If you choose to cruise around on a sailboat, your life will be full of surprises. Often positive – apparently more positive than negative, if you still feel enthusiastic about the lifestyle two years on. But eventually something bad will hit you, something that will make you weigh your motives.
Old boats are full of surprises, too. We were not entirely ignorant of that, after all, we used to own a 45-year-old plastic classic. However, our current boat has given us plenty of surprises – a bit too many, if I’m completely honest.
Our boat projects during last winter and spring turned out to be more of an ordeal than we had expected. We were certain something similar might happen now that our boat was getting lifted out of the water in Nidri, island of Lefkas. Our plan was to replace all seacocks and do a routine job on the boat’s bottom – mainly a good cleanup and a couple of coats of new antifouling paint. But something much more acute wedged itself on the top of our list of things to do, and all of our plans were changed again.
After the liftout, the boatyard workers pressure washed the hull. All living things that had grown on it during the two years our boat has been in the water – algae and barnacles – came off nicely. But so did some of the paint layers in big patches, revealing bare fibreglass underneath! We needed and expert to interpret what it was that we were seeing, and found one working in the yard. He sanded off the layers in a few different places and came to the conclusion, that at some point in history the underwater part of our hull has been peeled down to fibreglass, and barrier coated with epoxy. This is a common procedure on an old boat with an osmosis problem – blisters growing under the gelcoat, otherwise known as the plague. Epoxy is much more waterproof than the original gelcoat, but in this case they only applied one or two layers of it, which is absolutely not enough. So, it looks like many years ago someone, on another continent, may have been cheated by who knows whom. The thin layer has held so far, because back in Finland the boat had time to dry on the hard every winter. Also, the brackish water of the Baltic sea is not as hard on boats as saltier seas. There’s no point crying about what happened in the past, but if we wish for a long life together with our boat, there’s a big decision to make.
Tied to a chair, and the bomb is ticking
This situation was not of your picking
You say that this wasn’t in your plan
And don’t mess around with the Demolition Man
The long and short of the professional opinion was, that if we plan to sell the boat, we could just patch up and paint new antifouling. Well, I don’t think we could live with ourselves knowing we had passed on a problem that would soon pop to the surface – literally! But after all the surprises our boat has given us, we still seem to think our Aina is a keeper, and we want to continue our adventures with her. She’s taken care of us in the gloomy, rough autumn nights on the North Sea, sailed us across the Biscay in her reliable freight train style, and been our cosy and comfortable home for two years. She has earned her new set of underwear for sure, although it will make a big dent in our cruising budget.
Needless to say, we can’t afford using professionals to do the work. It will probably take some time for two amateurs to sand the boat by hand, with a good sanding machine – so be it. Then we will have to let the hull dry for a while, then apply an adequate number of epoxy barrier coats – at least four or five – and finally put on the new antifouling. We will have busy weeks on the boatyard, dressed in sweaty overalls and breathing masks. But there’s another side to things, as my brother accurately summed up: “Greek summer, working on a boatyard, wine and moussaka in the evening”. Nothing wrong with the surrounding landscapes, and when we finally get to splash the boat after all the hard work, we just happen to be in one of the best cruising areas of the world.