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Today’s quandary: do we haul ZTC to repaint the bottom, or not?

Here are some truths.

  • Boats are made to move.
  • When they don’t move, living organisms like to take up residence on their hulls.
  • Cruising is more about stopping in cool places (not moving) than it is continually running from one location to another.

Therein lies the dilemma.

What can be done to evict these underwater stowaways, or prevent them from grabbing on to us in the first place, when we do stop in cool places? As I understand it, we basically have two options:

  1. Haul the boat every year or two and apply antifouling paint to the areas of the boat which sit below the water.
  2. Routinely dive on the boat to scrub the bottom free of growth.

The last time our boat was painted was just before we purchased her in June 2009. At that time she was painted with Micron CSC, a paint which I understand is easy to come by in North America. I have also heard that it is not particularly effective in the warm and fertile Caribbean waters. Although they are not available in Canada or the US, there are apparently paints which can be purchased down here that are more effective, and by that I mean they are more toxic (which is why you can’t use them in NA). The problem is though, even with paint like that, boats still develop growth and need to be scrubbed!

While I was away in Trinidad, Rebecca took it upon herself to research our haul-out options. Here in the Grenada area we have three choices:

The latter two told Rebecca that unfortunately they could not get us in until December, which is longer than we planned to stay in Grenada. Spice Island is a good option and we have heard good things about their service. They quoted us between 800.00 and 1000.00, plus materials (comparable to the other yards). The cost of the paint is about $325.00 US per gallon and I think we would need two gallons to do the job. We can save a few hundred dollars if we paint the boat ourselves instead of having their staff do the job.

An additional variable is that IF we were to haul the boat, I think we would go ahead and raise the water line a bit (quite common for cruising boats because the additional loads that they typically carry causes them to sit a bit lower in the water). The marina quoted us $81.00 per hour to do that. What is involved? I have heard two things. One source told us that we need to apply a barrier coat underneath the new area to be painted. Another source, who told me that he owned a boat yard and was responsible for painting the bottom of hundreds of boats per year, said that the barrier coat was not necessary for that and to simply scuff up the area to be painted and then apply the antifoul directly on that.

Since the time that Rebecca and I purchased ZTC, we have been regularly diving on the boat and cleaning the bottom ourselves. It’s really not that big of a deal for us, unless we happen to be in nasty water (ex. Luperon, DR, or in a marina). So, do we haul and paint, knowing that we’ll likely have to scrub anyway or hold onto our money? That is the big question. If the paint is only to prevent growth, I say we keep scrubbing. If it does more than that, I would like to know.

Decisions, decisions. No doubt some readers here will have some opinions on the subject. If so, post away. I’d love to hear them.

ZTC, at the time named Katana, in a travel lift similar to the one used at Spice Island Marine. Although we hauled her one other time back in Canada, she has not been in a travel lift since that day.


  1. If you haul it and raise the waterline, make sure the barrier coat is raised beneath the anti-fouling paint. Doing it without the barrier coat is the cheap way but it will cost you in the long run because blisters will develop along the waterline as the anti-fouling paint is not impermeable and water will get below your gelcoat. I had the waterline raised on Liberty this past summer after discovering numerous small blisters along the waterline. While it cost more to have the barrier coat done, it was worth it. The owners of the yard that did it are good people whom I trusted and who had a good reputation, and they said that was the only way to do it properly.

    • Assuming we don’t do that, how is that any different than that portion of the hull sitting in the water right now?

      • Raising the waterline? Ack! Designers hate to see that happen.

        Antifouling is just that- its one and only purpose is that it supposedly stops fouling organisms from growing on the hull. It offers very little in terms of protection to the hull laminates.

        Despite the paint manufacturers’ claims, a barrier coat is often not necessary. If the builder did things right in the first place, blistering should never be more than a minor cosmetic problem; it’s only if the builder screwed up that you get big peeling ones that need a barrier coat to repair.)

        If there’s already a barrier coat, though, and you decide to strip all the old paint and start fresh, then yes, I’d extend the barrier coat to the new waterline. I don’t know whether the PDQ is vulnerable to blisters or not. If you’re going to go to all that trouble, it’s cheap insurance to extend it. It does boost the boat’s resale value a bit and is probably cost-neutral in the long run, perhaps even financially beneficial if that model of boat is prone to blistering otherwise.

        But frankly, I’d just see what can be trimmed from ship’s stores, and keep scrubbing for a while yet. I hate spending money!

      • As others here said, it depends on whether or not PDQ incorporated a barrier-coat like gelcoat, ie vinylester or something like that, into their manufacturing process. Very generally speaking, and I don’t know what year ZTC was made, many boats from the early 80s and before had blistering problems. My Morgan was known for blistering, but mine was completely stripped and barrier coated and has never had a problem since, except for when my waterline crept up and then I got small cosmetic blisters right along the waterline.

  2. I think you can go another year. besides, look at all the exercise you get diving the bottom!

  3. I’m voting for “keep on scrubbing” for now. Seems to me that the critters are going to attached to your boat no matter what.

  4. Just got new bottom paint on Dance Aweigh (40 ft monohull, 5 ft draft). It took 4 gals to do 2 coats, with third coat at waterline. Micron 66 – US$300 a gal at Budget. Spice Island Marine did it – no complaints.

  5. I keep hearing about something called “electronic antifouling.” Wonder if you’ve heard about it or run across anyone who’s done it?

  6. One of the boats here in Culebra painted their boot stripe with a wide, solid color – and painted it using the Pettit Vivid bottom paint, so it would be more scrubbable than regular striping paint. That’s one alternative to raising the waterline, if your current waterline is not continuously submerged.

  7. I am a believer in doing it once a year…..Aside from the benefits of the powerwash and bottom paint, it gives you teh opportunity to: Inspect the hull/s, through hull fittings, props, shafts, etc…….Boats need physicals once a year as do humans……I also like a good coat of wax applied too!!!

    • The thing is John, you probably haul your boat every year anyway (seasonally). This is a very different situation than a boat that is on constant service.

      • Your right Mike. However, I would still haul it. If it was left in for a year like you guys, it would secure my thoughts even more…….Being able to inspect the boat before it gets put away for the winter and again before it is put in is important to ME! I am a believer in “preventive care”!

        • I agree in preventative care also, but not necessarily where it costs me $1500.00 US and 5 days in a boat yard.

          • The “preventive care” argument for regular haul-outs is a valid one. But I do not think it applies to the PDQ 32 in the same way that it applies to most monohulls. The PDQ’s rudders can easily be checked by snorkelling while the boat’s at anchor. It has no other moving parts below the waterline; its running gear retracts to bridgedeck level when not in use. It has fixed stub keels that can take a lot of grounding damage without compromising the hull, and if you break those, you’ll know it. So the bottom paint is just about the only thing you’d have to haul it for- and if you scrub that periodically, any imminent failures will be obvious to the eye.

  8. mike hears some info for you .
    Optimal cruising performance is often a reflection of your vessels underside. Your boats bottom coat is the first line of defense against some harsh elements trying to consume it. Staying on top of this preventative maintenance chore is one of the most important ones you face. Favorable bottom coatings for your vessel should depend on what type of boating you do, where you boat and the type of bottom paint applied to your boat in the past. Fresh water boating doesn’t necessarily require the same strength and durability of bottom paint as say a fishing boat in the Florida Keys. “Bottom paints act as a barrier to reduce marine growth and barnacles by releasing toxic biocides at a carefully controlled rate” Back in the day of old the bellies of boats were nailed tight with copper platting, now copper compounds (cuprous oxide) are laden in the bottom paint itself to combat growth some contain “slimacides” which greatly reduce the sun’s deterioration of paint along the water line by filtering out UV and blocking photosynthesis.It’s important to remember the pros and cons of each type of bottom paint. Compatibility of one paint on top of another is critical. Generally speaking softer paints can be applied over harder paints but not visa versa Modified Epoxies deliver a hard durable finish but require yearly repainting. The higher the cooper content the more resistant it is to algae and growth. Keep in mind “the cheaper paint, the less copper and protection” I don’t recommend short changing price for durability and protection. The warmer the water and longer the boating season the higher the bottom growth and better protection you’ll need. Modified epoxies are popular because they are typically cheaper and can be painted over each other if the bottom has been sanded properly for a nice firm lock. Ablative paints are softer semi-hard paints that flake off over time much like a bar of soap. Multiple coats the 1st time applied is recommended and is well worth it. Ablatives with boosted copolymers are very popular because they allow a vessel’s bottom to go 2 or 3 years sometimes with out needing to be repainted.

  9. Hey Guys
    Not to get too tree huggery on ya but why is the paint baned in NA ??? because of the polution [chemical] it puts in the water .That stuff is nasty and as the critters fall off they take the paint with it or as the paint leatches off it ends up in the water .All marinas in Ontario BC etc have catch basin type pads for powerwashing boats ,And the suff they colect is disposed of as toxic waste, do they have that kind of water protection down there?? Some how I doubt it …….The reason you love it down there in large part is because of the clean water and the abundance of sea life ……….nuff said .
    keep your money in your stash and spend a few hours a month scraping you said your self its not that bad a job

  10. a. The PDQ was barrier coated at the factory and I have heard no mention of blisters on any PDQ.
    b. I have used CSS and Micron 66; Micron 66 is MUCH better and gave a solid 2 days in the Chesapeake. I only know about Interlux soft bottom paints.
    c. Ultrasound… snicker, snicker. It has failed all 3rd party testing misserably. It takes a lot of power. If there is enough power to work, there are serious down sides (shakes everything and speeds corrosion very dramatically). No thanks.

  11. Take some weight off, once you start traveling again you will realize that you have accumulated a lot of stuff you can do without. She will also be much safer if you have any ocean crossings in your future. One of the reasons to haul a cat often is sail drive maintenance which you do not have. I say keep scrubbing as you will have to do it to a lessor extent with new paint anyway and it will be more toxic. Forget the fish, you are absorbing that when you scrub, just look at the blue around your snorkel etc…

    • But copper and zinc oxides are not toxic to humans by skin absorption (we take zinc pills and wear copper, exposing us to the same forms). Comparing toxicity is a tricky thing: chocolate is bad for dog but not humans, ethylene glycol antifreeze is poisonous to mamals but not to fish. Humans can tolerate ammonia rather well, but fish cannot. Tricky business to figure out.

    • That is not really accurate about the weight. In truth, we are carrying less weight at the moment because our reserve fuel tanks are not full and we can shop for groceries anytime we want.

  12. Our first powerboat in Grenada was a Formula III Marine 21′ Center Console. I pulled the boat out at Spice Island Marine to repair the trim unit and redo the bottom paint. After scraping and sanding the bottom paint I applied new anti-fouling paint with Tin Booster. When I got Pop-A-Top back in the water she ran like new. It amazed me how much more responsive and fast she was with a smooth hull and no more underwater passengers.

    If you decide to pull ZTC and have the bottom done, I would highly recommend having the boat yard do it. While it is not difficult, it is a nasty job I hope I never have to do again. If you don’t see much growing on the hulls, enjoy the water and some diving while cleaning.

    Burning daylight, need to get into the Rum Punch. 🙂

  13. Mike,

    My two cents.

    In favor of scrubbing. If you can dive and scrub the bottom (all of it!) on a regular basis, I would lean that way. On your boat, the total surface area is small enough that it is probably feasible.

    Against scrubbing. It is pretty difficult, if not impossible, to actually remove all of the “slime” and some of the visible stuff that attaches to your bottom. The immediate result is you will be slower through the water on those “rare” times you actually go sailing and when you DO go sailing, well you want to go fast, don’t ya (yeah, I know it is a relative term). Fiberglass bottoms are NOT plastic and are NOT completely impervious to water. A barrier coat might be insurance in this regard. Finally, you do need to be careful when you repeatedly hold your breath and go under water to scrub. It leads to one of those long scientific names where the end result can be fatal due to a lack of oxygen. Again, on your size bottom unlikely, but…

    Banned paint. I did a lot of research here and after being vehemently opposed to using a tin-based paint, I eventually went over to the “dark side”. Yes, the stuff is extremely toxic, but the reason it has been banned in Europe and North America has much more to do with the nature of our enclosed harbors and the high concentration of boats, many of them really, really big boats. The Caribbean harbors are very different places, have a much higher flow (less stagnant water).

    In favor of painting. The tin-based stuff is way more effective. If you paint, you will likely find that you suddenly have MORE FREE TIME, because the first 6 – 9 months will require virtually no scrubbing and the subsequent months you will be knocking down the “hot spots”. Avoid scrubbing!

    Raising the waterline is common for monos, but not multis, IMO. Since you seem to be fairly weight aware, I would not so this unless you notice the boat frequently below its waterline today. IOW, when you swim around ZTC today, is she sitting on or above her lines or below?

    FWIW, scrubbing a painted bottom of any type releases many, many more toxins into the water.

    Finally, you may have to consider hauling where you have a good feeling for the costs v. hauling where the costs (and facilities to do so) are either unknown or way more expensive. Welcome to advanced cruising!


    • Thanks for sharing, Mike. Your info is valuable.

      Although I have not yet posted this here, we have decided to hold off on hauling the boat.

      On a related topic, my friend here has two boats, one that he lives on and one that he just purchased to fix up and sell. The one he just purchased had a new bottom job 5 months ago. He had both bottoms cleaned today and the one with the new paint was in awful condition he told me, covered with barnacles!

      As for our boat, we can scrub the entire bottom except the keels without even putting our heads under water. The keels take only about 4 dives per side, 16 for the whole boat.

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