As I begin to think of the final jobs that need to be complete before the big splash, the hull (above the waterline) loomed on the horizon as a big job still needing attention. I don't intend on finishing the hull job until right upon splash date, but as I *hope* that day is on the horizon, I have started poking at the hull work little by little. By hull I mean the white sides of the boat, transom and the old blue/now green stripe above it:
The first job for the hull was to get it nice and clean to see what I was working with. Way back when I first pulled the boat out of the water, the hull was in very bad shape with horrible stains all over.
Cleaning the hull initially required something fierce, and a product called On Off Hull Cleaner did the trick. It is some sort of acid that eats right through stains by being brushed on, and rinsed off. Simple enough, just don't get it on you!
That was many years ago now and only recently I have done anything else to the hull. The next step was to clean it again! A few years in the boat yard has caused it to get pretty grimy once more, but none of the stains were as bad as before. A good scrubbing with my favorite maroon colored 3M abrasive pads and some Simple Green did the trick.
The gelcoat is actually in pretty decent shape, aside from a few dings. My plan is to patch up the dings, wet sand it to a high grit, polish and wax the hull. I believe the gelcoat is in good enough shape that it will look pretty darn nice after a good polish/wax. MaineSail, an internet saint who's articles and forum posts have taught me so much, has a great write-up on the process I am following to complete the hull work: http://www.sailnet.com/forums/gear-maintenance/52772-tips-compound-polish-wax.html
So far I have wet sanded to 600 grit. I started at 400 due to all of the minor scratches that needed some work on. Since the 600 grit I have been working on all of the minor dings that remained by patching with gelcoat paste. Gelcoat is not as easy to work with as epoxy compounds, so this is a bit of a learning process for me. I ways back I got a bit of a trial with gelcoat to patch up an old heater exhaust hole. While the repair went smoothly, the aesthetics of it were pretty bad. I just squirted white pigment into the gel paste without trying to match color, and the results are not pleasing. Check out the picture below and you can see on the port side (left), the white patch below the transom:
I have since begun to test some gelcoat repairs while also trying to color match a bit better. I haven't gotten it down perfectly yet, but it may be "good enough". If you look at the hull from more than 10 ft away, you can't even tell there are the minor dings left, so even with a so-so repair job they will be good enough. Fellow Downeaster owner Bob at Windborne in Puget Sound and Small Boat Projects has some posts about a company called Fiberlay that does gelcoat matching. I might go that route if I get the itch to do it better.
Here is an example of my recent try at color matching, better than the first but still not very good. A vertical crack on the bow of the boat going down the center, you can barely tell once you are 10 ft away though:
I will be slowly finishing the ding repair, and once done I will start wet sanding to the higher grits and then polish. I doubt I will begin polish and wax much before the boat is ready to go in the water.
Elsewhere on the hull, I have repainted the green stripe (used to be blue) above the white gelcoat. I'll get into the details on why I had to repaint it when I write the catch up post on the deck. I have also installed the chainplates for the mast rigging, a little bit to deal with the hull but moreso the deck...so more to talk about in that post.
Lastly, I had painted the transom a while back when I painted the deck. The transom had some gelcoat damage after I tried to remove the old name lettering, so it needed repairs and a paint job. While that has held up better than the deck paint, I have sanded it down and plan on giving it a touch-up coat when I paint the mast.