bottom paint
0.5 gallon denatured alcohol (cleaner)
1 quart 333 Interlux Brushing Liquid
5 x 2" paint brushes
Too many roller covers, paint trays and containers, sanding disks, rags and paper towels to count.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

On the Hard Again (Part I)

Its been two and a half years since the last haul out and hull paint. So we find ourselves again on the hard at the Berkerley Marine Center for some long overdue maintenance. The bottom paint has completely given up the ghost (see below) and I have had persistant problems with the Brightside paint chipping off the topsides that I am going to fix once and for all!

Interlux NT after 2.5 years.

First the bottom paint. The current worn-out paint is Interlux Bottomkote NT. This is good stuff - the three coats that I put on lasted 2 years without hard growth! It is also one of the cheapest bottom paints. If you like soft antifouling paint, this paint works.

But - even though it works for stopping fouling, I am done with soft paints! It gets on everything - front net, hull, decks all covered with streaks of blue from contacting the soft paint via the anchor rode. Notice how in the picture above, the paint is completely gone on the waterline, but is still thick below it. This is because I have had to clean the waterline more often and have wiped the paint off faster - clouds of blue antifouling in the water and all over me. For a Wharram, which requires constant cleaning to maintain sailing performance, this is the opposite of what we need. So, IMHO Wharrams may be better off with hard bottom paint and I'm going to try Bottomkote Aqua this time around - it is a mid-priced high-copper hard paint and washes up in water.

Scrape, sand, sand, sand
I had to use a scraper to remove all of the barnacles. Here in Berkerley, the environmental requirements are very strict, so had to catch everything in a tarp and then vacuum the ground after work every day. Also, no running water can be used which makes clean up extra hard work.

OK, onto the topsides. You can see flaking of the Interlux Brightside topcoat where I am sanding it (above). Last time, I prepped the surface and painted straight over the epoxy with Brightside topcoat as recommended in the Gougeon Bible. It has flaked in exactly the same place as it did under the previous topcoat - my theory is that the Original Builder was in a hurry (completely understandable) and did not do a great job of washing down the epoxy prior to the first top coat. This would have left wax blush under the paint, causing it to slowly fail - and it is still there. Last time I may have just sanded it further into the epoxy.

Progress. First coat of primer

So this time I am doing it by the (Interlux) book - wash first, sand smooth, first coat of Interlux Pre-Koat primer, sand, second coat of primer, sand, then first coat of Brightside topcoat, sand, second coat of Brightside top coat. Lots of work, but I'll be done with paint flakes, for good.

Sanding the SS fittings

Another issue has been rust streaks from the stainless hardware on the lashing pads, and from the rudder hinges. I am using West Gflex to fix this - the instructions are to take the fittings down to bright metal, and then scour the epoxy in using a wire brush.

Once the epoxy has cured, it is also over-coated with two coats of primer before the top coats. Fittings under the waterline (bottom rudder hinges) instead get two coats of epoxy and then the antifouling.

The hulls are in amazing condition given that they have been in the water for more than 5 years and sit on the mud between every tide. I found a couple of minor dings above the waterline that I repaired with epoxy filler, and a small crack along the web of the center floor section that was fixed with fiberglass tape. More in the next episode....

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Overnight at the Marin Islands

I finally managed to get the whole family (i.e. including the Chief Executive) to do an overnighter on our little boat. The scene was the Marin Islands just offshore from San Rafael.

Little Helper #1 frolicking with Little Cat Too

The Marin Islands are one of my favourite hang-out spots, as the Northern side of the main island is very calm in the strong south-west prevailing winds in The Bay. However, only a Wharram or similar very shallow-draft vessel can enjoy this spot, as it almost dries at low tide. The Marin Islands are a state park and bird sanctuary, and so must be enjoyed only from the water (no landing). Link

Getting ready for dinner

After a good feed we settled down for the night. The weather on The Bay was not good with winds gusting to 30 knots from the SW. In our little corner, however, it was cosy and dead calm.

Well sheltered from the prevailing SW winds.

It was a big tide, so had to get up "early" (8.30AM), to move out 100 yards so as not to get stuck over the low. Made no difference though, as we couldn't be bothered moving until the afternoon when it was time to go home.

Sunset calm looking towards San Rafael

The sun shade makes all of the difference, and is just a polythene tarp thrown over the gaff with the boat hook lashed to it. I might make a "proper" one out of sunbrella when I get around to it.

Slow start for the day for Little Helper #2

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Slogging It To Windward

The arrival of the Summer weather leads to thoughts of the open sea. An overnighter to Drakes Bay was in order. On the way out, we slogged into the typical NW flow coming down the coast with a steady 15-18 knots of wind and a short 3' chop, all coming in a line directly upwind to our destination. These are not ideal conditions for the little Wharram and the 35 NM straight-line journey took more than 13 hours of tacking into the chop.

Motor-sailing out into the wind.

We motor-sailed with the tide from San Quentin Bay to Tennessee Pt before shutting the motor off. Little Cat tacked out into open water where the chop wasn't so bad, and we were doing 50-55 degree tacks (turning through 100-110 degrees).

Once into Drakes Bay (which is 9 NM wide at the entrance) the chop was worse, the tide was running out as we are going in, and the wind was gusting over 20 knots. Now we were doing 65 degree tacks to windward (turning through 130 degrees) - ouch!

Excuses for the poor tacking performance: the bottom is covered in growth and barnacles (the otherwise great Bottomkote NT has given up the ghost after 2.5 years); I got tired and was sitting in the cabin reading my book while the autopilot did the work; the sails were trimmed with plenty of camber to punch through the chop, and I got distracted by the Grey Whales that broached right next to the boat (20 ft away!).

Sail track NW to Drakes Bay. Some of the track was not recorded.

The straight-line distance from Tennessee Pt (where we started sailing) is about 23 NM and took a little over 10 hours, giving an actual VMG of ~2.25 knots. These are fairly sobering figures, but good to know when I'm planning open water journeys into the wind.

The entrance to Drakes Estero

The wind was whistling over 20 knots in my usual anchoring spot along the SW shore of the bay, so we ran back under the easternmost point of the Pt Reyes headlands under the painted cliffs next to Chimney Rock. It was still very windy as the wind bent around the point, but still better than in the bay.

Anchorage under the painted cliffs and Chimney Rock at the eastern end of Pt Reyes Peninsula
This is a very beautiful spot with sea lions frolicking, harbor porpoises and sea birds. I checked the spot for rocks with both my hard chart and Navionics, and there were no rocks marked (big mistake).

Dinner - eat your heart out Uncle Chris

Ever since my brother refused to come on a similar trip last year because of my habit of carrying only dried food, I had upped my game with bacon, eggs, tomatoes, and beer. I turned in early very tired.

Still windy next morning - note rock to left

Next morning the wind was still up and I prepared to leave rather than hang around because of a forecast open water wind warning. It was low tide and there were two rocks next to the anchor rode that were well covered when I anchored at high tide (you can see the furthest one in the picture above). If the wind had not been so strong, the boat would have swung onto these rocks when the tide turned! There was also a line of rocks about 100 yards behind the boat that would have collected it if the anchor had let go. Neither of my charts had showed these rocks - surprising given that there is usually at least a vague sprinkling of dots on charts in areas that are not well surveyed. The charts showed this spot as clear and suggests that one should not rely on charts in remote settings!

I was away by 8.30 AM and the wind slowly built to a 20 knot following sea. I was still tired and passed up on a fast spinnaker run to let the boat run on autopilot under the white sails. Compared to The Slog To Windward, the downhill run home went quickly and I was anchored up by 3.00 PM. This trip 94 nautical miles.

Update: a month later, the boat is up on the hard for painting (see posts above). The barnacle growth on the waterline explains our modest windward performance (picture below).

Needs a clean
This growth will have a big effect on both speed and weatherlyness. Wharrams need a clean bottom to go to windward well.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Stick in the Mud

A great 10-mile spinnaker run from Pt San Quentin to Gallinas Creek ended ignobly stuck in the mud on a dropping tide.

The idea was to find a quiet spot to anchor and soak up the coast views and sunshine North of China Camp. The spin run was against the new outgoing tide, but still averaged over 5 knots boat speed in 10 knots of westerly breeze with gusts to 15.

Note storm sail sunshade, pillow and book

A spot just inside the entrance to Gallinas Creek looked enticing, but I went on the wrong side of the little channel. Little Cat was firmly stuck with no further options except to break out the book, lunch and a beer.

Great view south to China Camp

It was shortly after high tide, so it was a five-hour wait lying under my storm sail sun shade on the front net reading my book, or looking through the net at the mud critters - how I suffered!

Skid marks

In the afternoon the wind picked up until is was averaging 20-25 knots over the deck on my little wind meter, and I had to move into the "cabin" for some respite. Luckily it was really warm so no hardship. The tide floated us off at 6.30 PM and it goes without saying that the strong north westerly that would have blown us home in no time, died entirely, and then veered around to a strong south-westerly (right on the nose heading back).

Note to self: best to explore the China Camp/Gallinas coast on a rising tide.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Gunkholing The Petaluma

With all the work on the house, I have been averaging one sail a month - that is just wrong! Spring Break presented an opportunity for an overnight, which I took. I've wanted to gunkhole the Petulaluma river for sometime and this was my opportunity. I loaded up on food and water and headed out. When my brother visited last year, I was shocked that he refused to come with me overnight because of my basic dried-food provisioning, and other lack of comforts - mind you he prefers to sail monohulls (?). So I thought I would try out a more dignified menu and packed the chilly with bacon and eggs and beers no less.

It was an almost windless day, which made for a mirror glass sea, but wasn't good for sailing. So it was several hours with the Tohatsu chugging away until the wind filled in after the San Pablo Strait. We were with the tide so made around 5 knots even with the motor ticking over on slowish. Hoisted the symmetric spinnaker off China Camp and got a couple of miles under sail before the wind died again.

Anchored up for the night in Schultz Slough

By the time I passed Black Point at the entrance to the Petaluma River, the wind filled in from the West, right on the nose, so motor sailed up the river with the mainsail drawing. Little Cat is an efficient motor sailor to windward and we averaged 5 knots up the river, even though we were heading into the new ebb tide.

Schultz Slough

I had no interest in seeing the Petaluma turning basin - I have seen it from the road - and instead wanted to do some exploring up some sloughs. After we had passed the last of the marsh park areas, we came across Schultz slough which looked big enough to take the boat.


I thought that we might be able to get all the way up the slough where it loops back beside Neils Island, but the tide was going out and we ran aground before we could make it all the way.

Slough sunset

We backed up (literally, the slough was only a bit wider than the boat) to where there was a bit of water under the keel and settled in for the night. The boat could only just turn around in its own length in the slough, so there were a  few bumps and scapes in the night as it gently banged one bank and then the other as the tide turned during the night - there are very few +20' boats that you could do this sort of gunkholing in without major issues with getting stuck in a narrow slough.

Watching the anchor line dipping into the outgoing tide at sunset

I had hoped to have a lazy lie-in (which is my usual fashion) and a slow breakfast while taking in the marsh wildlife in the morning, but the tide was ebbing and I had to make way by 7AM to catch the tide out to San Pablo Bay.

The river was beautiful in the morning light, and mirror calm.

Morning stillness

Ghosting down the Petaluma

About halfway down the river, a 15 knot breeze came up astern and I shut the engine off and ghosted all the way out into San Pablo Bay. Once clear of the Petaluma channel, I hoisted the assymetric and got a couple of miles of reach/running at about 5 knots until the wind died entirely. Little Cat just made the San Pablo Strait as the tide was changing to the ebb and then headed across to the Marin Islands for lunch. I cooked up some food, read my book and went to sleep on the trampoline, before heading home in the afternoon. 50 nautical miles this trip.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Should Have Listened To Boatsmith

When I made a new front net back in 2013, I expected to get at least 5 years out of it. To my shock and horror, after only 3 years a short rip appeared on the front of the net.

Ripped under the grommet
I was mainly peed off at myself for a number of reasons - I had left the net quite loose out of laziness, which added to point loading - and because Boatsmith had messaged me to double up the number of grommet holes to spread the loads more, or the net wouldn't last. David (Boatsmith) is very generous with his time and advice on the WB & F website, but its only any good if someone is listening, right?

OK. So after all of that work there was no way I was going to throw away the net and start again. The condition of the dacron netting still seemed good, and I think that the rip was from an excessive point loading and not because the material was failing in general.

Red helping to hold the net down

So the sewing machine came out and I added a new layer each side of the PVC Shelter Rite material and sewed it full length along the front of the net (and over the rip).

The Shelter Rite is hard to sew with my 50 year old sewing machine because the presser foot slips on the smooth PVC. In the end I gave up trying to get the machine to "grip" the fabric and just shoved it through trying to keep the stitches even. As usual with my sewing it looks pretty erratic, but I think it is strong. I even added an extra row of stitches along the net side, though the benefits are probably more psychological.

I ordered in a new pile of brass grommets from Sailrite and doubled up on  the number of grommets. Then it was back on the boat and looking good.

Niiiice and tight! Favorite spot for lying in the sun.

Lastly, I took the time to get the net nice and tight. I use 1/8 dyneema and this requires quite a bit of fiddling around to get right. But it is soooo much better tight. Now when I step on the tramp, I can feel that the weight is much more evenly spread over the net, and it is much more comfortable to lie on (very important). If the net now makes it past 5 years, I'll be happy.