Boogie Nights

A sweary hyperactive maritime professional, really very keen on laughing a lot, doing their best to avoid all the trappings of societies' expectations by acting on impulse to any adventurous idea that wafts by. Let's go!

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12 March 2007

Entry the idiots guide to hull servicing

Entry the idiots guide to hull servicing

entry Mar 12 2007, 05:06 PM
Ive searched the world wide web for information on what you are supposed to do with narrowboats when they need their bottom looking at.

i came up with a wealth of hit and miss information, so ive decided to do a "how to" of my own for the benefit of all those "new to steel boats" out there.
ive got plenty of ideas on what to do if it was a plastic boat, its so simple i could do it with one arm behind my back.

steel hulls, especially ones that have been a bit neglected are entirely another matter.

Step 1 in my idiots guide:
Find someone to do it for you.

fat chance, I called around plenty of boat yards and the prices they were quoting me for a simple pull it out on a trolley, jet wash down and re-black the sides was in the region of £750
and the soonest they could fit us in was between July and October.

our boat needs doing NOW! its not going to do us any favours if we wait several more months.
Watching the thames water levels rising we could see our departure date of the end of march slipping into april and when the time comes, we want to be able to GTFOT (get the f**K outta there) without worrying about heading to another boatyard to get the boat taken out.

The answer to step one, if you want a job doing properly and you wont it done NOW, then do it your bloody self!

cost for crane lift out: £313 (storage on side near to an electric point is included in moorings already paid for.)

Step 1b
Call a shop for advice
Sometime around getting her out of the water I called Uxbridge boat centre, a very helpful fella on the phone explained the options of paint available to use on narrowboat bottoms.
its a far cry from VC tar, or red antifouling ive been used to in the past.
We have a choice of the following
cheap bog standard bitumen: £12 (5ltr tin)
premium bitumen:£16
bodied bitumen:£25
Coflex: £40

Apparently the Coflex is the most highly recommended and most protective, ( no f**kin kiddin at that price) but it must be applied to abraded bare metal....
which may be a little tricky, we are leaving our options open for the moment, but there is another alternative to give us some good rust protection, and that is called vactan, at £7 for 500mls, this might be our choice of hull protection before we slap the bitumen on.

we are still undecided and need more advice.

Step 2
get her out of the water and have a look
Friday morning I put anything that can fall over on the floor and anything loose on the roof inside. The boat looks like a bomb hit it from the inside and remarkably tidy from the outside.
I already had an idea of what we would find after seeing the bottom at the survey in November last year. It wasnt pretty but I think ive seen worse.
The build up of weed was fairly minimal after it was jet washed down last time it was out and hadnt had a chance for much weed to grow back. Most of the muscles that were attached and rudely detached with a shovel last time hadnt bothered to come back either.
The main concern really was the amount of electrolysis action eating away at the sides. The base plate seems in remarkably good condition.

Step 3
The right tools make any hard job bearable, so Yanns current job on a building site bore the fruit of a massive scraper on a pole, a ladder and a scaffold platform, along with a bountiful supply of ear plugs..
My heavy tool bag that yann is forever complaining about taking up too much space and being full of shit finally came into its own. It provided a full set of chisels, a hammer, a wire brush, a face mask and goggles, a scraper and gloves.
The rest I bought from the local hardware shop, a metal wire Cup brush that attaches to an angle grinder and some paint trays/rollers and massive brushes.
I would quite like to have a mary poppins type tool bag so next time we have to do a job like this I might be able to pull a grit blaster and a belt sander out of my bag too. I bet you can find mary poppins bags comeplete with hat stand on Ebay...

cost of tools: £27

Step 4
get the beer in
this should be listed amongst the tools, it is a fairly important part of the job. Also Mars bars and other high energy confectionery are suggested

Step 5

Put overalls on and do some grafting
Now all the above steps pale in to insignificance as pain in muscles i forgot i had kicks in.
The scraping began in earnest at around 7am on Saturday morning, by 9.30am I had had my first beer and Yann had returned from the internet shop.
Two people on the job made much better progress.
First we started with the big scraper on a pole, we removed most of the loose stuff this way, it created a lot of dust, face mask and goggles are a must for this job.
Then came the chisels. Yann got the big (!) 1inch chisel, I opted for a two chisel combo, a 19mm and a 11mm.
Gladiators, choose your weapons....
We chiseled and I hammered of the loose stuff along the waterline, we chiseled some more... and yann did some angle grinding with the cup brush.
We discovered finding bare metal was akin to finding the holy grail.
The cup brush melts the small amount of remaining tar and coats the bare metal nicely with a very fine layer. stopping it going orange over night

You can see here, this is the surface we started with, after being scraped with the big scraper. The orange blobs are the signs of electrolysis and were blisters of rusty liquified metal, these blisters eat away into the metal plating, ours are thankfully very shallow at maybe 0.25mm deep on average. We will try adding new anodes and when we are away from the marina and not plugged into shore power all the time this should hopefully sort out the problem. ( shore power is the menace of marina living, everyone stays plugged in all the time and when boats are moored so closely together, everyone becomes one huge electro conductor, the weakest link cops it, in our case.. it was us)

Step 6
get a good nights sleep
Its been a long time since i felt this tired after a days grafting, ive definitely got soft these past few years working in an office. I was in bed by 8.45pm on Saturday night, I really know how to party! My muscles dont realise ive stopped scraping and I find I keep twitching in a "scrape" style way as Im trying to relax.
I fell asleep to Superman, ( the original and best film)

Step 7

dont be disappointed
when you wake up the next day feeling like youve been in a mass brawl and see that less than a quarter of the boat is ready to paint you may feel a little disheartened.

Much to my dismay my super"wo"man laser vision doesnt work when Im conscious and my jedi light sabre seems to be missing, I recon banjo's been secretly been practicing the ways of the force while Im away at work, I bet if I look in his bed I might find it, but I dont want to invade his privacy so I must pick up my two chisels ( and a wire brush) and carry on scraping the bottom of this never-ending hell on boat props.

I discovered that wetting the sides of the boat helps to reduce the dust plus make it easier to scrape clean and the tendons in my hand have developed a chisel shaped memory. If I put the chisel down and relax my hand it forms a perfect shape of an invisible chisel handle.

you can see in this pic the orange line where i hammered off the loose rust ( loose when I pummeled it to death) I exposed bare metal which oxidates rapidly. its easy to see when you have bare metal. hammering your own home with all your energy and force is quite a satisfying thing, the sound and the sensation was very pleasing, almost kinky. ( try doing that with a plastic boat and see where you get)

the dark sections have been scraped, scraped some more, then scrubbed with the metal cup brush. these areas are basically bare metal but covered with a fine film of tar, melted from existing remnants left behind after scraping.


After two days of 11 hours work, totalling 22 hours, mostly with 2 people working at the same time we have scraped clean around half of the hull. There is still much to do, including scraping the base plate, cleaning all the detailed areas and welding on some bolt studs for some new anodes.
Not to mention the simple job of applying the paint.

the story continues....

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