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Boat haul out: how to survive and do a professional job

  • Flavio 

This is meant to be a quick, but hopefully comprehensive, guide for those of you who are about to haul out their boat and are willing to accomplish the task on their own. It’s not a difficult activity, but it does require some preparation.

When we purchased Bolero in 2019, we decided that at the end of the first season (October), we would have needed some professional help to strip the hull down to gelcoat, get rid of years of antifouling layers, dry the hull and then apply several layers of epoxy coating to guarantee the needed hull protection to humidity and avoid osmosis related issue.

Bolero’s hull was pretty smooth when we hauled out, despite having been in the water for 14 months

At that time we didn’t feel we had the competences to do a proper job and honestly speaking we were too busy with our jobs to dedicate enough time and resources to such a labour intensive process.

Given the work done the previous year, this year annual haul out was supposed to be a pretty straight forward job as we didn’t expect to find any major issue to the hull, knowing that the year before it was professionally taken care and dried for almost 3 months. Still, hauling out is always a delicate moment for any boat owner and the process requires some good preparation. Here is how we got prepared and what we learnt during the process.

Scraping off below the keel before splashing: some areas won’t be accessible when the boat is on the jack stands

Pre-work & equipment needed

First of all, make sure the weather forecast is good enough for the at least 3-4 days, that’s the average time you need to do a proper paint job. In Barcelona, that’s something relatively easy to have, but depending on the location, be prepared to take into account some extra days: you don’t want to paint when it’s going to rain. So be prepared to have some flexibility.

Make a list of all the needed material, especially if you plan to do the job over the weekend when shops are closed. You can find plenty of articles and videos on the Internet to guide you in this process. Still, I couldn’t easily find some of the details I was looking for all in one place. Below I put together a list that hopefully covers most of the things you need to buy. If you think I’ve forgotten something, please leave a comment below and I’ll edit this post.

  • Scrapers: you’ll need at least a small and a big one, ideally with different stiffness. if you plan to have more than one person working on the hull, then buy some extra ones. I found very useful the scraper in the picture below. At the end, it’s a question of personal taste.
  • Foam Sanding Pads (grit 80-120): you’ll need a few ones to scrap the hull and prepare the surface for painting. There are many options to sand the hull and it will mostly depend on the conditions of the hull. I liked how these pads work and they did a good job for me. Alternatively you can use sanding blocks with sanding papers.
  • Mohair paint rollers, plastic trays and brushes: buy some 10 and 15 cm mohair rollers. Before using them, roll some self-adhesive tape around them to get rid of any dirty and lose fabric material. After use, clean everything up with some thinner. You also need brushes of different sizes (a small and a medium one at least), to paint those tricky places like rudder, bow thruster tunnel, etc.
  • Mixer for drill: inexpensive tool that will ensure your paints are properly mixed.
  • PPE (Personal Protection Equipment): make sure you have a half facepiece reusable respirator, gloves (nitrile coated nylon will do the trick), googles, low value water resistant shoes, paint suits, etc. You’ll get dirty, so invest time and money to make sure your body is well protected. The material you’ll be handling should not get in touch with your skin and eyes.
  • Antifouling paint for hull and rudder: this will largely depend on the hull material. Make sure you know which antifouling was previously applied: you want to use the same one or one that is compatible. Before buying the paint, check the user manual and the technical data sheet: you’ll find plenty of information on quantity needed, dry time, etc. We use Hempel NTC Mille and usually apply two coats, plus an extra coat on the water line.
  • Antifouling paint for any metal based surfaces (propeller, sail drive shaft and bow thruster in our case): here again you have a wide choice and everybody has his own ideas. We had good results with Velox Plus and Velox Metal Primer.
  • Thinner: you might want to dilute the first coat of antifouling, and you will for sure want to clean up tools, rollers, etc.
  • Epoxy filler, epoxy primer and a flexible scraper: you’ll probably need to make some repair to the hull. Once again, make sure you read the TDS and User Manuals.
  • Anode zincs: you should know they type of zincs you need. In our case, we have two anodes in the propeller and one in the bow thruster.
  • Blue tape: to mask the waterline. Remember that you get what you pay for with masking tape: purchase a good quality tape and it will save you a lot of time when you’ll need to take it off.

The process

Anywhere you are doing the process, you want to make sure liquids and solid wastes won’t end up in waterways or surrounding ground. Make sure you understand and follow all local regulations and check with the port personnel in case of doubt.

  1. Inspect the hull and check for any damage. You will inspect the hull again later, but it’s now a good moment take a careful look at the bottom of your boat.
  2. Provided the surface is in good condition, start with a high-pressure water wash to remove loose antifouling and any contamination. Once done, the surface should look clean and smooth.
  3. If not, use scrapers to get rid of any grime, loose barnacles and weeds.
  4. I suggest to use sanding pads to quickly grind the entire surface of the hull and ensure a good adhesion; after sanding wash with fresh water and let it dry.
  5. Mask up the areas you want to paint.
  6. Let the hull dry for 24 hours. Then inspect the hull thoroughly: check if there is any damaged area as well as any other indications that makes you think the existing coating is not adhering correctly. Check also if there is any kind of damage such as peeling or separation.
  7. If you have spot some damage, then fairing and filling may be necessary. Use epoxy filler and primer and stick to the indications given in the manual.
  8. Once the surface is ready, clean and dry, it’s time to apply the antifouling. Follow the manufacturer guidelines to figure out how much paint you will need. Make sure the antifoul paint is mixed thoroughly (use the mixer with a drill). If possible, you should paint when the air is dry (late morning or early afternoon).
  9. Apply an extra coat on the waterline, trim tabs, outdrives, keels and rudders.
  10. In parallel, focus you attention to the propeller and shaft. Again, check the guideline to make sure the surface is well prepared. Apply several coats of primer and paint strictly following what the manufacturer says.
  11. Remove the taping mask and enjoy. Remember: antifouling is meant to work when the boat is in motion! You now have another excuse to go out sailing!
High-pressure water wash helps remove most of loose antifouling and contamination

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