Monday, 26 August 2013

Boat Renovation and Intermediate Technology

So, the cockpit interior is painted and the combings are polished. I’m pleased with the results and surprised by the amount of time the job took. I could have done better though. What would I have done differently? Well International Paints produce three shades of white. One is very pure – a hint of blue in it I think. The white I chose was called Mediterranean White    - it is a softer colour – but there is another called Ivory – slightly creamier and I think it would have blended better with the original gelcoat which I’m hoping not to have to paint. Hindsight is a great thing but there is still a great deal to do so it is important I push on while the weather is still reasonably good.

There has to be time for reflection and planning however, and so that is my excuse for not doing too much this coming week. In truth I have been invited to crew a boat delivery trip (Toinoux, a Moody 33) from my home port Plouer Sur Rance to St Valerie en Caux in Normandy – quite a complicated voyage of about 180 sea miles. I don’t know how we’ll do it yet but almost certainly we will head north for Guernsey and then West along the English Channel trying to stay out of the busy shipping lanes and also to avoid the inshore fishing fleets and the cargo traffic entering and leaving Le Havre, Cherbourg, Caen, and the Seine estuary. The first part of the trip may be the most challenging as we have the highest tides (and strongest tidal streams) in northern Europe right outside our front door – all the way up to Guernsey. There is a kind of shortcut through the Alderney race but the timing has to be right otherwise you bounce around a good deal even on a calm day.

I’m hoping the trip will be fun and that it will provide time for me to move my thinking along about the boat restoration and reflecting on what I have learned so far. One important lesson is that simple sailing and low cost cruising cannot be achieved by the use of inferior materials or fittings. If it isn’t marine grade don’t use it. The real saving is in labour charges – do everything you can yourself even if it takes four times as long as a professional (and it probably will!).

Something I have discovered to my advantage however is that these older 1960 GRP boats were built in remarkably traditional ways. I’m reminded of the world’s first iron bridge built and still standing in the UK midlands. Iron at that time was the new wonder material but its properties were not fully understood or exploited – as a result the bridge was heavily constructed using standard woodworking joints. So it seems to be with this old Westerly Nomad, there are few significant internal mouldings, everything can be unscrewed broken down and taken home for working on in a more sheltered environment. It wouldn’t be too difficult to reconfigure the accommodation if I could think of a better, more convenient, arrangement. 

One thing I am sure of since looking at The Unlikely Boat Builder Blog is that I don’t like all these dark heavily varnished Teak bulkheads. I’m tempted to paint them all in a flat white matt and edge them with a paler varnished wood like John has done. Take a look at his site I think you’ll agree that’s the way to go.


Monday, 19 August 2013

How to Lift Old Masking Tape

I knew I would have problems removing the masking tape from the cockpit combing after painting the inside of the boat cockpit. The job had simply gone on too long due to extreme weather and so the tape had been on for a month. Problem is that the paper deteriorates and the glue hardens. When you pull off the tape the glues stays firmly fixed to the GRP surface and it can be extremely difficult to remove.

Internet research suggested a number of strategies and products. I was worried however, because some writers suggest that some of the commercial glue removing products can damage the paint or gelcoat. The solution therefore had to be a gentle one, and anyway, this story is about ‘low cost’ solutions. Two particularly interesting (although contradictory) suggestions were:

rub the area with oil – WD40 or even cooking oil, this adds moisture to the dryed out glue and makes it easier to scrape off;


use a really strong degreaser such as a kitchen cleaner based on lemon or citric acid and this will remove the sticking quality of the glue and make it easier to remove.

So, one suggestion recommends adding oil, the other suggests removing it. I discarded the WD40 solution because I thought it might stain the gelcoat or adjacent new paint and instead I opted for the use of Olive Oil. First though I had to get the paper off. I was lucky to some extent because I had used a good quality masking tape (blue rather than white) and theis meant to problems was not quite so bas as I had imagined. I was also fortunate because the tape had been applied around the combing of the cockpit and therefore the surface to be cleaned was quite narrow.

The paper came off easily enough using a bog standard Opinel folding knife as a draw-knife and simply pulling the balde towards me under the paper. The Opinel is a wood handled folding knife available throughout France and few country folk leave home without one in their pockets. I particularly like the mild steel blade which can be sharpened on any piece of granite you might pick up in a filed or hedgerow.

Next, I rubbed olive oil into the gray hadened glue and left it for about ten minutes. Sure enough it loosened the glue and much of it lifted off using the knife blade as a scraper.

Then on went the degreaser, a builder’s detergent I picked up in a DIY store. Having left this for a while, a course rag finished the job easily. My bacon was savcd.


Monday, 12 August 2013

How to Paint a GRP Boat

Well this is my final report on painting the GRP cockpit of my ancient Westerly Nomad. 

The final report because I don’t want to think about this subject ever again and also because I did finally manage to get the job done – and I have to say, I am pleased with the result. So I've taken some time out to go fishing.

The whole process was dogged by unusual weather in the form of heat wave temperatures, strong winds or threats of rain but I finally achieved two coats of Pre-Kote and two top coats of TopLac – a one pot emulsion produced by International Paints.

Now I don’t believe that having managed to paint the cockpit makes me any kind of expert but for the sake of anyone else considering embarking on this task, here is a brief summary of what I learned (mainly through the mistakes I made).

A professional will spend 80% of his effort on preparation of the GRP surface. As an amateur you should devote 90% on this task and that will probably take you 95% of the time. No amount of paint will cover or hide sloppy preparation. Preparation includes:

cleaning the surface to be painted;

washing with a degreaser and/or acetone to remove any possible traces of silicone;

removing as many fittings as you can so that you can paint underneath to avoid having too many ‘edges’;

filling holes, dings, cracks;

sanding, to smooth filling and other imperfections, to remove stains and to provide a key for the paint; (Start with 80 grade sandpaper and finish with 120 grade or even finer) *NOTE the lower the number the courser the paper

removing all traces of sanding dust and moisture;

masking off the edges.

Then, and only then, can you consider getting some paint on. There are numerous products available and without a doubt some of the best rely on two pot paint and hardener systems. They’re fine if you are confident with a paint sprayer and your boat is in a shed where you can control temperature and humidity. For the rest of us however, a more traditional one pot paint is more forgiving and it will give a better finish than a poorly applied two pot system.

Paint should be applied in thin coats. Some people prefer a brush, others like rollers. I tried both and finally settled on a cheap foam pad. Cheap disposable brushes are fine so long as they don’t shed hairs. Some people comb their brushes with a hair-comb and they swear it is a very effective method for dislodging loose hairs which might stick to the paintwork. Roller users should use small foam or very short haired rollers to avoid ‘orange peel effects’. A dry brush in you other had can be very effective in removing drips, runs, brush or roller marks before the paint sets. Paint should be applied in a union flag manner to help avoid obvious unidirectional brush marks on the finished job.

Do not underestimate weather effects. If the weather is too hot, the paint will dry as you paint and the effects will be awful, too windy and you get dust and if there is a hint of rain – do something else. Even on a perfect day, you will find that the paint behaves differently on different parts of the boat. So in areas where the GRP is in direct sunlight the paint will be quicker to set and less forgiving than in cooler shadier areas. Take a garden watering can with you and damp down the area around the boat to minimise dust.

I actually made a poorer job in areas where I was too careful, applying paint in minute quantities and brushing out too often for too long. As it sets it can drag and when this starts to happen it is best left alone. The areas where I was more confident were done much quicker and they produced the best effect. Keep checking back, especially corners and hard edges drips can be brushed out if you spot them soon enough. Apply the paint thinly, several carefully applied thin coats are better than one coat applied too thickly.

The good news is that if a coat goes wrong, you can always sand back to a smooth surface and apply a new coat – providing of course that you remove the dust after sanding. I had to do this with my second undercoat using 240 grade sandpaper – no harm was done.

I now have a problem however, - Finding the ideal weather conditions to get the four coats on took as many weeks and the masking tape is now probably welded to the gel coat. Ah well, that’s a problem for next week. Onwards and upwards!



Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Painting a GRP Boat (3)

OK, two coats of Pre-Kote manufactured by International Marine, followed by a significant amount of time sanding back the second coat which had been applied in too fierce a summer heat.  It wasn’t particularly hard work but after all the sanding I had done to prepare the surface for painting it was disheartening.
Regular readers will understand that on applying the second coat of Pre-Kote I made a mess of the job by trying to paint when the GRP was far too hot, probably about 50 degrees C in the strong sunshine. Well, it went on more like plaster than paint and it dried showing every roller and brush mark so it had to be sanded back.

So then I had to wait for cooler weather. Typical isn’t it, a few months ago I was moaning about snow and lack of decent weather, now I’m moaning that there is too much of it. Still, on Tuesday, we had 19 degrees C, with no breeze and so I managed to get the first top coat on (Toplack International paints).

This time, I decided to do without a roller because, despite lots of research and careful purchasing, the recommended roller still tried to create an orange peel effect. This time, I tried a kind of paint pad. Best way to describe it is to say it looks like a foam- rubber (or plastic) lollypop. It was for sail from the chandlery for 1.5E and it worked like a dream.

I applied the paint following the best advice which is to apply the paint as if you are describing a union flag to avoid obvious unidirectional brush strokes and the result was excellent (well to an amateur’s eye  anyway). Weather forecast for Wednesday suggested a possible shower so Thursday was set for the second and final coat.

I woke early on Thursday morning with a view to getting the paint on early enough in the day while the temperature was suitably low. Over a six thirty am coffee however, the BBC announced that this could be the hottest day of the year in the UK. Now, I am not in the UK but I’m close enough to be concerned so I re-checked my French Meteo forecast and discovered they too had changed their opinion and were now suggesting we were in for a very hot and breezy day. In truth the afternoon temperature in my back yard exceeded all forecasts, my yard thermometer read 50 degrees at 16:00 hours and, given that there are only 50 degrees on my thermometer, the chances are it exceeded even this high temperature.

I’m desperate to get this painting job done, partly because I don’t want to do any more dusty work on the boat until the final coat is on and dry but also because I masked the area to be painted two weeks ago and I’m becoming increasingly concerned that the tape and/or its glue might be a real problem to remove.

For the moment though, all I can do is wait until the meteorological conditions are right for this crucial final coat. In the meantime, I’ve brought a good deal of the wooden bits back here to the house so I can sand, repair and oil them in the back yard. The trick is to keep pushing on using delays in some jobs as opportunities to do other things (see below).

Well one is sanded!
Given that it is so hot, I’m tempted to take the kayak out on the water, maybe catch a mackerel or two for
supper, but I’ve just looked at the kit and discovered the kayak trailer has a flat tire – another job to add to the list.