Tag: Tips

It’s Time to Clean The Bottom Again!

New clean bottom paint. Look at all those acres!

As you may or may not know, Dazzler recently had her bottom painted last August in Puerto Peñasco. There comes a time a few months later that you need to jump in the water to wipe down the underbelly of your cruising home. You can break out your wallet and pay the guy at the dock if you want. You know that well-meaning diver that is looking to get paid for scraping the bottom with steel wool or a paint scraper. Most boaters understand the cost of having the bottom of their vessel painted. If you are anything like me, I expect to get the maximum use from the paint. The first several times Dazzler’s bottom gets cleaned will be by me with a soft white pad. The metal parts usually have some stubborn marine growth requiring a bit more scrubbing.

For the painted surfaces, I like to wipe them down with a white 3M pad that isn’t supposed to have any abrasion fibers in it. But, I have heard that a small carpet square will work also. For those stubborn areas like the prop, I use a flexible blade putty knife about 2” wide, a stainless wire brush and some stainless scrubbing pads.

A long time ago when Dazzler was docked in Marina de Rey and I was still working for a living, a professional diver, Bob Williams, passed on some sage advise for cleaning the hull bottom of a boat. First he sited cleaning the bottom more frequently required less scrubbing and less time underwater to complete the job. He also indicated that the organisms that like to attach themselves to the exposed metal parts and other places on the hull have less time to get a strong foothold on the surfaces they attach themselves to. Secondly, Bob, provided me with a pattern that he deploys while doing regular bottom cleaning jobs. He would divide the bottom into sections. Port and Starboard, front to back or back to front, waterline, hull and keel.

The first time I had jumped in the water to clean Dazzlers hull was many years ago. I was overwhelmed by the size of the area needing to be wiped down. Keep in mind the magnification factor while being underwater. It was huge, gargantuan and looked like forty acres. It didn’t look that big when Dazzler was hauled out during the survey when I bought her in 2003. I can remember wiping down the hull in pretty much a random pattern. After about 30 minutes I thought to myself that I was sure that I had wiped down the section I was currently doing. Nope! The first time seemed to take forever.

Bob and I had become good acquaintances over the first few years I owned Dazzler. If he happened to come by the boat to clean Dazzler’s bottom while I was on board, I’d make him a sandwich or I might have been barbequing hot dogs and I’d share lunch with him. After speaking with Bob a few times, I understood the need for a cleaning pattern while underwater. Bob also described the tools that he used and how to use them without taking the paint off the bottom.

The next few times I dove down to clean Dazzler’s bottom, I had a plan of attack. I first did the waterline on one side by starting at the stern and working my way along the side to the bow. All the time reaching down as far I could reach, without dropping my cleaning pad, between the waterline and the top edge of the keel. I had to learn about that don’t drop or let go of your pad thing a few more times before I got it right. Ha! Ha! Ha! The next step was the hull. So, I’d start at the bow wiping down the side of the hull. This task started out pretty easy, but by the time I had gotten to Dazzler’s beam I found myself having to split the area into two swaths an upper and a lower area. After the hull was done, I’d wipe down the rudder and then her full keel. With that side done, I would move onto the other side. Just like the shampoo bottle indicates, “Rinse, Lather, Repeat,” so too I would now do the other side of Dazzler in the same fashion.

Once I completed the painted surfaces, I would get my metal scraping tools and start for the propeller. Dazzler’s propeller is a three blade fixed prop that sets inside an aperture between the trailing edge of the keel and a cutout area approximately in the middle of her rudder. I found it easiest to start on the forward facing surface and clean one blade at a time. Depending on whether your prop is a right or left hand pitched prop, I found the forward and aft facing surfaces were easier to clean while on one or the other side of the keel. While at the prop, I’d give the sacrificial zinc a check and determine if it needed replacement.

Next, cleaning the thru hulls was fairly simple with a sacrificial long bladed standard flat blade screwdriver. I use the word sacrificial because accidently dropping your favorite Snap-On screwdriver into the briny deep hurts. You can dive down next to the bottom if you like to look for things, but I am here to tell you that a layer of something floating next to the bottom is like entering a dense green fog that seems to blanket the bottom and blocks out all possible sunlight and thus hiding anything concealed by its eerie science fiction cloak. I heard that a diver went into it once and was never seen again until the next Taco Tuesday at the local watering hole. I’m not a scaredy-cat when it comes to most things, but why tempt fate. Go into it or don’t go into it. I can get another screwdriver.

That is it!

I will add that the waterline tends to be one of the tougher areas to clean as all the floating things in marinas and anchorages like scum, oils and whatever else is floating by likes to cling to the area of the hull just above the mean waterline. More frequent cleaning of the waterline will help keep it in check. If you chose to hire a diver to clean your boat watch what they use at the water line. You will be surprised to find that they are using a stainless steel scrubber to clean the waterline. This technique will surely chew the bottom paint away from the hull. The divers use this scrubber because it is easier faster for them to get their job done. It doesn’t bode well for your paint.

A thought about holding your breath, using SCUBA or a surface air supplying Hookah system. In my early days of bottom cleaning Dazzler, I used SCUBA and wore the equipment. It was not a big deal, because I lived in the land of plenty and in Marina del Rey dive shops to get an air fill were plentiful. While getting ready to depart for Mexico, I wrestled with the idea of whether to get a dive compressor of a surface air supply Hookah system. In Fact, I left the states on my first trip into Mexico without either.  A dive compressor took up too much room and Dazzler just didn’t have the real estate. After trying to find a reputable dive shop in Mexico to get a clean fill without water in it was difficult. So I purchased an Air Line Diving System that was 115 volt system.

Earlier in the summer, In the water getting ready to clean the bottom in Punta Santa Domino in Bahía Concepcíon before the new bottom paint. Go Go Gadget!

Dazzler’s Honda EU2000 generator could easily run the system. I got one 60 foot hose and regulator to make cleaning Dazzler’s bottom a lot easier. The additional benefit was no cumbersome dive equipment, easy setup, clean and store and most importantly, I didn’t have to be tethered to a dive shop or friends with dive compressors on their vessels.

Yes, I know it may sound like I am advocating cleaning the hull more frequently and to those that don’t dive their own boat I leave you with this story. A friend of mine, left Banderas Bay last year to travel to Mazatlan to leave his vessel for the summer. Upon his arrival he hired a diver to clean the bottom of his boat. The diver wasn’t underwater very long before he returned to the surface to tell my friend that he had a very bad problem. I’m not sure anyone wants to hear those words. His boat was a Hunter with a fin keel and a spade rudder. As the shaft exits the hull of the bottom it is indexed and secured in position by a Vee-strut and cutlass bearing. The lower end of the strut has a tube welded to it and holds the cutlass bearing in place and thus keeps the shaft aligned. The tube that houses the cutlass bearing and the shaft had broken free of the strut. My friend indicated that he had his boat dove in Paradise Village before he left. He had experienced some larger swells on his way to Mazatlan. He had no idea where the break occurred, but he was so thankful that he made it to Mazatlan before something bad happened. He later discovered that electrolysis was the culprit and the stray current was coming from his wind generator. Insulation from one of the wind generator wires had worn through and it was energizing all the bonded metal on his vessel.

Divers hired to clean the bottom of your boat, here in Mexico,  have differing levels of experience and understanding of the parts attached to the hull. In many cases far less than we boat owners. Their job is to clean the hull and move onto the next boat. While I’m diving Dazzler, I inspect and look at the thru hulls, shaft, prop, zinc, Dynaplate, and raw water intake to name a few. That way I don’t get surprised by any of the things that can happen under the water. I like seeing first hand what’s going on down there. The old adage of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound cure isn’t too far off the mark here.

Boat maintenance! We all have it and we pick an chose those things that we are good at and shy away from the things we don’t particularly like doing. No one ever said life on a boat was easy or cheap. But there are some awesome tools out there that can make it easier. Pay for a diver or do it yourself, this is one job that should be done regularly. If for no other reason than to go faster when you see that other sailboat out on the water. Because we all know that if there are two boats on the water in the same area at the same time…..It’s a race!

I chose to don my 3mm suit and jump in the water with a Hookah air supplied hose and regulator to keep up on this regularly scheduled maintenance on Dazzler.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Captain Dan
SV Dazzler


Dazzler Haul Out Puerto Peñasco 2017

Boat owners know that their vessel’s time in the water is clicking down to the time when their vessel’s bottom needs an update to the antifouling paint. Well, this last summer was Dazzler’s turn in the slings. I had done some research and had spoken with other cruisers that had spoken highly of a Boatyard facility in Puerto Peñasco. After making an appointment with Salvador Cabrales, III, at the Astilleros Cabrales SA Boatyard, all that was left to do on my part was get Dazzler to the Ways. The Ways is the space in front of the yard where the slings of the boatlift are lowered into the water after your boat is in the Ways. In the case of the Cabrales yard, they had lowered the straps into the water and had me maneuver Dazzler over the top of the slings. While the line handlers on the each side of the dock next to Dazzler had a secure hold of the lines the lift cinched up the slings to the keel of Dazzler and started to hoist her out of the water. After a few strap adjustments, Dazzler was hoisted clear of the water and being transported into the lot across the street from the main yard where she was placed on secured jack stands and railroad ties under her keel.

That afternoon, the workers power washed Dazzler’s hull in preparation for sanding. Several months prior to arriving in Puerto Peñasco, I had observed several osmotic fiberglass blisters near the water line of Dazzler while cleaning the bottom. While she was on the stands it made it possible to get a closer look at the blisters and decide which course of repair I would perform or have performed. With the yard manager, Salvador, we inspected the blisters along the water line. After much discussion, Salvador provided me with an option that I was unfamiliar with. His yard has paint plainer equipment that will strip paint and thin layers of fiberglass from the hull.

This shows the stripped paint and fiberglass and the moisture readings from the first (below) and second (center) days readings.

This allows the deeper layers of fiberglass to dry in the arid desert of northern Mexico while on the hard. It also stripped away thin layers of the damaged fiberglass and made it easier to fair out the hull. After the paint had been removed, Salvador used a moisture meter to verify the moisture content of the fiberglass. While a few areas were in excess of 10, many were below 10 after the paint and fiberglass had been exposed to the dry heat. The second day all the readings were well below 10, in the low single digits. This was our green light for starting the repair of the exposed waterline. It was decided that the fiberglass would first be coated with West Systems epoxy, The next several layers would be West Systems epoxy with hard micro beads to build back the shallow depression created by the paint/fiberglass removal process. Once the level had been gradually built up, five coats of barrier coat primer were applied to the repaired area. It was feathered into the adjacent areas and it was challenging to find any uneven areas of the repair. I was impressed. The workers then began applying the Zspar bottom paint I had brought down with me from the states last fall. Prior to using the paint, we took it to a local paint store to have it shaken for about 10 minutes to mix up the cupreous oxide prior to having it applied to the bottom of Dazzler. The local paint store we used didn’t charge us anything so I found a few supplies from their shelves to show my appreciation for shaking up our paint.

The second day in the yard, I was busy myself with two projects below the waterline. I wanted to replace the plastic Depth, Speed, Temp, (DST) transducer thru hull with a new one. I also wanted to replace the Shaft seal/packing gland with a new one.

The transducer thru hull was the easier of the two jobs. I first removed the transducer and then drove a tapered wooden plug into the thru hull opening from the outside. I then cut off the excess wooden plug flush with the flange of the thru hull and used a hole saw to cut out the old thru hull fitting. This worked like a champ. I then preparing the hole by coating the inside with a thin layer of epoxy and waited for it to set up. After the epoxy was setup, I bedded the new transducer thru hull with Sikaflex tightened up the interior thru hull nut and it was done.

The shaft packing replacement was another story. It was obvious that the flange attached to the shaft had to first be unbolted from the flange at the rear of the transmission. Then you have to remove the shaft flange from the prop shaft. This little job took about two hours and a couple pounds of expletives and sweat. Ultimately, I had to use a spark plug socket placed on the shaft between the two flanges. I used the mechanical advantage of two bolts connecting both flanges to each other to pulling the shaft flange towards the transmission flange. Because there wasn’t enough clearance between the transmission flange and the rear case of the transmission, I had to take the bolts off often and add more washers to the bolts. After doing this several times and dropping tools and washers into the abyss called the bilge, the shaft flange was removed. This was a tedious job, but well worth the effort. The old shaft packing and hose was removed and the new shaft packing and hose were installed. The shaft flange and shaft were cleaned up, greased and re-installed and bolted back to the transmission flange. I forgot to mention that all this job had to be done from the lazarette while lying on my stomach and reaching down to the shaft area. Boats! What we do because we love them!

As the worker were finishing up with the waterline repairs, Jilly and I had picked up a few kilos of Carne para Asada and prepared a BBQ for the workers at the yard next to Dazzler.  We completed our appreciation for their hard work with grilled Carna Asada, onions, peppers, tortillas, salsa and icy cold Coca Cola. Smiles abounded!

Paint complete!

The workers were finishing up with the bottom paint and Dazzler was prepared for launch. She looked great! Timing of the launch must be coordinated with the tides of the area. Puerto Peñasco has extreme tides that can exceed 20 feet and therefore knowing when high tide occurs is important. The morning of the launch, there was no water in the bottom of the Ways. Only mud!

Salvador on the right along with Jilly and the rest of the hard working crew.

By late morning the tide had filled the ways and we were ready for launching. Dock lines and line handlers were in place and we were being lowered into the Ways. I asked Salvador if the slings could remain in place while I check the transducer and shaft packing glands for any unexpected water leaks. After I gave the all clear Dazzler was lowered into the sea, released from the slings and we were backing out of the Ways. We motored to the Fonatur Marina in Puerto Peñasco to give Dazzler a good cleaning after being in the dusty yard. The next day we were southbound toward Refugio at Angel de La Guarda.

My compliments to Salvador Cabrales and the crew at Astilleros Cabrales. A great job and a wonderful experience! We have been and will continue to recommend you and your team to other cruisers.


Captain Dan
SV Dazzler