Lara’s post a couple weeks back titled “Weather to depart? Routing and Weather Windows” sparked an idea for a new series within our blog that I thought might be interesting. I’m titling it “Life on Board” and it will highlight topics that are unique to life on board a boat. I thought some of you might enjoy knowing what some of the other aspects of daily life are like living on a boat. Every day may seem like vacation, and largely it is, I’m not going to lie, but it is speckled with special activities related to living aboard. I’m creating this series to have a place to share those activities and experiences, I hope you enjoy.

First Up for Life on Board: Bottom cleaning

Tahina's scummy waterline

Tahina's scummy waterline

One of the side effects of boats floating in the salt water every day is the interesting underwater “beard” they grow over time. Most boats that live in the water full time, that is to say, they are not dry-stored on a trailer or in a storage facility at a marina when not in use, have a special paint below the waterline called, get this, “bottom paint.” The purpose of bottom paint is to combat all the growth that occurs on the underside of a boat while it’s sitting in the water. It is essentially a mixture of paint and chemicals designed to inhibit animals like barnacles and algae from attaching themselves to the boat. It is somewhat chalky, so that when scrubbed, it sloughs off, presumably with the animals that have managed to attach themselves to it. The chemical makeup of the paint is a delicate balance between something harsh enough to slow or stop the growth of marine life and at the same time gentle enough not to be caustic to the marine environment at large or to the people in the water scrubbing it off the boat during periodic cleanings.

Tahina's growth below the waterline

Tahina's growth below the waterline

You would think that having been in almost constant motion sailing the 3000 miles across the Pacific, in very clean and clear water, that not much would be able to attach to the bottoms. You would be wrong. We had noticed in Hiva Oa that the waterline on Tahina was pretty scummy after the passage across the Pacific. Then on the passage from Manihi to Rangiroa, we noticed that Tahina just wasn’t moving as fast as she should be for the conditions. Upon closer inspection, Tahina had quite a few barnacles and also had green hair algae growing like a carpet that was two-inches long in places. That could mean only one thing. It was time for a bottom cleaning. We would have to grab some scrub brushes, don our snorkel gear, and take to scrubbing the hulls.

Jason Scrubbing

Jason Scrubbing

Tahina is a 50′ boat, but cleaning her bottom is effectively like cleaning a 100′ boat because she has two hulls. It took 4 cleaning sessions and lots of elbow grease to completely remove all the growth from the bottoms. There is no simple or easy way remove it all. It’s just good old fashioned scrubbing. I used a stiff-bristle deck brush with a long handle to clean below the waterline and the keels, while everyone else used the scratchy side of Scotch Brite pads to clean the waterline and shallower parts of the hulls. Each cleaning session was 30 to 45 minutes. (It’s pretty hard work.) All together it was about 2 1/2 hours of work over 4 days to get the hulls clean. It’s a good feeling to know that on our next trip we’ll be a little quicker thanks to all our hard work.

There you have it, bottom cleaning, a small part of life on board and just one of the many chores that must be done to keep ones home on the water in top shape. Next up, Anchoring.

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