Boat Maintenance Boatyard

Boatyard Hacks | Making Life on the Hard a Little Easier

Monday, November 28, 2016S.V. CAMBRIA



If you look the word ‘hack’ up in the dictionary, there are dozens of meanings, from cutting something roughly to someone who gives a lackluster performance. But that’s not the kind of hack this blog post is about. I’m talking about the kind of hack that makes life a little easier – a trick or a shortcut. And not just anywhere, but where (for boaters) life is the hardest – in the boatyard.

Over the course of 15 years, we’ve hauled-out about a dozen times, including twice for emergencies (a leaking stern gland and a failed through-hull fitting). I wouldn’t say we’ve learned a lot (because there’s a heck of a lot to learn), but we have come up with a ‘hack’ or two along the way to help save money, to be kinder on the environment and to make life on the hard a little bit easier.

DIY Yards

In all the years that we’ve owned Cambria, we’ve only out-sourced work a few times – once to have a new dodger and bimini made, once to install the heating system (so it would be covered by the warranty) and once to have the injectors serviced. Not only does this save us money, but it gives us piece of mind – when we do the work, we know the job has been done right. Therefore, choosing a boatyard that allows us to do the work ourselves is a top priority. But because of increasing environmental regulations, they’re getting more and more difficult to find.

Planning Ahead

For our regular haul-outs, we have the luxury of planning ahead and shopping around for all of the things we need. A gallon of anti-foul paint costs around $180 at the local chandlery but can be found online for close to half the price. It doesn’t just save us money, it saves us time. The better prepared we are, the less time we have to spend running around looking for parts . . . or waiting on them to arrive. During our last haul-out, David decided to change the engine mounts out but, because we didn’t have a local mailing address, they had to be ordered by the boatyard. It took 18 days for them to arrive. And when they did, the threads on two of the mounting bolts were bad and wouldn’t mate together so we had to spend a day running around town sourcing the parts to make our own (in the end, it turned out to be a savings for us because the manufactured ones cost close to CA$500 and David was able to make them for CA$30). 


For the Bottom of the Boat

  • 3-M Paint and Body Scuff Pads: Back in the day, wet-sanding the bottom was the best way to ready the hull for a fresh coat of fresh anti-foul paint but most yards frown on that now, opting for dry-sanding with a power sander hooked up to a shop-vac. I do all of the bottom work myself and I’m not a big fan of the process – it’s messy and difficult to keep the sandpaper clean enough to do its job. I found using a 3-M Paint and Body Scuff Pad was a good compromise. It allows me to “wet sand” without using a hose by rinsing the pad in a bucket and dumping the waste water in the yard’s filtered drain system. I don’t end the day covered in anti-foul, there’s no residual dust from dry paint and the work space around the boat stays clean (at least by boatyard standards). 
  • Petit Super Premium Prop Coat Barrier Spray: To protect the prop from marine growth, we used to apply a coat of Propspeed. When we were in New Zealand, we could get it done in exchange for a case of beer. But it costs around US$200 in the States. And while we have no complaints about its performance, that’s really expensive. The Petit Barrier Spray (known as Barnacle Barrier in the US) works just as well and only costs US$24 (we paid about $12 when we were in Canada).
  • PB Blaster: This hack isn’t limited to the bottom, but I couldn’t decide where else to put it. It’s a great product for lubricating, conditioning rubber seals and releasing any nuts and bolts that may have seized up due to salt water. It’s inexpensive (less than US$5 a can) and, as an added bonus, made in the U.S.A. The only downside is that it’s a naphtha spray and smells like moth balls.

For the Hull

  • Nu Finish Car Polish: A friend turned us on to Nu Finish a few years ago and we were so happy with the results that we’ve stuck with it. Although it’s labeled a polish, it’s not. Polishes have an abrasive component to them which can ultimately break down the gel coat. And Nu Finish doesn’t. It’s not a wax either. It’s a synthetic paint sealer with UV protection. It’s also inexpensive (approximately US$5 per application) and easy to use. We simply apply it to the hull with a damp sponge (no buffing required), allow it to dry and wipe it off with cheese cloth (another important boatyard hack). The process can be repeated after 30 days to remove any oxidation that has returned to the surface and the results last up to one year.
  • Cheese Cloth: As far as we’re concerned, there’s only one way to remove polish, wax or Nu Finish from the hull – cheese cloth. Unlike with microfibre towels, the gauze-like fabric cuts through the paste and clears it off in one swipe. It also shakes clean so there’s no globbing of paste in the material, lasts a long time and is inexpensive to buy.
  • Lemon Juice: I’ve already written a blog post about this, so I won’t go into too much detail other than to say lemon juice works well as a natural stain cleaner to get rid of those ugly brown moustaches that form around the waterline.
  • Oxalic Acid: Another great (and inexpensive) stain remover, but it does bring the copper in the anti-foul to the surface and can streak the anti-fouling paint.
  • Windex: Maybe we’ve watched the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” one too many times, but using Windex works really well to clean the hull. Because you spray it on and wipe it off, there’s no need for a hose and the work space around the boat stays much cleaner.

Do you know any boatyard hacks? We’d love to hear them. Join the conversation in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

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12 comments

  1. Wow - that's a huge savings by David making the mounting bolts himself! You made me laugh with the Big Fat Greek Wedding reference to Windex. I loved that movie.

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    1. We bought the same mounts we put on last time, so it would have been easier if he could have just cleaned up the other mounting bolts but they changed the thread from a metric fine to a course. Grrrrr. And believe it or not, finding metric in Canada wasn't easy despite the fact it's their measurement of choice.

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  2. What a great list! No buffing? I'll have to try this car polish!
    We like the "bucket system"- everything needed for a project is placed in the bucket and carried around. It saved us matching up and down the ladder and losing things. (Actually, we still did that too!)

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    1. The "bucket system" is a really good idea. We do that too but always seem to forget something (well, David does because I'm a lot more organized than him -- lol).

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  3. Bottom work is in my future, and it will be my first time. What a great list of products, and uses, I've definitely made some notes to make the job easier.

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    1. Excellent! I hope they help. We've spent way too much time in boatyards but when we were in New Zealand, everybody was so helpful that we learned a lot.

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  4. I'll bookmark this for our haulout in the spring. With our big boat, I'm not looking forward (and neither are my shoulders) to doing the bottom job myself like I used to on our Cal 34. I'm also wondering if that polish will work on a painted hull. Our marine blue hull is paint not gelcoat. But it's badly oxidized. It needs a new paint job, but that's not going to happen. Wonder if that product would help.

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    1. One thing I didn't mention is that when we do polish, we use a product called Finesse It II (by 3M). It was recommended by a professional down in New Zealand and works wonders on oxidization (it's so good, we haven't tried anything else since). A polish and a seal may be the combo you're looking for.

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  5. Very useful hacks, Stephanie. Especially doing the work yourself and planning ahead of time are cost and time saving procedures we have managed to abide to during all our haulouts, which were about once a year. And, more the first year, because we feared the worst every time we had an issue for which we thought we had to get hauled! Yeah, boatyards, no fun places... We would usually haul for about a week and work our butts off, ending up very blue in the process. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Liesbet. Fingers crossed, this was our last one! :-)

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  6. As liveaboards I always tell people that living aboard is a romantic life style but when you are living aboard in the haulout yard you are just trailer trash. LOL

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    1. It's not exactly glamorous, is it? Lol.

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