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Old 11-07-2007, 23:51   #1
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a hull dilemma

I have a hull dilemma, and Iím looking for some advice.

First off, let me say that Iím a complete rookie when it comes to maintaining a boat Ė I just bought my first boat, a Catalina 27, about a week or so ago, so Iím learning as I go. Iím located in Vancouver.

My dilemma is three-tailed. When my boat was surveyed, it had a jungle on the bottom, and it received nothing more than a basic ten-minute scrape-off and pressure wash to facilitate the survey. The surveyor and broker agreed that I should aim for getting the boat hauled out in September or so, (when it would be easier to get yard time), and then: a) let it dry out for a week; b) scrape off the three patchy old layers of antifouling that are showing through; c) apply new antifouling. Sounded good to me. (I intended to do the work myself, to save money.)

The complication: there were a couple of blisters on the hull when it was out for the survey. Since the hull received only a cursory cleaning, there will likely be more. Four more, forty more, Iím not certain. I braced myself for the possibility that when I haul it out in September, I might find a lot of blisters. If so, Iíd have a real head-scratcher, since investing weeks of yard time in drying it out etc for a modestly priced boat would be a sour thing. So I figured: no need to make a decision now, Iíll make a decision when I haul it out in September and inspect it carefully.

But now a new pressing complication has cropped up: my ancient depth-sounder stopped working shortly after sale, and I canít resuscitate it. Iíll have to replace it immediately, since a beginner such as myself canít go without a depth-sounder. Since I need a GPS anyway, Iím going to get a combined depth-sounder and plotter (about $620, plus maps, plus install) which is not much more than Iíd pay for a dirt cheap through-the-hull transducer depth-sounder plus a modest handheld GPS. This means the boat has to be hauled out now for the new through-the-hull transducer to be installed, and it seems a waste of money not to take the opportunity to tackle the antifouling now (if I can get the yard time).

My dilemma: if I take the boat out now and find significant blistering, then Iíd either have to lay up the boat for the rest of the summer sailing season to deal with the blisters before I put on the antifouling (not really an option for a budget boater, particularly an eager rookie with his first boat) or bite the bullet and put my poor girl back in the water until the fall with no antifouling (which would mean a $280 haul-out fee just to put on a $620 GPS).

Iíve read about systems that allow a person to deal with blisters without the long dry out period (, but the local marine store pooh-poohed this, saying that any product that claimed to take the long dry-out period out of blister repair was bogus.

Iím also considering draining any blisters, letting them dry for five days along with the rest of the boat, then simply scraping the old antifouling off and putting on the new antifouling Ė gritting my teeth about painting over the blisters. Groan.

Any ideas?

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Old 12-07-2007, 01:12   #2
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Don't haul the boat and don't buy any fancy new instruments. Sail the s**t out of it this season. Really learn the boat and how to handle it and what toys you have to have to navigate your area. Get a cheap used GPS for now. Everyone is going color so B/W units are awash on the market. Check craigslist or ebay, bet you can find a Garmin for a $100 or even less. It won't be money wasted as you can use it as a backup when you get your Garmin 3210c with radar.

In the interim, search around for cheap storage yards that don't charge an arm and a leg in storage fees. Doesn't even have to be close to the water or a boatyard as the savings in rent could make up for the expense of getting it there. A boat that size might even be trailerable behind a big pickup. Search around for a trailer that you might borrow. Grind out all the blisters as soon as it's hauled so trapped water doesn't freeze and create more problems. Next spring after it's thoroughly dried out, relaminate epoxy and glass patches, grind them flush, barrier coat the hull, apply a couple of coats of ablative bottom paint and your ready for another season.

I'm not a fan of combi instruments, not even of electronics. They all seem to screw up in short order. With a combi unit, when one system fails it may take the whole system with it. Buy separate systems so you don't lose everything when one system screws up, cause it will. My ideal instrument set up is a depthsounder, knotmeter/log and a GPS plotter though handhelds can also work. Anything thing else are toys that are nice to play with but that's about all.

Over the winter, decide what you want in the way of electronic toys and then haunt craigslist and ebay. You will undoubtedly find new gear that's got a shopworn box or an owner who sold the boat before installing for pennies on the dollar. Ebay is a god send for a sailor on a budget.

FWIW, I started out with less experience than you, had no training other than what I read in books, and no instrumentation other than a clock, barometer, taff rail log, and a sextant. GPS wasn't even a gleam in an engineers eye, yet we managed to sail 1/2 way round the world. I've just gotten back into sailing after retiring. Used a B/W GPS for the first time on a trip from Santa Cruz to Alameda in SF Bay. GPS makes navigation sooooooo easy, even a stinkpotter can do it. Maybe too easy as it doesn't seem to stop stupid people from doing stupid things.

Peter O.

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Old 12-07-2007, 01:26   #3
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Well it depends on if the string is green or yellow or white really doesn't it ;-)
OK, so you already know that without actually seeing the hull clean, you know squat. The blisters you have detected so far, maybe just paint issues. Anti-foul can do that, especially lots of old coats. So really the first thing you have to do is clean the hull so you can get a good look. I wouldn't panic just yet. Old Antifoul blisters is common and most likely your source of problem.
if it is Osmosis, the next step is how bad is the problem. And that also has to be weighed up against how much money you have. From what you have stated, that wouldn't be much. Blister repair can be done cheap or it can be done properly which is expensive. The Jury is out in some camps, as to whether the expensive method is justified.
So lets say there are just a few blisters. The easiest method is to grind the blister open, allow to dry and then fill with epoxy filler.
West is a good reputable well established company with good sound advice. I would not hestitate to go with what they inform.
Just to be clear, you will need to remove the Anti-foul before you do anything else, so as you can get a good look at the hull surface. DO NOT try repairs through old anti-foul.

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Old 12-07-2007, 02:23   #4
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A) You don't need a depth sounder to sail - especially a 27 foot boat.
B) You don't need a GPS to sail a 27 foot boat.

Get a paper chart of your area - make a good paper photocopy - pick prominent landmarks and buoys and draw intersecting lines (like roads) on the places you will likely travel "between." Don't worry about when you get off-road, just when it's time to go home intersect a road and follow it home the old fashioned way (by looking outside)

Seriously a couple of weekends sailing in your "neighborhood" you will wish you saved that 640 bucks. Especially if you end up with a serious hull repair in September.

I am totally with roverhi on this. Sail the boat. Things will break during the season, pulleys, blocks, chain plates, stays. Don't worry - You are a boat owner now. That $640 won't be in your pocket long. Take it from me, I know - LOL

PS - One of the guys here replaced his "fancy schmansy" depth sounder with a fish finder. It's like 1/5th the cost - because it's for fishermen not "yachties. It gives you surface contours not just a number... + fish! I am kinda liking it.
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Old 12-07-2007, 02:29   #5
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With all due respect to Peter and Allen, I suggest that when you haul your boat you first check for blisters. If you find hundreds of dime to penny sized blisters you consider having the hull sandblasted below the waterline and recoated with West Systems epoxy. However, if there are only a few dozen quarted sized blisters, that appear over the next couple of days, you can open them up with an ice pick like tool so they can drain. Then once the blisters have stop weeping you just need apply a couple of coats of bottom paint and be on your way.

Some facts to consider when it comes to dealing with blisters and bottom painting:
1) No boat has ever sunk due to blisters.
2) Grinding away pieces of your hual is much worst then any blisters damage.
3) If it is stuck to your bottom and it is not lumpy and a 2000 psi pressure washdown can't remove it then it is OK to paint over. (Old bottom paint is the best primer for new bottom paint.)
4) Make darn sure that the new bottom paint is compatible with the old bottom paint.

Best of luck,

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Old 12-07-2007, 04:34   #6
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I think the "Grinding" that has been mentioned is nothing more than removing the lifted/ blistered portion of the osmo problem and ruffing the surface for better adhesion of the epoxy. It is not a huge task if you don't have a major problem/ massive number of large blisters. I did it on a 26 footer in Florida and after opening the blisters with a sharp tool and allowing it to dry it only took a couple of weekends to do the "grinding" epoxy fill to smooth the hull shape. I then epoxy coated the under water area just because I though it would be a good idea and then bottom coated the following week 3rd, to allow to dry just enough to put back into the water. You do not want bottom paint to totally dry hard prior to putting back into the water.

Don't think anyone spoke of Grinding to mean something that would extensively penetrate the hull. You DO need to recover/ seal the areas you make the cuts to allow weep, simple bottom paint would only allow the problem to accelerate through the cuts you make
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Old 12-07-2007, 06:55   #7
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hi buddy.
don't worry about a depth sounder. my transducer quit one year and every haul out i forget to replace it. the only time i miss a depth sounder is approaching a harbour at night, (which i rarely do). this is your first boat and its silly to immediately start dumping money into it. enjoy this summer and sail. a catalina 27 is a great starter boat but it does have a ceiling on its market value price and its easy to quickly go above that value; its not a boat that you want to go broke on. if you do some cosmetic work, (ie fresh paint, cleaning, maybe new cushions etc), you will be able to resell it for a profit or the same price you purchased it sometime down the road. blisters are a problem with this model, i'm sorry to say, i have seen many catalina 27s with the pox. wait to see how extensive the problem is before you fixate upon it. you will become a good sailor by doing your chartwork and knowing where you are depthwise. i promise you, you won't miss the sounder. i'd be more concerned about the condition of your sails and rigging at this point, than i would the bottom. as a novice, you have had to rely entirely upon your surveyor's summary, which might not be as accurate or critical as an old salt's appraisal. learn how to sail and navigate for the moment, you've just spent alot of money buying the boat, give it some time before you spend more.
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Old 12-07-2007, 07:30   #8
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I have been sailing since the mid '70s and to date have not had a boat with a depth sounder. I do have a nice one in the box in my closet, maybe some day I'll get around to putting it on the boat. While a sounder can be great navigational aid, you may not need one. With that said you can install a new depth sounder or fishfinder without drilling a hole in the hull or pulling the boat from the water.

The Catalina 27 is a good starter boat but to echo little boat's comments if you decide to put accessories on the boat do it in a way they can be removed and taken to the next boat, read no big holes.

Sail the boat. Unless you have a surveyor telling you otherwise, resist the urge to spend big money on it for the time being. You may learn in a couple of months that you really would like is a new 'whatever' and the boat pox that has been on your boat for most of the last decade is really a small issue.


p.s. If you really want to make your boat safer replace the hoses. Boats will sink due to old, failed hoses.
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Old 12-07-2007, 07:43   #9
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The electronics purchase you are cosidering will make you a safer sailor, plus it will relieve one of your biggest worries as a newbie. A big honkin' combo unit was the very first thing I put on my boat, and I've spent my life on the water. They are very reliable, but if yours should fail, you will be in familiar water and no worse off than if you follow the advice not to buy a combo unit.

Are you sure your electronics installer needs the boat pulled? He may just fit a coffer dam (a little watertight box around the hole) and install it in the water. Another alternative is to buy the electronics and temporarily install your new through hull transducer as an in-hull. Plenty of info on that on the internet. You may even get away with putting your through hull transducer in a water-filled plastic bag in the hull. It will work just fine. The only requirement is for no air to get between the transducer and the hull.

Your final alternative is to buy an in-hull transducer with your combo unit and seal the hole for the old through hull during you next haul out.

Deal with your blisters later. They are largely a cosmetic concern, and they should be dry when repaired.

Enjoy your new toy!

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Old 12-07-2007, 11:46   #10
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Sand blast the bottom and buy your epoxy from US Composites. This will save you hundreds of dollars over West Systems. West Systems is just a marine epoxy marketing and packaging technique that costs losts of extra money. They charge 2-3X for the same epoxy you'll get from US Composites.
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Old 12-07-2007, 13:03   #11
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Lots of good advice here. The blisters won't sink you. The depth sounder in your waters won't really help you too much. You have deep water to sail in. I'd go with Roverhi's advice. Read up on blister repair while you'r sailing your boat and then when season is over find a good cheap yard and do the repair at your leisure.
Sail the boat as much as you can during the season. My first boat was a Catalina 22 much in the same hull condition as your 27 and I sailed it a lot before I discovered a delaminating rudder. Then I decided it was a good idea to take care of the bottom too. Great boat.
Kind Regards,
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Old 12-07-2007, 14:21   #12
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Hey buddy
last year i pulled my boat out and ground out 30ish small blisters. they averaged around 10mm in dia with the biggest around 15mm. the surveyor said only 2 were osmosis and showed me that if you pop them and smell the water coming out it has a definit acidic smell. Anyway while they are wet you have to mark all of them with a permanent marker otherwise you will never find them all once thet dry out. then just get a rough sanding disc. i used a 4"grinder with the sanding disc and go for it. It is very easy to see the line of where the blister meets the good glass. then just epoxy it up again. you can mix micro balloons with the epoxy as well to fill bigger sections or if you have large blisters just lay up some glasss mat. but yes make sure you get all the antifoul away from the area you are working.
honestly i thought it was going to be a nightmare but it was just so easy in the end.
I also would sail for the rest of your season then fix it and as said if you want a depth sounder just fit a cheap one with external transducer for now.
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Old 12-07-2007, 17:36   #13
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Buddy - I did a quick google to find out the hull construction of your boat. the good news is that it's solid fiberglass making any eventual hull job less problematic in my mind than a cored hull.

The link below is to a pretty nice article. Main areas of concern appear to be through hull gate valves (vs. seacocks) and the lack of backing plates on the chain plates and deck fittings.

These are two areas that we ran into immediately on our boat. We replaced the toilet valves with proper seacocks and are still in the midst of changing all chainplates and deck plates with thicker constructed ones and backing plates.

We had a chain plate break in about 18 kts of wind and that can bring down the mast and that is way more expensive than a depth sounder.

My experience - If there is black "corrosion" and or pitting around any of the edges of the chain plates, back stay plate or anything like that, replace them ASAP for peace of mind.

Good Luck - enjoy the sailing.!

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Old 12-07-2007, 18:42   #14

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Yes, SAIL THE BOAT. How much water do you draw? Five feet? Then get the charts for the area that you sail, get a red or yellow hilighter pen, and literally draw a line at the 10 foot (3 meter) contour line, so you can easily glance at the chart and see where you don't want to sail. Do the same thing to mark any rocks, etc. in your area.

Electronics--even the best of them with redundant systems--are going to fail someday, and while they are nice, it is good to get used to sailing blind without them. You will find that piloting skills (keeping your eyes out of the boat and comparing your location to the charts) aren't hard to learn once you get some practice at them.

The depth you mark as your "dead line" on the chart, all depends on how much comfort you want. Your own draft, plus an allowance for extreme low water if needed, plus an allowance for chart errors and debris on the bottom...You should be able to mark off something quite generous and still have plenty of water to sail in.

I find depth meters a mixed blessing: When they false alarm over a school of fish or some other disturbance, I curse them. Regularly. And the last time I tried to use one to navigate up a deep channel (200+ feet) the damned thing was just saying " - - - - " at me. It took me a while to figure out, the meter had a maximum reading of "199" and the dashes meant it couldn't see the bottom--so I was right in the channel where I wanted to be.<G> (It was one of those nights in new waters when my night vision was on vacation, and there were so many shore lights that none of us could figure out where the lights were.)
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Old 13-07-2007, 13:25   #15
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Thanks for the fantastic advice, all!

Hi All:

What a fantastic banquet of advice! After carefully going over everyoneís advice, Iíve changed my plans completely (and happily). Iíll leave the major hull-work until after the prime boating season, and Iíll make certain to price-shop for a yard where I can do the work right without having to jam it all into a frantic week or two.

Iím going to draw heavily on the advice here as I tackle the blisters myself. Afterwards, Iíll do the antifouling.

Iím also going to take everyoneís advice and forgo sinking big bucks into electronics right at the beginning. Call it a weakness of confidence, though, but Iím still going to go with a depth-sounder. But Iím going to take the advice Iíve gotten here and just put in a very basic through-hull-transducer model, to get me through the season. The $100 or so cost to put my newbie mind at ease for the season is reasonable, and Iíll sell it to someone else for $30 afterwards if I decide to upgrade.

Thanks for the wisdom and encouragement everyone! Iíll be asking more questions soon.



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