Grehan has returned to the Lot after 5 years. This is where she was last hauled out so it will be interesting to see what’s happened underneath during thousands of miles of cruising around France interim. She is going to have a slow-leak investigated, with a possible gel coat repair, re-painting of top sides with Toplac – after sanding down and some more primer in places – and anti-fouling to the hull.
We rent a small chalet for a couple of weeks while we get the work done – and we want to make a bimini for the boat too which requires space for the sewing machine. We take what we need off the boat and move in.
We’ve already been to the Castomrama in Agen to get gloss rollers, masking tape, a decent brush for ‘tipping’ and some throw away gloves. We’ve already unearthed our old ungodly shorts and t-shirts which will be thrown away after this make-over.
Day 1 Sunday
A glorious morning, sun’s up and there’s a light breeze. Rob gets trailer ready and Daniel (son) assists. Height of pads adjusted and extension arm attached to tractor. The trailer is then pushed down slope in readiness, just as Grehan approaches the waiting pontoon. I get the camera ready, Alan gets on the pontoon ready to take ropes. Various other folks emerge from other boats to watch and lend a hand. Captain stays aboard, in order to watch behind and keep an eye on the port side – the trailer has a bar each side that must be equi-distant from the sides of the boat.
The trailer is pushed down the slipway and wheels and pads disappear beneath the water. Various lines held by assistants are used to combat the breeze that picks up, and pull and release Grehan until Rob is satisfied that the keel is central over the trailer and the pads are in the right place. This continues until 11:00 when everything stops because a party of children going canoeing also needs to use the slipway. Not an unpleasant distraction and a chance for a rest.
Finally the pull-out. She’s sitting straight and comes up good as gold. Rob adjust the pads and locks them tight. The hull is looking a little slimy but no growth or nasty surprises.
Fenders come off first and then the Karcher pressure washer is fixed up and work begins on cleaning her off. Grehan is in position over the yard drain so all mess disappears rapidly. It’s very hot so she dries quickly in the sun and a cursory run over with sandpaper takes off loose bits of previous anti-foul paint and other marks. Picnic lunch taken on the go, on the shady side.
Break for cup of tea on Alan’s boat – so welcome.
Rob takes an initial look underneath for possible crack that might cause water ingest; he finds an old patch, made before purchase, and thinks this is what might be failing, with water seeping in very slowly while the boat is at rest and faster when she’s pushing along. He will have a proper look with a sander tomorrow.
Late in the evening yesterday Rob returned to the boat – couldn’t resist! – and found a still-damp spot on the keel (all the rest had dried), roughly in line with where we suspected we had water ingress in the bilge. He’s already picked off some loose fibreglass pieces and will return to repair it later.
Meanwhile, J gets the sander out and gives the body a going-over, to remove scratches, mysterious blobs and to smooth the edges of the paint that has started to flake off over the years. (The original blue paint, we discover, was put onto the gel coat without any primer first, so it has lifted off around the edges in places. However, it has taken 8 years to do so).
Next, we wash the powdery bits off with soapy water, then prime the bits of bare gel coat wherever they show through. Alan has half a tin of International topsides primer for us to use.
And that’s enough for the day in blistering 36 degrees.
The heat wave continues but Rob returns in the morning to take a proper look at the hull and keel. Quite a few repairs have been made but all seem OK except for the damp one already identified. He gets the grinder out and starts work. At least it’s cooler under the keel. Later in the day, we see that other areas have required some attention as well and he has treated the grills protecting the bow thrusters with anti-rust paint.
We confirm that the gel coat resin is on its way from Bordeaux, the 5 half-cans of Oxford Blue topcoat paint have already been delivered and the red anti-fouling paint is ready and waiting. We have also ordered some traditional red vinyl tape to join the two painted halves when complete.
The whole country is burning up in the heat wave, local children sent home from school. We didn’t want it to rain this week but this is an extreme opposite – quite exhausting and we realise it’s going to be tricky to work with paint.
We get up early to start the anti-fouling, avoiding the heat of the day if possible. One of us uses the roller and tray, the other a wide brush – best on the fiddly bits. We have a box to sit on and board to lie on as the ground surface is pea shingle, general grit and now glass-fibres too. We have to leave the areas where Rob is still working on the repairs for later. It goes on well, nice and thick, although we now notice some osmosis lumps – just a few – and plenty of scrapes from rocks etc, but no actual glass fibre showing through. We’re happy she’s generally in good shape.
We finish around lunch-time – that’s all we can do for the day, it’s just too hot and we are covered in paint, grit and perspiration. We need to rest and drink some litres of water. Rob arrives in the afternoon, happy that he’s cut back to sound glass-fibre and that he can start laying new glass-fibre. It will need to be done in stages – layers – and left to set in between.
We return again in the cool of the evening to make a second coat of anti-fouling. I chip large pieces of rust off the rudder with a wall-paper scraper and sand it down smooth-ish. It gets primed too with underwater primer. The propeller is clean as a whistle although it has a chip out of one blade; so different from the horrendous collection of barnacles that almost stopped our yacht dead in the salt-water of the Mediterranean and took forever to chip off. Again, we leave the repair patches for another day.
We arrive early and inspect our work carefully – the surface is not perfect but we reckon 90% will do for us. It’s a compromise between time, effort and result – and quick, clean and effective is preferred over slow, picky and perfect. We sand the newly primed bits – quite a few…
Nearside aft, the vulnerable back-end, had been severely clouted by a previous owner and a hand-size piece of gel-coat is actually missing, so this will also need Rob’s attention. Meanwhile, the first layer of new fibre-glass repair is drying – more tomorrow.
Before sun-downers, we wipe down again with white spirit ready for tomorrow’s early start.
Top-coat day. We stir the paint and thin it, knowing that the heat will have a thickening effect, adding just enough white spirit to almost reach the top of the tin, say, a couple of egg-cup-fulls. We collect everything we need – a box to stand on, step ladder, gloves, hats, kitchen-paper rolls. Deep breath and we start. J rolls the paint on with up and down strokes, I ‘cut in’ (do the edges) and ‘tip’ (smooth the paint with a soft sideways strokes to prevent any excess from forming curtains). We’re early enough in the day to get the paint on before the boat-sides catch the full heat of the sun and it goes on thinly and evenly. We are pleased.
We start at the back corner, where the rubbing strake defines the edge, and work quickly, a small 3 ft square piece at a time, me going over the rolled section with my brush. At one point, early on, the roller starts to leave blobby bits – maybe because the roller is new and still a little ‘fluffy’ – but defter strokes seem to solve that My work leaves a brush stroke mark after I’ve done, but as the paint dries it ‘draws’ together leaving a smooth finish – magic!
We finish one side, stopping at the square corner of the bow, wrap the equipment in a black plastic bag to keep the moisture in, and place it in the darkest place under the hull for use later on. It’s time for lunch and a well-earned siesta.
We decide to take a swim and early supper before tackling the other side, which has now had quite a few hours in the shade. We think it’s cool enough. Again, we work quickly from the aft and whizz along with more confidence this time, having inspected and been delighted with the results from the first side. The bow is harder to reach but manageable and after a couple of hours we’re done. It’s good to work in the evening – fewer distractions, less glare. Again, we leave the patches fore and aft where Rob still has to do a repair.
Early morning inspection. We’re still pleased, but one can clearly still see different tones, where the primer was, or where the paint is not as evenly applied as we thought. No problem! We have only used just less than 2 tins out of 5; we’ve vastly over-estimated and have plenty left.
We use another tin today for the second coat to both sides, producing a rich and shiny finish. It dries to the touch within minutes. Very satisfying.
We go shopping for food and general time out away from the boat. Rob has finished the repairs to the keel and other places so we spend the rest of the day checking the remaining items to be done – the anodes, the stripe round the middle, the tape round the swim platform, the anti-fouling and painting to the repaired parts. When can she get back in the water? The tractor will be available on Monday.
Today we anti-foul the remaining patches, twice, and make sure it’s on really thickly – to last another 5 years on the inland waterways. We prime them first with underwater primer. We prime the aft topsides patch and sand it, and then later in the evening get a blue coat on that too, with a brush.
A good day’s work, with all the small items coming together. Getting back in the water is now confirmed for Tuesday. All good.
We check all handiwork again. Still happy.
We fix the red vinyl tape around the middle, having tried out the exact line with masking tape first. We notice that the boat sides are not at all ‘even’ and a straight line viewed from the side is not necessarily straight when viewed from the bow, and vice versa. We decide that the boat is most often seen from the side, or at least the line is most noticeable in the longer view, so we apply the red tape according to that line. It looks great.
We fix some white tape around the edges of the swim platform; it’s been so bashed in a previous life that the gel coat has completely disappeared in places, but as it’s of no consequence structurally it will only get a quick face-lift. However, we run out of white tape and will have to get some more.
We spend an hour or two cleaning the fenders, scouring off the caked-on dirt by hand. It makes a huge difference; but we still promise ourselves a new set, all matching, one day.
Return to boat to apply second blue coat to tiny aft patch – it dries almost immediately. We clean up all the equipment, throw away or put away still-usable items for another time. Go shopping and buy more white tape and apply to edges of swim platform. Looks much better and we think we’re done.
Return to boat to re-fit clean, shiny fenders and notice the new magnesium anode has been added just in front of the prop. Call Rob to discover when re-float might happen. Yes, straightaway!
Tractor arrives and the hauling in process starts – everything in reverse. Chaps appear from nowhere again to help. Captain is aboard to check all round at the aft and also down below – all the bilge hatches still open for easy access.
WISTIA VID HERE
She floats off the trailer as good as gold and J checks down below again, for leaks or anything else untoward. This time he notices some seepage around the engine bilge stop cock – that’s a completely new event. When Grehan’s all tied up on the waiting pontoon – very carefully with all fenders in place to protect new paint – Rob dashes off and returns with a large spanner to tighten up the joint. He suspects it’s just dried out a bit in the fierce heat during the week.
It’s too late in the evening now to move Grehan back to her berth on the riverside so we leave her on the pontoon for the night. We go out with friends for supper to celebrate a successful makeover. They have just received their planning permission to build just up river so everyone very happy all round.
J goes to check on the leak and there’s no trace of seepage this morning – hooray. BUT engine won’t start! Newish battery totally dead – a mystery since everything’s been turned off for 10 days. Rob takes it away to see if it’s fixable but no, we need a new one. The garage up the road at Bias has a good range and we find the right sized one at a good price. Grehan fires up immediately – and then we’re off.