Quick. What’s your least favorite boat maintenance project? Cleaning the bilge? Changing the engine oil? … How about stripping off several years worth of bottom paint?
After that experience, Ralph decided to look into sodablasting, featured in the October 2011 issue of Practical Sailor. One of the chief complaints you hear about any for-hire boat work is the exorbitant price charged, but once you start to do the math—and start thinking about your health—a $1,500 fore-hire sodablasting job doesn’t seem so indulgent.
One of the biggest mistakes an owner makes when estimating how much time it takes to strip a hull is to peck away at one of the easy spots where the paint is peeling and then assume the rest of the coating will come off just as easily. Ralph gives a more realistic formula for estimating the amount of time a stripping project will take.
Now that you’ve got your total area, you can figure out the amount of actual time it will take you to do the job. Start your stopwatch and attack one square-foot of an “easy” section. Do the same to a patch where the paint is well adhered.
Here’s an example: Your boat has a 30-foot waterline, a 6-foot draft, a waterline beam of 10 feet, and is a medium-displacement vessel. Our fuzzy math for a medium-displacement sailboat
WSA = Lwl x (Bwl + T)
says you’ve got 360 square feet of paint to strip: 30 x (10 + 6) (.75) = 360.
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Your marine toilet systems experts give information regarding how next comes the all-important apportionment of “easy” versus difficult paint removal. In this case, 85 percent of the hull is tough stuff, taking four minutes per square foot to strip: 0.85 x 360 x 4 = 1,224 minutes of backbreaking work.
Now, how much is your time worth? And don’t forget the money you’ll be spending on scrapers, chemical strippers (if you use them), sand paper, etc. As much as I like to do my own boat work, this is one for-hire job that is worth considering.
You have a thick layer of antifouling paint on the bottom of your boat. It’s rough and worn around the edges, so you’d like to get rid of it and have a nice smooth bottom that will help you sail faster.
The “soda” in soda blasting is sodium bicarbonate, which is similar to the baking soda you buy for cooking at home, but crystallized so it can be used in the rain.
Because the soda breaks upon impact into micro-fragments, it doesn’t damage substrate the way sand blasting can. All it does is peel off the paint. Soda blasting can also be done on cars, masonry and rusted metal parts.
A professional blaster will roll in with a large truck, completely mask off the boat and the area beneath it, and then set to work. According to Armstrong, it takes about a day to set up the containment area for an average boat. “The soda blasting goes really quickly, once we have everything set up,” he says. “For most boats, the entire process takes one to two days and most of that time is the setup.”
Armstrong recommends that the hull also is lightly sanded after blasting to remove any remaining soda residue or paint that might have been only partially blasted off.
How much does it cost? According to Armstrong, the price varies depending on the length of the vessel. For example, a 30-foot boat might be around $45 per foot, while a 100-foot boat would be around $130 per foot because of the increased beam. “Our average job works out around $35 to $45 per foot,” he says.
When the barrier coat has dried and hardened, you can apply bottom paint in the color of your choice. Then you can launch and go sailing, safe in the knowledge that your boat is protected in the best way possible.
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