Getting To The Bottom Of It

How do you clean your bottom?  Wait – let me start again.

How do you clean the bottom of your BOAT (there, that’s better)?  Do you hire a diver?  Do a “short-haul” for a power-wash-relaunch?  Do you dive on your boat yourself?  Do you even need to clean beneath the waterline between haul-outs?

Well, I need to.  This past spring, I sanded most of the paint off the hull below the water line and applied three coats of Hydrocoat.  This is a water-based anti-fouling paint that has gotten good reviews, and it’s fairly reasonable, price-wise.  So how well does it perform for me?  Pretty good, thus far.  After launch last spring, the bottom stayed clean for a very long time.  I finally noticed a build-up of slime after two-plus months.  Sailing helped keep the slime under control.

Yesterday, I finally had good weather (read: cool) and inclination to take a long-handled scrub brush to the bottom.  I used a brush that looked something like this:

Telescoping handle on a brush end

I sat in my dinghy and scrubbed under the waterline for as far as I could reach, which is to the keel, and somewhat down the side of the keel.  I estimate having taken off 75-80 percent of the slime doing this.

And the result?  My cruising speed at 3k rpm is back up to 5.6 – 5.7 after falling off to 5.2 or 5.3.  Not much, huh?  Four tenths of a knot.  Well, you can say “not much,” but consider that performance would only continue to drop off from there.  The scrub-job brings me back to fresh paint performance.

I did not encounter any hard growth (barnacles), which is a real change from years gone by.  Before, I always had some barnacle growth.

My hull is 27 feet (length over all), and scrubbing from the dinghy is made possible because I have only 23.67 feet at the waterline, and 3-feet-8-inch depth.  If I had a bigger boat, this would probably not be very effective, as the curvature of the hull would prevent me from getting 50 percent of slime.  Another plus for owning a smaller cruiser:  you can do things like this without paying someone else for the service.

I have dived on my hull and scraped/wiped it clean.  But in these murky Chesapeake waters, it’s very difficult.  Visibility is measured in inches, plus there is the “disgusting factor.”  You know – swimming with the nasty stuff you just scraped off of your hull.  No thanks.  In an area with a current to carry away the scrapings, and clear water – okay.  But that’s nowhere on the Chesapeake.

  1. Jim Brewer said:

    Rick, I put on wet suit, gloves, boots, and mask (damn this is fun). While all suited up I take a brush too the bottom and brush and or scraper too the prop. If its a nice sunny day I can see the prop but the bottom is overlapping strokes and hope I get it all.

    • You’re a braver man that I am, Jim. Maybe the water is cleaner where you are – but this is Rockhold Creek, home of 1500 boats. It’s mighty murky down there.

      How often do you scrub?

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