Wet sanding

by Chuck March 31, 2011

One of the problems with storing Odyssey outside and uncovered during the winter is that the deck gets covered in dirt and green gooky stuff – and when it rains that gunk flows down the side of the boat. I’m not sure why, but the stuff running down the sides of the boat leaves streaks, streaks that don’t wash off in the spring.

Today I went out to start cleaning the hull. I made up a bucket of my favorite washing soap (Purple Power) and got out a scrub brush. I started at the stern on the port side and worked my way forward and around, scrubbing the bulwark and rubrail with the brush to remove the caked on gunk, and then working my way down the side to the waterline (I don’t go below the waterline, Odyssey still has a layer of ablative anti-fouling paint that I don’t want to scrub away). The gunk came off, but no matter how hard I scrubbed I couldn’t get those streaks to come away.

Most years it isn’t a big deal, Odyssey isn’t the prettiest sailboat out there, and a few streaks on her side don’t make her any less fun to sail. But today the streaks were bothering me – they were darker than usual, or there were more of them. Not sure, but it bothered me anyway.

Up in the den I have a copy of Don Casey’s Sailboat Hull and Deck Repair, and the chapter “Restoring the Gloss” answered my questions. Compounding the boat, or, more aggressively, sanding the gel coat. Out in the barn I found a package of 320-grit wet sand sandpaper. A plan was born.

Right in the middle of the worst streaks on the port side I started wet sanding the hull. A couple of minutes later I found, much to the dismay of my elbow, back and shoulder, that it worked. The streaks were gone, the gel coat was shiny, and I had the rest of the boat to finish.

Dana came out to talk to me while I worked, so I wasn’t completely absorbed in the sanding, but she went back inside as the rain started to come down harder. For a time I didn’t need to run water on the hull as I sanded, the rain provided all the flow I needed to keep sanding.

After an hour or so of work I was able to step back and admire hull that looked remarkably good. Not perfect by any measure, but a whole heck of a lot better.

Unfortunately, now that I’ve sanded the hull I need to get some wax on it to protect if from additional staining. And with the weather forecast to keep raining for days, I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance.



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