Yacht Maintenance

It’s that time of year again when we start to prepare our yacht Lady Eleanor for the summer season. This involves a number of gruelling and arduous tasks, long grubby days in the boat yard and turning into a smurf for a week. It’s definitely the less glamours side of sailing to say the least.

The Unveiling

After a lovely summer of sailing, it’s important to lift your yacht out of the water and into the safety of a boat yard for the winter months. This allows you to leave your pride and joy unattended, whilst you head off to spend time with your long lost land families and friends. There is of course, a few jobs to be done beforehand, last of which, the construction of a giant circus tent.

Boat covers are essential for keeping your yacht protected from the elements. We were lucky enough to purchase Lady E with a custom made cover, but there are plenty of suppliers around to help you find the perfect big top for your yacht.

Once arriving back to the boat yard after our time away, the first thing we do is remove the tent, unveiling Lady Eleanor and allowing us to walk, rather than crawl, around the deck. After untying hundreds of tiny ropes, unzipping multiple zips and wrestling with the equivalent of giant fitted bed sheet, we are ready to roll up the cover and pack it away for another seven months. It is definitely easier removing the tent, then putting it up in the first place and it doesn’t matter how many times we struggle with the thing, technically it’s four times a year, we can never remember which ends which, or which ways what! But we sure are glad to have it. Evidently so are the resident yard cats, whom we’ve discovered have been using it as a rather lovely winter’s retreat and what can only be described as a luxury glamping site.

Deck Work

Teak decks. Beautiful, classic, a real statement aboard any sailing vessel and, a complete nightmare!

Since we purchased Lady Eleanor in 2017, we have been slowly working our way through the back breaking task of re-caulking our beautiful teak deck. It is essential to keep on top of the maintenance of a teak deck. The main job usually being the caulking. If you’re not entirely sure, caulking is the black seams which run between the many wooden planks that make up the deck. The main purpose of this, is to create a water tight seal between each plank and prevent water sneaking down between them and causing no end of problems.

Unfortunately, nothing lasts for ever and depending on how much care you take over your decks, you can expect the caulking to last up to as little as ten years before it needs ripping out and replacing.

Throughout the summer we keep on top of it by tackling one section at a time. Concentrating on a particular area for as long as the weather and our bookings permit. We find it’s a good way of not overwhelming ourselves with the task. It’s always pretty stressful when half the deck of your boat is ripped off and storm clouds are amassing overhead.

The Caulking Process

The process of re-caulking is both long and time consuming and really deserves it’s own blog to cover in proper detail. The photos below show our anchor locker and should give you an idea of the steps involved in the task.

The top left image shows the first stage of the process, the removal of the old caulking. Once the grooves have been cleaned up and the whole area is void of any dust, you’re ready to tape and begin resealing your deck. When piping in the new caulking, it’s important to get an even and steady flow. Electric sealant guns are available and do make the task a lot easier but a heavy duty manual gun will do the job just fine. Once you’ve filled each run, use a plastic scrapper to flatten and compress the excess caulking. It will look pretty messy at this point, as you can see from the photo below, but don’t panic. Once it’s dry and you’ve removed the tape you’ll start to see the end result. A quick sand over will get rid of any sealant that’s managed to seep out from the tape and voilà! A beautifully finished and freshly caulked anchor locker.

That was a very brief run through of what it takes to maintain the caulking on a teak deck. It doesn’t sound too bad really does it? Well, just a little perspective, that anchor lid took a total of eighteen hours and is just under one square meter in size. We have approximately seventeen square meters of teak on our yacht, that calculates to roughly, four hundred and twelve meters of caulking in total. You can see why it’s really not our favourite job in the world.


Wood Treatment.

Not all woods on a boat are the same. They require different types of protection depending on their use. Luckily, nearly all of the wood on-board our yacht is teak, which is hard wearing and contains natural oils that protect the wood to some degree by themselves. However, this is not always sufficient enough to fully protect it from the harsh marine environment, along with the heat and UV rays of a good Greek summer. So keeping on top of it’s treatment is key.

To keep our wood not only looking it’s best but protected from all the elements, including UV, salt water, dirt and sun lotion, each year we give it all a light sanding. This reopens the pores in the wood allowing the application of a good, hard wood sealer to protect and replace the natural oils that are lost over time.

There are many different products to choose from when it comes to treating the wood detailing on a boat. For use outside and in, we favour Owatrol Deks Olje D1. This product gives a wonderful natural finish, it’s amazingly versatile and very easy to work with. Below you can see a few before and after shots of two areas we treated last year. Before applying any oils make sure the wood has had a really good sanding and a clean up with some acetone before applying any treatments. It’s definitely worth keeping on top of and it will really help to keep your boat looking loved.

Antifouling

When you’re sitting in the bar after another long day in the boat yard, next to a group of smurfs it can only mean one thing. It’s antifouling season.

Let me explain. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term antifouling, and lets be honest, it does sound like the definition of someone who harbours hostile feelings towards our feathered friends, is the process of protecting the hull of your boat, the bit that goes in the water, from marine growth.

With any painting task, it’s all in the pre-prep work. There’s nothing worse then finishing a beautiful paint job on your finest shed for example, just to watch it bubble and flake off. At this point you have two options; except it, your shed was never going to win shed of the year anyway. Or, make good and begin painstakingly scraping and sanding the whole shed back to bare wood and start again, knowing full well the whole job has now taken a week longer than it needed to just because you didn’t bother to prep.

Luckily for us, aintfoul is not a fussy paint. However, if you don’t take the right steps in the preparation you can still end up with unnecessary hard labour later down the road. Choosing the right antifoul for your boat is relatively simple depending on the type of cover you require. Seajet Antifouling, is a popular choice for most boat owners in Greece. It’s specially formulated for the area we’re in, comes in a variety of colours, offers a high performance cover and is extremely easy to work with.

The Process

Here’s a quick run through of the antifouling process.

  • First, suit up. Get your hands on a good quality face mask. You don’t need to look like you’re involved in a WW2 reenactment scene but a decent mask is always advised when working with harmful substances such as paint. A pair of goggles is also a good idea and a full body suit works well for protecting your clothing and making sure you don’t end up a complete smurf.
  • Depending on the state of your hull, a light sand off will usual do the trick in removing any flaky old paint and provide a good key-in for the new aintfoul to stick to. Any rust spots on the keel will need a little more attention and you must remember to replace any anodes that are past they’re best whilst you’re under there. Using a wire brush will do a good job in cleaning up tougher areas.
  • Once all the prep on the hull is complete, give her a good wash down to remove any dust and then it’s time to tape. Using a decent masking tape, we like ScotchBlue, work your way along the water line and around any areas such as inlet filters, anodes and propellers to ensure the antifoul stays where you want it.
  • Before you start painting, give your tin a really good stir. You can use a variety of brushes and rollers when applying the antifoul, whichever works best for you and depending on the size of your boat will depend on the amount of paint you’ll need.
  • Two coats is recommended but not always necessary. We are only in the water for seven months or so and most years we find that a good single coat all over, plus a second on the waterline does the job perfectly well.

It takes roughly four hours for the paint to be dry and after at least sixteen she’ll be ready for the water. It’s really important not to antifoul too soon prior to launch day, the antifoul paint never fully goes off. It must remain active in order to keep the marine life from growing on it. Whilst out of the the water the antifoul dries and de-activates over time, so getting afloat asap is key.

Testing Theories

We love a good theory and when it comes to yacht maintenance, everyone’s got them.

Last year we heard of the egg white theory for propellers. The idea being, the layers of dried egg prevent the growth of weeds, barnacles and crustaceans just as the specifically designed and over priced antifoul would. One simply purchases half a dozen eggs, paints on a few sticky layers and still has enough left over for an omelette. Unfortunately this theory was slightly debunked when we lifted Lady Eleanor out and discovered a wildlife scene from the Little Mermaid attached. Perhaps more eggs and less omelettes in the future.

But there are some good ones out there that can save you time and money so it’s always worth giving the theories ago.

Polishing

Our 2019 season saw Luke embark on a mission of polishing discovery. Never being happy with the results and always believing Lady Eleanor could be shinier, he launched himself into the task to find the best method of polishing.

For this summer season Luke is going all out with the newest generation in synthetic polishing technology. After much time investigating the hundreds of new products on the market and de-bunking all the extravagant claims made by the manufacturers, he believes he’s found a winner. Feldten Marine’s gel-coat sealer. It has great reviews and should reduce polishing time tenfold. This product is a polish and sealer which uses nano technology, creating a hydrophobic protective layer. I mean, come on, it doesn’t get anymore exciting then that does it!?

Man polishing the side of his boat

The Little Details

You can always tell the amount of love and affection someone lavishes on their boat by the little details. Whether it’s custom made covers, shiny stainless steel or brand new pin-striping on the hull. It takes time and effort to keep a boat looking at her best and you really have to enjoy it.

Lady Eleanor is always being commented on how lovely looking her stern is. We think its a rather important part of our yacht as it’s the first area our guests see when coming aboard. Keeping the rubbing strip looking bright and shiny is especially tricky but makes a huge difference in first impressions.

The rubbing strip is a white rubber combing that raps around the back of the boat and helps protect the hull from those, occasional mooring bumps. Unfortunately, this WHITE, rubber strip doesn’t stay looking as such for very long before turning a lovely shade of old chewing gum grey. Our secret to keeping this particular part looking it’s best is a fine sanding sponge, a constant flow of fresh water and a can of elbow grease! Typically, you’ll catch Luke in a compromising position at the back of the boat with the fore mentioned items at least once a month. It really is the little things, but honestly they make a huge difference.

Another effective detail to keep looking sharp, are the vinyl stickers. These can usually be found on the top-sides of a boat and along the boom. The below images show us doing some touch ups on a section last summer.

Below Deck

Yacht maintenance below deck is just as essential. There’s batteries to check, toilets to plumb and wiring to wire. A good engine service is very important before it’s first use after six months of hibernation in the yard and last year we even decided to take our winches apart and give them a service too. There’s always something to be done.

Interior of Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45.2

Updates and Upgrades

Throughout the summer we have an ongoing “To Buy List”. Anything we notice that’s looking a little tired or a little worn out, like port hole blinds, bedding, flags, etc goes on the list to be replaced before the next season begins. There’s also a number of other rather more essential items, such as batteries, sea-cocks and navigation software that needs updating and keeping on top off. Then there’s the slightly less essential but far more fun, new toys…

After another sweltering summer on board we decided enough was enough! And treated ourselves to the Dometic Marine Self Contained air-conditioning unit. Or, as we like to call it, The Life Saver 2000! We are so excited, not just for ourselves but for everybody else who joins us for an overnight stay. It will make a huge difference to the level of comfort on board during the hot Greek summer nights. Not to mention being able to shut up all the hatches and keep the mosquitoes out!

Another update we are rather excited about for 2020, are our new cockpit cushions. We decided that after the last few years of busy use, the seating area deserved a refresh! So, with the help of Jo at Revive Upholstery, we now have fabulous fresh covers for all the cushions, We have even taken the bold leap and changed from the usual boat blue, to a gorgeous textured grey finish. Which should lighten the whole area and hopefully remain much cooler in the hot sun. No more burnt bottoms!

Until Next Time

We hope you’ve enjoyed a little look behind the scenes at the sailing dream. There’s still a million other things we could discuss but we’ll save that fun for next time. The strange thing is, most people who own a boat secretly love the maintenance side of it. And if asked, will quite happily talk your ear off about it for hours. So, unless you want to hear about the many differences between braided and plaited ropes, and I really don’t think you do, my advice, just don’t ask.

A handy link for tips on re-caulking your deck https://www.jamestowndistributors.com/userportal/document.do?docId=229

Follow the link for a great range of wood treatment oils and varnishes https://www.marinesuperstore.com/wood-care/varnishes

A great range of antifouling paints and other products can be found online https://www.force4.co.uk/department/maintenance/antifouling-paint