Scraping, Sanding & Antifouling Nemo
This time last year Neil was in antifouling hell!
Why? Well, we decided to stay in Grenada last year and work on Nemo. As with any boat, we had lots of Nemo projects, but the BIG project was scraping Nemo’s antifoul clad hull back to the gel coat. Woohoo, fun aplenty ahead!!
We bought Nemo in May 2016 and for the first few years, other boat projects meant we touched up the existing anti-foul already on her. Not ideal, but that’s the way it goes on a yacht!
But two years ago, we made the call, well Captain Neil did! Nemo’s hull would be scraped back to the gel coat layer. During our purchase survey, we were told that the hull was in great condition. But to really make sure, there is nothing like seeing a boat’s hull at the gel coat level yourself. That way you can ensure that there is no hidden damage.
We planned for well over a year to get all the items we needed together to remove all the bottom paint. This included getting the antifouling paint we wanted. All the safety gear and tools. Organising the haul-out and finding somewhere to stay away from the boat – a must! And organising for our families to come and see us we would not return to the UK for 18 months etc..
And, we knew it would be a horrible job, but we never realised quite how much. Huge kudos to anyone who works in a boatyard and regularly removes antifouling – especially in the Caribbean! Wearing all the protective gear required is not great at the best of times, but way worse in 35C / 95F and 80% humidity! Of course, we did have the beautiful island of Grenada to visit when not in the yard, so there was a sliver of a silver lining!
Why did we do the antifouling ourselves? The money of course. With the money we saved, we were able to work with Grenadian tradesmen to replace our Bimini and add solar panels. That being said, Neil has said he will NEVER do this job again, no matter how much money we can save!
Neil did the whole antifoul removal job on his own, although we are sure that there were bets on in the yard that he may not finish it – he did! He got great input from the local workers in Clarkes Court Boatyard which he was very grateful for. Here are his tips, tricks and learnings.
Paint Status Pre-Scrape
Nemo had about 3mm of paint on her before the job started. A horrible mixture of primer and many different anti-foul paints which we guess must have gone back 7+ years.
We had booked six weeks for all the projects we wanted to do on the hard, and initially, we planned for 2 weeks for the hull scrape. In actual fact, the hull took 4 whole weeks to get clean – ugh!
- Phase 1: 2 weeks. Stripping with paint stripper
- Phase 2: 10 days. Sanding
- Phase 3: 2 days. Primer, antifouling and a new bootstrap!
Phase 1 – Paint Stripping
Paint stripper is extremely caustic and therefore you have to protect yourself and the surrounding area well. The whole process of using paint stripper took two weeks, with many 12-hour days.
- Paint Striper – We started with Lanco Gel Strip, but it was too thick and dried out in the Grenada heat before it could be scraped off. We then moved to a local supplier – Sissons, and got their Paint and Varnish Remover which was a lot thinner and worked brilliantly. We used about 10 Gallons of striper.
- Protective Clothing – The paint stripper can drip from above and so you have to be protected from head to toe. Neil wore full-length trousers and a long-sleeved top. Socks, strong shoes and a full paper suit. In addition, he wore a balaclava, goggles and a hat. And the most important thing, heavy-duty gloves.
- Tools – We tried to use a foam pad to apply the stripper, but that just disintegrated, and so we used natural fibre paintbrushes. We used an old baking sheet for the paint stripper and a variety of paint scrapers. The triangle was great for the stern tube and all the awkward parts.
- Sheets – All the scrapings were collected in sheets placed under Nemo and the scrapings were disposed of in the waste bins provided at the yard.
Phase 2 – Sanding
After the fun of paint striping, Neil did not think it could get worse…but sanding was! Despite full protective gear, the antifouling dust got everywhere. This phase took 10 days.
- Protective Gear – Antifoul dust is toxic and you have to project yourself with multiple layers of clothing. To stop the dust getting into the skin, Neil covered his arms, legs and neck in Vaseline. He then put long trousers and a top with long sleeves. We taped around the clothes at the wrists and ankles and then put on a paper suit, balaclava and breathing filter.
- Filter – Neil used a 3M Half Face Piece Breathing Filter with Organic Vapor Respiratory Protection and would have liked the full-face version, but they are very expensive!
- Sander – We used a Bosch Professional GEX 125-150 AVE Corded 240 V Random Orbit Sander with a Bosch Sanding Plate and used 50 sheets of 80 Grit Abranet sanding disks and a few 60 Grit disks for hard places.
- Dust Sheets – to protect the surrounding area and boats next to us, we hung dust sheet around Nemo when sanding.
Phase 3 – Antifoul Painting!
After finishing all the stripping and sanding, we had two weeks left on the hard. Plenty of time to get the boat re-painted! But no, the heavens opened, and we had to wait until just before our splash to paint. We (and Sam did join Neil for the painting) ended up doing two coats of primer and antifoul, three of both at the waterline and a new bootstrap stripe in 24 hours. Painting under torchlight is so much fun!
Over the years we have tested a number of primers and anti-foul paints. There are a huge variety of paints and applications available, but we have used PPG for the last few years. They have a self-polishing bottom paint we tried in the past and a hard version. We sail pretty much every day for nine months of the year during our charters, so we chose a hard version for Nemo.
Nemo is a 51ft Dufour Gib Sea and to work out how much paint we needed we actually got a great calculation from a Sailing SV Delos Video (1:48).
- SQ Foot Calculation = Boat Length x (Beam + Draft) x 0.6.
- Nemo = 51 x (15 x 6) x 0.6 = 643 SQ feet
This meant we needed about 5 gallons of both paints.
- PPG Epoxy Primer Amercoat 235 (3 x 2 Gallons)
- PPG Antifoul Amercoat 214 (1 x 5 Gallons)
And both the primer and the antifouling paint need to be mixed really well. We used an electric mixer with a paddle to do this. The first mix took about 30 minutes and then we used small and large rollers and paintbrushes around thru-hull fittings to apply the paint.
Where to Source PPG in the Caribbean
For years we have been buying paint from Boat Paint & Stuff in St Martin. Bizarrely due to Hurricane Maria, Saint Martin and Sint Maarten had been taken off the list of islands we could sail to by our insurance company, and so we had to find a way of getting the paint to us in Grenada. Boat Paint & Stuff was happy to ship to us in Grenada and it only cost $60 USD and $60 USD customs fees to ship in the wonderful delivery boat Renewal Glory.
No matter how much preparation we did on the protective clothing, the anti-foul dust still got underneath the clothes and into the skin. At the end of the day, we would use masking tape to try and get the dust out of the skin and then use anything to cool down the itching that followed. This Gold Bond Medicated powder was the only thing that worked to stop the itching. We found it a bit late in the game, but it was a winner.
Check out the Video
Results and Learnings
We were really happy with the results. When we hauled out again this August (2020) the hull was really clean as you can see below, and we only had to do two scrapes during the whole year. Like everyone, we hadn’t planned for the pandemic and were stationary way more than we usually are.
Next time we need to do this, we will definitely go the soda blasting route and get someone else to do it!
P.S. When we write ‘we’, it implies the royal ‘WE’ of course!! This was most definitely a labour of love by Captain Neil.
Thanks for reading this sailing blog about antifouling Nemo. If you have any questions about what we did, please do get in touch, we would love to hear from you.
Neil & Sam
The BlueFoot Travel Team
About BlueFoot Travel
We offer sailing holidays in the Caribbean. Join us on board a shared yacht and experience an unforgettable crewed cabin charter. Use this sailing trip schedule to book a cabin for your sailing vacation – ideal for solo and single travellers, couples and small groups. Relax and recharge. Enjoy delicious healthy food. Get hands-on sailing experience with an RYA sailing instructor. And, have lots of fun as we sail from one beautiful island to the next. Sail in style with BlueFoot Travel.