Boat Maintenance: Bottom cleaning!

We took Journey out this weekend for the wettest routine maintenance item on the list, bottom cleaning.  Even though I did my homework and bought the “good” bottom paint several others recommended, we still have had some algae and barnacle growth.  It has been minor though, since we try to take her out at least once every week or so to have the waves take care of the cleaning for us, but even that is not enough.  The propeller is the biggest problem area and it has a telltale way of letting you know it is fouled by not letting the engine RPM’s go up as high as you’re expecting when in gear.  We learned that one last year shortly after purchasing Journey.  We let her sit for like 3-4 weeks last July and when we finally took her out the engine and boat speed were slow and the steering was not very responsive.  We couldn’t really even tell how dirty the bottom was by looking at the surface, most of the growth was about a foot below the waterline.  Since I didn’t really know what I was getting into at the time, I decided to have a diver come clean the bottom and he said it was pretty bad.  I was amazed at how fast stuff can grow since they cleaned the bottom when we had her hauled for our pre-purchase survey in mid-June.


Carpet-like layer of barnacles from the bottom of the boat!

Recently, I have seen some minor growth at the waterline and have been noticing the RPMs being a little slower.  I always check the max RPM when we take her out so I know if stuff is growing and I had just started noticing it was about that time.  Now being much more familiar with the bottom of the boat and wanting to save money, I skipped the dive service and decided to do it myself.  We anchored in a cove near the mouth of Rock Creek and I jumped in armed with a scraper, brush, and sponge and got to work.  The good news was that even though some of it was half an inch thick and carpet-like, most of it was just sparsely scattered near the waterline and came off pretty easy.  The bad news was that it was a heck of an effort repeatedly holding my breath and swimming from the side of the boat down a couple of feet to the propeller, cleaning each side of all 3 blades, cleaning the shaft, checking zincs and the intake strainer, and then cleaning the waterline.  Mind you that all this is done in water that is only clear enough to see about a foot or two in front of your face even near the surface.  While doing this, there are powerboaters who seem to intentionally drive through what would otherwise be a calm anchorage (they just circle and leave!) just to create wakes that rock the boat.

Me, ready to scrape barnacles

Me with the tool of the day

It was exhausting, but I still had enough energy to go for a “test” sail afterward.  Thank goodness I carb’ed up on pancakes for breakfast!  And thankfully, it has been about 24 hours and I don’t think that I have contracted any strange illnesses from the water I was accidentally choking down!  Can’t wait to try it in clear water though!