September 2011 - Haul for a new bottom

Back to Home ... Haulouts Page -- s/v Stella Blue home ... What's New

Back to Home ... Haulouts Page ... s/v Stella Blue Home ... What's New

Instead of going north to Bahia de Los Angeles, I decided to go back to Puerto Escondido and haul out. Stripping the hull down to the gel coat and putting a new barrier coat on has been on my 'once I get to Mexico' list for years. The job requires a lot of manual labor, and it isn't a job I want to do myself. Besides, I didn't want to deal with the summer heat this year. Hauling the boat and getting an air conditioned hotel room sounded very attractive.

In July I stopped by Puerto Escondido and worked out all the costs.

When I returned in September, Fonatur had raised prices by over 60 per cent across the board.
With the nearest affordable hotel in Loreto, I planned on renting a car for the duration of the haul out. Besides, I needed to drive to La Paz for paint and supplies, which are really not available or affordable in Puerto Escondido or Loreto.
When you add in the fact that they nearly dropped my boat when hauling it out, and did enough damage when lifting it to go back in the water that I had to spend an extra five days in the yard, with hotel and car costs, this turned out a pretty expensive haulout experience. I wouldn't haul in Puerto Escondido for work again.

However, I have nothing but good things to say about Elvin Schultz and his business. Elvin rents shop space and some work space from Fonatur, and is the only real 'boat person' in the yard. Forget Fonatur, work with Elvin.
He rounded up the labor to strip the old paint off, and let me do the rest of the work myself,
providing a sounding board and lending the few tools that I didn't have myself.

Here's the travel lift. Normally, a travel lift is not worthy of mention.
For non-boating folks, it's one of the many ways one can haul a boat out of the water.

However, there is a certain Zen to it. It's a balancing act. There are two slings, and if the boat isn't balanced in the slings t you can have a disaster. Different hull shapes require different techniques.

To make a long story short, the slings just didn't look right, so I grabbed my mask and snorkel and jumped in to find that the aft sling was caught on the back two inches of the keel. It's a good thing I looked, because once the full weight of the boat was on that point the soft lead keel would have given way and the boat would have fallen.



I really like Loreto. It's too bad that there isn't a safe place to anchor a boat near the town. The beach is good holding sand, but is a wide open roadstead and can get pretty rolly in anything other than flat calm.

It's about a half hour away from Puerto Escondido, so a one way taxi ride costs the same as a day's car rental.

I grabbed a room at the Hotel Junipero, for 350 pesos a day. That's about $26 US. It was clean, with a shower, a big TV and, most important, AIR CONDITIONING!

It's right downtown, so there's a lot of street noise, but I like that.

Cafe Ole is a half block away. I have to mention it because the food is great, and cheap. There are no tourists in Loreto in September, because of the heat and humidity, but Cafe Ole does a good business with the locals and expats. Heck, a big breakfast is only 50 pesos. When you're on a cruiser's budget, good cheap food is important.



Anyway, back in the boatyard, Elvin and a helper was busy stripping 20 years of hard bottom paint from my hull. Despite the increase in hauling and boatyard charges, I hauled because Elvin was only charging $25 a foot to strip the paint off, and would let me do the rest of the work myself.

It was slow going .Temperatures were over 100, and humidity was over 80 percent. Elvin did a lot of work himself, because only one of his regular helpers wanted to work.



The stripper weakened the putty around the strut, and it came off easily. That was fine, as I've always wanted to inspect that area.


When the boat was nearly stripped down the gel coat layer, I drove to La Paz to buy barrier coat, bottom paint, and solvent-resistant rollers, putty, masking tape, and all the other stuff I'd need.

That was a very expensive two day trip, as I needed five gallons of epoxy barrier coat (Interlux 2000E,) two gallons of hard bottom paint, and four gallons of ablative paint. The paint bill alone came to $2450 US. Ouch.


This is about the only place where I've used Bondo on my boat. I wanted something brittle, that could chip out easily in case I need to access the bolts and remove the strut someday. Bondo is water absorbent, though, so it has to be covered with something totally waterproof.


While in La Paz I picked up a can of vinylester fiber reinforced putty. This stuff is waterproof, very strong and yet somewhat flexible. That's important, because the strut area is subject to lots of stress and vibration.



Here it is, all faired down and ready to paint.

Painting the bronze strut is always problematic, because the bronze strut reacts with the copper bottom paint, and the paint just falls off after a while. Every time I've hauled, over the last 12 years, I've tried a different primer, but the paint has always fallen off.

But when I painted it in 2008 the paint actually stuck for three years. Cool.



In 2008 I primed the strut with this Petit two part self etching primer. It's great stuff, but toxic as heck.

After this primer, I had put a couple of coats of Interlux 2000E epoxy primer/barrier coat on, then the anti-fouling paint.


I couldn't find the Petit primer in Mexico, so was resigned to losing paint on the strut again. However, Elvin had some of this stuff in his shop, so I'm giving it a try. It seems very similar to the Petit paint, although it's more yellow.

We'll see how it works.



The first two coats of barrier coat didn't give the coverage I'd expected, so I had to drive to La Paz for more paint.

In total it took five gallons to build the required 10 mil thickness.

I'm glad it's done, though. The old barrier coat was 20 years old, and although there's never been a blister in the hull, I feel a lot better now that it has fresh protection.

Over the barrier coat went a single layer of hard bottom paint. I wanted hard paint in one color, and then two thick coats of ablative paint on top. The hard paint is protection for the barrier coat. If the ablative paint wears thin, the hard paint will show through with a different color, and I'll know it's time to haul and paint again.

I wanted blue hard paint, then red ablative on top. I think red anti fouling paint is more effective. It didn't work out that way.

La Paz is the major boating maintenance hub in Baja, and I assumed Comex bottom paint would be easy to find. Nope. Only one Comex store carries bottom paint, and they had a really limited selection. It has to be ordered in advance from the mainland, and takes a week to get there. Oops. I made the rounds of the boatyards and marine stores, but didn't like the selection.

Finally, at Bercovich's boat yard, Abel had red hard paint and blue Hempel ablative. Hempel is good paint. I'll switch to red at the next haul out, and be smarter, arranging for the paint in advance.



With a whole new bottom on the boat, it's time to go back in the water.

Instead, I got a real heart ache.

The yard guys picked the boat up, but didn't set the slings right again. The paint was still soft, and the boat started to slide out of the slings.

The slings scraped the new paint off, down to the barrier coat.




It wouldn't have fallen onto the asphalt, because they put a rope between the slings to keep them from sliding too far.

Of course, the rope also rubbed through the paint.




I had put some waxed paper between the slings and the paint, to keep the slings from sticking. When the slings slid, the waxed paper was ground into the paint.

So, another week in the yard.




A really sharp scraper removed the paint and waxed paper. When it was cleaned up, I sanded it relatively smooth with 80 grit.

I had just enough extra paint to cover up the damage.


After waiting two days the paint was still soft, but dry enough to put the boat back in the water. I made huge pads out of old cardboard boxes covered with waxed paper, so if the slings slipped again they'd slip on the cardboard, not on the paint.

Believe it or not, the yard guys started to make the exact same mistake as a week before. Apparently they only know one way to pick up a boat, whether it's a full keel, fin keel, or trawler.

This time, though, I wouldn't let them mess it up. It took about three hours before I'd let them lift the boat, while I tried to teach them how to do the job right. I'm sure they think I'm a real jerk. I don't care. Doing it wrong would cost me $1000 US in hotel, car rental, yard fees, and new paint.



Yahoo, Back in the water, with a new bottom on the boat. Time to provision up and get going south to La Paz.

I need to get to La Paz to deal with immigration, and then head over to the main land for the winter.

I'm also looking forward to fresh food. It will be nice to buy a dozen eggs and not discover that half of them are already turning bad.
When you buy eggs, you need to put them in water. The rotten ones float.




Back on the water. It was night to sleep in a bed for a few weeks, and watch football on TV, but it's even nicer to be back out on the water.


Click on pictures to see them full size