May 3, 2009

Haulout time again

THE TIME IS ALMOST RIPE for the boat to come out of the water and have its bottom painted. Every two years we go through this ritual, the boat and I. Every two years we humiliate ourselves in our pathetic attempts to back into the tiny slip at the boatyard, and every two years we argue with the man who works the big crane about where the slings should go.

I show him the architect’s drawing of the underwater profile and tell him the aft sling must pass under the full keel just ahead of the rudder, but not touching the rudder. He always says: “That’s tricky. Why don’t we put the sling underneath the counter? That’s the logical way.”

“Because that’s not the proper way,” I tell him. “It must go right under the keel. And you have to tie a line between the two slings, otherwise the forrard sling will slide up and the boat will fall out. And by the way, the forward sling must miss the knotmeter impeller, which is here.”

I stab a finger on the architect’s drawing and he looks at me as if I know nothing about boats, as if this is my first haulout. And I stare back at him eyeball to eyeball. People who work in boatyards are rarely properly informed about the customer always being right.

Eventually, after a little huffy fit and a full set of shoulder shrugs, he does it the way I want it, the right way, and I step aboard to remove the backstay and the topping lift so the big steel spreader bars on the crane can lie close to the mast.

This is the part of boat ownership I hate most, the hauling out and the putting back in. If it weren’t for the need to antifoul the bottom, I’d never go near a boatyard. In days gone past we used to lean our sailboats against jetties and wait for the tide to go out. As the water level dropped and the boat dried out on the sandbank, we’d scrub off the seaweed and barnacles, and by the time she was high and dry she was ready for painting, which meant a fine old race against the incoming tide.

We can’t do this any more. The gummint says we would pollute the ocean. Well, if a few stray spots of copper paint on a sandbank constitutes pollution, I hate to think what you’d call the stuff that factories spew into rivers and estuaries every day. I hate to think what finds its way into the water from boatyards where amateurs work unsupervised on their boats on weekends.

In any case, the sea bottom not far from my boatyard is already contaminated with mercury. It’s a declared clean-up site. But they’re not planning to clean it up. That would be too expensive. They’re planning to cover it with clean new sand. They’re going to hide it and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Anyway, all bitterness aside, the point is that the world would be a much nicer place for all of us if we didn’t have to paint our bottoms every couple of years. It has occurred to me more than once that fishes and some mammals, such as dolphins, never find themselves covered in weed and barnacles, as boat hulls do, even though they spend their whole lives in water.

Why can’t we make a bottom paint that acts like a fish’s scales or a dolphin’s skin? There must surely be a fortune waiting for someone who can invent a paint or some kind of skin like that, not only for yachts, of course, but also for large ships.

Give it some thought, will you? Find out why dolphins don’t get barnacles, and get back to me. I have a brother-in-law who’s an industrial chemist. He could probably formulate the paint accordingly. Maybe we could do some lucrative business together and save me a lot of pain every two years.

Today’s Thought
An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.
—William Bernback, New York Times 6 Oct 82

In spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love
And in summer,
And in autumn,
And in winter —
See above.


Ann Reynolds said...

Seems to me that dolphins don't spend a lot of time at anchor or moored.

Does anyone know if the Volvo yachts pick up growth as they circumnavigate?

John Vigor said...

Yes, Ann, it seems that moving ships and yachts do pick up barnacles if their antifouling paint isn't up to scratch.
I have often read accounts by cruising authors of how their boats picked up hordes of those huge goose barnacles while they were crossing oceans.
Gray whales also become encrusted with barnacles. They sometimes come into shallow water in Puget Sound and wallow around in an attempt to scrape the barnacles off. I guess they must itch.

david said...

Looks like somebody was listening :)